Monday, September 28, 2009

I Am Not Yours

The American poet Sarah Teasdale wrote "I Am Not Yours".

I Am Not Yours

I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.

Oh plunge me deep in love--put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.

Each verse consists of eight syllables and starts with an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. The eight syllables form four feet. Thus the poem is in trochaic tetrameter. The second and fourth verses of each stanza rhyme but in the final stanza the rhyme is imperfect because "wind" and "blind" have different vowels.

In the first verse Sarah Teasdale says that she is not lost. By this she means that she has not abandoned her senses and lost her direction. She has control over her situation. However, she expresses that she wants to be lost. She uses the beautiful imagery of a candle lit at noon and a snowflake in the sea.

She acknowledges that her man loves her and sees the good in him. At the same time, she is unsatisfied because she does not feel sure about him. She seeks more from the relationship.

In the final stanza, she asks him to immerse her in love and overwhelm her senses. She wants to love him with all her heart. If she can do so, this will be the equivalent to a person who is deaf and blind. In other words, she will not wish to hear negative comments nor be able to see negative qualities in her man. This reminds us of the saying "Love is blind".

In the final two verses we have the images of a tempest and a taper in a rushing wind. The tempest represents love and the taper is the writer who wishes to be swept away with love. If the tempest puts out the candle, she has lost her senses and become lost as she wishes to be. However, the tone of the poem indicates that it may never happen because the passion and romance that she seeks is lacking.

The poem "I Am Not Yours" is very expressive. The images of a snowflake, candle and tempest make the poem memorable. The use of repetition is also very effective. This repetition is evident is verses three and four: "Lost as a candle lit at noon, Lost as a snowflake in the sea". They also lend to the poem a musical quality which has made it popular in the world of English poetry.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

English Syllable Stress

I decided to analyze the syllable length and stress of words in an English text. The text which I used is from the sample pages of Synergy, an English course for students in East Asia. I made a few modifications to the text so that it would be 100 words long and have 70 words of one syllable and 30 words of more than one.

Here is the English text which I analyzed:

I thought I’d just send you a quick note and let you know how I’m doing. I’m enjoying my new job very much, and all my colleagues are very friendly, but I have to work really long hours. Some days I start at eight and finish at about seven. I don’t really have a lunch break, but we order in sandwiches. At the moment I’m working on a new advertising campaign for toothpaste. I’m busy meeting clients and writing reports. How about you? How is your work in Tokyo? I’m looking forward to seeing you at the conference in August.

The syllable length of the words in this text is as follows:

monosyllabic 70/100 (70%)
disyllabic 27/100 (27%)
trisyllabic 2/100 (2%)
tetrasyllabic 1/100 (1%)

Next I analyzed the stress of the words more than one syllable in length. The disyllabic words in the text are:

doing, very, colleagues, very, friendly
really, hours, finish, about, seven
really, order, moment, working, campaign
toothpaste, busy, meeting, clients, writing
reports, Tokyo, looking, forward, seeing
conference, August

I analyzed "hours" as a disyllabic word but for some speakers it is monosyllabic. I also analyzed "Tokyo" as disyllabic although for many it is trisyllabic. In these 27 words, 24 have first-syllable stress and 3 have second-syllable stress. 88.9% of these words are stressed on the first syllable. The second syllable is stressed in only 11.1% of cases. The words with second-syllable stress are
"about", "campaign" and "reports".

The text has only two trisyllabic words. They are "enjoying" and "sandwiches". The former has second-syllable stress and the latter has first-syllable. The sample size here is too small to draw conclusions.

The only tetrasyllabic word in the text is "advertising". Here the stress is on the first-syllable. Again the sample size is too small to draw conclusions.

Based on the text, it appears that the majority of English words are monosyllabic. Monosyllabic words which appear more than once are the conjunctions "and" and "but", the pronoun "I", possessive adjective "my", articles "a" and "the" and prepositions "at" and "in".

The text also appears to indicate that most disyllabic words have first-syllable stress. Of the 27 disyllabic words in the text, 24 are stressed on the first syllable. Because only three words in the text have more than two syllables, no conclusions can be obtained about the stress of words with more than two syllables. However, two of the three words with three or more syllables have first-syllable stress, making it possible to speculate that first-syllable stress may be common in all words, but more evidence is needed to make this determination.

My analysis of the text suggests that the majority of English words are monosyllabic and that disyllabic words are usually stressed on the first syllable. The text did not include enough trisyllabic nor tetrasyllabic words for analysis. However, the fact that the text included few trisyllabic and tetrasyllabic words provides evidence that they are relatively rare in English.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Schwa Epenthesis and Schwa Deletion in Dutch

In 1996, Cecile Kuijpers, Wilma van Donselaar and Anne Cutler from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, Netherlands conducted a pyscholinguistic study on schwa epenthesis and schwa deletion in Dutch. Schwa deletion and epenthesis are optional in Dutch. In those cases in which schwa deletion and epenthesis occur we have phonological variation. Thus the forms without schwa deletion and epenthesis can be considered the standard forms and those with deletion and epenthesis the phonological variants.

The words "melk" (milk) and "elf" (eleven) are examples of words which can be pronounced with an epenthetic schwa. The epenthetic schwa only occurs with heterorganic consonant clusters. This makes sense because more articulatory effort is required to produce consonants which share different places of articulation. In "hals" (neck) and "damp" (vapour) no schwa epenthesis occurs. The word "hals" has two alveolars and "damp" has two bilabials. Since the clusters in those words are homorganic, the schwa epenthesis rule cannot apply.

In the word "kapelaan" (chaplain) schwa deletion can apply. English also has examples of optional schwa deletion. For example, many speakers delete the schwa of "interesting" and "different" to create the consonant clusters "tr" and "fr".

The goal of the auditory lexical decision experiment was to determine whether or not the participants would process the phonological variants as quickly and accurately as the standard forms. Since the phonological variants are optional, the prediction was that the standard forms would be processed more quickly and accurately.

The participants listened to standard realizations and phonological variants of real words as well as pseudowords. They needed to decide as quickly as possible whether the word was real or not. If they did not decide within 1.5 seconds, their response was recorded as missing.

The results only partially confirmed the predictions. The experiment revealed that it was easier to process the standard realizations of words than the phonological variants with schwa deletion but not in the case of schwa epenthesis. In the latter case, the phonological variants were processed as quickly and accurately as the standard realizations. The words with schwa epenthesis were easy to process for participants. The reason is probably due to the fact that the variants with schwa epenthesis had the CVC syllable structure in the coda, a more basic structure than the CCV in the onset of variants with schwa deletion.

Not surprisingly, the real words were processed more quickly than the pseudowords. Recognition of the real words certainly aided the participants in their responses.

The psycholinguistic experiment provided evidence that syllable structure is important in lexical decisions. Words with basic syllable structures are processed more quickly and accurately than those with complex ones. Also, standard forms and real words are processed more easily than phonological variants and pseudowords.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chess Game Full of Surprises

I played a chess game which was full of surprises. Many of my opponent's moves were not the ones I expected, but I still managed a quick mate. The following game was played at letsplaychess.com. My opponent was Mhill of the USA. In this game I was white. I will now provide commentary of this short game.

1. c4 Nf6

My opening move is known as the English Opening. This is an unusual opening for me. I usually play e4, d4 or occasionally Nf3 as my opening move, but this time, I wanted to experiment with a new opening move. I expected my opponent to play e5, d6 or c5. His reply is more common when white starts with d4, but nevertheless prevents me from playing e4 on my next move.

2. Nc3 e5

We both fight for control of the centre.

3. d3 Nc6

My move opens a diagonal for my dark-squared bishop but blocks my light-squared one. Black now has the option of putting his knight on d4.

4. Be3 e6

My dark-squared bishop can now capture on d4. Black opens a diagonal for his light-squared bishop.

5. h3 Be6

My move prevents black from putting his knight on g4 and threatening my bishop. Black's move aims to exert more control over d5.

6. g3 Qe7

My move allows me to put my bishop on g2. Black is now prepared to castle.

7. Nf3 0-0

I develop my king knight. Black castles.

8. Bg2 e4

I fianchetto my bishop. Black strikes in the centre with his pawn. Though he only has a knight against my knight and pawn, if I capture with my d-pawn, he can capture my undefended c-pawn with his bishop. Also, he has a rook on the same file as my queen and my king is in the centre of the board, so I have to be careful.

9. Nd4 exd

I expect black to capture my knight with his knight, but to my surprise, he takes my d-pawn.

10. Nxc6 dxe

Now I expect black to capture my knight with his g-pawn which leaves him with doubled pawns. In another surprise, he captures my e-pawn and now threatens my queen.

11. Nxe7+ Bxe7

Black fails to see that I do not need to move my queen because my move puts him in check. This forces him to capture my knight.

12. Qxe2 d5

Now I capture black's pawn and he strikes in the centre.

13. cxd Bf5

I capture black's pawn and to my surprise, he does not recapture. Instead, he places his bishop on the b1-g6 diagonal. Maybe he aims to control e4 but this move seems to be a mistake. I think it is better to capture my d-pawn.

14. 0-0 g6

I finally castle. Black's move is a surprise. Maybe he fears g4, a move attacking his bishop but I think this move is too passive. Be6, aiming the bishop at my kingside, is more effective.

15. Bxa7 b6

I play this move to weaken black's kingside. His move aims to trap my bishop but is a blunder. It weakens his pawn shield and prompts my next move.

16. Qa6+ Kd7

I check black's king. Kd7 is his only legal move.

17. Qb5+ c6

I check black's king again because I do not want his king to escape via e8-f8. He blocks my check but this is not his best move. He can last longer with Kc8.

18. Qxc6#

My queen and pawn combine to give mate. All of black's pieces are on his half of the board.

In this game my opponent makes a number of moves that take me by surprise. Undoubtedly, he hopes to gain an advantage, but I exploit his mistakes to produce a quick mate. I manage to destroy the pawn shield around his king and prevent his king from escaping to safety.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Meter in English Poetry

Meter in English poetry consists of a combination of stressed and unstressed syllables which create rhythm. This combination can be further analyzed as a foot , a specific pattern of syllable types in each verse. However, it is important to note that many poems have a few verses which do not follow the overall pattern of the poem.

Meters that are common in English poetry include iambic and trochaic. To a lesser extent, English poems also use spondaic, anapestic, dactylic and amphibrachic. Iambic meter is the most common of all. This is the meter used in poems known as sonnets which consist of fourteen verses.

In iambic meter, the stress pattern is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. We see this pattern in the first verse of William Shakespeare's 18th sonnet: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" The verse has ten syllables divided into five feet, units consisting of unstressed and stressed syllables. Notice that "Shall" is unstressed and "I" is stressed. This pattern repeats itself throughout the verse.

Trochaic meter is the opposite of iambic. In trochaic meter, the first syllable is stressed and the second is unstressed. We see this pattern in the first verse of Robert Frost's "Fire and Ice": "Some say the world will end in fire". In this verse we have eight syllables and four feet.

Spondaic meter has no unstressed syllables. Here the pattern is two stressed syllables. This pattern is not so common in English poetry but can be seen in this verse from John Milton's Paradise Lost: "Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens." Each word in this verse is monosyllabic.

Anapestic meter consists of three syllables in which the first two are unstressed and the third is stressed. We see this pattern in the first verse of Clement Clarke Moore's "The Night Before Christmas." The first verse is" Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house". The verse consists of twelve syllables which can be further divided into four feet.

Dactylic meter can be considered the opposite of anapestic. It also consists of three syllables but the first syllable is stressed and the last two are unstressed. An example of dactylic meter can be seen in this verse from Lord Alfred Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade": "When can their glory fade?" This verse has six syllables which can be further divided into two feet.

Amphibrachic meter also consists of three syllables. The first and third syllables are unstressed and the second syllable is stressed. Thus the syllable in the middle of the foot is stressed while the other two are unstressed. This meter is not so common in English poetry but occurs in poems known as limericks. The first verse of this untitled poem by Edward Lear is an example of amphibrachic meter: "There was a Young Lady from Norway."

Meter is an important part of poetry. The types of meter that are used can vary from one language to another. The most common types of meter in English are those that consist of two syllables: iambic, trochaic and spondaic. Those that consist of three syllables such as anapestic, dactylic and amphibrachic are also used but not as frequently. In fact, poems may use these types of meter in part because many poems use a combination of meters.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Differences between Canadian and American English

Many people have difficulty hearing the difference between Canadian and American English, particularly in the case of American English which is not spoken with a notable regional accent such as that of the south, New York or Boston.

The following list of ten words provides a good way to tell a Canadian apart from an American. While it is true that Canadians do not pronounce the words on this list identically, it is likely that their pronunciation will differ from that of an American in many instances if not all. My pronunciation of each word on this list differs from the American pronunciation.

The list of words is the following:

herb
progress
been
mom
lever
buoy
pasta
decal
mobile
sorry

I pronounce the word "herb" with an "h". In American English, the "h" is not pronounced.

In "progress", I pronounce the first syllable the same as the first syllable of "program". I also use this pronunciation for "process" but not for "project". However, many Canadians also pronounce "project" with the first syllable of "program".

For me, the word "been" rhymes with "teen" but many Canadians also use the American pronunciation which rhymes with "tin".

I pronounce "mom" to rhyme with "come" but I have also heard Canadians use the American pronunciation in which it rhymes with "calm".

My pronunciation of "lever" rhymes with "beaver" and not "never" which is the American pronunciaton.

For me, "buoy" sounds identical to "boy" and thus does not rhyme with "Louie" as in American English.

In "pasta", I use the "a" of "cat" in the first syllable and not the "a" of "father". This pronunciation seems to be very common in Canada.

For me "decal" rhymes with "heckle" but in American English it sounds similar to "decaf". It may be that the American pronunciation is relatively common in central Canada.

For me, "mobile" has the same diphthong as in "while" but in American English the final syllable rhymes with "rubble".

In the word "sorry", I use the "o" of "or" but Americans use the "o" of "gone". Other words in which this is the case are "tomorrow" (second syllable), "borrow" and "sorrow" (first syllable).

Canadian and American English share a number of similarities but they are not identical to one another. The list of ten words helps to prove this point.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mate with Two Rooks

I played the following chess game at letsplaychess.com. My opponent was Cholorico from Peru. In this game I played white and he played black. I will provide an analysis of this game.

1. e4 e5

2. Nf3 Nf6

3. Bb5 d6

My third move gives us the opening known as the Ruy Lopez or Spanish Game. It is a very popular opening at all levels. Black's most common reply here is a6, so I am a bit surprised when he plays d6.

4. d4 a6

Black cleverly avoids playing exd because then I will play Nxd4 and there will be a double pin on his queen knight.

5. Ba4 b5

I decide to keep my bishop and black plays aggressively, this time attacking my bishop with his b-pawn.

6. Bb3 Na5

Again I must move my bishop to safety. Black places his knight on the edge of the board where it attacks my bishop. At this stage of the game I expect that I will lose my bishop and end up with doubled pawns. At the same time, though, I can take consolation in the fact that I have developed two pieces, my bishop and knight, while black has only developed one, his knight.

7. 0-0 Bg4

I castle to protect my king while black develops his bishop to a square where it pins my knight.

8. dxe dxe

I open the centre because my king is protected and black's is not. I don't want to capture black's queen because to do so would give black control of the d-file. In this case, I prefer that he capture my queen instead so that I can recapture with my rook and control the d-file.

9. Bxf7 Ke7

I make the decision to sacrifice my bishop. I decide the sacrifice is safe and expect black to accept it. If he accepts the sacrifice with Kxf7, I can played Nxe5+ and later capture his bishop with Nxg4. Because black loses material by accepting the sacrifice, he decides to refuse it. Not only do I keep my bishop but I am up a pawn and also ensure that his king remains in the centre.

10. Bxg8 Qxd1

I take black's knight. This follows the principle that when one is ahead in material, it is good to exchange pieces. White takes my queen but by doing so he loses control of the d-file.

11. Rxd1 Rxg8

12. Nc3 c6

I develop my knight and black advances his c-pawn. Black advances his pawn to c6 instead of c5 because he doesn't want to give me the option of using the d5 square as an outpost for my knight.

13. Bg5+ Ke7

I develop by bishop with check. Black decides to keep his king in the centre. However, a better move is f7 because black's king is safer near his pawns.

14. Rd3 Bb4

I place my rook on d3 for two reasons. It prepares Rad1, a move that doubles my rooks on the d-file and also gives me the option of recapturing on c3 and f3 with my rook in the event that black captures my knights. By recapturing with my rook, I avoid doubled pawns.

15. Rd1 Bxc3

I double my rooks on the d-file and black captures my queen knight.

16. bxc3 Bxf3

I decide that it is more important to keep my rooks on the d-file than to worry about doubled pawns. Blacks captures my remaining knight.

17. gxf3 h6

I now have two sets of doubled pawns but see that my control of the d-file might give me a quick mate. Black's move threatens my bishop but it is a mistake. Black has no time for this move because his king is too exposed. At this stage, he must play Kf7 to prolong the game.

18. Rd7 Bg5

I ignore the attack on my bishop and prepare to mate my opponent. Black captures my bishop.

19. Rd1d6#

With my control of the d-file and my e4 pawn, black's king has no escape. It is checkmate.

This game illustrates the importance of keeping the king safe, controlling the centre and dominating files. My control of the d-file, centralized pawn on e4 and protected king allowed me to achieve a quick checkmate. Though in the end I had less material than my opponent, I was victorious.