I launched Language Miscellany at end of April 2021. In that first year, I produced over 170 posts. That number is slightly inflated by 39 daily posts chronicling my Scandinavian Challenge last year. https://languagemiscellany.com/2021/09/scandinavian-challenge-how-did-it-go/ Navigating the site The easiest way to navigate the site is to use the tags. I tag each post. You can…… Continue reading Happy birthday, Language Miscellany!
In an earlier post, I explained 3 features of the passive construction, focusing on English. This post summarises how 2 Bantu languages (Swahili and Chichewa) implement those 3 features. It also mentions the stative, a construction that is somewhat similar. Background: Bantu languages The Bantu group of languages has many members, spoken in the southern…… Continue reading The passive in 2 Bantu languages
I’ve spent much of the last 28 years writing or editing documents for a readership that includes many readers who didn’t learn English from birth. In this post, I give some tips on writing more clearly to help readers with English as a second language. General advice on writing plain English is not enough to…… Continue reading Writing English to help second-language readers
The Uralic languages are well known for having a large number of grammatical cases. The two Uralic languages with the most speakers are Hungarian and Finnish. Finnish has 15 cases and Hungarian has between 17 and 27 grammatical cases, depending on how some items are analysed. In contrast, looking only at some examples in languages…… Continue reading How many cases are there in Hungarian and Finnish?
I’ve previously posted my translation of Goethe’s poem Ginkgo Biloba. I’ve recently found more about the history, spelling and pronunciation of the word Ginkgo. I found this in section 8.3 of Sounds Fascinating: Further Investigations on English Phonetics and Phonology (2016), by JC Wells. Wells notes that the Oxford English Dictionary describes the word as…… Continue reading More about Ginkgo
The English modal verb must and its German counterpart muss are cognates—they share the same origin and similar meanings. But when they are negated, they behave in different ways. English Barbara must not go means that it is required that Barbara does not go.On the other hand, German Barbara muss nicht gehen means that Barbara…… Continue reading ‘must not’ in English and German
Small children take time learning how to produce the consonants in their native language. Often, they replace one consonant with another. It seems this is often about their system for producing sounds, not about their system for perceiving and distinguishing sounds. Here is a good recent illustration from my grandson (aged 4 years, 1 month).…… Continue reading I want a brink
Major changes occurred in the English vowel system between about 1400 and about 1750. English spelling began to stabilise before most of those changes took place. As a result, English spelling does not match well with current pronunciation, as many native and non-native learners have discovered to their cost. This post summarises one group of…… Continue reading Great English Vowel Shift
Language is the least important casualty of our current political crisis, but it is a casualty nonetheless. In December, London’s Metropolitan Police foolishly suggested that their policy is not to routinely investigate ‘retrospective’ breaches of the law. I’m not qualified to discuss the legal, constitutional and ethical rights and wrongs of this notion. But linguistically…… Continue reading What are retrospective breaches?
More for the menu translation collection. “The ed infusi” translated as “Tha and others”. “Tha” must be an odd blend—if that’s the right term in this context—of “the” and “cha”. And “others” is pitifully inadequate as a translation of infusi. From Da Giovani, a restaurant in Rome, 2018