Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mexican Rice

Mexican rice is a delicious and easy dish to prepare. It is an excellent accompaniment for many Mexican dishes. Here is the recipe.

Put three tomatoes, one clove of garlic and half an onion in a blender. Blend the ingredients to make a sauce.

Add a bit of cooking oil to a frying pan and add one cup of rice. Heat the rice and stir until it becomes golden brown. Add the sauce and two cups of water. Boil until the liquid evaporates. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This is an easy recipe for Mexican rice, a very popular dish in Mexican households. If desired, you can also add chopped carrots and peas for extra flavour. Mexican rice is one of my favourite rice dishes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spanish Vocabulary of Spain and Mexico

The official language of Spain and Mexico is Spanish. Spain is the country of origin of one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world. However, Mexico is the country with the largest number of Spanish speakers. Though the two countries share the same official language, the two countries have a number of differences in vocabulary.

Many of the different words pertain to food and drink. Here is a list for comparison with the Mexican word on the left and the Castilian on the right.

betabel remolacha (beet)
chi'charo guisante (pea)
chabacano albaricoque (apricot)
durazno melocoto'n (peach)
toronja pomelo (grapefruit)
calabacita calabaci'n (zucchini)
camaro'n gamba (shrimp)
papa patata (potato)
camote batata (sweet potato)
pay tarta (pie)
botana tapa (snack)
charola bandeja (tray)
mesero/mesera camarero/camarera (waiter/waitress)
jugo/zumo (juice)
popote pajilla (straw for drinking)

Here is a list for cars, roads and travel.

cajuela maletero (trunk of a car)
carretera de cuota carretera de peaje (toll road)
banqueta acera (sidewalk)
boleto billete (ticket)
manejar conducir (to drive)

Here is a list for vocabulary of the home.

clo'set ropero (closet)
foco bombilla (light bulb)
reca'mara dormitorio (bedroom)
departamento piso (apartment)
regadera ducha (shower)
refrigerador frigori'fico (refrigerator)

The next list is for personal items.

pluma boli'grafo (pen)
celular mo'vil (cell phone)
arete pendiente (earring)
anteojos gafas (glasses)
computadora ordinador (computer)
gancho percha (coat hanger)

Another difference is the word "hello" used for answering the telephone. In Spain this word is "diga" but in Mexico it is "bueno". The word for "hello" in other situations is "hola".

Though Spanish is spoken in both Mexico and Spain, the vocabulary of these two varieties of Spanish reveals many differences. These differences of vocabulary may be comparable to the differences between British and American English. After centuries of separate development, it is not surprising that such differences exist.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Phoneme Neutralization in English

English has many examples of phoneme neutralization. This refers to the environment in which the contrast between phonemes is neutralized. Many of the examples of phoneme neutralization involve vowels but consonants also undergo neutralization.

The English words "hat," "hot" and "hut" have three vowel phonemes. The first word has a low front vowel, the second a low back vowel and the third a mid central one. However, in word final position, this phonemic contrast is neutralized. In the words "sofa," "drama" and "opera," all three words have either a high or low mid central unrounded vowel. This unstressed vowel is very common in English.

The words "hit" and "heat" have the lax high front unrounded and tense high front unrounded vowels. In word final position, this contrast is also neutralized. In the words "baby" and "happy," only the tense vowel occurs. In a few dialects of English such as many of northern England, only the lax vowel occurs word-finally.

The words "pull" and "pool" also exemplify the contrast between lax and tense. In "pull," the high back rounded vowel is lax while in "pool" it is tense. In word-final position, however, only the tense vowel occurs. This is the case in the words "do" and "blue."

The contrast between lax and tense vowels also occurs in "let" and "late." In word-final position, only the tense vowel occurs as in "play" and "they."

The words "hit," "cup" and "ten" have different vowels. However, before the rhotic approximant, this contrast is neutralized. The vowels of "fir," "fur" and "fern" are the same. The notable exception to this rule is certain dialects of Scotland and Ireland in which the contrast is preserved.

The liquids "l" and "r" contrast in many positions such as in "clue," "crew," "call" and "car." However, this is not the case after the voiceless alveolar plosive. In this case, only the rhotic appears as in "train" and "true."

In the English of many speakers such as those of Canada and the United States, the contrast between the voiced and voiceless alveolar plosives is neutralized between a stressed vowel and an unstressed one. The words "medal" and "metal" and "ladder" and "latter" cannot be distinguished by pronunciation alone. This is another example of phoneme neutralization.

Phoneme neutralization is a common process in the languages of the world. English is one language which provides many examples of this phonological process. Many of the English phonemes which undergo neutralization are vowels and they often undergo neutralization in unstressed word-final position.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Exciting Game of Chess

In the summer of 2009 I played a memorable game of chess at My opponent was Soccerdad of the USA who played white. The game was memorable because he made moves that took me by surprise and we both had attacking opportunities. Now I will provide the moves of the game along with my commentary.

1. e4 c5
2. Bc4 e6

I play e6 so that the white bishop cannot attack f7.

3. d4 cxd
4. Nf3 Nf6

To my surprise, white does not immediately recapture my pawn but it is not going anywhere so developing a knight seems fine. I want white to advance his e-pawn on his next move in the hope that it will prove to be overextended. If he advances it, I then plan to play Ne4 and then d5 to protect it.

5. Qxd4 Nc6
6. Qd1 Nxe4

White is not only down a pawn but has no centre pawns left.

7. 0-0 Bc5
8. c3 d5

White's last pawn takes away an ideal square for the queen knight.

9. Bb5 0-0
10. Bxc6 bxc

White's last move allows me to establish greater control over the centre.

11. Ne5 Qb6
12. Na3 Ba6

White's knight on a3 would be better placed on d2 where it could challenge my powerful knight on e4. I have a lot of firepower directed at the white king.

13. Nd7 Bxf2+

White's move completely takes my by surprise. It is a triple fork which attacks my rook, queen and bishop. I do not need to move my queen right away, though, because I can force white to reply to my check.

14. Kh1 Qc7

Now I move my queen but I cannot save my rook.

15. Nxf8 Bxf1
16. Qg4 Kxf8

I expect white to play Qxf1 but he ignores my light-squared bishop.

17. c4 Bc5

Maybe white wants me to play dxc which makes it possible for him to play Qxe4. I vacate the f2 square so that I can threaten Nxf2+ on my next move and win the white queen.

18. Qf3 Bd3

My last move sets a trap. White cannot play Qxd3 because then I can play Nxf2+ and win the white queen.

19. Bf4 Qb6
20. Bg3 f5

White adds more protection to f2.

21. h4 Qxb2
22. Rd1 Nxg3+
23. Qxg3 Be4
24. Rg1 Bxa3

White makes a bad move. He wants to add more protection to g2 but on g1 his rook is very passive and subject to capture by my bishop. However, I decide to capture his knight instead.

25. h5 Bc5
26. Re1 Bf2

I fork the white queen and rook.

27. Qd6+ Kf7

My last move fails to defend my king. White takes advantage and puts me in check.

28. Qd7+ Kf6

White puts me in check again but his queen has no assistance and no more checks.

29. Rxe4 Qb1+

White sacrifices his rook in what appears to be an act of desperation. I calculate that I do not need the rook because I have mate in two.

30. Kh2 Qg1+
31. Kh3 Qh1#

The keys to victory in this game are my control of the centre and powerful attack against the white king. White makes a few moves which I do not expect but fortunately, I am able to overcome them. In the end, his exposed king and failure to control the centre lead to his demise.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sonority Hierarchy

The sonority hierarchy ranks speech sounds by amplitude. The sonority of speech sounds is related to their amplitude. The speech sounds with the greatest amplitude also have the greatest sonority.

In the syllable, the nucleus is the peak. Thus in the word "cat" the vowel "a" has the greatest sonority and the plosives in the onset and the coda have the least. The sonority sequencing principle aims to outline the structure of the syllable in terms of sonority. Certain languages have strict principles regarding syllable structure. Japanese, for example, does not allow plosives in the syllable coda.

Sonority hierarchies can vary in the way that they group sounds together. A typical one groups plosives, affricates and fricatives at the bottom of the sonority hierarchy. They form a class of obstruents. The other sounds form a class of sonorants. They consist of nasals, liquids, high vowels and finally mid and low vowels.

In English, the voiceless plosives are at the bottom of the sonority hierarchy. They are followed by the voiced plosives, the voiceless fricatives, the voiced fricatives, the nasals, the liquids, the high front vowel, the high back vowel, the mid front vowels, the mid back vowels, the low front vowel and the low back vowel.

The sonority hierarchy groups sounds according to their level of sonority. At the bottom of the sonority hierarchy are the obstruents and at the top are the sonorants. Sonorant hierarchies can vary from one language to another but they are usually quite similar.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Scottish English

Politically independent from England until 1707, Scotland has a standard accent that is quite different from Received Pronunciation. Scotland also has a traditional local accent known as Scots which differs significantly from the standard accent. A number of Scots also speak Received Pronunciation.

The Scottish accent is rhotic. The "r" is usually a tap or a trill. The trill is a sound that is typically associated with Scottish English.

The lateral is usually velarized but in areas with a large number of Gaelic speakers it is often pronounced as an alveolar with no velarization. The alveolar pronunciation is typical of Irish English.

The RP vowels of "book" and "boot" have merged into a high central vowel pronounced farther forward than in RP. The words "pull" and "pool" sound alike.

The RP vowels of "bath" and "hat" have also merged. The result is a low front vowel in both.

The mid vowels of "late" and "road" are not diphthongs as they are in RP. They are pronounced as monophthongs. Irish English also pronounces these vowels as monophthongs.

The distinction between "which" and "witch" is maintained. This distinction is not maintained in RP nor in the speech of most North Americans.

In contrast to other accents in which the vowels of "fir", "her" and "fur" are pronounced identically, they are distinguished in Scottish English. The word "fir" is pronounced with the vowel of "it", the word "her" with the vowel of "let" and the word "fur" with the vowel of "up".

The unstressed vowel corresponding to a schwa is often the low mid central vowel of "sun". It is the final vowel in the word "sofa". In RP, this vowel is pronounced as a schwa.

Vowel length also differs from that of other accents. At the end of a morpheme, all vowels except the high front lax unrounded vowel of "it" and the low mid central unrounded vowel of "sun" are long. The words "row" and "agree" maintain the long vowel in "rowed" and "agreed". They contrast with "road" and "greed" which have short vowels.

All vowels, except the vowels of "it" and "sun" are long before the voiced labiodental fricative, voiced alveolar fricative, rhotic liquid and voiced interdental fricative. Thus the vowels are long in the following words: "have", "wise", "more" and "soothe".

Scottish English differs from other varieties of English in many areas. Among the features that are characteristic of Scottish English are the rhotic "r", the pronunciation of the mid vowels as monophthongs, and long vowels at the end of a morpheme.