Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Little Bird

Alexander Pushkin wrote plays, novels and poems. One of his poems is A Little Bird. Here is a translation:

A Little Bird

In alien lands I keep the body
Of ancient native rites and things.
I gladly free a little birdie
At celebration of the spring.

I'm now free for consolation
And thankful to almighty Lord:
At least, to one of his creations
I've given freedom in this world!

In this poem we learn that the narrator follows ancient traditions when abroad. To celebrate spring, the narrator releases a little bird, a symbol of spring, into the wild. The narrator feels sad over the loss of the bird, but also feels thankful. The reason is that the little bird, one of the smallest of God's creations, has now been given freedom.

The poem A Little Bird speaks of traditions, a little bird and spring. The narrator takes delight in giving freedom to a little bird, one of the world's smallest creations. This is done in spring, a season which marks a season of rebirth and revitilization for not only plants and flowers, but also for a little bird.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Golden Mean

Aristotle referred to the desirable medium between two extremes as the golden mean. He explained that the golden mean of two opposite vices was a virtue. This mirrors the view that extremes are never good and that it's always best to do everything in moderation.

For example, we can say that both wastefulness and stinginess are two extreme vices. Wastefulness can be defined as the misuse or overuse of money and goods, and stinginess can be defined as a lack of spending and charity. The happy medium of the two is thus generosity. This is a virtue which is found between the two vices of wastefulness and stinginess.

Another example is the vices of pride and fear. Pride can be defined as an inflated ego or a lack of humility. However, fear can be defined as a lack of self-esteem or belief in one's own abilites. The desirable medium of these two vices is confidence. This is a virtue which can be placed between the two extremes.

The problem with this view of the golden mean is that it is not always easy to determine exactly where the desirable medium lies. What one considers confidence another may consider pride, and what may be considered a vice, i.e., fear, may actually be appropriate in situations where caution is advisable. Though not all philosophers agree that the desirable medium between two opposite vices is always a virtue, the philosophical view of the golden mean is a concept that has its origins in the teachings of Aristotle.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Types of Requests

Requests are speech acts that allow for the possibility of refusal. They can be granted or refused by the hearer. Requests can be direct and indirect. In fact, there are many types of requests. Let's examine a few.

Some requests concern the hearer's ability to perform a task. For example, "Can you pass me the salt?" asks a yes/no question. However, this is not truly a yes/no question because the speaker doesn't expect a yes/no answer. This is a request.

Requests can be expressed as a desire. An example is "I would like you to do this now." This is a statement with the polite expression "would like" that functions as a request. If we change "would like" to "want," the request becomes stronger.

Requests can also be expressed in future tense. Consider "From today officers will wear ties at dinner." Though this is a future declarative, it is also a request. However, it is clear that in this case the hearer is not expected to deny the request. In this case the request can be analyzed as an imperative.

In certain cases, requests concern the willingness of the hearer to perform a task. For example, "Do you want to hand me that hammer?" is a yes/no question, and is also an indirect request. 

Requests sometimes offer advice. For example, "You should be more polite to your mother" can be analyzed as a request. It is the speaker's desire that the hearer will be more polite to his/her mother in the future.

Sometimes requests are expressed as embedded sentences. Consider "Could I ask you to take off your shoes?" This is expressed as a yes/no question and "take off your shoes" is a clause inside the question.

A direct request is an imperative such as "Lend me a pen." To make this more polite, we can add "please." This can be changed into a question by asking "Could you please lend me a pen?"

Requests can also be expressed as permission. For example, "May I borrow your pen?" requests permission and is structured as a yes/no question.

Requests can be expressed in many different ways. They can be direct or indirect. Other types of requests offer advice, express desire, ask permission and concern ability. Requests can be categorized into many different types. 

Accents of Canadian English

Canadian English is very uniform. It exhibits far less variety than many other varieties of English. Nevertheless, there are regional differences.

The diphthong in words such as about tends to be pronounced differently in western Canada and the Toronto area. In western Canada the diphthong is usually pronounced with a more advanced articulation than in the Toronto area.

The vowel in moose is a back vowel in the Atlantic provinces but is pronounced with a more advanced articulation in the rest of the country. It tends to be especially advanced in the western part of the country.

In words such as car, heart and park the vowel is a central vowel in the Atlantic provinces and a back vowel in the rest of the country. This is the opposite of the vowel in moose, a vowel which is more retracted in the Atlantic provinces.

In words such as case and face, the vowel is often a monophthong, a pure vowel, in the prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) and a diphthong in the rest of the country. The pronunciation of face as a monophthong is typical of Scottish and Irish English.

Though Canadian English is usually spoken very similarly across the country, regional differences do exist. Many of these differences are reflected in the pronunciation of certain vowels. These differences can be heard in the English of the west, the prairie provinces, the Toronto area and the Atlantic provinces.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Suffix -ish in Spanish

The English suffix -ish is a diminutive. When added to a root, it gives an approximate meaning. For example, the word "eightish" means around eight and "yellowish" means close to yellow. In Spanish, approximate colours aren't formed with an invariable suffix as in English.

Here are ten approximate colours in Spanish:

red reddish rojo rojizo
blue bluish azul azulejo
yellow yellowish amarillo amarillento
black blackish negro negruzco
white whitish blanco blancuzco
pink pinkish rosa rosáceo  
green greenish verde verdoso
orange orangish naranja anaranjado
brown brownish pardo pardusco
grey greyish gris grisáceo  

Compared to English, we notice that approximate colours in Spanish aren't formed with a single suffix form. With the colours black and white, the word final -o becomes a -u and the suffix -zco is added. In the case of brown, the suffix is spelt -sco. The colours grey and pink add the suffix variant -áceo. The other colours are formed with different variants.

To form approximate colours in English, the rule is simple. The suffix -ish is added to the root. In Spanish, however, approximate colours are formed with a single suffix, but this suffix has many variants.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

English Strong and Weak Forms

Many English words have both a strong and weak pronunciation. They are known as strong and weak forms. The strong forms are used in isolation and in careful speech. In casual speech, the weak forms are common.

The word or has a strong and weak form. The strong form rhymes with for, but the weak form has the pronunciation of the final syllable of elevator. In the question "Soup or salad?" the weak pronunciation of the word sounds the same as "Super salad?" Other words which have strong and weak forms are and, for, to, he, her and him.

The strong pronunciaton of and rhymes with sand, but the weak pronunciation has a different vowel sound and lacks the final consonant. In the phrases black and white, fish and chips and salt and pepper, the weak pronunciation is normally used. For this reason, fish and chips is often spelt fish 'n chips.

The weak forms are usually accompanied by little stress. In the sentence, "This is for you," the word for is usually unstressed-this results in a weak pronunciation. The weak form of for has the pronunciation of the final syllable of elevator. 

The strong pronunciation of to rhymes with two, but the weak pronunciation has a much shorter vowel, the same vowel that is heard in the weak pronunciations of and and for.

In the words he, her and him, the h is pronounced in the strong forms but dropped in the weak forms. Some dialects of English never pronounce the letter h. One such dialect is Cockney, which is spoken in London. In these dialects he, her and him only have one form.

A number of English words have strong and weak forms. These words are often very common words such as and, for and two. The strong forms are common in formal speech, and the weak forms are common in casual speech.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Mushroom Soup

Mushroom soup is delicious and easy to make. Here is the recipe:

500 grams mushrooms, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup cream or milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Melt the butter in a frying pan.  Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms. Cook until the onion is soft. Slowly blend two tablespoons of flour and stir. Transfer to a pot and add chicken broth. While stirring frequently, heat until it has thickened. Add cream or milk to the soup and gradually add one tablespoon of flour while stirring. Heat and stir until the soup thickens. Serve and enjoy!