Saturday, July 21, 2012

Danish plurals

Danish plurals are usually formed in three ways:  with -e or -er added to the base or a form which is identical to the singular.  The number of plurals which do not add a suffix to the base is relatively small.  Thus, the majority of Danish plurals end in -e or -er.

The following nouns add -er:

alligator alligatorer (alligator/alligators)
bil biler (car/cars)
ged geder (goat/goats)
kylling kyllinger (chicken/chickens)
problem problemer (problem/problems)

The following nouns add -e:

dag dage (day/days)
fugl fugle (bird/birds)
hest heste (horse/horses)
hund hunde (dog/dogs)
stol stole (chair/chairs)

These nouns are invariable in singular and plural:

ben ben (leg/legs)
mus mus (mouse/mice)
ord ord (word/words)
sko sko (shoe/shoes)
sten sten (stone/stones)

Danish nouns which do not add a suffix to form the singular and plural are usually monosyllabic.  With nouns which add -e or -er to form the plural, it is necessary to memorize.  In Norwegian, however, -er is the most common plural suffix.  In Norwegian, the plurals of dag, fugl, hest, hund, and stol are dager, fugler, hester, hunder, and stoler.  Formation of the plural is thus more complex in Danish than in Norwegian.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dust of Snow

The American poet Robert Frost wrote many beautiful poems.  Dust of Snow is not his most famous, but is very memorable.  In the poem, the narrator relates his experience with a crow.

The poem is very short.  It has only eight verses and they combine to form one sentence.  The rhyme scheme is a, b, a, b, c, d, c, d.  Here is the poem:

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

The narrator recalls a special moment.  A crow shook bits of snow which looked like dust from a hemlock tree.  The snow fell on the narrator who stood below.  Though a brief moment, this touched the narrator's heart .  His mood changed and improved a day which until that moment he had regretted.

The poem serves to remind us that even simple, unexpected moments can make a big difference in one's day.  The dust of snow from the crow was not only unusual but also completely unexpected.  The incident helped to change the narrator's mood and brighten his day.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Barbadian English

Barbaridian English is often called Bajan.  It is a variety of Caribbean English spoken in Barbados.  Though similar to other Caribbean accents, it is nevertheless distinct.

One of the features of Barbadian English which makes it different from other varieties is that it is rhotic.  This means that the r is pronounced in all instances.  For example, the r is maintained in words such as art, finger and word.  This is not the case in other varieties of Caribbean English such as the English of the Bahamas, Belize, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago.

Also distinct about the English of Barbados is the extensive use of the glottal stop.  It often replaces a word-final /t/ such as the /t/ of that boy and it.  This pronunciation also occurs in many varieties of British English.

The interdental fricatives have merged with the voiced and voiceless alveolar plosives.  As a result, the words dough and though sound identical.  This is also true for three and tree.

Barbadian English, often called Bajan, is a variety of Caribbean English.  Though most Caribbean English accents are non-rhotic, Barbadian English is not.  It is a rhotic accent which makes extensive use of the glottal stop.  The extensive use of the glottal stop also contrasts with the English of other Caribbean speakers.

Friday, July 13, 2012

West Country Accent

The West Country Accent refers to the English accent of the southwest of England.  The largest city in this region is Bristol.  The West Country also includes the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset.  The accent of this region is distinct from that of London.

In the West Country Accent, the word-final y of words such as happy and party is pronounced as the diphthong in day, rain and grey.  This pronunciation is also common in the north of England.

The West Country Accent is rhotic.  This means that the r is pronounced in all cases.  Unlike in London, the r is pronounced in words such as heart, park and four.

Word-initial fricatives can be voiced.  For example, the f of five can be pronounced as a v and the s of so can be pronounced as a z.

The a in words such as ask, castle and dance is a low front or low central vowel.  It is not a low back vowel as in London.

In many words with an l before a word-final consonant, the l is often not pronounced.  For example, many speakers do not pronounce the l in words such as build and cold.

The West Country Accent is a famous accent of southwestern England.  Two characteristics of the West Country Accent which make it distinct from that of London are the retention of the r in all instances and the pronunciation of the a in words such as bath and fast as a low front or low central vowel rather than a low back vowel.  This accent is one of the best-known accents of England.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Gender of French and Spanish Nouns

French and Spanish nouns often have the same gender.  This is not surprising because they are both Romance languages that are descended from Latin.  This is the case with the French phrase le livre and the Spanish phrase el libro with the meaning "the book."  Both phrases have masculine gender.  The French phrase la lune and the Spanish phrase la luna mean "the moon."  In this case they share feminine gender.  However, a number of related nouns do not share the same gender. 

Here is a list of ten nouns with different genders in French and Spanish:

le sang la sangre (the blood)
le lait la leche (the milk)
la minute el minuto (the minute)
le nez la nariz (the nose)
l'auto el auto (the car)
la couleur el color (the colour)
le sel la sal (the salt)
le doute la duda (the doubt)
le fruit la fruta (the fruit)
le nuage la nube (the cloud)

In the case of auto, the French word for car, the definite article le is replaced with l' because the noun starts with a vowel sound.  However, the indefinite article une is feminine in the phrase une auto.  Compare this with the masculine indefinite article un in un lac which means "a lake."

Many French and Spanish nouns share the same gender.  This is evidence that the two languages are related.  Despite the similarity of the two languages, though, certain nouns do not share the same gender.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Short Responses to Negative Questions

In English, short responses to negative questions pattern differently from full responses.  Long responses show more variety.  This can be illustrated with a few examples.

If A asks, "Do you have any brothers or sisters?" B can answer in two different ways.  One possible response is "No, I don't have any brothers or sisters" and another is "No, I have no brothers or sisters."  However, with a short response of two words that contains no verb, the only possible response is "No, none."  Notice that here any cannot be used.  The only possible response is the one that contains have in the full response and not don't have.

Another example is the question "Have you heard anything?"  This can be answered with "No, I haven't heard anything" or "No, I've heard nothing."  In a short response of two words with no verb, however, the only possible response is "No, nothing."  Notice that here anything cannot be used.

One rule of English is that double negatives must not be used.  Double negatives were considered grammatical at an earlier stage of the English language but not today.  For this reason, students are taught to say "I have no health problems" or "I don't have any health problems."  The verb don't have must not be used with the word no.  In short responses, however, the double negative is grammatical.  This allows constructions such as No, nothing and No, none.

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