Friday, June 27, 2008

Very Short Chess Game

Here are the moves of a chess game that I played at I mated my opponent on my eighth move. He was white and I was black. I now provide the moves of the game along with some commentary.

1. e4 c5

My move aims to generate counterplay along the c-file. Another common reply for black is e5. The reply c5 is known as the Sicilian Defence.

2. d4 cxd4

My opponent chooses to strike in the centre with the knowledge that if I take his pawn he can recapture with his queen. This is an aggressive move but bringing out the queen so early in the game can be very dangerous. A much more common move for white here is Nf3.

3. Qxd4 Nc6

My third move not only develops my queen knight but also threatens the white queen.

4. Qd1 e6

By moving his queen back to her original square, my opponent loses time. In chess language, this is known as losing a tempo. I move my king pawn to open a diagonal for my dark-squared bishop.

5. Bb5 Bc5

My opponent makes an aggressive move with his bishop which threatens to capture my knight in exchange for his bishop. However, this is a very committal move. Many chess players prefer to develop their knights first and decide later where to place their bishops. I place my bishop on a diagonal which targets f2.

6. Bxc6 bxc6

My opponent exchanges his bishop for my knight. When players have the bishop pair, they hope to exchange many pawns and pieces so that they can play an open game. In an open game, bishops are considered superior to knights. I don't play dxc6 because I want to keep my queen.

7. b3 Qf6

My opponent moves his pawn to b3 because he wants to place his dark-square bishop on b2. However, he fails to notice that this move is a mistake. I place my square on a square which sets up a double threat. I not only threaten to capture his rook on a1 but also to mate him on f2 because I now target this square with both my queen and bishop, a lethal combination.

My opponent needs to forget about defending his rook and prevent mate. One way to do this is to play Nf3, a move which is often played early.

8. c3 Qxf2#

My opponent's move prevents my queen from capturing his rook but fails to see the greater threat, checkmate. My opponent makes aggressive moves but ultimately fails to attend to the safety of his king.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Flapping and Vowel Raising

Flapping is a feature which is associated with the English of Canada and the United States. However, it does also occur in parts of England such as the southwestern part known as the West Country. It also occurs in the English of Australia and New Zealand as well as in other parts of the world.

Vowel raising is a feature that is characteristic of Canadian English but also occurs in parts of the USA such as in Minnesota. For most Americans, the words "writer" and "rider" are identical, but for most Canadians they are different. The word "writer" preserves the raised vowel of "write".

Two phonological rules are associated with Canadian and American dialects which preserve a distinction between "writer" and "rider". They are vowel raising and flapping. The ordering of the two rules is considered important. If no distinction is maintained, flapping applies first. When flapping applies first, the voiceless alveolar plosive becomes a voiced alveolar flap. Since vowel raising must occur before a voiceless consonant, this takes away the environment necessary for vowel raising. We can say that flapping bleeds vowel raising. In other words, when flapping is applied first, the rule for vowel raising is blocked.

However, in the dialects which maintain a distinction between "writer" and "rider", vowel raising applies first. This is the case in the word "writer". The vowel raises in the word "write" to which the agentive suffix -er is attached. After the vowel raises, the voiceless alveolar plosive, between a stressed vowel and an unstressed vowel, becomes a flap.

In those dialects which distinguish between "writer" and "rider", the words "spider" and "rider" do not rhyme. Morphology is needed to explain this phenomenon. The word "rider" consists of the morphemes ride + -er. In the word "rider", the diphthong of "ride" is preserved. "Spider", however, consists of a single morpheme. The voiced alveolar plosive is flapped and vowel raising applies. It is curious, though, that vowel raising applies here because "spider" does not have a voiceless alveolar plosive. It thus appears that vowel raising can occur wherever an alveolar plosive is flapped. In the case of words such as "rider", vowel raising does not occur because vowel raising does not occur in the root "ride".

The examples of "spider" and "rider" appear to show that the analysis with the rules of vowel raising and flapping is simplistic. If this analysis were sufficient, the vowel raising in words such as "spider" could not be explained. It is necessary to include morphological information to explain forms such as "rider" in which vowel raising does not occur in those dialects with vowel raising. Though "spider" has no voiceless alveolar plosive, all alveolar plosives can flap between a stressed vowel and an unstressed one. A better account of dialects which distinguish between words such as "writer" and "rider" is simply to state that vowel raising is regular before flaps unless the word has a root with a voiced alveolar plosive to prevent vowel raising.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Relationship of Japanese and Korean

The relationship of the Japanese and Korean languages is a difficult issue for linguists. Some classify Japanese as a language isolate and Korean as a member of the Altaic language family. Others, however, consider Japanese and Korean to be related and some claim that they should both be classified as members of the Altaic language family. The more I learn about these two languages, the more I am convinced that they are probably distantly related

The two languages both lack tone, unlike many other Asian languages. They have similar syllable structures which usually consist of a consonant and a vowel. They share the same word order of subject, verb and object. They are pro-drop languages- this means that the personal pronoun can be dropped when the meaning is clear.

Both Japanese and Korean have subject markers, object markers and topic markers. I know of no other languages which make use of all three. Verbs are used in combination with a variety of endings to indicate the relationship between the speaker and the listener. The question marker is "ka" in Japanese and "kka" in Korean. The two languages can express a wide range of degrees of politeness. One ending, -yo, not only expresses a neutral degree of politeness but is also an exclamatory form in both languages. The plain form of the verb "be" is the same in both languages- "da". This is exemplified by the sentence "It's a book". In Japanese this is "Hon da" and in Korean it is "Chaegi da".

Japanese and Korean have postpositions, some of which are remarkably similar in the two languages. For example, the postposition -e means "in" in Korean and "to" in Japanese.
They also treat many verbs similarly to adjectives. The sentence "It was cold" is formed from the adjective "cold" which is inflected as if it were a verb because it is given a past tense ending.

Sergei Storastin observed that there may be a 25% rate of potential cognates in the Swadesh word list. The Swadesh word list is a collection of words which are considered basic and useful for determining the degree to which languages are related. The languages in the Swadesh word list are words which are considered to be native words. In other words, it is considered unlikely that they would be borrowed. Words such as "water" and "be" are considered basic words and thus likely native words. In Japanese, "water" is "mizu" and in Korean it is "mul". The verb "be" is also similar in these two languages. The Japanese word for "be" is "iru" and the Korean word is "ida".

A comparison of Japanese and Korean reveals an amazing number of similarities. For political and nationalistic reasons, many Japanese and Koreans reject the idea that the two languages could be related. However, upon examination of the evidence, it appears likely that the two languages are related to one another. Without a common writing system to unify them, it would have been easy for them to drift far apart from one another, especially if they separated a very long time ago. The similarities that they share appear too great to be merely a coincidence.

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