Monday, December 26, 2011

Removing The Guard

One chess tactic is removing the guard. This is also known as undermining. It removes the defence of a piece so that it becomes possible to win material. In a very short game of speed chess at, I used this tactic to great effect. My opponent was Syanas of the USA who played black. Here are the moves of this game along with my commentary:

1. e4 c5
2. d4 cxd
3. c3 Nc6

I expect dxc.

4. cxd d5
5. exd Qxd5
6. Nf3 Bg4
7. Be2 Bxf3

Black thinks that he can win a pawn. The capture of my knight removes a defender of my d-pawn.

8. Bxf3 Qxd4

Black makes a mistake. Qd7 and Qe6+ are better moves.

9. Bxc6+

I remove the knight which guards the queen. Black must respond to my check. I then capture the unprotected queen on my next move. Realizing the difficulty of playing on in such a position, black resigns. The key to victory in this game is my ability to capture my opponent's queen with a check which removes his queen's guard.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Trapping the Queen

In a game of speed chess at, my opponent brought his queen out early. On my twelfth move, I trapped his queen and he resigned two moves later. My opponent was Williamigg of Russia who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 d5
2. exd Qxd5
3. Nc3 Qa5

I immediately attack the queen.

4. Nf3 Nc6
5. d4 e6
6. Bd2 Qh5
7. Be2 f6

Black lags behind in development.

8. Ne5 Qh4

I attack the queen again.

9. Nxc6 bxc6
10. 0-0 Bd6

The black queen can capture my pawn on d4 but with the lack of development and the king in the centre, it is risky. For this reason black chooses to develop and threaten mate on h2. The problem is that the black queen is in danger. A better move to protect the queen is g5.

11. g3 Qh3
12. Bg4 Qxg4

The black queen is trapped.

13. Qxg4 e5

Now the black bishop attacks my queen.

14. Qxg7

Black resigns. Not only is he down a queen and a pawn but he cannot save his rook on h8. Rather than continue in such a difficult position, he surrenders. My ability to attack the black queen and take advantage of black's lack of development result in a quick victory.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quick Mate

In a game of speed chess at, I quickly mated my opponent by penetrating with my queen to the back rank. My opponent was Liew1960 of Malaysia who played white. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. d4 e5
2. f3 exd

White's move is a surprise. I expect dxe.

3. Qxd4 Nc6

I immediately attack white's queen.

4. Qf2 Nf6

Qd1 and Qa4 are more common moves for white.

5. b3 d5
6. Nd2 b6
7. Bb2 Bc5

I attack the white queen to create a pawn weakness.

8. e3 Bb7
9. 0-0-0 0-0

White castles queenside to protect the king but my firepower is concentrated on the queenside.

10. Qe2 Nb4
11. Kb1 a5
12. e4 a4

I continue with my attack.

13. exd axb

A better move for white is e5 which attacks my knight.

14. axb Nfxd5
15. Nc4 Na2
16. Qe5 f6

I must stop mate on g7.

17. Qf5 Ndc3+

Now I have a discovered attack on the rook.

18. Bxc3 Qxd1+
19. Kb2 Qc1#

Supported by my knight on a2, my queen delivers mate. In this game white creates a mating threat with Qe5, but fails to see the power of my seventeenth move. It creates a discovered attack on the white rook which allows my queen to penetrate to the back rank. This is the key to victory in the game.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Infixation in Cebuano

Cebuano, one of the languages spoken in the Phillipines, has infixation. This is a morphological process in which a bound morpheme attaches inside a root. More common morphological processes are prefixation and suffixation.

The following are five nouns from Cebuano:

sibwano (a Cebuano)
ilokano (an Ilokano)
tagalog (a Tagalog person)
inglis (an Englishman)
bisaja (a Visayan)

The language names are the following:

sinibwano (the Cebuano language)
inilokano (the Ilocano language)
tinagalog (the Tagalog language)
ininglis (the English language)
binisaja (the Visayan language)

An analysis of the words sinibwano, tinagalog and binisaja reveals that the affix -in- has been inserted between the onset and the rest of the root. However, with ilokano the affix is in front of the root. In the case of ininglis, it is not clear if the affix -in- is the first or second syllable of the word.

To solve the data it is important to find a simple solution. It is not so simple to argue that the affix -in- is sometimes a prefix and sometimes an infix. Rather, a rule can be created which inserts the affix -in- after the onset of the root. The onset of sibwano is /s/. With insertion of the affix after the onset /s/, the result is /s/ + /in/ + /ibwano/ which derives sinibwano. The same pattern applies to tagalog and bisaja. The three words begin with consonants.

However, the words ilokano and inglis begin with vowels. Here the onset of the first syllable is 0. Therefore, the infix -in- is inserted after a 0 onset. This is also known as an empty onset. Here is the derivation for ilokano: 0 + /in/ + /ilokano/ becomes inilokano.

The word ininglis is derived by the same process. To indicate the position of the affix in the word, we can write /in/(Af) to distinguish the affix from the part of the root. Here is the derivation for ininglis: 0 + /in/(Af) + inglis becomes ininglis.

Cebuano is a language with infixation. The infix -in- attaches to the inside of ethnic group names to derive language names. It may appear that the affix is sometimes a prefix because it attaches before vowel-initial roots. However, the rule which states that -in- attaches after onsets solves this problem. In roots which have no initial consonant, the infix -in- is attached after a 0 onset. This makes it possible to express the process as infixation in all cases.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My heart leaps up when I behold

William Wordsworth was an English romantic poet. One of his poems is titled "My Heart Leaps Up."

My Heart Leaps Up

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky;
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound to each by natural piety.

The narrator expresses his love of nature. Every time he sees a rainbow he is filled with joy. This was true in his days of infancy and also now. He says this connection will be true until he dies and declares he would rather die than not appreciate the beauty of a rainbow. He considers children superior to adults because they are closer to nature. He wants to be as in his childhood, a person bound to nature.

The poem "My Heart Leaps Up" is a very short poem. However, it is a powerful poem which expresses many ideas in few words. The strength of the narrator's feelings is clearly expressed in the sixth verse "Or let me die!" For the narrator a life without nature is unimaginable.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Decisive Pin

In a game of speed chess at, I used a pin to achieve a quick victory. My opponent was Barbances of Spain who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 d6

Black usually plays a6.

4. Bxc6+ bxc6
5. h3 Nf6
6. 0-0 Nxe4

I sacrifice a pawn for quick development.

7. d4 exd

With black's king in the centre, I want an open game.

8. Qxd4 Nf6

A better move than this retreat with the knight is d5. It keeps the knight in the centre and opens a diagonal for the black bishop on f8.

9. Bg5 Be7

Now black is ready to castle.

10. Re1 Qd7

A better move for black is 0-0.

11. Bxf6 gxf6
12. Qxf6 Rg8

My twelfth move takes black by surprise. My queen cannot be captured because the bishop is pinned. The pin is decisive. Black must move his rook to avoid capture by my queen.

13. Ng5 Rg6

Black attacks my queen but this move is a mistake. A better move is Rf8 but it is clear that black is in trouble.

14. Qh8+

Black resigns. The only move for black is Rg8. I then play Qxg8 and it is mate. One of the key moves in this game is Qxf6. It takes advantage of the pin on the bishop and attacks the king rook. Black must move the rook on his next move but then loses his right to castle. Black's inability to castle allows me to end the game quickly.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Probability of a Coin Flip

The probability of a coin flip landing on one side is 50%. This of course assumes that the coin is fair and the probability of heads or tails is thus even. The probability of a coin landing on heads or tails twice in a row is 25%. The reason is that there are now four possible outcomes: heads, heads; tails, tails; heads, tails; tails, heads.

The probability of a coin landing on heads or tails three times in a row is only 12.5% or one in eight. The reason is that there are now eight possible outcomes. With one flip the probability of one outcome is 50%. With two it becomes 25% and with three 12.5%. With each additional flip, the percentage is halved.

With this knowledge I decided to flip a 100 won coin three times in a row and repeat this eight times. Since the probability of heads resulting three times in a row was only 12.5% or one out of eight, I thought that I might get three heads in a row once out of eight tries. Here are the results of my experiment:

1) heads, heads, tails
2) heads, tails, heads
3) tails, heads, tails
4) heads, heads, heads
5) tails, heads, tails
6) heads, heads, tails
7) heads, heads, tails
8) tails, tails, tails

From my eight series of flips, I got three heads in a row once. I also got three tails once in a row. However, I got heads thirteen times and tails eleven times. This was not an even split. Instead of 50% heads and 50% tails, the result was 54% heads and 46% tails. Nevertheless, this was close to 50-50.

Based on this simple experiment, it may be that results are often close or identical to theoretical probability. I got three heads in a row once out of eight times which was exactly as predicted. I also got tails once out of eight as predicted. I did not get an even number of heads and tails but the results were very close to theoretical probability.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Exposed King

In a game of speed chess at, I managed to destroy the pawn shield around the enemy king and expose him to an overwhelming attack. My opponent was Rajantnr87 of India who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 d6
3. Bc4 h6

Black makes an unnecessary move. Be7 and Nf6 are better moves.

4. h3 a6

I prevent Bg4.

5. a4 Nc6

I prevent b5.

6. d4 exd
7. Nxd4 Ne5
8. Bb3 Nf6
9. Nc3 Be7
10. 0-0 0-0
11. Bxh6 gxh6

I sacrifice my bishop to destroy the pawn shield around the black king.

12. Qd2 Kh7
13. f4 Ng6
14. Nf5 Rh8

Black makes a bad move.

15. Bxf7 Bxf5
16. exf5 Nf8

Black has four pieces on the back rank.

17. Rf3 Kg7
18. Bg6 N8d7
19. Rg3 Kf8

I place my rook on an open file.

20. Re1 c6

Black prevents Nd5.

21. Ne4 Qb6+
22. Kh1 Bd8

Black makes another bad move.

23. Qxd6+ Be7
24. Qe6

Black resigns. At the moment of resignation, black has an extra piece but three fewer pawns. The material count is even but black is helpless to prevent mate. I have control of f7. The only way for black to delay mate is to play Rh7 but I can then play Bxh7. With the realization that he cannot save the game, black decides to resign.

The keys to victory in this game are the exposed black king, the lack of coordination of the black pieces and my control of the light squares. Though black has one more piece, his pieces are very passive. He never manages to activate his rooks. For these reasons, he decides to resign on his 24th move.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Clearance Sacrifice

In a game of speed chess at, I used a clearance sacrifice to win material. A clearance sacrifice is a sacrifice which clears space. In this game, my sacrifice allowed my queen to control an important diagonal and capture my opponent's rook. My opponent was Mychessplay of India who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 Bd6
4. 0-0 a6
5. Ba4 b5

I opt to keep my bishop.

6. Bb3 Nd4
7. Nxd4 exd4

I must make sure that black does not trap my bishop.

8. e5 Bxe5

I sacrifice my pawn. This is a clearance sacrifice because now my queen has access to the f3-a8 diagonal. I do not play Qf3 right away because then black can counter with Qf6 and my queen cannot capture the rook on a8. With the clearance sacrifice, my queen can control the f3-a8 diagonal on my next move.

9. Qf3 Nf6

Black's move prevents Qxf7#.

10. Qxa8 0-0
11. h3 c6

Black wants to trap my queen.

12. d3 Nh5

Now I can develop my dark-squared bishop.

13. a4 Qh4
14. Nd2 Qf4

Black threatens Qh2#.

15. Nf3 Qf6
16. Nxe5 Qxe5
17. Bd2 Qe2
18. Bb4 Re8
19. Rfe1 Qxe1+

Black must capture to avoid Rxe8#.

20. Rxe1 Rxe1+

Black resigns. On my next move I can play Bxe1. This leaves me one piece up. Even worse for black, I threaten to capture his bishop on c8 which cannot move because it is pinned. With the loss of his queen and pinned bishop, black realizes that his position is hopeless. For this reason he resigns. My clearance sacrifice on move 8, e5, is one of the key moments of the game.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Debuccalization is a sound change in which a consonant becomes a glottal fricative or glottal stop. It is a common sound change which is also found in English. Debuccalization can be considered a weakening process.

Many speakers of English glottalize a /t/ when it is word-final and followed by a consonant and when it is followed by a syllabic nasal or liquid. This can occur in the following environments:

hot coffee
not much
quite good

In Cockney English, an intervolic /t/ is replaced by a glottal stop, i.e., later, latest, city. In Canadian and American English, however, the /t/ is normally flapped here.

In Spanish, debuccalization also occurs. However, it is not a /t/ which becomes a glottal but rather an /s/. In many Spanish dialects such as those of Cuba, Venezuela and Panama, it is common for a syllable-final /s/ followed by a consonant to become an /h/. This happens in many words such as fresco (fresh), fiesta (party), and costa (coast).

Debuccalization is a common sound change. It can be classified as a subcategory of weakening, also known as lenition. With this sound change, the place of articulation shifts from the oral cavity to the glottis.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Many chess games are lost because of miscalculation. Such was the case in a game of speed chess at My opponent was FaduljoseA of the Phillipines who played white. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 d6
3. d4 cxd
4. Nxd4 Nf6
5. Nc3 a6

I prevent Bb5+.

6. Bg5 e6
7. Bc4 Be7
8. 0-0 Nc6
9. Nxc6 bxc6

White makes a mistake. The capture Nxc6 allows me to strengthen my pawn centre.

10. a3 0-0
11. Re1 h6
12. Bh4 Bb7

The white bishops are more active than mine.

13. h3 Qc7
14. Ba2 Rad8
15. Ne2 Rfe8

Black's last two moves are passive.

16. f3 Nh7

I want to exchange white's active bishop for my passive bishop.

17. Bxe7 Qxe7

I am happy to exchange bishops.

18. Nf4 d5
19. exd cxd
20. Nxd5 Qc5+

White miscalculates. He plays Nxd5 because if I play exd5, I lose my queen. However, I can safely play Bxd5. What white fails to notice is that he cannot win material. My queen is protected and I have two pieces attacking d5. I can play Bxd5 but I first decide to put his king in check and attack the pinned knight with my queen. With the realization that he will lose material, white resigns.

White loses because he fails to see that his combination is flawed. He thinks he can exploit my inability to play exd5 but does not notice that my protected queen prevents a gain of material. This is the difference in the game.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Accents of Canadian English

The English of Canada is remarkably uniform. Despite a large area, Canadian English is more uniform than that of Britain and the United States. The main accents of Canadian English are the West-Central, Maritime and Newfoundland accents.

The most widely-spoken Canadian dialect is the West-Central. It also includes the accent of Quebec. In contrast to the English of other provinces, Quebec English includes a number of French words such as "autoroute" for freeway and "metro" for subway.

The Maritime accent is the accent of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. The Lunenburg accent of Nova Scotia is the only non-rhotic accent of Canada. In the Lunenburg accent, the "r" in words such as"farmer," "farm" and "world" is not pronounced.

The Newfoundland accent is the most distinctive Canadian accent. In this accent, many words are pronounced with different vowels than in other Canadian accents. For example, the word "sun" is pronounced with the vowel of "ma" and "pa." It is a more open vowel. The "a" of "father" tends to be pronounced with a more fronted vowel, similar to the vowel of "cat." The "a" of "car" is also pronounced with a lower vowel so that it sounds similar to the vowel of "cat." Also notable about the Newfoundland accent is a syllable-final "r" which tends to have a longer duration than in the rest of Canada.

Although Canadian English is not so varied, it nevertheless has three main dialects. They are the West-Central, Maritime and Newfoundland. Of these three, the West-Central is the most widely-spoken and the Newfoundland is the most distinctive. The Maritime dialect includes the Lunenburg accent, the only non-rhotic accent in Canada.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Controlling the Back Rank

Controlling your opponent's back rank is often the key to winning. In a game of speed chess at, I managed to control my opponent's back rank and end the game quickly. My opponent was Chesspawn01 of the Phillipines who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 c5
2. d4 e6

The move cxd is more common.

3. Nf3 d5
4. exd exd
5. Bb5+ Bd7

I usually play Be2 here. I decide to play a more open game.

6. Bxd7+ Qxd7

Black has no kingside development.

7. 0-0 Bd6
8. dxc Bxc5
9. Ne5 Qe6

Black makes a bad move. The e-file is open, so the queen should not occupy it. A better move is Qd8.

10. Re1 Nf6

Black does not have time for this move. A move such as Qd8 is necessary.

11. Nd3 Ne4

The black queen is not safe for long.

12. Nxc5 Qf6

The knight is pinned, so I win a piece. I must be careful, though, because now black threatens Qxf7+ followed by Qxc5.

13. Nxe4 dxe4

The move f3 is also possible here.

14. Rxe4+ Kf8

Black loses the right to castle.

15. Qe2 Qc6

Black prevents mate on e8 but Nc6 is a better move. This develops a piece and brings the a8 rook into the game.

16. Nc3 g6

Black wants to create an escape square for his king but this is a mistake. A better move is Na6 or Nd7.

17. Bh6+ Kg8

Black's move is forced.

18. Re8+

Black resigns.

After Re8+ Black must play Qxe8. I then play Qxe8 which is checkmate. Black's inability to control the backrank is crucial to the outcome. At the moment of resignation, black has only one developed piece, his queen. His lack of development leads to his defeat.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Languages of Afghanistan

Afghanistan is home to many languages. The two official languages are Pashto and Dari. Pashto is spoken by approximately 50% of the population and Dari by approximately 40%. Other languages with a considerable number of speakers are Uzbek and Turkmen.

Pashto is an important language not only in Afghanistan but also in Pakistan where it is spoken by approximately 15% of the population. Pakistan is a southern neighbour of Afghanistan.

Dari is a language which is closely related to Persian, also known as Farsi. Persian is the first language of approximately 55% of the population of Iran. Iran is a western neighbour of Afghanistan.

Uzbek is spoken by approximately 9% of the population of Afghanistan. The largest number of Uzbek speakers are found in Uzbekistan, a northern neighbour of Afghanistan.

Turkmen is spoken by approximately 2% of the population of Aghanistan. The largest number of Turkmen speakers are found in Turkmenistan, a northern neighbour of Afghanistan.

Though Afghanistan has only two official languages, many are spoken. The official languages, Pashto and Dari, are also spoken outside of Afghanistan. Pashto has many speakers in Pakistan and Dari is similar to Persian, the first language of most Iranians. In addition to these two languages, many Afghans speak Turkmen and Uzbek, the official languages of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In fact, most speakers of Turkmen and Uzbek are found in those countries. The fact that they are also spoken in Afghanistan attests to the multicultural nature of Afghanistan.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Galician is a language of northern Spain. It is the Romance language closest to Portuguese. At the same time, it shares more similarities with Spanish than Portuguese does.

The word for person illustrates the relationship of Galician to Spanish and Portuguese. In Spanish, "person" is "persona." In Portuguese, this is "pessoa" and in Galician "persoa."

The numbers from one to ten in Galician also illustrate the relationship to Spanish and Portuguese. Here they are:

Galician: un, dous, tres, catro, cinco, seis, sete, oito, nove, dez
Spanish: uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez
Portuguese: um, dois, três, quatro, cinco, seis, sete, oito, nove, dez

The only Galician numbers which are not identical in either Spanish or Portuguese are "un," "dous," and "catro." Six numbers are the same in both Galician and Portuguese and three numbers are the same in Galician and Spanish. In the numbers from one to ten, a closer relationship between Galician and Portuguese can be noted than between Galician and Spanish.

Though many may view Galician as a dialect of either Spanish or Portuguese, it is in fact a language of its own. The Galician language has a vocabulary which is often different from that of Spanish and Portuguese. Nevertheless, it shares many similarities with both languages, particularly Portuguese.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Playing With a Plan

In chess it is important to play with a plan. In a game of speed chess at against Fampikutara of Costa Rica, I developed a plan. In this game he was black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e6
2. d4 a6

Black's reply is unusual. The move d5 is common here.

3. Nf3 d5
4. Nc3 c6

Black is now weak on the dark squares because only one black pawn is on a dark square.

5. e4 Bb4

My move prevents Nf6.

6. Bd2 Bxc3
7. Bxc3 h6

Now that black no longer has a dark-squared bishop, I increase my control over the dark squares.

8. Bd3 a5

My light-squared bishop controls many squares.

9. a4 Ne7

I play a4 to prevent b5.

10. 0-0 h5
11. h4 f5

I play h4 to prevent g5.

12. Ng5 g6

My knight has a terrific outpost.

13. b4 Bd7
14. Qd2 axb
15. Bxb4 Qb6

All the black pawns are now on light squares.

16. Nf3 Na6
17. Bxe7 Kxe7
18. Qg5+ Kf7

I have the initiative.

19. Qf6+ Kg8
20. Qxg6+ Kf8
21. Ng5 Be8
22. Qf6+ Kg8

This repeats move 19.

23. Qxe6+ Kf8
24. Qxf5+ Ke7

I have three extra pawns.

25. Qf6+ Kd7

I can capture the rook on h8 but I first want to involve my bishop in the attack.

26. Bf5+ Kc7
27. Qxh8 Qxd4

I am so intent on capturing the rook that I fail to notice that Qd6 is checkmate. Black's move is a blunder.

28. Ne6+ Kd7
29. Nxd4+ Ke7

This is a discovered check.

30. Qf6#

Black's moves enable me to develop a clear plan. I decide to gain control of the dark squares, penetrate with my queen and prevent black from coordinating an attack. These factors are critical to the outcome.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Regions of New Zealand

Unlike many countries, New Zealand has neither states nor provinces. New Zealand is divided into regions. The North Island has nine and the South Island has seven. The North Island has Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Taranaki, Manawatu-Wanganui and Wellington. The South Island has Tasman, Nelson, Marlborough, Westcoast, Canterbury, Otago and Southland.

The region with the largest area is Canterbury. The capital of Canterbury is Christchurch. However, the region with the largest population is Auckland. The capital of the region, Auckland, is also the largest city in New Zealand.

The capital of the region Wellington is Wellington, which is also the capital of New Zealand. Wellington is the third most populous region in the country after Auckland and Canterbury.

The region with the smallest area is Nelson. In population, though, it is not the smallest. This distinction belongs to West Coast, a region which is fifth largest in area. It is a region with a long coastline.

New Zealand is divided into sixteen regions. The largest in area is found on South Island, an island with a larger area than North Island. The largest in population, however, is found on North Island, an island with a larger population than South Island. The region with the largest population, Auckland, also has the country's largest city.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pronunciation of /r/ in the Netherlands

The /r/ used in the Netherlands has many variants. It can be realized as an alveolar trill, alveolar tap, alveolar approximant, voiced uvular fricative or uvular trill. The pronunciation of this sound varies from region to region, and in certain cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam, from speaker to speaker.

To determine the distribution of the different /r/ sounds in the Netherlands, it is useful to identify the different provinces. The Netherlands has twelve provinces which are Zeeland, North Brabant, Limburg, South Holland, North Holland, Utrecht, Gelderland, Flevoland, Overijssel, Friesland, Drenthe and Groningen.

Though many Dutch speakers use only one /r/ sound, a few use an alveolar approximant in the syllable coda only. The city of Leiden is an exception, however. This city in South Holland uses an alveolar approximant in all positions.

The alveolar trill is common in Zeeland, Gelderland, Flevoland, Drenthe and Groningen. In Overijssel most areas use the alveolar trill but the uvular is used in the cities of Zwolle and Almelo. In Friesland the trill is common but in the capital of Leeuwarden the uvular is used. In North Holland the trill is common but in Amsterdam and Hilversum many speakers also use the uvular. Hilversum is well-known for the use of the alveolar approximant in the syllable coda. In Utrecht both the trill and the uvular are heard.

The uvular is common in North Brabant and Limburg. In South Holland, it is also common, but in Rotterdam, a number of speakers also use the trill. In fact, speakers of North Brabant and Limburg are known for using the uvular in all positions. This pronunciation of the /r/ is reminiscent of French and German.

Clearly the pronunciation of the /r/ in the Netherlands can vary considerably. In the southern provinces of Brabant and Limburg the uvular trill dominates. On the other hand, in the northern provinces of Groningen and Drenthe the alveolar trill dominates. It is also true that in cities such as Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Utrecht both the alveolar and uvular sounds are used, and in rural areas the alveolar trill dominates. Thus, the uvular /r/ is more common in the south than in the north, and more common in urban areas.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Quick Victory with a Double Check

In a recent game of speed chess at, I won quickly with a double check. My opponent was Forplaying of France who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 d5

Black's reply is a surprise. More common moves are Nc6, Nf6 and d6.

3. exd e4

This move is also a surprise. I expect Qxd5 but black attacks my king knight instead.

4. Qe2 Nf6

I pin black's e-pawn.

5. Nc3 Bg4

Black pins my king knight.

6. Nxe4 Bxf3

Black makes a bad move. It is necessary to shield the king from a check on the e-file. This can be accomplished with a move such as Be7 or Qe7. My queen is attacked, so black probably expects me to play Qxf3. But I see that I have a better move.

7. Nxf6#

This is not only a double check but also checkmate. My queen checks on the e-file and my knight checks from f6. The black king has no escape square.

In this game, my opponent surprises me with his second and third moves. He plays aggressively but fails to protect his king. I can ignore the attack on my queen because the black king is vulnerable. My ability to exploit this vulnerability of the black king leads to victory.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Invariable English Verbs

A number of English verbs have the same form in the base verb, past tense and past participle. These verbs are all monosyllabic and end in either a t or a d. In the majority of cases, the final consonant is a t.

The English verbs which do not vary in the base verb, past tense and past participle belong to a small group of verbs. These verbs include the following:

bet, bust, bid, cast, cost, cut, fit, hit, hurt, knit, let, read, rid, set,shed, slit, spit, split, spread, wed, wet.

In this list of 21 words, 15 end in t and 6 end in d. However, not all of these verbs are necessarily invariable.

The verb "bust" also has the form "busted" in the past tense and the past participle. Some speakers use "busted" instead of "bust." The verb "knit" also has the form "knitted" in the past tense and past participle. This is used by many speakers. In the case of "spit," the form "spat" is also possible in the past tense and past participle. This is the same pattern as with the verb "sit." The verb "fit" is special because if it is a transitive verb, the form "fitted" is used in the past tense and past participle. It is true that "read" is invariable with respect to orthography, but the base verb is pronounced with a different vowel sound that the past tense and the past participle.

English is a language with a large number of irregular verbs. A few of them share the same form in the base verb, past tense and past participle. However, a few of these verbs are not invariable for all speakers because they have optional forms for the past tense and past participle. They are easy to learn because they they have only three forms: the base verb, the continuous which adds -ing and the third person singular which adds -s.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Castling Error

Although castling is usually a good move which keeps the king protected and connects the rooks, it can be an error. In a game of speed chess which I played at, my opponent's decision to castle was an error. My opponent was Sassang of Malaysia who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. d4 d5
2. c4 Nf6

Black's move is a surprise. More common moves are dxc, e6 and c6.

3. Nc3 dxc
4. e4 Bd7
5. Bxc4 e6

I regain the pawn.

6. Bg5 Bb4
7. e5 Bxc3+
8. bxc3 h6
9. Bxf6 gxf6
10. Nf3 f5
11. d5 Qe7

Black does not capture my pawns because with his king in the centre he wants to keep the position closed.

12. d6 cxd
13. exd Qf6

My d-pawn is isolated but not so easy to eliminate.

14. Qd3 Nc6
15. 0-0 a6
16. Rfe1 0-0-0

This move is bad because it allows a dangerous sacrifice. Black wants to connect his rooks, but his king has little protection on the queenside. Kingside castling is a better option, but even that is risky. Safer for black is Kf8 followed by Kg7 to connect the rooks.

17. Bxa6 bxa6

It is better for black to refuse the sacrifice.

18. Qxa6+ Kb8

This is the only legal move for black. The game is now lost.

19. Rab1+ Nb4
20. Rxb4+ Bb5
21. Rxb5#

Castling is usually a good move, but in this game it leads to black's downfall. With my advanced d-pawn, control of open files and better pawn structure, I take advantage of black's mistake. His decision to castle kingside convinces me to unleash the combination which begins with a bishop sacrifice.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hungarian Bean Soup

A simple and delicious soup is Hungarian bean soup. Though this is a simple soup to make, it has many variations. The recipe which follows is one which I recommend:

2 cups beans (navy and pinto beans are good)
2 onions, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 lb sausage, chopped
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)

Soak the beans overnight. Drain them and add to a large pot with the onions, carrots, garlic cloves and sausage. Add water to a level that fully covers the beans. Boil the beans and then simmer until they are tender. Remove the soup from the heat and mix in the sour cream. Add salt and paprika to taste and serve.

This is a very popular soup in Hungary. If you make this recipe, I think you will agree it is very tasty.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Butter Cake

Butter cake is a popular dessert in Dutch households. In Dutch it is called boterkoek. Here is a recipe for this simple and delicious cake:

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
almond halves (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a round cake pan. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, leaving just a little to brush over the top later. Stir in the almond extract. Combine the flour and baking powder to make a stiff dough. Press evenly into the pan. Add almond halves if desired. Brush the top with a thin layer of egg. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the top becomes golden brown.

I hope you enjoy this Dutch cake as much as I do.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Early Resignation

I played a game of speed chess at which only lasted nine moves. My opponent was Zhenek of Russia who played black. He decided to resign rather than play on. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Bc5

It is unusual for black to move the bishop so early. A more common move here is Nf6 which attacks the white king pawn.

3. c3 Nc6
4. Bc4 h6
5. 0-0 Nf6
6. d4 exd
7. cxd Na5

I expect black to move his bishop but instead he attacks mine with his knight. His king is in the centre of the board, so I take advantage.

8. Bxf7+ Kxf7
9. dxc Nxe4

Though material is even, black resigns. He notices that I can play Qd5+ on my next move which allows me to capture his knight with Qxe4 on the following move. Another possibility is Qe1 which forks the black knights on a5 and e4. I prefer Qd5+ because it is a more forceful move. I win quickly because the black knights are clearly uncoordinated and unprotected, the black king is too exposed and I can win material with my next move.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Inspirational Victory

In a recent game of speed chess at, I had a victory which was a moment of inspiration. My opponent was Baagiiherlen of Mongolia who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 g6
2. d4 d6

I have a strong pawn centre.

3. Nf3 Bg7
4. Be3 a6
5. Bd3 Nf6
6. Nc3 c6
7. Qd2 0-0

I have the option of castling on either side.

8. Bh6 Bg4

I now intend to castle queenside so that I can launch a powerful attack on the kingside.

9. Bxg7 Kxg7
10. h3 Bxf3
11. gxf3 Kg8

Now the g-file is open.

12. h4 Nh5
13. f4 Nd7
14. f5 Qc7
15. 0-0-0 b5

I castle and connect my rooks.

16. fxg fxg
17. Rdg1 Nf4
18. Ne2 Nxd3+
19. Qxd3 Rxf2

Black gains a pawn but the black king has little protection.

20. h5 Nf8
21. e5 d5
22. hxg Nxg6
23. Rxg6+ Kh8
24. Rxh7+ Kxh7

In a moment of inspiration I sacrifice my rook.

25. Rg2+

This move is a discovered check. Black resigns because no matter how he moves, I play Qh3# on my next move. The keys to victory in this game are my ability to expose the black king and successful rook sacrifice to end the game.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Memorable Sacrifice

I recently played a game of speed chess at against a Canadian, Jlnfrtn. In the game I played white. During the game, I sacrificed my knight to expose his king and pin his knight. It was a memorable sacrifice which helped me to win the game. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 c5
2. d4 cxd
3. c3 dxc
4. Nxc3 Nc6

I sacrifice a pawn for rapid development.

5. Bc4 e5
6. Nf3 h6
7. h3 Bb4

I play h3 to prevent a future pin on my knight by the black bishop.

8. 0-0 Nf6
9. Re1 Bxc3

Black decides to ruin my pawn structure but gives up a valuable bishop.

10. bxc3 0-0
11. Bd2 a6
12. Qc1 Kh7

I plan to sacrifice my bishop on h6 but black prevents this with Kh7.

13. Ng5+ hxg5

I sacrifice my knight to open the h-file and pin the black knight with my bishop.

14. Bxg5 b5
15. Bb3 d6

Black opens a diagonal for his bishop.

16. Qd1 Bb7

I play a waiting move.

17. Qd3 Kg6
18. Qg3 Kh7
19. Qh4+ Kg6
20. Re3 Rh8

I want to use my rook in an attack against the black king.

21. Qg3 Kh7
22. Bxf7 Qe7

My move is powerful because it takes away g8 and g6 as escape squares for the black king. Black attacks my bishop but this is a mistake. He has no time for this move. He should play g6 so that g7 becomes an escape square. However, he is clearly in trouble.

23. Qh4+

Black resigns. The only move for black is Nh5 but then I play Qxh5 and it is checkmate. Black loses because he cannot protect his king. Two key moves for me in this game are my knight sacrifice, Ng5+, and the capture of a key pawn by my bishop, Bxf7. My sacrifice proves successful.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Flemish Pronunciation

Flemish is the variety of Dutch spoken in Belgium. It differs from the Dutch spoken in the Netherlands with respect to vocabulary and pronunciation. In fact, it is often divided into two dialects- West Flemish and East Flemish. In this post I wish to explore the differences in pronunciation between Flemish, the Dutch spoken in Belgium, and the Dutch of the Netherlands.

One notable difference in pronunciation occurs with the w. In the Netherlands it is usually pronounced as a labiovelar approximant, a sound with less friction than the English v. In Belgium, however, it is often pronounced as a labiovelar glide, the same as the w of English.

The mid vowels of words such as "zee" (sea) and "zo" (so) tend to be monophthongs in Belgium whereas they are diphthongs in most of the Netherlands.

The r is usually trilled in Belgium but many Dutch speakers use a uvular fricative and even an alveolar approximant in syllable-final position which is similar to that of English.

The g and ch are pronounced as a velar fricative in most of the Netherlands, similar to the German pronunciation of Bach. In Belgium, however, these letters are pronounced as a palatal fricative.

Another difference occurs with words that end with the suffix -tie. In the Netherlands, this suffix is pronounced /tsi/ but in Belgium it is pronounced /si/. This is heard in a number of words such as "revolutie" (revolution) and "situatie" (situation).

Flemish refers to the Dutch language spoken in Belgium. Many of the differences between these two varieties of Dutch are reflected in pronunciation. As a result, these pronunciation differences can identify Dutch speakers from Belgium and the Netherlands.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Northern Lagoon

Here is my latest poem, a poem inspired by the Blue Lagoon of Iceland. I've never been there but think it must be an oasis of warmth in a northern landscape.

Northern Lagoon

In northern air lagoon water is rare.
Warmed by many active volcanoes near,
Sky blue waters warm guests with time to spare,
Many guests who return year after year.

Though long days of winter turn dark and cold,
Northern lagoon resists her frigid air.
Wishing to remain outside winter's fold,
Lagoon waters stay warm for guests to share.

Northern lagoon strengthens mind and body
With mineral waters to cleanse and heal.
This northern lagoon represents beauty,
Health and tranquillity her great appeal.

Found surrounded by quiet, stark landscape
Northern lagoon offers scenes of contrast.
Thermal waters provide welcome escape,
Bringing mind and body rewards that last.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Most Widely-Spoken Languages

Though many languages are spoken in the world today, the most widely-spoken languages are spoken by a large percentage of the world's population. In certain cases, languages have more non-native speakers than native ones. This is the case with English.

The most widely-spoken languages in the world today are:


Hindi is very similar to Urdu. Besides their different scripts, Hindi is spoken primarily in India and Urdu primarily in Pakistan. Bengali is a language which is spoken not only in India but also in Bangladesh. Other languages with a large number of speakers are Indonesian, a language similar to Malay which is spoken in Malaysia and Singapore, German, French, Vietnamese and Korean.

The most widely-spoken languages in the world have many speakers. Languages such as English, Spanish and Arabic are spoken in many different countries. English, the language of business and science, now has more non-native speakers than native ones.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ten Famous Cocktails

Cocktails are mixed drinks which often contain alcohol. Here is a list of ten famous cocktails:

1. Singapore Sling
2. Kamikaze
3. Bloody Mary
4. Tequila Sunrise
5. Screwdriver
6. Manhattan
7. White Russian
8. Tom Collins
9. Martini
10. Mai Tai

A Singapore Sling is pink in colour. The ingredients include pineapple juice, gin and cherry brandy.

A Kamikaze is a relatively simple drink to prepare. It has vodka, lime juice and triple sec.

A Bloody Mary is another cocktail prepared with vodka. It also has tomato juice and spices.

A Tequila Sunrise is made with tequila as the name suggests. In addition to tequila, it has orange juice and grenadine syrup. Another version of this drink uses different ingredients such as lime juice and creme de cassis.

A Screwdriver is a simple cocktail prepared with a combination of orange juice and vodka. However, this drink has many variations.

A Manhattan is another famous cocktail. As the name suggests, it was invented in Manhattan. Among the ingredients are whisky, vermouth and bitters.

A White Russian is a cocktail that is white in colour. It is prepared with vodka, coffee liqueur and cream. If cream is not added, it is known as a Black Russian.

A Tom Collins is a cocktail made with gin. In addition to gin, it has lemon juice, sugar and carbonated water.

A Martini is a very popular cocktail. It is prepared with gin and vermouth but has several variations. For example, the Apple Martini or Appletini is prepared with apple brandy.

The last cocktail on the list, the Mai Tai, has rum, Curacao liqueur and lime juice. Despite its name, it is an American invention.

Many of the most famous cocktails have vodka and gin. The ones with vodka are the Kamikaze, Bloody Mary, Screwdriver and White Russian. Other cocktails such as the Singapore Sling, Tom Collins and Martini have gin. These cocktails are undoubtedly among the most popular in the world.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rhoticity in Jamaican English

All English accents can be classified as rhotic and non-rhotic. Most of the accents of England do not pronounce post-vocalic "r" and can thus be classified as non-rhotic. On the other hand, most of the accents of the United States pronounce post-vocalic "r" and can be classed as rhotic. The Jamaican accent, however, pronounces post-vocalic "r" in certain contexts but not in others. As a result, it is a semi-rhotic accent.

In words such as "father" and "turkey," Jamaican English does not pronounce the "r." In "father," the "r" is part of an unstressed syllable. Unless it is followed by a word that begins with a vowel, the "r" is not pronounced in this context. However, "turkey" is different because the "r" is part of a stressed syllable. The "r" is dropped here because it is followed by a consonant.

In words such as "here" and "occur," the "r" is pronounced. In "here," the "r" is at the end of a stressed syllable. In "occur," the context is the same. The "r" is part of a stressed syllable and is retained.

Jamaican Englsh is a variety of English that illustrates semi-rhoticity. Unlike accents of English which always preserve or drop post-vocalic "r," Jamaican English preserves it when it is the final segment of a stressed syllable but drops it when it is part of an unstressed syllable and when it is followed by another consonant. This occurs in both stressed and unstressed syllables such as "market" and "report." This feature of Jamaican English is known as semi-rhoticity.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Here is one of my poems, a sonnet titled "Heaven."


Leaves of every dazzling colour abound,
Lush green meadows with fragrant flowers appear,
Birds of various stripes create joyous sound,
Hearts of passion know no evil, no fear.
Heaven is where resplendent love is found,
Loved ones of every age always found near.
Angels on graceful wings leave solid ground,
Unspoiled nature leaves air and water clear.
Heaven is peace, joy, love and compassion,
Souls living in eternal harmony.
Heaven brings worlds of heightened sensation,
Souls nearing perfection eternally.
Heaven opens divine revelation
And fills souls with complete tranquillity.

The rhyme scheme is a,b,a,b,a,b,a,b,c,d,c,d,c,d. Unlike the Shakespearean sonnet, mine does not have a rhyming couplet at the end. The word "heaven" is used four times.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Attacking Chess

I recently played a game of speed chess at in which I attacked my opponent from the outset. The result was a game which ended in resignation after my 24th move. My opponent was Roxy of Jamaica who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 d5
2. exd Qxd5
3. Nc3 Qa5
4. Nf3 Bg4

Black pins my knight but only for one move.

5. Be2 c6

Black makes an unusual move. Nc6 is far more popular.

6. 0-0 Nf6
7. h3 Bf5

Black decides to keep the bishop.

8. d3 h5

Black's move weakens his kingside.

9. Bd2 Qc7
10. Nd4 Bh7

Black moves the bishop again.

11. a4 e6

I play a4 to prevent expansion on the queenside with b5.

12. Bxh5 Nxh5

Black makes the move I want. Now I can win a pawn.

13. Qxh5 Qb6

Black threatens my pawn and knight but he should tend to the safety of his king with a move such as Be7 or Bc5 which permits castling on the following move.

14. Nxe6 g6

My knight cannot be captured because fxe6 puts black in check. Black's move creates a double attack but the black king is still in the centre.

15. Qe2 fxe6

Black has more material but the black king is too exposed.

16. Qxe6+ Be7
17. Bg4 Qc7

I pin the bishop.

18. Rfe1 Bg8

Black desperately tries to chase away my queen.

19. Qxe7+ Qxe7

Black's move is forced.

20. Rxe7+ Kf8

My rook and bishop are beautifully coordinated. Every black piece is on the back rank.

21. Rae1 Na6
22. Rxb7 Nc5

Black attacks my rook but this move is a mistake. I prepare a fork.

23. Be7+ Kg7
24. Bxc5+

Black decides to resign. I am up a knight and four pawns and black has three isolated pawns. With such a dismal position, he realizes the game is over. I win this game because of my superior pawn structure, good coordination of my pieces and well-protected king. At the moment of resignation, the three black pieces are on the back rank and the rooks are not connected. Black fails to develop them and I take advantage.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Comparative Advantage

An important concept in economics is comparative advantage. It helps to illustrate the importance of trade between countries. Though one country may produce a number of goods more efficiently and at a lower cost than another, it is beneficial to trade if the other country has a comparative advantage.

Imagine that countries A and B both produce tractors and wheat. However, the number of hours needed to produce them is different in both countries. For one tractor, Country A needs 12 hours and Country B needs 4. For one tonne of wheat, Country A needs 4 hours and Country B needs 2. Here is a chart to summarize:

Country A tractor- 12 hours wheat- 4 hours
Country B tractor- 4 hours wheat- 2 hours

By comparing these numbers, it is clear that Country B can produce both tractors and wheat in less time than Country A. In other words, Country B is more efficient in the production of these goods and can produce both at a lower cost. It may thus seem that it is unnecessary for Country B to trade these goods with Country A.

However, trade is beneficial because the ratios spent on the production of the two goods are different in the two countries. If we compare opportunity cost, we notice that it is beneficial for both to specialize in the good which they produce most efficiently.

What does Country A give up if it produces a tractor? For every tractor that Country A produces, it gives up the opportunity to produce 3 tonnes of wheat.

What does Country B give up if it produces a tractor? For every tractor that Country B produces, it gives up the opportunity to produce 2 tonnes of wheat.

Likewise, we can also analyze what each country gives up in tractor production to produce one tonne of wheat. What does Country A give up if it produces one tonne of wheat? It gives up the opportunity to produce 1/3 of a tractor.

What does Country B give up if it produces one tonne of wheat? It gives up the opportunity to produce 1/2 a tractor.

It is clear that when the two countries produce tractors, Country A gives up more in wheat production. However, when the two countries produce wheat, Country B gives up more in tractor production. It is clear that trade can benefit both countries. Country A should specialize in wheat production and Country B should specialize in tractor production.

Though Country A can produce both tractors and wheat at a lower cost than Country B, it is beneficial for the two countries to trade with one another. Country A has a tractor-wheat ratio of 3:1 but Country B has a tractor-wheat ratio of 2:1. Viewed in a different light, Country A has a wheat-tractor ration of 1/3 and Country B has a wheat-tractor ratio of 1/2.

Country A can focus on the good which it produces most efficiently, wheat, and trade it for tractors from Country B. Country B can focus on the good which it produces most efficiently, tractors, and trade them for wheat from Country A. As a result, both countries benefit.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Irish Numbers

Irish is an Indo-European language of the Celtic language family. Though it is an Indo-European language, it is nevertheless quite different from languages such as English and French. To demonstrate, here are the numbers from one to ten:

1) a haon
2) a dó
3) a trí
4) a ceathair
5) a cúig
6) a sé
7) a seacht
8) a hocht
9) a naoi
10)a deich

All of these numbers are written as two words. The number one has the "o" and "n" of English. The number two looks similar. It has a "d" instead of the "t" of English. The number three also looks similar to English. The number four does not look similar to the number four in English, but looks a little like the French number "quatre." The number five does not look similar to English but shares some similarity with the French number "cinq." The numbers six and seven both start with an "s", the same as English. The number eight also ends with a "t" and actually looks closer to the French word for eight which is "huit." The numbers nine and ten do not look so similar to English but nine also starts with a nasal and ten has a "d" instead of a "t" as in English.

Most of the Irish numbers from one to ten are not so similar to those of English, but a few, two and three, share many similarities. In a number of cases such as four and eight, the Irish numbers are actually more similar to those of French than those of English. From an analysis of the Irish numbers, one can see that Irish is an Indo-European language, but not a language that is very similar to English. For this reason, it is a Celtic language and not a closely-related Germanic language such as German, Dutch and Danish.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Adjective Order in English

Attributive adjectives usually precede nouns in a specific order. English speakers know that "new wooden table" is acceptable but "wooden new table" is not. They also know that "big red hat" sounds correct but "red big hat" does not. Though they may not be familiar with the rule for adjective order in English, they know which order sounds best on the basis of intuition.

English adjectives usually precede nouns in the following order: opinion, size, age, shape, colour, origin, material and purpose. However, speakers usually do not use too many adjectives in a phrase because this can be difficult to process. Opinion adjectives such as "beautiful" and "exciting" precede factual adjectives.

Here are examples of adjective phrases with different kinds of adjectives:

1. I bought a nice black silk tie.
2. He has a beautiful new red sports car.
3. You must try these delicious dark Belgian chocolates.
4. They have a comfortable long brown leather sofa.
5. She has gorgeous long curly black hair.

This adjective order applies to adjectives which precede a noun. If they follow, the adjective order is more flexible. It is also possible to use a relative clause such as "I bought a nice silk tie which is black." Sentence 3 uses a different adjective order when the adjectives follow the noun: "These Belgian chocolates are dark and delicious." Here the adjective "dark" precedes "delicious." Adjective order is relatively fixed for attributive adjectives but rather flexible for predicate ones.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Quick Loss

I played a game of speed chess which only lasted 12 moves. Fortunately, I usually do not lose so quickly. My opponent was Ceres Macaraeg from the Phillipines who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary.

1. e4 e5
2. f4 Nc6

Black usually plays fxe or d6 here.

3. Nf3 exf
4. d4 d5
5. e5 Bg4
6. h3 Bxf3

A better move for me is Nd2. The problem with my move is that now my kingside is weak and the black queen can check on h4.

7. gxf Qh4+
8. Ke2 Nge7

All of my pieces are on the back rank. Black is clearly better.

9. Qd2 Nf5

I want to force an exchange of queens. Black now threatens Ng3+, Ncxd4+ and Nfxd4+.

10. Qxf4 Nxd4+

11. Kd3 Qf2

Black plays aggressively and now threatens Qxc2#. I should play Nd2.

12. Na3 Bxa3

Black removes my defender of c2 and I resign.

I lose quickly because my sixth move leads to the weakening of my kingside and a check by the black queen on h4 which exposes my king. The final nail in the coffin is my twelfth move. My knight fails to protect my c2 square after black captures it with his bishop. My exposed king and lack of development result in my quick downfall.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Powerful Bishops

I recently won a game of speed chess with a pair of powerful bishops. My opponent was Asmadhu of the USA who played white. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 c5
2. c3 d6

White's second move is unusual.

3. d4 cxd
4. cxd Nc6

White has a powerful pawn centre but no piece development.

5. d5 Ne5
6. f4 Nd7
7. Nf3 e6
8. dxe fxe
9. Nc3 Ngf6
10. Bd3 Be7
11. 0-0 0-0
12. h3 b6
13. e5 dxe

White plays aggressively.

14.fxe Nd5

White has an advanced pawn on the e-file but it is isolated.

15. Qc2 g6
16. Nd4 Rxf1+
17. Kxf1 Qf8+
18. Kg1 Qg7

Here I should play Nxe5.

19. Nxe6 Qxe5
20. Nxd5 Qxe6

My queen can capture either of the white knights but I capture on e6 because I want to play Qe1+ on my next move. I expect white to play Nc7 on his next move.

21. Nc7 Qxe1+
22. Kh2 Bd6+

My dark-squared bishop now controls the b8-h2 diagonal.

23. g3

White blocks the check and then resigns. He sees that I can play Qxg3+. Then white must play Kh1. On my following move I activate my light-squared bishop with b7+. This gives my light-squared bishop control of the b7-h1 diagonal. My powerful bishops dominate the board. In reply black must play Qg2 and I then play Qxg2#.

In this game my bishops turn the game in my favour. White also has two bishops on the board but they are not nearly as dominant as mine. This game illustrates the power of the bishop pair.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Lucy Maud Montgomery is one of Canada's most famous writers. She wrote the novel "Anne of Green Gables." However, she also wrote poems. One is the poem "Forever" which I wish to share with you.



With you I shall ever be;
Over land and sea
My thoughts will companion you;
With yours shall my laughter chime,
And my step keep time
In the dusk and dew
With yours in blithesome rhyme;
In all of your joy shall I rejoice,
On my lips your sorrow shall find a voice,
And when your tears in bitterness fall
Mine shall mingle with them all;
With you in waking and dream I shall be,
In the place of shadow and memory,
Under young springtime moons,
And on harvest noons,
And when the stars are withdrawn
From the white pathway of the dawn.


O, my friend, nothing shall ever part
My soul from yours, yours from my heart!
I am yours and you mine, in silence and in speech,
Death will only seal us each to each.
Through the darkness we shall fare with fearless jest,
Starward we shall go on a joyous new quest;
There be many worlds, as we shall prove,
Many suns and systems, but only one love!

This poem is full of imagery such as stars, moons, dusk, dew, land and sea. It also has alliteration in dusk and dew, suns and systems and silence and speech. "Forever" is my favourite poem by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Phonological Rules

Though phonological rules can be written in prose, they can also be written in rule notation. The use of rule notation is often more concise than the use of sentences. I will provide a few examples to illustrate.

In English and many other languages, a vowel is nasalized when it is followed by a nasal in the same syllable. This is the case with words such as "sand" and "camping." This rule can be expressed with the following rule notation:

V ---> [+nasal]/_ [+nasal]$

This rule states that a vowel is nasalized in the environment before a nasal in the same syllable.

Another rule of English is the nasal assimilation rule. This states that an alveolar nasal becomes a velar nasal before a velar plosive. This is the case with words such as "ink" and "singer." Here is the rule in rule notation:

[+alveolar][+nasal] --> [+velar]/_ [+velar][-continuant]

This rule states that an alveolar nasal becomes a velar nasal in the environment before a velar plosive.

The vowel lengthening rule of English is also easy to express in rule notation. This rule states that a word-final vowel becomes long as in "see" and "yellow." This is the rule in rule notation:

V --> [+long]/_#

This rule states that a vowel becomes long in the environment word-final.

English also has a rule which deletes laterals before bilabial nasals. This is the case in words such as "calm," "palm" and "salmon." This is not true in all cases. The word "helmet" does not follow this rule, but nevertheless it applies in many cases. This can thus be called a variable rule as opposed to a categorical rule. In rule notation, the rule can be expressed as follows:

[+lateral] --> 0/ _ [+bilabial][+nasal]

This rule states that a lateral is deleted before a bilabial nasal.

Aspiration is another well-known rule in English. This states that a voiceless plosive is aspirated before a stressed vowel. This is the case in words such as "take," "party," "cold," "please," "prince" and "appear." Here is the rule in rule notation:

[-voice][-sonorant][-continuant]--> [+SG]/ _ ([+sonorant])([-nasal])V [+stress]

This rule states that a voiceless plosive is aspirated in the environment before an optional liquid or glide and a stressed vowel.

Rule notation is common in phonology. It is used as an alternative to prose in the expression of phonological rules. The examples demonstate the use of rule notation to express common phonological rules of English.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Pronouns are words which can replace nouns and pronouns. Pronouns and nouns belong to a class of words called substantives. They are used to make sentences less repetitive. Grammarians classify pronouns into several types which include personal, demonstrative, indefinite, interrogative, relative, reflexive and intensive.

Personal pronouns can be further divided into subject, object and possessive pronouns. The subject pronouns are pronouns such as "I" and "they." Object pronouns are pronouns such as "We" and "them." Possessive pronouns include pronouns such as "mine" and "theirs."

The demonstrative pronouns include words such as "this" and "that." Instead of saying "this pen," it is possible to say "this."

Indefinite pronouns are pronouns such as "everyone," "anything" and "another." In certain cases, they can also function as adjectives. For example, in the sentence "I need another coffee," the word "another" is an adjective.

Interrogative pronouns are pronouns used in questions. Examples of interrogative pronouns include "what," "where," "why" and "when." They are also called wh-words. One interrogative pronoun which does not begin with wh but is nevertheless called a wh-word is "how."

Relative pronouns are found in relative clauses. They include pronouns such as "who" and "which." In the sentence, "I know the woman who wrote this article," the word "who" is a relative pronoun.

Reflexive pronouns include pronouns such as "myself" and "themselves." In the sentence "I often remind myself to go to bed early," "myself" is a reflexive pronoun.

Intensive pronouns are identical in form to reflexive pronouns, but they have a different function. In the sentence "The Prime Minister himself invited me to the celebration," "himself" is an intensive pronoun. It emphasizes the subject "Prime Minister." They can also be used to replace another pronoun as in, "He himself invited me."

Pronouns are very useful parts of speech. They are often used to replace nouns and pronouns. In fact, the personal pronoun "I" is one of the most common words in the English language.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Brackets in Syntax

Syntax often uses trees to represent sentence structures. However, brackets are also used. Though trees are more popular, many syntacticians also use brackets, especially to represent short sentences.

Here are two examples to illustrate:


The sentence "Diana loves syntax" has four brackets at the end. One is for the noun "syntax." The next one to the right is for the NP "syntax." The next one to the right is for the VP "loves syntax" and the last one is for the sentence "Diana loves syntax."


The sentence "My aunt is at the game" has six brackets at the end. One is for the noun "game." The next one to the right is for the NP "game." The next one to the right is for the NP "the game." The fourth bracket is for the PP "at the game." The fifth bracket is for the VP "is at the game" and the final bracket is for the sentence "My aunt is at the game." Given that a short sentence such as this one ends with six brackets, longer sentences can end with far more.

Brackets are most often used in syntax for short and simple sentences. The large number of brackets necessary for long sentences makes them less popular than trees. Nevertheless, brackets continue to be used to represent syntactic structures.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Quick Victory with the Englund Gambit

The Englund Gambit is an opening which is seldom seen at the highest levels of chess. It is not considered sound, but I have used it with great success in speed chess. I suspect that many players are unfamiliar with the opening which gives me an advantage. I played a game of speed chess at against Sonic99 of Indonesia. In the game he played white. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. d4 e5

I play the Englund Gambit. The most common replies for black are d5 and Nf6.

2. dxe Nc6
3. Nf3 Qe7
4. Bf4 Qb4+

White attempts to hold onto his extra pawn. He should return the pawn and continue his development with a move such as Nc3 or e6.

5. Bd2 Qxb2

White must block my check with his bishop to avoid losing it.

6. Bc3 Bb4

White cannot take my queen because this leaves him in check.

7. Bxb4 Qxa1
8. Nc3 Qxd1+

White resigns. On his next move, white must play Nxd1 or Kxd1. I then play Nxb4 which leaves me up a rook.

White's decision to protect his extra pawn costs him the game. Though not considered a sound opening, the Englund Gambit can be used successfully against unsuspecting opponents. This game is such an example.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Accents of Portugal

The three Portuguese cities of Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra all have different accents. At the website, I listened to three male speakers from those cities. They all read from the following Portuguese text:

Dom Sebastião I era o décimo-sexto Rei de Portugal, e sétimo da Dinastia de Avis. Era neto do rei João III, tornou-se herdeiro do trono depois da morte do seu pai, o príncipe João de Portugal duas semanas antes do seu nascimento, e rei com apenas três anos, em 1557. Em virtude de ser um herdeiro tão esperado para dar continuidade à Dinastia de Avis, ficou conhecido como O Desejado; alternativamente, é também memorado como O Encoberto ou O Adormecido, devido à lenda que se refere ao seu regresso numa manhã de nevoeiro, para salvar a Nação.

Here is my translation of the text:

Sir Sebastian I was the sixteenth king of Portugal, and seventh of the dynasty of Avis. He was the grandson of King John III, became heir to the throne after the death of his father, the prince John of Portugal two weeks after his birth, and king at barely three years, in 1557. By virtue of being such an awaited heir to give continuity to the dynasty of Avis, he became known as the Desired; alternatively, he is also remembered as the Hidden or the Asleep, due to the legend that refers to his return on a foggy morning to save the nation.

The speaker from Porto had a schwa in the word "de" of "de Avis." He had a diphthong in "tornou" and "ficou." He had a mid front unrounded tense nasal vowel in the second syllable of também and a voiceless uvular fricative in words such as "rei."

The speaker from Lisbon had a high front unrounded tense vowel in the word "de" of "de Avis." He pronounced it "di." He had a monophthong in "tornou" and "ficou". He had a mid central unrounded nasal vowel in the second syllable of também and a uvular trill in words such as "rei."

The speaker from Coimbra also had a high front unrounded tense vowel in the word "de" of "de Avis." He pronounced it "di." He had a monophthong in "tornou" and "ficou." He had a mid front unrounded lax nasal vowel in the second syllable of também and an alveolar trill in words such as "rei."

Though Portugal is a relatively small country in both area and population, it has a number of different accents of Portuguese. The three cities of Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra attest to this fact.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Inflectional Affixes of English

English has eight inflectional affixes. They are affixes which have a grammatical function but do not change the class of a word. They always follow derivational affixes.

The word "king" can combine with the derivational affix -dom to create the word "kingdom." Though both words are nouns, they differ in meaning. One refers to a monarch and the other to a territory which a monarch rules over. However, the plural "kings" has an inflectional affix. The words "king" and "kings" only differ in number. Though "king" and "kingdom" are both nouns, many derivational affixes change the class of a word. For example, the word "windy" is composed of the noun "wind" and the affix -y. When the noun combines with the derivational affix -y, the result is the adjective "windy."

The eight inflectional affixes of English are the third person singular present -s, the past tense marker -ed, the continuous marker -ing, the past particle -en, the plural marker -s, the possessive marker -'s, the comparative suffix -er and the superlative suffix -est. Here are examples with the eight affixes:

1. She loves hockey.
2. He waited patiently.
3. They are watching TV.
4. I haven't eaten lunch yet.
5. The children ate all their vegetables.
6. Peter's car is new.
7. Peter's car is newer than mine.
8. Peter has the newest car here.

Modern English does not have many inflectional affixes. Earlier stages of English, Old English and Middle English, had more. In fact, a number of languages such as German and Spanish have more inflectional affixes than English. However, all languages have more derivational affixes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Discovered Checkmate

I recently played a game of speed chess at with a discovered checkmate. I moved my bishop and exposed it to capture. I will never forget this game because such a mate is rare. My opponent was Lontayao of the Phillipines who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 d6

Here the most popular reply for black is a6.

4. d4 Bd7
5. h3 Nf6
6. dxe dxe
7. Nc3 Bd6
8. Bg5 0-0
9. Nd5 h6

A better move for black is Be7.

10. Nxf6+ gxf6
11. Bxh6 Re8

I gain a pawn and shatter the pawn shield around the black king.

12. 0-0 f5
13. Bg5 f6

I weaken black's pawn structure.

14. Bh6 Kh7

The black king attacks my bishop but is now more exposed.

15. Bd2 Rg8

Black prepares a counterattack against my king.

16. Nh4 fxe

My move opens a diagonal for my queen.

17. Qh5+ Kg7

Black's move is forced.

18. Bh6+ Kh8

I involve another piece in the attack. Again black's move is forced.

19. Bf8#

I move my bishop to discover a mate with my queen. Though my bishop is subject to capture, it is of no consequence. This is one of the most beautiful checkmates I have ever played.

In this game, material is even. However, I win because my king is well protected, my pieces are well-coordinated and my pawn structure is superior. I convert all of these advantages into victory.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Listening Experiment

Over a period of approximately one year, starting in the spring of 2010 and finishing in the winter of 2011, I conducted a listening experiment. I asked 68 Korean university students to listen to five word pairs and circle the word they heard. I read each word pair five times. To ensure that every student heard the word clearly, I then read the list a second time.

The word pairs which I used were light/right, sad/said, suffer/supper, pull/pool and it/eat. Since I read each word pair five times and collected data from 68 students, I had a total of 340 responses for each word pair.

I analyzed the data and compared the results. The word pair which gave my students the least difficulty was light/right. The one which gave them the most difficulty was sad/said. Here I present the results:

338/340, 99%

303/340 89%

292/340, 86%

276/340, 81%

198/340, 58%

The word pair light/right was distinguished correctly in almost every instance. Though the liquids are pronounced differently in Korean, they nevertheless exist. The alveolar flap occurs syllable-initially and intervocalically and the alveolar lateral occurs syllable-finally. They are allophones rather than phonemes. The presence of the two liquids in Korean may explain the percentage of correct responses with this word pair.

However, the word pair sad/said was difficult for many students to distinguish. The vowel of "sad" does not occur in Korean. It is in fact a marked vowel which does not occur in many languages. Also, many English loan words in Korean with the vowel of "sad" are transcribed with the vowel of "said." As a result, many students may perceive the low front vowel as the mid front instead.

The word pair suffer/supper was more easily distinguished than sad/said and it/eat. The percentage of correct responses was 86%. Korean has the voiceless bilabial plosive but does not have the voiceless bilabial fricative. For this reason, Koreans often substitute the plosive for the fricative in speech.

The word pair pull/pool was better distinguished than any word pair other than light/right. The number of correct responses was 89%. Though Korean lacks the high back lax rounded vowel of "pull," most students distinguished the tense and lax vowels correctly. This may indicate that the qualitative difference between the two vowels is perceptually salient for many Koreans.

The word pair it/eat was not as well distinguished as pull/pool. In fact, it was the most difficult word pair to distinguish after sad/said. Though this word pair exhibits the same tense/lax distinction of pull/pool, the results were far from identical. Korean lacks the lax vowels of both "it" and "pull." However, Korean has a high back unrounded vowel which many Korean students may substitute for the lax vowel of "pull." With the vowel of "it," however, no such substitution occurs. It appears that the distinction between pull/pool is more perceptually salient than that between it/eat. It may also be the case that many Koreans are not aware that it/eat have different vowels unless it is made clear to them.

My listening experiment led to a few surprises. I did not expect that the word pair light/right would be distinguished correctly in 99% of instances. This may indicate that an allophonic difference in one's native language is sufficient for successful discrimination of speech sounds in a second language. Another surprise was the difference in correct responses with respect to it/eat and pull/pool. Though both word pairs have the same tense/lax distinction, the percentages were quite different. With pull/pool, the percentage of correct responses was 89% but with eat/it only 81%. Another surprise was with the word pair sad/said. Though Korean lacks the low front vowel of "sad," I expected a higher percentage of correct responses than 58%. This word pair was much harder for students to distinguish than any other. As a result, this may indicate that the low front vowel is very difficult to distinguish for those speakers who lack the vowel in their own native language.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

English Consonant Voicing

English had a process of voicing stem-final fricatives in noun-verb and singular-plural noun word pairs. This process served to distinguish English from other Germanic languages which did not have this process. Many English word pairs exhibit the voicing alternation.

Here are examples of consonant voicing in noun-verb pairs:


The noun ends with a voiceless fricative and the verb ends with a voiceless one. The pairs choice-choose and loss-lose also have different vowel sounds.

A voicing alternation also occurs with singular-plural nouns. Here are examples:


The singular noun ends with a voiceless consonant and the plural noun ends with a voiced one. The consonant preceding the final one is also voiced. In the case of possessive nouns such as wife's and youth's, consonant voicing does not occur.

Consonant voicing was once very common in English. As a result, a number of words still exhibit a voicing alternation. This is true with two word pairs: nouns and verbs, and singular and plural nouns. This voicing alternation does not occur in other Germanic languages.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Consonant Gradation in Finnish

Consonant gradation refers to a set of consonant alternations. In Finnish, consonant gradation occur with the intervocalic voiceless plosives p, t and k and the corresponding geminates pp, tt, and kk. Finnish has two types of consonant gradation: strong and weak.

The Finnish word for bank is pankki. This is the strong grade. The word for "in the bank" is pankista. This is the weak grade. The strong grade has the geminate "kk" and the weak grade has the consonant "k."

The Finnish word for shop is kauppa. This is the strong grade. The word for "in the shop" is kaupassa. This is the weak grade. The strong grade has the geminate "pp" and the weak grade has the consonant "p."

The Finnish word kaupinki means city. The word for "from the city" is kaupingista. The strong grade has the plosive "k" and the weak grade has the plosive "g."

The Finnish word katu means street. The word for "on the street" is kadulla. Here the strong grade has the plosive "t" and the weak grade has the plosive "d."

The Finnish word ilta means bridge. The word for "on the bridge" is illalla. The strong grade has the consonants "lt" and the weak grade has the consonants "ll."

The Finnish word kampa means comb. The word for "in the comb" is kammassa. The strong grade has the consonants "mp" and the weak grade has "mm."

The Finnish word kylpy means bath. The word for "in the bath" is kylvyssä. Here the strong grade has the plosive "p" and the weak grade has the fricative "v."

Finnish has many examples of consonant gradation. The geminate consonants of the strong grade degeminate in the weak grade. Single consonants of the strong grade exhibit many changes in the weak. Consonant gradation is a special feature of the Finnish language.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Victory in Twelve Moves

I recently won a game at in speed chess. My opponent was Qasaal of Somalia who played black. My opponent made a number of mistakes which allowed me to win quickly. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 a6
4. Bxc6 bxc6

Black makes a mistake. He should play dxc to open the c8-h3 diagonal for his bishop and d-file for his queen.

5. d4 Bb7
6. dxe Rb8

This move by black is not the best. It is better to develop the kingside bishop and knight to prepare for castling.

7. Nc3 c5

With this move black opens a diagonal for the queen bishop but the king knight and bishop are still on their original squares.

8. 0-0 Nh6
9. Bxh6 gxh6

I capture the knight to weaken black's kingside.

10. Nd5 c6

This is a mistake. My knight wants to go to f6. To stop this, black must play Bg7.

11. Nf6+ Ke7

Black's move is forced.

12. Qd6#

I achieve a quick and decisive victory because of black's lack of development, weakened pawn structure and inability to prevent moves such as Nf6+. Though material is almost even, black cannot protect his king. This in turn leads to his rapid downfall.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Peer Gynt

Peer Gynt is the title of a beautiful play by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. It is also the name of the music composed for the play by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg upon the request of Henrik Ibsen. The play consists of five acts and in the original Norwegian language is like a long poem.

Peer Gynt is the son of the formerly highly-regarded Jon Gynt. Unfortunately, Jon Gynt wastes all his money on parties and luxuries until nothing is left. He has to leave his farm as a travelling salesman, leaving his wife and son in debt. Åse, Peer's mother, wishes to raise her son to restore the family's lost fortune, but Peer is a lazy dreamer who fails to live up to his mother's wishes.

Later in the play Peer marries a woman named Solveig but he is banished because he marries her against her family's wishes. He has a bad reputation and Solveig's family wants nothing to do with him. After he is banished, Peer's mother, Solveig and Solveig's father look for him in the mountains. They cannot find him.

Peer builds his own cottage in the hills. Solveig appears and insists on living with him. She has made her choice and has no plans to return. Peer is delighted and welcomes her warmly. However, Peer starts to remember all his previous sins and cannot face Solveig. He tells Solveig he has something heavy to collect, returns to his childhood home in time for his mother's death and then travels overseas.

Peer spends years abroad where he engages in several occupations. These include the role of a slavetrader, missionary, businessman and historian. The reader is aware that much of Peer's life is a dream. He has a vivid imagination and many of his experiences are not reality.

In the final act, Peer returns home as an old man. He has lost all his possessions and feels that he is nothing. At that moment, Solveig starts to sing. The cabin he built is near but he does not dare enter. He feels guilty for having abandoned her. In one of the most touching parts of the entire play, Peer asks her, "Where has Peer Gynt been since we last met? Where was I as the one I should have been, whole and true, with the mark of God on my brow?" She answers, "In my faith, in my hope, in my love." With these words, Peer understands that she has never abandoned him and truly loves him.

Peer Gynt is a fascinating play which explores a number of themes. These include love and duty, sin and forgiveness, and reality and imagination. The themes of love and forgiveness are clearly expressed in Solveig's words at the end of the play.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The low vowel in Canadian and American English

A feature of Canadian English is the pronunciation of borrowed words with low vowels. Borrowed words such as pasta, Mazda, drama, and taco are often pronounced with the front vowel of "cat" whereas Americans tend to use the back vowel of "far."

Charles Boberg found that for 15 such borrowings, the Canadian pronunciation was always more likely than the American pronunciation to have the front vowel . For example, 82% of his American informants pronounce "panorama" with a front vowel in the third syllable, compared to 94% of Canadians. In a parallel manner, 5% of the Americans in his study pronounced pasta with a front vowel in the first syllable, compared to 81% of Canadians.

The following table provides a list of items Boberg used. For nearly each word, at least 70% of his Canadian informants had a pronunciation with the front vowel, with the exception of "macho," "taco," and "Vietnam." In these cases, however, the Canadian pronunciation was still more likely to use the front vowel than the American pronunciation was.

American pronunciation with low back vowel/Canadian pronunciation with low back vowel (in the case of multisyllabic words, this applies to the stressed syllable)

panorama 18% 6%
Pakistani 21% 9%
Iraq 28% 7%
pyjamas 58% 15%
plaza 75% 16%
Colorado 86% 26%
Vietnam 86% 44%
taco 88% 48%
Slavic 89% 15%
Mazda 93% 18%
macho 93% 68%
llama 94% 29%
pasta 95% 19%
lava 95% 23%
drama 95% 25%

Here is a list of many more borrowed words that tend to have the front vowel in Canadian English:

places- Acapulco, Basque, Colorado, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Nevada, Slavic, Slovakia, Vietnam, Yokohama, Yugoslavia
foods- avocado, bratwurst, cilantro, goulash, nacho, pasta, pecan, pistachio, souvlaki, taco
products- Datsun, Fiat, Lada, Mazda, Nissan, Yahoo

It is clear that Canadians are far likelier to use the front vowel in borrowed words than Americans. In many cases, the use of the front vowel is rare in American English. As a result, this is a feature which serves to distinguish Canadian and American English.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Queen and Knight

I recently won a game at in which my queen and knight combined to mate. My opponent was Qais71 of New Zealand who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 d5
2. exd Qxd5

This opening is known as the Scandinavian Defence. Black has an open d-file but the queen comes out early.

3. Nc3 Qd8

This retreat by black is not the best. A more popular move is Qa5.

4. Nf3 g6
5. Bc4 Bg7
6. 0-0 e6

Black protects the f7 square.

7. Re1 Ne7

Here it is more common for black to play Nf6. He probably wants to keep the diagonal open for the bishop on g7.

8. d3 0-0
9. Be3 b6
10. Qd2 Bb7

I do not want black to capture my knight and destroy the pawn structure around my king.

11. Ng5 a6
12. Bxe6 Qd6

Black does not accept my bishop sacrifice because I can then play Nxe6 which forks his queen and rook.

13. Bxf7+ Rxf7

I take the pawn to further expose the black king.

14. Nxf7 Kxf7

White has an extra piece but I have two extra pawns and the black king is exposed.

15. Bh6 Kg8

Black does not want the white queen on h6.

16. Bxg7 Kxg7
17. Qe2 Nf5
18. Ne4 Qc6

I cannot move my knight on my next move because then black can mate.

17. f3 Nd7

Black finally frees his rook on a1.

18. Ng5 Nf6
19. Ne6+ Kh6
20. Qd2+ g5

After my twentieth move, mate is unavoidable.

21. Qxg5#

The keys to victory in this game are my protected king, ability to expose the black king and coordination of my knight and queen. Black has a material advantage but it is of no consequence. My pieces are better developed than his.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Acronyms are abbreviations formed from the initial letters of a name or phrase. Long names and phrases are often abbreviated. Acronyms are often more common than the names or phrases that they represent.

The acronym UN is a well-known acronym for the United Nations. The acronym UNICEF is more common than United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund. UNESCO is an acronym for United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. As it is a long name, the acronym is very common.

The province of British Columbia, Canada is often referred to as BC and the city of Los Angeles is often LA. The United Kingdom is often called the UK. However, Great Britain is not abbreviated to GB in spoken language.

In certain cases, acronyms become so popular that people may not even realize that they are acronyms and may actually think of them as words. Examples include laser, radar and scuba. They mean "light amplication of simulated emission of radiation," radio detection and ranging," and "self-contained underwater breathing apparatus."

Foreign acronyms are the name of the Dutch airline KLM and the Swedish car company Saab. KLM is Dutch for Koninglijk Luchtmaatschappij which means Royal Air Company and Saab is Swedish for Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget which means Swedish Airplane Limited. Though Saab is associated with cars, it originally manufactured planes and still does today.

Acronyms are abbreviations that are often more common than the names and phrases that they represent. This is particularly true for long names and phrases. Some acronyms have become so popular that they function as words because many are not aware that they are in fact acronyms.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Western and Eastern Norwegian Dialects

Two of the main Norwegian dialects are the western and eastern. The eastern dialect is spoken in the capital Oslo and the western in Bergen, the second largest city of Norway. These dialects exhibit a number of differences in grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. I wish to focus on pronunciation.

One difference between the two dialects is with respect to pitch. This is a feature which Norwegian shares with Swedish. Disyllabic words with identical pronunciation are distinguished by pitch alone. The two types of pitch are called Tone 1 and Tone 2. For example, the word bønder (farmers) has Tone 1 and bønner (beans) has Tone 2. The two words sound otherwise alike because the "d" of bønder is not pronounced.

However, the two dialects have different types of pitch. The eastern Norwegian dialects have a low-tone accent and the western Norwegian dialects have a high-tone accent.

The eastern Norwegian dialects are called low-tone accents because they have a low flat pitch on the first syllable of tone 1 followed by a rising pitch on the second. Tone 2 has a high falling pitch on the first syllable and a low pitch at the beginning of the second.

The western Norwegian dialects are called high-tone accents because they have a high pitch on the first syllable of tone 1 followed by a low pitch at the beginning of the second. Tone 2 has a rising pitch on the first syllable and a falling pitch at the beginning of the second.

The liquids are also pronounced differently in the two dialects. The lateral of words such as tolv (twelve) and hals (throat) is velarized in the eastern Norwegian dialects but not in the western ones. The rhotic sound of tre (three) and rot (root) is an alveolar trill in the eastern Norwegian dialects but a uvular trill or fricative in the western ones. In words such as først (first) and norsk (Norwegian) the eastern Norwegian dialects have a retroflex alveopalatal fricative but the western Norwegian dialects have a uvular followed by an alveolar fricative.

In words beginning with sl-, the western Norwegian dialects pronounce them as in English. The eastern Norwegian dialects, however, pronounce the "s" as a retroflex alveopalatal fricative. This is also the case when the two letters occur across syllable boundaries. This sound can be heard in words such as slott (castle) and also veksle (to exchange).

Another difference between the eastern and western Norwegian dialects is the pronunciation of the diphthong found in words such as vei (way) and hei (hi). In the dialects of eastern Norway, the diphthong is similar to that of the diphthong in words such as "why" and "my." In western Norway, the diphthong is similar to that heard in words such as "way" and "may."

The two most widely-spoken dialects of Norway, the western and eastern, have many differences in grammar and vocabulary. However, they also have well-known pronunciation differences. As a result, Norwegians can easily identify speakers of these two dialects.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Piet Hein

Piet Hein was a Danish poet who lived from 1905 to 1996. One of his poems is titled "A Psychological Tip."

A Psychological Tip

Whenever you're called on to make up your mind,
and you're hampered by not having any,
the best way to solve the dilemma, you'll find,
is simply by spinning a penny.
No - not so that chance shall decide the affair
while you're passively standing there moping;
but the moment the penny is up in the air,
you suddenly know what you're hoping.

This is a short poem which suggests that by spinning a penny, we can discover what we really want. In other words, we may not need to spin the penny at all because we may make up our minds before the penny does. The rhyme scheme of the poem is a,b,a,b,c,d,c,d. Piet Hein's poems reveal many truths about life. "A Psychological Tip" is no exception.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Ratatouille is the name of a French vegetable dish. It is a very tasty eggplant and tomato casserole that can be served hot or cold. To make ratatouille you need:

2 large egglants
2 medium zucchinis, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons sugar
ground pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Wash the eggplants and cut into small slices. Sprinkle with salt and allow to stand.

Salt the sliced zucchini and stand for 30 minutes. Wash the salt from the eggplants and zucchinis. Heat oil in a frying pan. Add onion and cook until golden brown.

Add garlic and pieces of eggplant and cook until brown. Remove and cook the zucchini slices until golden.

Transfer all the vegetables to a large pan. Sprinkle with sugar, pepper and vinegar. Add the tomatoes and wine. Cover and simmer for approximately 30 minutes. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

This recipe serves 4-6 people. It can be served alone with French bread or as an accompaniment to meat and poultry dishes. This is one of my favourite French dishes. Enjoy!

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