Monday, May 24, 2010

German Plural

The English plural is usually formed by adding an -s to the base. This suffix is also regularly used in languages such as Spanish, French and Italian. In German, however, the plural is seldom -s. In fact, the German plural can be formed in many different ways. The rules for pluralization in German are far more complicated than in English.

The German word for dog is "Hund." All German nouns must be capitalized. In addition, learners usually memorize the noun with the article because German has three articles- "der" is masculine, "die" is feminine and "das" is neuter. The article used with all plural nouns is "die." The word "Hund" is masculine. Thus, "the dog" is "der Hund." The plural of "Hund" is "Hunde." Nouns in this category add the suffix -e to form the plural.

The word for dress is "Kleid." This noun is neuter. As a result, "the dress" is "das Kleid." The plural of "das Kleid" is "die Kleider." Nouns in this category add the suffix -er.

In German "ball" is "Kugel." This word is feminine. Therefore "the ball" is "die Kugel." The plural of "die Kugel" is "die Kugeln." Nouns in this category add the suffix -n.

The word for "car" in German is "Wagen." This is a masculine noun. Therefore "the car" is "der Wagen." The plural is the same. "Die Wagen" means "the cars." Those nouns which belong to this category have the same form in both the singular and the plural.

The word for "car" can also be "Auto." Of course this word can also be translated as "auto." This noun is neuter. "Das Auto means "the car." To form the plural, add the suffix -s. The plural of "das Auto" is "die Autos."

In certain cases, the plural is formed with a vowel change. For example, the German word for "apple" is Apfel. This word is masculine. The German phrase "der Apfel" is "the apple." To form the plural, the vowel "a" is changed to an "a:" which is called an umlaut in German. The plural of "der Apfel" is "die A:pfel."

The German word "Lehrerin" means "female teacher." The noun is feminine. "Die Lehrerin" means "the female teacher." The plural of "die Lehrerin" is "die Lehrerinnen." Nouns in this category add -nen to form the plural.

The German word "Erlebnis" corresponds to "experience." It is a neuter noun. "Das Erlebnis means "the experience." To form the plural, the suffix -se is added. The plural of "das Erlebnis" is "die Erlebnisse."

Unlike in English, the suffix -s is seldom used in German to form the plural. In fact, this plural suffix is only one of several. Many different suffixes can be used to form the plural. Though certain patterns can be formed in the formation of German plurals such as the suffix -s added to foreign words and -nen added to feminine nouns such as "female teacher," the plurals must largely be memorized. The rules for the pluralization of nouns in German are not as simple as they are in English.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Romance and Germanic Vocabulary of English

English has borrowed many words from both the Romance and Germanic languages. They have given English a very large vocabulary. The Romance and Germanic borrowings often have very similar meanings. As a result, English has many synonyms. In certain cases, however, only one word of a word pair can be used.

Charles W. Kreidler, author of "Introducing English Semantics," provides a list of ten words. The words are:

ache, pain
height, altitude
middle, centre
string, cord
dale, valley
mistake, error
strength, force
work, labour
step, pace
sight, vision.

The first word in each pair is Germanic and the second is Romance. In the first pair, "ache" is used in many compounds such as "toothache", "earache" and "stomachache." The word "pain" can be used to refer to a person: "He is such a pain."

The adjective used to refer to people is "height" as in "average height." For airplanes, "altitude" is used as in "We're flying at an altitude of 5000 metres."

For months, "middle" is used as in "the middle of June." The word "centre" can refer to an important area as in "a centre of tourism."

The word "string" is used for musical instruments such as a guitar string and "cord" is used for the net cord of tennis.

"Dale" is not used very much but is present in names such as Glendale and "valley" is present in the name "Annapolis Valley," an area in Nova Scotia.

"Mistake and error" are often interchangeable but only "mistake" can be a verb as in "to mistake one person for another." The word "error" is used in "error correction."

"Strength" is used in "I want to increase my strength" and "force" is used in "The labour movement has become a powerful force in Canadian politics."

Only "work" is used in the question "Do you like your work?" "Labour" is used in "labour union". When a woman is pregnant and due to give birth shortly, we say she is in "labour."

Only "step" can be used in the compound "footstep." When referring to a tennis player, we can say that one player struggles to match the pace of another. One plays at a slow pace and one at a fast pace.

Only "sight" is used in the compound "eyesight" and "sight" is also used to describe one of the senses along with taste, smell, touch and hearing. However, only "vision" can be used to describe a dream or image as in "a vision of the future."

The English language has a large vocabulary. This is partly due to the great number of words borrowed from the Romance and Germanic languages. These borrowings have given English many synonyms but the examples given in this post illustrate that these synonyms are not always interchangeable.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Oriental Gardens

I lived in Tokushima, Japan from 1996 to 1998. During this time I wrote "Oriental Gardens." I hopy you enjoy it.

Oriental Gardens

Coloured fish swim away in bright sun.
Medieval gates welcome day after day.
Soul and mind come together as one.
Longing for peace, longing to stay.

Plants abound whenever eyes meet.
Flowers send out true warmth and grace.
Together the two wanderers greet,
Planting each visit in their hearts' place.

Rocks form rights of passage across water clear.
Protecting here lies one grand castle wall
For artistry within is held very dear,
From times long ago to times that now call.

Though life comes with many changes at hand,
Oriental gardens serve for enduring reflection.
These hosts build bridges of constand demand
To wondrous new worlds of harmonious reflection.

In this poem, I create the sense of repetition. This is reflected in the first verse with "fish swim away." The words "day after day" and "longing for peace, longing to stay" do the same. In verse two, the plants and flowers are personified because they greet wanderers of oriental gardens. The third stanza personifies the castle wall which protects all within its territory. The rocks are also personified because they offer rights of passage. In the final stanza, "bridge" can be interpreted both literally and figuratively. It can be the bridge which is typical of an oriental garden and it can represent the garden which is a link to a world of harmony. "Oriental Gardens" was inspired by my visits to many beautiful gardens in Japan.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Thrilling Chess Game

I recently played a chess game at letsplaychess.com that I will never forget. It was definitely one of the most thrilling games I have ever played. My opponent was Cremac from Scotland who played black. Now I provide the moves of this memorable game along with my commentary.

1. d4 d5
2. c4 dxc
3. e4 e6

The move e5 is very interesting here. If black plays e5, white cannot take the pawn because black can then capture the white queen and force white to recapture with the king. This prevents white from castling and leaves white with doubled pawns which are difficult to defend.

4. Nc3 Nc6
5. Nf3 h6
6. Bxc4 Bb4

I restore material equality.

7. 0-0 a6

Black is behind in piece development.

8. a3 Bxc3
9. bxc Nf6

I have a strong pawn centre.

10. Re1 0-0
11. Bd2 Na5
12. Bd3 c5

I cannot capture the pawn because this allows the black queen to capture my bishop on d3.

13. h3 c4
14. Bc2 b5
15. e5 Ne8

The knight on e8 is now very defensive.

16. Qc1 Bb7
17. Nh2 Rb8

This move is too passive. Nc7 is a better move.

18. Ng4 Qd5

Black threatens mate on g2.

19. f3 f5
20. Nxh6 gxh

I sacrifice my knight to expose the black king.

21. Bxh6 Rf7
22. Qg5+ Ng7
23. Re2 Qd8

Black wants to reduce my attack with an exchange of queens.

24. Qg3 Kh7

I decline the offer to exchange queens. Black attacks my bishop.

25. Bg5 Qd7
26. Qh4+ Kg8
27. Bf6 Bd5
28. Rae1 Nc6
29. Kf2 Qe8
30. g4 Ne7

I want to open the g-file.

31. Qh6 Kf8
32. gxf exf
33. Bxf5 Rb6

The bishop is immune to capture. The knight on g7 is pinned. If black plays Nxf5, Qh8 is mate.

34. Rg1 Ng8

The black knight attacks my queen and bishop.

35. bxg7+ Ke7

The rook cannot take my bishop because then Qxg7 is mate.

36. Qxb6 Rxf5

I have the advantage but the position is complicated. I must play accurately.

37. Qd6+ Kf7
38. Qg6+ Ke7

I do not capture the bishop because I want the rook.

39. Qxf5 Kd8
40. Bf6+ Nxf6
41. exf Qf7

I have a double attack. My queen attacks the bishop and my rook attacks the queen.

42. Rg7

White resigns because the only move by the queen, Qf8, allows Qd7 which is mate.

In this unforgettable game, I sacrifice a knight to launch a powerful attack against the black king. Actually, I am not completely certain that my sacrifice is sound. Such a sacrifice is called a speculative sacrifice. In this game, I rely on my intuition in the hope that my sacrifice can lead to victory. Though black is on the defensive for most of the game, I must play carefully to maintain the initiative.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bad Captures in Chess

I recently played a game at letsplaychess.com in which my opponent made a number of bad captures. This enabled me to obtain a quick victory. My opponent was Padkoos of the United Kingdom. In this game, he played white. I now provide the moves of the game along with my commentary.

1. h4 e5

My opponent's move is unusual. More common opening moves are d4 and e4 which aim to control the centre.

2. d4 exd
3. Bf4 Nc6

To my surprise, my opponent does not play Qxd4 on his third move.

4. e3 dxe
5. Bxe3 Nf6
6. Bg5 Be7

My opponent has developed only one piece, his bishop. I have developed three. He is clearly behind in development.

7. Bxf6 Bxf6

This capture by black is a mistake. My dark-squared bishop now has control of the a1-h8 diagonal.

8. c3 d6
9. Bb5 Bd7

White's pin on my knight is only temporary.

10. Bxc6 Bxc6

This capture by black is also a mistake. My light-squared bishop now has control of the h1-a8 diagonal. Development is also a problem for white. Every piece is on his back rank.

11. f3 0-0

White's last move takes away the best square for his knight. A better move here is Nf3.

12. Qb3 Re8+
13, Ne2 Qe7

If white castles now, he loses his knight on e2.

14. Qd1 Bxh4+

White's queen is forced to retreat. I increase my control of the dark squares with my last move.

15. g3 Bxg3

Black fails to see that I can capture his pawn because his knight is pinned.

16. Kf1 Bxf3

Now white's knight is pinned and his rook is under attack.

17. Rh3 Bxe2+

18. Qxe2 Qxe2+

White does not want to give up his queen, but if he does not, I capture her on my next move.

19. Kg1 Qf2+

White's move is forced. I see that my next move is mate.

20. Kh1 Re1#

White's move is forced. His knight on b1 never enters the game.

My opponent fails to understand that his early captures give up control of two important diagonals of the board. He also neglects the development of his pieces and leaves his king far too exposed. I take advantage of these factors to force an early mate.

Different Prepositions in British and American English

The many differences in the pronunciation, vocabulary and spelling of British and American English are well-known. However, the two dialects of English also exhibit a few differences in their use of prepositions. These differences only apply to a limited number of expressions.

In both British and American English, it is common to use the preposition "to" in a phrase such as "Monday to Friday." However, American English also allows the use of "through" as in "Monday through Friday." British English does not allow "through" in this context.

Americans play on a team, but Britons play in a team. In this case Americans use "on" while Britons use "in." In other situations, the situation is the opposite- Americans use "in" and Britons use "on." For example, Britons enroll on a course but Americans enroll in a course. Also, Americans say that the British Prime Minister lives on Downing Street but Britons say he lives in Downing Street.

In the case of the word "weekend", Americans say "on the weekend" but Britons says "at the weekend." Americans use the same preposition that is used with days as in "on Friday." Britons use the same preposition that is used in the phrase "at the end of the week."

The contrast between "on" and "at" is also true for telephone numbers. Americans phone at 521-2906 and Britons phone on 521-2906. Americans say, "You can reach me at this number" while Britons say, "You can reach me on this number." This difference is also true for polls. For example, Britons say, "She is on 30% in the polls and Americans "She is at 30% in the polls."

Another difference concerns the use of "to." Both Britons and Americans use "I'm writing a letter to Mark," but Americans can delete the preposition as in "I'm writing John." This is unacceptable in British English which only accepts "I'm writing to John." In British English, "I'm writing John" is only acceptable if it means that the person is actually writing the word "John." This can then be rewritten so that "John" is enclosed with quotation marks- "I'm writing 'John'."

Many of the differences between British and American English are familiar. However, differences in the use of prepositions are less so. The reason for this may be largely that these differences are only limited to a few prepositions.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chess Statistics

Statistics can be a useful tool for learning about your success in chess with white and black and for determining your most successful openings. I decided to look at my last 50 games at letsplaychess.com and analyze my success with the use of statistics. For greater accuracy, it would be ideal to look at a greater number of games such as 100, but to do so would of course be more time-consuming. Nevertheless, I believe my last 50 games can provide valuable insight about my game.

In my last fifty games, I was white in 18 games and black in 32. In 36% of my games I played white and in 64% I played black. Because white has an advantage over black by going first, I expected my winning percentage for white to be better than for black.

I won 42 out of 50 games for a winning percentage of 84%. As white, I won 15 out of 18 games for a winning percentage of 83.3%. When I was black, I won 27 out of 32 games for a winning percentage of 84.4%. Surprisingly, my winning percentage as black was a little higher. However, this can be explained. I played more games as black than as white and I played opponents of different levels. Thus, the conditions were far from equal. These statistics do not necessarily indicate that I play better as black than as white.

In the 32 games that I played as black, my opponents played e4 in 30 games and d4 in only 2. The king's pawn opening e4 was played in 93.8% of my games and d4 was played in only 6.2% of them. The opening e4 proved to be far more popular than d4.

In my 18 games as white, I played e4 10 times, d4 7 times and Nf3 once. I played e4 in 55.6% of games, d4 in 38.9% and Nf3 in 5.6%. I played e4 the most often but not as often as my opponents.

When I opened with e4, I won 9 out of 10 games. With d4, I won five out of seven and with Nf3 I won one out of one. My winning percentage with e4 was 90%. With d4 it was 71.4% and with Nf3 it was 100%. These statistics appear to indicate that my most successful opening is Nf3 but since I only played one game with this opening these statistics are inconclusive. However, it appears that I may be more successful with e4 than with d4.

Statistics from my last 50 games are not necessarily indicative of my best openings nor my relative success as white and black. A larger number of games would be necessary to make a more accurate determination. Also, the conditions for white and black would need to be as equal as possible and the number of games the same for accurate comparison. Nevertheless, the statistics from my last 50 games show that I was a little more successful as black than as white and that my most successful opening was e4. These results may indicate that I need to play more creatively as white and can expect more success with e4 than d4.