Saturday, December 21, 2013

Received Pronunciation and Estuary English

Received Pronunciation and Estuary English are two accents of British English. Received Pronunciation is the variety of British English which is usually taught to foreigners. It has other names such as BBC English, Queen's English and Oxford English. Estuary English is a variety of English spoken in southeastern England. Though similar, they have differences in pronunciation.

In Estuary English, a word-final l vocalizes and is realized as a w. This happens in words such as apple, ball and well. This is not the case in Received Pronunciation.

Another difference concerns the glottal stop. In Received Pronunciation, it can occur in combination with an alveolar plosive. An example is the word football. However, in Estuary English, the glottal stop can replace another consonant. It is thus possible to pronounce football with a glottal stop instead of an alveolar plosive. The glottal stop can also replace other plosives in Estuary English. Examples include bookshelf and laptop. Notice that the glottal stop occurs syllable-finally.

Also different in the two varieties is the phenomenon of h-dropping. In Received Pronuncation it never occurs, but in Estuary English pronouns such as he and him and the auxiliary have can be pronounced without the h. H-dropping is possible with such words in Estuary English, but not in Received Pronunciation.

Though they are similar varieties of English, Received Pronunciation and Estuary English have pronunciation differences. Estuary English has vocalization of the alveolar lateral, more extensive use of the glottal stop and h-dropping in certain situations. These pronunciation differences serve to distinguish Received Pronunciation from Estuary English.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Spanish h and Portuguese f

A number of Spanish words have a word-initial which corresponds to a word-initial f in Portuguese. The word-initial f was present in Latin but changed to an h in Spanish. The Spanish h now has no phonetic value. It remains in the orthography but is not pronounced.

Here is a list of words with an h in Spanish and f in Portuguese:

hablar falar (speak)
hijo filho (son)
hija filha (daughter)
hierro ferro (iron)
horno forno (oven)
hoja folha (leaf)
hilo fio (string)
harina farinha (flour)
hecho fato (fact)
hambre fome (hunger)

The Portuguese words preserve the word-initial f of Latin. It is thus possible to say that Portuguese is more conservative than Spanish. In addition to this sound relationship, Spanish and Portuguese share many others.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Open Lines of Attack

In a game of speed chess, I won with open lines of attack against an exposed king. My opponent, who played black, was Reylee from the Philippines. He used a defence which I did not expect. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 f5

Black's move is a surprise. This is usually played in response to d4. I can play exf on my next move, but this results in a pawn which is difficult to defend.

2. d3 e5
3. Nc3 c6
4. Bd2 Nf6
5. f4 exf
6. Bxf4 d6
7. Nf3 Be7

Black is ready to castle kingside.

8. Be2 0-0

Now I can also castle kingside, but I decide to castle queenside to launch a strong attack on the kingside.

9. Qd2 fxe
10. Nxe4 Nxe4
11. dxe4 Bh4+

The check is ineffective.

12. g3 Be7
13. 0-0-0 a5
14. Bd3 Bg4
15. Rdf1 b5
16. h3 Be6

Black's attack on the queenside is more advanced than my attack on the kingside.

17. Ng5 Bd7
18. e5 d5
19. Bxh7+ Kh8

I win a pawn.

20. Bd3 Na6

Black finally activates the queen knight.

21. e6 Be8
22. h4 Nb4
23. Kb1 Nxd3
24. Qxd3 g6

Black stops Qh7#.

25. Nf7+ Bxf7
26. exf7 Kg7

Black protects g6 and attacks the f7 pawn at the same time.

27. Be5+ Kh6

I have open lines of attack against the black king.

28. Qe3+ Kh7
29. h5 Bg5

I want to open the h-file.

30. hxg6+ Kxg6

I ignore the attack on my queen.

31. Qd3#

The black king has no escape. My queen, rooks and bishop dominate the kingside. The black pieces are too far from the king.

My open lines of attack, control of the kingside and protected king are the keys to victory in this game. This is a game with attacks on opposite sides of the board. I fight on the kingside and black on the queenside. Fortunately for me, my attack is more powerful.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Mate with Rook and Knight

In a game of speed chess versus Juanpablogonzalez of Argentina, I mated with my rook and knight. My opponent, who played black, probably never saw the mate. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. d4 d5
2. c4 Be6

Black makes an unusual move. More common moves are c6, e6 and dxc.

3. c5 a6
4. Nc3 h6
5. Bf4 Nc6
6. Nf3 Nf6
7. e3 Bf5

I want to prevent black from playing Nb4 on his next move because this targets c2.

8. Bd3 Bxd3
9. Qxd3 e6
10 a3 Be7
11. 0-0 0-0
12. b4 Na7

I have a space advantage.

13. h3 c6
14. Rad1 b6

The knight on a7 is ineffective.

15. e4 bxc
16. bxc Nc8

The knight is even more ineffective on c8.

17. Ne5 Qe8
18. Nf3 a5
19. exd exd
20. Rfe1 Qd7
21. Ne5 Qb7
22. Rb1 Qa6

Black wants to exchange queens, but my queen is more valuable.

23. Qg3 Bd8

Black misses my next move.

24. Bxh6 Nh5
25. Qg4 g6
26. Nxg6 Re8

This is a blunder but black cannot save the rook.

27. Rxe8+ Kh7

This is black's only legal move.

28. Rh8#

The knight on g6 and the bishop on h6 are hanging, but this does not matter. I mate the black king with a combination of my rook and knight. Black cannot protect the back rank.

I take advantage of black's cramped position, lack of control of the back rank and exposed king to force mate. Black plays a number of dubious moves such as Nc8. This move worsens his position and gives me a space advantage. The black rooks play no active role in the game.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Spanish Syntax

Spanish syntax is similar to that of English in many ways. Both Spanish and English are SOV languages and both languages have wh-movement. However, in sentences, Spanish displays greater variety.

For example, the English sentence David isn't going to the party cannot be expressed with a different word order. In Spanish, three sentences are possible.  They are:

1) David no va a la fiesta.
2) No va David a la fiesta.
3) No va a la fiesta David.

The first sentence has the same word order as in English. In the second sentence, the subject David is placed after the verb and in the third sentence the subject David is placed after the object of the preposition party.

The basic Spanish structure is expressed in number 1. In number two we see the NP placed after the VP. More emphasis is given to the VP. In the third sentence, the NP is placed after the VP and the PP. Here the subject is demoted to sentence-final position.

Though English and Spanish both share many syntactic similarities, they also have differences. One of these differences is the word order of sentences. English often has a fixed word order in cases where Spanish allows a variety of word orders.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Winning Tactic

In a game of speed chess versus Mikehw of England, I used a winning tactic to force a quick resignation. My opponent played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 d6

Black chooses a passive defence. Nc6 is more common.

3. d4 exd

I immediately challenge black's centre.

4. Nxd4 Be7
5. Nc3 Bf6

Black moves the bishop again. It is better to develop the knight.

6. Be3 Ne7
7. Qd2 Ng6

Black moves the knight again. It is better to castle or develop another piece.

8. 0-0-0 a6
9. Kb1 b5
10. Nce2 c5

Black advances the queenside pawns, but the black king remains exposed in the centre of the board.

11. Nf5 Qc7
12. Qxd6 Be5

I win a pawn, but to my surprise, black does not recapture. I expect ...Qxd6 13. Nxd6+. Blacks wants to avoid this, but his move is a blunder.

13. Nxg7+

I sacrifice my knight to win black's queen. Black must reply Bxg7 and then I play Qxc7. My thirteenth move is so strong that black decides to resign.

I win quickly because black falls behind in development, leaves his king exposed in the centre and blunders on his twelfth move. He loses a valuable pawn and then overlooks my knight sacrifice, which ends the game. My knight sacrifice is undoubtedly a surprise.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Ten Famous Arias

An aria is a long song written for a solo voice. Many operas have famous arias which have thrilled audiences from their premiere. Arias are a highlight of opera. Here is a list of ten famous arias:

1) Rigoletto (Caro Nome)
2) Rigoletto (La Donna è mobile)
3) Gianni Schicchi (O mio babbino caro)
4) Carmen (La voila...L'amour est oiseau rebelle)
5) Madama Butterfly (Un bel di, vedremo)
6) La Bohème (Che gelida manina)
7) The Marriage of Figaro (Voi che sapate che cosa è amor)
8) Aida (Celeste, Aida)
9) Tosca (Vissi d'arte, Vissi d'amore)
10) Turandot (Nessun Dorma)

The list has arias from nine operas. The opera Rigoletto appears twice. The composer Puccini (Gianni Schichhi, Madama Butterfly, La Bohème, Tosca, Turandot) has five arias. Verdi (Rigoletto, Aida) has three and Mozart (The Marriage of Figaro) and Bizet (Carmen) both have one. This list is by no means definitive and in fact, a list of ten famous arias can vary greatly.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Spices of French Cuisine

French cuisine employs a wide variety of spices. Modern cuisine tends to use less spice than in the past in order to emphasize the natural flavour of the dish. However, in comparison to many other cuisines, French cuisine nevertheless uses many different spices.

Salt and pepper are the main spices of French cuisine. In poultry dishes, mustard, garlic, paprika, ginger, thyme, basil, bay leaf, cayenne pepper and cumin are used.

Beef is often seasoned with bay leaf, parsley and thyme. Other recipes use garlic, rosemary, ginger, saffron and mustard. Lamb is often flavoured with cumin, cayenne, tarragon, mint, thyme, bay leaf, basil, tarragon, parsley, ginger, coriander and cloves. Pork is often flavoured with laurel and nutmeg.

Fish is typically prepared with saffron, paprika and ginger. In other seafood dishes, spices such as thyme, marjoram, rosemary, tarragon, chervil, fennel and lavender can be used.

Vegetables are often seasoned with clove, thyme, garlic, basil, nutmeg, parsley, chives, bay leaf and oregano. Potatoes are often served with thyme and bay leaf. Tomato-based dishes often have garlic, parsley, oregano, thyme and basil.

Fruits are often flavoured with mint, vanilla and cinnamon. Bananas can be flavoured with ginger and rum extract. French desserts are also flavoured with many spices. They include vanilla, almond extract, orange and lemon zest, nutmeg and cardamon.

The use of spices in French cuisine is extensive. Fish is usually prepared with fewer spices than other types of meat. Vegetables are usually prepared with more spices than fruits. The extensive use of spices is one of the reasons that French cuisine is so famous today.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Early Resignation

In a game of speed chess, my opponent resigned after only eleven moves. My opponent, who played white, was Josuezolimones of Spain. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 c5
2. Bc4 e6
3. Nc3 a6

White prevents d5.

4. a4 Nc6

White prevents b5.

5. Nf3 Qc7
6. g3 Nf6
7. d4 cxd
8. Nxd4 Bc5
9. Nxc6 Qxc6

I put pressure on e4.  This prevents white from castling.

10. Bg5 Nxe4

11. Nxe4 Qxe4+

White cannot save the rook on h1. He resigns.

In this miniature, white loses a key central pawn and never manages to castle. His exposed king allows a check that leads to the loss of a rook. With such an uneviable position, he decides to resign.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Family Relationships

The prefixes great-, grand- and great-grand, and the suffix -in-law can be used to express a number of family relationships. Some are very common and others less so. Here is a list of the possible relationships:

great-aunt, great-uncle, great-nephew, great-niece

grand-aunt, grand-uncle, grand-daughter, grand-son, grand-mother, grand-father, grand-nephew, grand-niece

great-grand-mother, great-grand-mother, great-grand-son, great-grand-son

brother-in-law, sister-in-law, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, sister-in-law

A great-aunt is the sister of a grandparent. A great-niece is the daughter of a nephew or niece.

A grand-aunt is the aunt of one's parent. A grand-nephew is the son of a nephew or niece. Thus the words great-niece and grand-niece have the same meaning.

The suffix -in-law is used to family members who are not related by blood but rather by marriage. The four affixes great, grand, great-grand and -in-law can be used to signify a large number of family relationships. In certain cases, grand- and great- have the same meaning.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Four Seasons Drink

The drink called Four Seasons has fruits that represent every season of the year. The four fruits in the drink are usually mango, orange, pineapple and guava. It has a blend of different fruit flavours.

The seasons of the fruits can vary depending on the variety and the region where they are grown.  Also, some fruits are ripe in more than one season. Many varieties of oranges, for example, are ripe from fall to spring. However, if they first become ripe in fall, it is possible to classify them as a fall fruit.

Here are the seasons which can be assigned to the fruits of the four seasons drink:

pineapple (summer)
orange (fall)
guava (winter)
mango (spring)

The four seasons drink is a combination of different fruits. It can be considered a fruit punch. However, the fruits in a fruit punch are usually not fruits that represent the four seasons.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Two Sacrifices

In a game of speed chess I sacrificed my knight and bishop for victory. My opponent, Suitmaker of the USA, played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 d6
3. d4 f6

Black makes a bad move. It is better to play exd.

4. dxe fxe

Black does not want to play dxe because then I capture his queen and take away his right to castle. However, fxe allows a knight sacrifice for a strong attack.

5. Nxe5 dxe
6. Qh5+ Kd7

Now it is difficult for black to protect the king.

7. Bb5+ c6
8. Ba4 Bd6
9. 0-0 Kc7
10. Nc3 h6

Black prevents Bg5, but he is far behind in development.

11. Be3 Nf6
12. Qe2 Qe7
13. a3 Bg4

The threat to my queen is easily countered.

14. f3 Bd7
15. b4 Na6

I begin an attack on the queenside.

16. b5 Nc5
17. bxc bxc
18. Bxc5 Bxc5+

I give the initiative to black. Here Kh1 is better.

19. Kh1 Bd4

I am on the defensive.

20. Qd3 Rad8
21. Rab1 Bb6

Black blocks the b-file.

22. Qa6 Bc8
23. Qc4 Rd4
24. Qb3 Rhd8

Nb5+ wins the rook but I miss this move.

25. Bxc6 Kxc6

I sacrifice my bishop to further expose the black king and strengthen my control of the b-file.

26. Qb5+ Kb7
27. a4 Ka8

I advance a pawn against the pinned bishop. It is understandable that black wants to move the king out of the pin, but this move is a mistake because he cannot defend b8. Here black needs to play Be6 so that the rook on d8 can defend the back rank.

28. a5 Bc5
29. Qb8#

This game features two sacrifices and a blunder by black on the third move. Black loses because his king is too exposed and his pieces lack development. Even so, I make a few inaccuracies which briefly allow black to seize the initiative. Fortunately for me, though, black's initiative is short-lived.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mate with Queen and Knight

In a game of speed chess, I mated my opponent with my queen and knight. My opponent, Grenouille of Ireland, played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 Qf6

Black brings the queen out early.

4. 0-0 a6
5. Ba4 Nge7
6. c3 d6
7. h3 Bd7

Now black has the option of castling queenside.

8. d4 exd
9. cxd h6
10. e5 dxe

With the black king in the centre, I decide to open lines of attack.

11. dxe Nxe5
12. Bxd7+ Nxd7
13. Nc3 0-0-0
14. Be3 g5
15. Bd4 Qg6

I skewer the queen and rook.

16. Bxf8 f6
17. Qd4 Qg8

Black makes a mistake. He wants to capture my bishop, but now the pawn on f6 can be captured with Bxf6.  A better move for black is Ne5. Though I can play Bxf6, I make a different move.

18. Qa7 Qxh8
19. b4 Nc6
20. Qa8+ Ncb8

Ndb8 gives the black king another escape square.

21. b5 Nb6
22. Qa7 N8d7
23. bxa bxa
24. Qxa6+ Kb8

The black king is too exposed.

25. Nb5 Nc8
26. Rab1 Bc5
27. Na7+ Bb6
28. Nc6#

My knight and queen combine to give mate.

Black has nearly as much material as white, but he loses because his pieces are all on the back rank, they are uncoordinated and his king is too exposed.  Though he brings the queen out early, she does not play a big role in the game. On h8, she is too far to defend her own king and too far to attack the enemy king.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Offensive Battle

In a game of speed chess, I checked my opponent four times in a row before mate.  Earlier in the game, he delivered three checks in a row. The game was a true offensive battle.  My opponent, Billybob111 of the USA, played white.  Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. d4 Nf6
2. e3 g6

White usually plays c4 here.

3. Be2 d5
4. h4 Bg7

I am ahead in development.

5. Nc3 Nc6

White's move suggests that he may not wish to castle kingside.

6. b3 e5
7. dxe Nxe5
8. Ba3 b6

The white bishop prevents me from castling kingside.

9. h5 c5
10. hxg fxg
11. Nf3 Nxf3+
12. Bxf3 Bb7

Material is even, but I have a space advantage.

13. Be2 Qd7
14. Bb5 Bc6
15. Bxc6 Qxc6

I am happy that white's powerful light-squared bishop is no longer on the board.

16. b4 0-0-0
17. bxc bxc
18. Qf3 Ne4

The white knight is pinned because my bishop targets the rook on a1.

19. Qg4+ Kc7
20. Qf4+ Kb7
21. Rb1+ Ka8

White has no more checks.

22. Rb3 Nxc3

White blunders.  With the rook on b1, the knight is no longer pinned.  Here he should play Nxe4. Now I win a piece.

23. Rxc3 Bxc3+
24. Ke2 d4

I want to open more lines of attack against the white king.

25. f3 Qb5+
26. Kd1 dxe+
27. Kc1 Bd2+
28. Kd1 Bb4+
29. Kc1 Bxa3#

It is special to have four consecutive checks and then deliver mate. The white queen and rook are unable to come to the defence of the king. Though queen pawn openings often lead to closed games, this one becomes very open.

This game is memorable for several reasons.  White never castles in the game, and I decide to castle queenside.  We both have relatively exposed kings, and we deliver a series of checks.  The difference is that I win a piece on the 23rd move, and later use a discovered check to win another piece and mate the white king.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Homophones are words which are pronounced the same but differ in meaning.  English is a language which has several.  Sometimes the words are spelled the same and sometimes they are spelled differently.

The words rose (flower) and rose (past tense of rise) are spelled the same but have very different meanings. On the other hand, through and threw not only have different meanings but are spelled differently.

Here are a few examples of English homophones:

aisle isle I'll
two too to
there their they're
we'll wheel
some sum
blue blew
son sun
won one
sale sail
for four

English has many examples of homophones, words which share the same pronunciation but differ in meaning. Homophones can have the same spelling or a different spelling, but they must have different meanings. Homophones that have the same spelling are also known as homographs and those that have a different spelling are known as heterographs.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Salmorejo is a Spanish soup originally from Cordoba.  It is similar to gazpacho but has fewer ingredients.  It only has tomatoes, garlic, bread, olive oil and salt and is often garnished with serrano ham and boiled egg.

Here is the recipe:

1 pound tomatoes
1 clove garlic
white bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Peel the tomatoes and remove the cores.  It is easy to peel them if they are boiled first.  Soak a slice of bread in the tomatoes.  Take out the bread and set aside.  In a blender, puree the tomatoes and garlic. Add half of the bread and puree.  Continue to add the bread and olive oil until the liquid is smooth.  Add salt to taste.   Chill the puree and serve in bowls with chopped serrano ham and boiled egg.

Salmorejo is a delicious and simple dish.  It is usually enjoyed in summer but for me it can be enjoyed in any season.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Uncastled Kings

In a game of speed chess, I forced a resignation after fourteen moves. My opponent, Poulantzas of France, played black.  It was unusual that neither side castled- I decided not to castle so that I could focus on my attack, and with a knight check took away my opponent's right to castle.  Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 d6
3. Bc4 Be6
4. Bb3 Be7

I retreat with my bishop knowing that if black plays Bxb3, I can open the a-file with axb3.

5. d4 Bxb3

Black allows me to open the a-file.  A better move for black is to develop the knight with Nf6.

6. axb3 exd
7. Nxd4 Bf6

The black bishop seizes control of the diagonal.

8. Be3 c5

I make a bad move.  It is better to play Nc3 to keep b2 protected.

9. Nf5 Bxb2
10. Ra2 Bf6

Black makes a mistake.  Here it is better to play Be5 to protect d6.

11. Nd6+ Ke7

The black king loses the right to castle.

12. Nf5+ Ke8

Here it is better for me to play Bxc5.

13. Nd6 Ke7

The position is the same as on the eleventh move.

14. Bxc5

Black resigns.  I am only up one pawn, but my pieces are better developed than black's.  With his lack of development and exposed king, black decides to concede.

This game is unusual for two reasons- it ends after only 14 moves and neither side castles.  Black loses because he fails to attend to the safety of the king.  Though material is almost even, his position is difficult to defend.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Regional differences in American Pronunciation

The USA is a country which exhibits a number of regional differences in pronunciation.  The regions which often have different pronunciations are found in the northeast and south.  However, it is important to note that not all speakers of a region pronounce all words the same.  Even withone one region there is variation.

In the western USA, caramel is usually pronounced with two syllables and in the eastern USA with three. In the southeast, mayonnaise tends to be pronounced with two syllables and the first one is pronounced man. In the the rest of the country, it tends to have three syllables and the first syllable is pronounced may.

In the southeast and northeast of the country, the second vowel of pyjamas usually has the vowel of jam.  In the rest of the country, the second vowel usually has the vowel of father.  In the northeast of the country, the first syllable of syrup is usually pronounced sear but in the rest of the country it is usually pronounced sir. Finally, the word lawyer is usually pronounced law in the first syllable by speakers of the southeast.  The exception is Florida where it is usually pronounced with the diphthong of boy as in the rest of the country.

American English is far from uniform.  Many of the regional differences occur in the southeast and northeast of the country.  The pronunciation of American English can thus vary significantly from one region to another.

Raspberry Smoothie

A raspberry smoothie is delicious and easy to make.  You need the following ingredients:

1 cup raspberries
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk
ice cubes

Pour the ingredients into the blender and blend.  Pour into a glass and enjoy.  Other fruits can be substituted for raspberries such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries and peaches.

The Fly

The Fly is a poem by William Blake.

The Fly

Little fly,
Thy summer's play
My thoughtless hand
Had brushed away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath,
And the want
Of thought is death,

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

In the poem, a little fly loses its life to a hand.  Though a fly and a human may initially seem very different, the author suggests they are similar.  The human is similar to the fly in the sense that they both dance, drink and sing.  Also, they shall both die but will not know the moment.  Death will come blindly.

William Blake also writes that life is to think, to live and to be strong, and the absence of thought is death. Like the fly, the human lives happily and loses all thought at the moment of death.  Though the human and the fly may seem very different, in many ways they are quite similar.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bread with Tomato

Bread with tomato, known in Catalan as pa amb tomàquet, is a simple dish popular in the Spanish regions of Catalonia and Aragon.  It consists of bread, often toasted, with tomato rubbed over and then seasoned with olive oil and salt.  Sometimes garlic is rubbed on the bread along with tomato.

The dish can be eaten plain, or it can be eaten with sausages, hams, cheeses, fish or marinated vegetables. Similar dishes can be found in France, Malta, Italy and Greece.  These countries all share Mediterranean cuisine, which makes extensive use of tomatoes.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Lateral Approximant of Norwegian

The lateral approximant of Norwegian can be pronounced in different ways.  It can be pronounced as an alveolar lateral, alveolar velarized lateral and even as a retroflex flap.  In southwestern Norway, the alveolar lateral is common.  In the north and east of the country, the retroflex flap is often used.  In the southeastern part of the country, i.e., Oslo, the alveolar lateral and alveolar velarized lateral are both used.

In dialects which use both the alveolar lateral and the alveolar velarized lateral, the two are allophones. The alveolar lateral occurs after a front vowel and the alveolar velarized lateral occurs after a back vowel.  The alveolar lateral occurs in the following words:

mel flour
sill herring
jul Christmas

The vowel in jul is a high central rounded vowel, but phonologically it can be classified as a front vowel.  For this reason, it is followed by an alveolar lateral.

The alveolar velarized lateral occurs in the following words:

ball ball
halv half
tolv twelve

The alveolar velarized lateral occurs after back vowels.  However, the alveolar velarized lateral occurs in the syllable-coda.  If the lateral is in the syllable-onset, it is usually realized as an alveolar lateral.  This is the usual pronunciation of palass palace in which the lateral is in the onset of the second syllable.  Here velarization is not common.

The lateral of Norwegian has different realizations.  In the dialects of southeastern Norway, an area which includes Oslo, the alveolar lateral and the alveolar velarized lateral are common.  The two are in an allophonic relationship.  The alveolar lateral occurs after front vowels and the alveolar velarized lateral occurs after back vowels.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Victory in 14 moves

In a game of speed chess, my opponent resigned after fourteen moves.  He was Poulantzas of France, who played black.  Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 d6
3. Bc4 Bg4

I can now castle kingside.

4. 0-0 Bxf3

Black makes a bad move.  By capturing my knight, he removes the threat of the pin on my knight.  He also allows me to advance my queen to a good square and put pressure on the f7 square.

5. Qxf3 Qf6

Black wishes to exchange queens, but I do not cooperate.  If I exchange, I help him to develop his knight and we both have one developed piece.  By refusing to exchange, I maintain my advantage in piece development-  I have two developed pieces and black has one.

6. Qb3 b6

Black prevents Qxb7.

7. d4 exd

I sacrifice a pawn to open a diagonal for my bishop and allow the e-pawn to advance.

8. f4 Nc6

Black can now castle queenside, but my next move prevents it.

9.  e5 dxe
10. fxe Qe7

The move Qxe5 is risky because the black king is very exposed.

11. Bxf7+ Kd8
12. Qd5+ Qd7

Once again black wishes to exchange queens but I have a better move.

13. Bxg8 Qxd5

I win a piece.

14. Bxd5 Bc5

If I do not move my king, Black can now play e3+ on his next move. However, the discovered check is not dangerous.  I can play Bxc6 on my next move.  Since this leaves me two pieces up, black decides to resign.

Black makes a number of bad moves in this game.  The move Bxf3 is bad because it is too committal.  It gives up the bishop at a very early stage of the game, removes the pin on my knight and develops my queen. The move Qf6 is also bad because it places the queen on an ideal square for the king knight.  Black's lack of development and exposed king are the reasons for his early resignation.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


The quesadilla is a Mexican dish that is very simple to make.  Either corn or flour tortillas can be used, but in most of the country corn tortillas are more popular.  The exception is northern Mexico where flour tortillas are more popular.  Here is the recipe:

Put a little bit of oil on a frying pan and heat on medium.  Put a tortilla on the pan and add a grated cheese such as mozzarella.  Fold the tortilla in half.  When the cheese melts, turn over and heat until both sides are brown.  Serve with salsa.  Other ingredients such as guacamole and sour cream can also be used.

Though the quesadilla is very easy to make, it is a tasty and popular dish.  By using different types of tortillas and different ingredients, many variations of this dish can be created.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Power of the Pin

In a game of speed chess, I defeated my opponent with a pin.  I captured his knight with his rook, but he could not capture because of the pin on his pawn.  If he had captured, he would have lost his rook.  My opponent, who played black, was Mahayahonthar of Burma.  Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e6
2. d4 d6
3. Nf3 b6
4. Nc3 Bb7
5. Bd3 g6

Black plans to play the double fianchetto.  This places both bishops on the wing, one on b7 and one on g7.

6. 0-0 Bg7
7. Be3 Ne7
8. Re1 Nd7
9. Qd2 0-0

I want to exchange bishops to weaken the defence of the black king.

10. Bh6 Re8
11. Bxg7 Kxg7
12. Qe3 c5
13. dxc Nxc5
14. Be2 Qc7

I clear the d-file for my queen rook.

15. Rad1 Rad8
16. b4 Na6
17. a3 Ng8
18. Nb5 Qc6
19. Bd3 Nf6

Black applies pressure to the e4 square.

20. Nfd4 Qd7
21. Nxa7 Bxe4
22. Bb5 Qxa7
23. Bxe8 Bxc2

Black makes a bad move because I can capture the bishop with my knight on d4.  He should play Nxe8. The move Rxe8 cedes control of the d-file.

24. Nxc2 Rxe8
25. Rxd6 Nd5

The black knight not only controls many squares but also attacks my queen.  However, this move is a blunder.

26. Rxd5

Black resigns.  The move exd5 allows Qxe8.  Already down a piece with a pinned pawn and an inactive knight on a6, black decides not to continue.

Until black's 23rd move, Bxc2, the game is very even.  His 23rd move allows me to win a bishop for the price of a pawn.  However, this is not the critical move of the game.  It is my 26th move, Rxd5, which pins a black pawn and gives me a significant material advantage.  The pin is the key to victory.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

French fries

The secret for making great french fries is to fry them twice.  This ensures that they are cooked in the centre and crispy on the outside.  It is also important to use potatoes that are low in starch such as russet potatoes.

Here is the recipe:

4 large potatoes
cooking oil

Cut the potatoes and then slice them into thin strips.  Cover with water and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  In a frying pan pour enough oil to deep-fry.  Heat the oil to a medium temperature.  Drain water from the fries, wrap them in a towel and pat dry.  Increase the heat to medium-high and add fries to hot oil.  Fry until fries are soft and begin to turn a golden colour, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Carefully remove from oil and drain.  Let them rest for 15 minutes.

Reheat oil to a medium-high temperature and fry again, stirring frequently, until the fries are golden brown. Fry for about 1 minute.  Transfer to plate and sprinkle with salt to taste.  Serve immediately.

This is a great recipe for french fries.  Of course, you may add other ingredients to your french fries such as mayonnaise, pepper and vinegar.  Enjoy!

Saturday, July 13, 2013


The Ukrainian language is similar to both Russian and Polish.  In its use of the Cyrillic alphabet, it is similar to Russian.  However, the vocabulary of Ukrainian is often very similar to that of Polish.

Unlike Russian, Ukrainian does not reduce an unstressed o to a.  In this respect, it is similar to Polish.  Also, the Ukrainian language uses the voiced glottal plosive less than Russian.

One area in which Ukrainian is different from both Russian and Polish is word-final voiced consonants.  In both Russian and Polish, word-final consonants are always voiceless.  In other words, voiced consonants are automatically devoiced word-finally.  This is not the case in Ukrainian-  word-final voiced consonants are preserved.

Ukrainian is an East Slavic language which shares features with both Russian and Polish.  Since Ukraine is located between Poland to the west and Russia to the east, this is not surprising.  The Ukrainian language is a language which is making a comeback since Ukraine gained its independence.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Marzipan consists mainly of sugar or honey which is added to ground almond.  Sometimes almond oil is also added.  It is often added to chocolates and cakes.  The origin of marzipan is not clear.

In Latin American marzipan is often made with ground peanuts instead of ground almonds.  In the Middle East, marzipan is flavoured with orange-flower water.  It can also be made with oatmeal or semolina.  In the Indian state of Goa, cashew nuts are used instead of almonds.

Many historians believe that marzipan originated in Iran.  Others believe that it originated in Spain.  Marzipan is the most famous dessert of Toledo, Spain.

Though the origins of marzipan are not clear, it is enjoyed in many countries.  Lubeck, in northern Germany, is a city which is famous for its marzipan.  Another city, Toledo, claims marzipan as its most famous dessert. Regardless of the origins of marzipan, it is enjoyed by many all around the world.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Queen Sacrifice

It seldoms happens that I win a game with a queen sacrifice.  However, I did so in a recent game of speed chess.  My opponent, who played black, was Eljugador of Mexico.  Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 c5
2. d4 cxd
3. c3 dxc
4. Nxc3 Nc6
5. Nf3 d6
6. Bc4 h6

Black wants to prevent Ng5, but e6 is a better move because it helps to control the centre and also protects the f7 square.

7. 0-0 Nf6
8. Re1 Bg4

The black king remains in the centre of the board.

9. e5 Nxe5

Black should play e6.

10. Nxe5 Bxd1

The capture of the queen is a blunder.  My knight and bishop control enough squares to deliver mate.

11. Bxf7#

A queen sacrifice leads to a quick checkmate.  Black plays aggressively and gains material, but fails to adequately protect his king.  This is the reason for his quick defeat.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

English of the Southern USA

The English of the southern USA is different from other regions of the country.  It is a large area which includes Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee.  The accents are quite diverse.  However, a number of features are characteristic of the region.

The diphthong of words such as my and tie is often realized as the monophthong of cat and sand.  Other vowels such as those of sit, ate, pet, put and cat are pronounced as diphthongs.  The second component of the diphthong is a schwa.

Before a nasal, the vowel of pen is raised and pronounced as the vowel of pin.  As a result, the words pen and pin sound identical.  The distinction is maintained before other sounds such as set and sit.

The words hoarse and horse are pronounced differently.  The word hoarse has a diphthong.  The first component is a mid back rounded tense vowel and the second is a schwa.  In horse, the vowel is a monophthong.  It is a mid back rounded lax vowel.

The English of the southern USA is different from other regions of the USA.  It is spoken in a large area of the United States with a number of different accents.  However, three features are universally true of this accent.  They are the monophthongization of the vowel in pie, the diphthongization of vowels  that are monophthongs in other regions, and the vowel raising that occurs before nasals.

Backrank Threat

In a game of speed chess against Khursheedk of the USA, I won by threatening to mate on the backrank.  My opponent, who played white, had no escape square for his king.  Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1.  e4 c5
2. Nf3 d6
3. d4 cxd
4. Bb5+ Bd7
5. Nxd4 a6

I force white to move the bishop.

6. Bxd7+ Qxd7
7. 0-0 Nf6
8. Qf3 Nc6
9. Nxc6 bxc6

White strengthens my pawn centre.

10. Nc3 e6
11. Bg5 Be7
12. Rfd1 0-0

White has strong pressure on the e-file.

13. e5 Nd5
14. Bxe7 Qxe7
15. Nxd5 cxd5

My pawn blocks the e-file.

16. exd Qxd6
17. Qc3 Rfc8

My rook becomes active.

18. Qf3 Rxc2

White allows me to take a pawn.  It is better to play Qd3 to protect the pawn.

19. Rdc1 Rac8

I want to maintain control of the c-file.

20. Rxc2 Rxc2
21. b3 h6

I create an escape square for my king.

22. Qd3 Qc5

I threaten mate on the backrank.  White has no time to create an escape square because I also threaten Qxf2+.

23.  Qe3 d4

White wants an exchange of queens, but I make a better move.

24. Qf4 e5

My move forces white off the h6-c1 diagonal.  With the queen powerless to prevent mate, white resigns.

The key to victory in this game is my threat to mate on the backrank.  White's failure to create an escape square for his king lead to his defeat.  The threat of a backrank mate forces white's resignation.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The letters mn

In English, the letters mn only occur word-finally in a few cases.  When they do, the n is silent.  However, when the letters occur word-medially in a related form, they are both pronounced.

Here are a few examples:

hymn hymnal
solemn solemnity
column columnist
autumn autumnal
condemn condemnation

The deletion of the word final nasal can be regarded as consonant cluster simplication or deletion.  Without question, most languages do not allow the consonant cluster mn in word final position.  Nevertheless, the spelling of words such as column and hymn suggests that the alveolar nasal was once pronounced.

The alveolar nasal is pronounced word-medially.  Here the bilabial and alveolar nasals occur in different syllables.  In autumnal, the bilabial nasal is in the coda of the first syllable and the alveolar nasal is in the onset of the second.

In Swedish the two nasals are pronounced word-finally.  This is the case with namn (name) and famn (arms).

The spelling of words such as hymn and autumn reveals that the word-final nasal was once pronounced.  Further evidence is provided by the related forms hymnal and autumnal in which the alveolar nasal is pronounced.  It is possible to construct a rule for English which deletes the alveolar nasal in the cluster mn when it occurs word-finally.  The rule can be written as follows:  [mn] --> [m] / _#

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Stress of Separable/Inseparable Phrasal Verbs

Separable and inseparable phrasal verbs carry different stress.  Separable phrasal verbs have stress on the particle of the verb.  Inseparable phrasal verbs, however, have stress on the verb.

The separable phrasal verb pick up has stress on the particle up.  In the sentence She picked up the phone the particle up is stressed but the verb picked is not.

Compare this with the inseparable phrasal verb look at.  In the sentence She looked at her watch the verb looked is stressed but the particle at is not.

One key difference between separable and inseparable phrasal verbs is that pronouns come between the verb and particle in separable phrasal verbs (Pick it up!) and follow the verb and particle in inseparable phrasal verbs (Look at it!)  However, another key difference is stress.  Separable phrasal verbs have stress on the particle, but inseparable phrasal verbs have stress on the verb.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Positional Victory

In a game of speed chess, I defeated my opponent witthout the use of tactics.  I relied on positional play.  My opponent, Firstcpa of the USA, played white.  Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. d4 Nf6
2. e3 g6
3. Nf3 d5
4. Be2 Bg7
5. 0-0 0-0
6. b3 Re8
7. Bb2 Nc6
8. Nbd2 e5
9. dxe Nd7

Now I can recover the pawn.

10. Rb1 Ndxe5
11. Nxe5 Bxe5
12. Nf3 Bxb2
13. Rxb2 Be6

I have an isolated pawn.

14. Bb5 a6
15. Bxc6 bxc6

I have doubled pawns but now my isolated pawn is defended by another pawn.

16. Qd4 Qe7

I want to advance my c-pawn.

17. Rd1 c5
18. Qd3 c6
19. c3 Bg4
20. Qe2 Qf6

White cannot prevent me from doubling his kingside pawns.

21. Rf1 Bxf3
22. Qxf3 Qxf3
23. gxf3 Kg7

Now white has no backrank check.

24. Re2 Re7
25. e4 Rae8
26. e5 Rxe5

Black makes a bad move and loses a pawn.  It is better to play Rfe8.

27. Rxe5 Rxe5
28. Kg2 h5

White wants to activate the king.  I aim to restrict the king's movement.

29. Rd1 Re2
30. a4 Rc2
31. c4 d4

I can win another pawn with ...dxc, bxc, Rxc4, but I decide to keep my powerful d-pawn on the board.

32. Rd3 Rc3

White cannot play Rxc3 because then my pawn queens.

33. Rd1 Rxb3

I win another pawn.

34. Kg3 Rb4

One of the white pawns must fall.

35. Re1 Rxc4

I win another pawn.

36. Re5 d3

I reject ...Rxa4, Rxc5 because it allows white too much counterplay.

37.  Re7 d2

I continue to push my passed pawn.

38. Rd7 Rd4

White is powerless to stop the d-pawn from queening.

The game starts out with a number of quite moves and material is even until the 26th move.  Shortly after winning a pawn, I obtain a passed pawn which I use to my advantage.  I also activate my rook to gain more pawns.  These small advantages are the difference in the game and exemplify positional play.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


The title of my latest poem is Explorers, a tribute to the explorers who sailed across the globe to discover land and treasure.


They sailed across vast open seas
In search of new land and treasure.
They embarked on distant journeys
Ready to face untold danger.

Brave explorers of former years
Promised to fulfill their duty.
Learning to overcome their fears,
They sacrificed for their country.

They added knowledge of cultures,
Discovering spices, tea and gold.
Monarchs awaited their treasures,
Precious goods to be bought and sold.

Though their vessels sailed long ago,
Explorers brought worlds together
With famed discoveries that echo
In our spirit of adventure.

My poem has four stanzas of four verses each.  In each stanza the odd and even-numbered verses rhyme.  Each verse is eight syllables long.  The final two verses of the poem tie the explorers of the past to the explorers of the present.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Bishop Sacrifice

I recently won a game of speed chess with a bishop sacrifice.   My opponent, Pacontono of Colombia, played black.  Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 Nf6

Black plays the Two Knights Defence.  Here it is more common for black to play Bc5.

4. 0-0 Nxe4

White usually plays Ng5 here, but I choose to castle.

5. d4 Na5

Black probably expects me to play Bb3, but I decide to sacrifice the bishop.  The black knight is out of position, the black king has not castled and I can gain two pains for the sacrificed piece.  Also, the sacrifice takes away black's right to castle.

6. Bxf7+ Kxf7
7. Nxe5+ Ke8
8. Qf3 Nf6

Black saves the knight and prevents mate.

9. Bg5 Be7
10. Re1 Rf8
11. Bxf6 Rxf6

I capture the black knight to remove a defender of the king and check black on my next move.

12. Qh5+ g6
13. Qxh7 d6
14. Nxg6 Kd7

Black wants to find a safe square for the king.

15. Rxe7+ Kc6
16. Nc3 b6

I move another piece close to the enemy king.  Black plays b6 with the hope of developing the bishop and creating an escape square for the king.

17. b4 Nc4
18. b5+ Kb7
19. Nd5 Rf8

Black has four pieces on the back rank.

20. Rxc7+ Kb8

Black's move is forced.

21. Nge7 Rh8

I can ignore the threat to my queen because I have mate in one.

22. Nc6#

I mate black with a decisive bishop sacrifice.  Black decides to capture my bishop on his fifth move with Na5, but this is a mistake.  It allows me to play a sacrifice that leaves the knight out of position and subjects the black king to an irresistible attack.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Vocabulary of Austrian German

Austrian German differs from other varieties in pronunciation and vocabulary.  Many words are different from those used in standard German.  Here is a list with the standard word on the left and the Austrian on the right:

Abitur Matura (high school diploma)
Geldautomat Bankomat (ATM)
Schornstein Rauchfang  (chimney)
Treppe Stiege (stairs)
Krankenhaus Spital (hospital)
Umschlag Kuvert (envelope)
Anlieger Anrainer (resident)
Kartoffel Erdapfel (potato)
Johannisbeere Ribisel (currant)
Brotzeit Jause (snack)
Blumenkohl Karfiol (cauliflower)
Aprikose Marille (apricot)
Mais Kukuruz (corn)
Tomate Paradeiser (tomato)
Pflaume Zwetschge (plum)

Many of the words in the list are related to food.  The Austrian words for food are often similar to those of neighbouring languages such as Hungarian and Slovenian.  However, despite the differences in vocabulary between Austrian German and standard German, the speakers of both varieties usually have little difficulty in understanding one another.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Types of Adverbs

Adverbs are a common part of speech.  They can modify a verb or an adjective.  In many cases, they have the suffix -ly.  However, many adverbs do not have this suffix and in fact, adverbs can be classified into many types.

Adverbs of manner often have the suffix -ly.  Examples of adverbs of manner include quickly, nicely and regularly.  Adverbs of manner without the -ly suffix include well, fast and hard.

Adverbs of frequency are also very common.  They include always, often and never.

Adverbs of degree modify adjectives.  They include very, really and too.

Adverbs of comment form a large group.  They include fortunately, obviously and hopefully.

Adverbs of certainty are another group.  They include definitely, probably and maybe.

Adverbs of time are frequently used.  They include today, now and soon.

Adverbs of place are also frequently used.  They include here, there and nowhere.

Conjunctive adverbs can be used to connect independent clauses.  They include however, furthermore and  therefore.

Adverbs are an important part of speech.  Though they usually modify verbs, they can also modify adjectives.  Along with adverbs of manner, adverbs can be classified into many other groups.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Winning With a Retreat

In a game of speed chess, I retreated my knight to win a piece.  My opponent, Chog81 of Argentina, could not save his piece.  I played white.  Here are the moves of the games along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 h6

Black prevents Ng5.

4. h3 Nf6
5. 0-0 Bc5
6. c3 d6
7. d4 exd
8. cxd Bb6

I have a strong pawn centre.

9. Nc3 Bd7
10. e5 dxe
11. dxe Nh5

The knight is out of position on h5.  Ng8 is necessary.

12. Re1 0-0
13. Nh2 Qc8

The knight is trapped.

14. Qxh5 Nd5

The black knight threatens to fork my rooks on c2.

15. Bb3 Be6

I can prevent the knight fork with Bd1, but I decide to play more actively.

16. Ng4 Bxb3
17. axb3 Nc2

The black knight forks my rooks.

18. Nxh6 gxh6

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

19. Bxh6 Bxf2+

The check is not dangerous.

20. Kxf2 Nxe1
21. Qg5+

Black resigns because I have mate in one.  The black king must move to h8 or h7.  I then mate with Qg7 on my following move.

Retreats are often defensive moves, but they can also be used to attack.  My thirteenth move, Nh2, is not a defensive move.  It creates a discovered attack on the black knight.  On black's eleventh move, Ng8, a retreat of the knight to the back rank, is the only move that saves the piece.  Though the move is purely defensive and makes it difficult for the knight to take part in the game, it is better than Nh5.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bach, Mozart and Beethoven

Many musicians consider Bach, Mozart and Beethoven the greatest classical composers.  They are undoubtedly among the most popular composers of all time.  Though their music shares similarities, it also has differences.

Bach lived during the Baroque era.  Unlike Mozart and Beethoven, Bach wrote no operas.  Beethoven, however, only wrote one, Fidelio.  The music of Bach is complex.  It has a very even tempo, is cyclical and makes extensive use of the organ.  His music also uses counterpoint.  This means that there is more than one melody at the same time.  In contrast, the music of Mozart and Beethoven has a melody and accompaniment.

Mozart lived during the classical era.  His music sounds more conservative than that of Beethoven.  It is very expressive and structured.  Though he died young, he was very productive and wrote more music than many composers who lived twice as long.  Much of Mozart's music is very joyful and romantic.

Though Beethoven lived during the classical era, his music is often a reflection of the romantic era.  In fact, his music is a reflection of both the classical and romantic eras.  In addition, his music went through three distinct periods in which it changed and developed.  Beethoven tended to focus on orchestral pieces.

Bach, Mozart and Beethoven are famous classical composers whose music is played throughout the world.  Familiarization with their styles makes it easy to distinguish the music of the three composers.  The music of Bach is characterized as complex and uses counterpoint.  The music of Mozart and Beethoven has a melody and accompaniment, but Mozart is more conservative and less dramatic.  Without question, these three composers left an immense contribution to the world of music.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Victory in 9

In a game of speed chess, I used a sacrifice to win my opponent's queen.  My opponent, who played black, was Cravox of Brazil.  Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1.  e4 c5
2.  d4 cxd
3.  c3 dxc
4.  Nxc3 d6
5.  Nf3 Nf6
6.  Bc4 g6

It is better for black to play e6 in order to challenge my bishop's control of the a2-g8 diagonal.

7.  e5 dxe

Black probably expects me to play Qxd8+ on my eighth move, but I have a better option.

8.  Bxf7+ Kxf7

Black's move is forced.

9. Qxd8

With the loss of his queen, black decides to resign.  Black fails to anticipate my bishop sacrifice which wins the black queen.  I also sacrifice two pawns for a lead in development, but the bishop sacrifice is the one which decides the game.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sweet Lassi

Sweet lassi is a tasty drink that's easy to make.  Here is the recipe:

2 cups plain yogurt
6 ice cubes, crushed
2 cups water
2 teaspoons sugar

Put the ingredients in a blender and blend.  Pour the drink over ice cubes in a tall glass.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Universal Markedness Theory

Universal markedness theory claims that certain sounds are rarer than others.  Because they are rarer, they are more difficult to pronounce and acquired by children at a later stage than more common sounds.  Rare sounds are marked sounds, and common sounds are ummarked.

Universal markedness theory can make many universal generalizations about the sounds of languages.  The following statements are all true:

1)  Short vowels are more common than long vowels.  All languages have short vowels, but not all languages have long vowels.  If a language has long vowels, it also has short vowels.

2)  Oral vowels are more common than nasal vowels.  All languages have oral vowels, but not all languages have nasal vowels.  If a language has nasal vowels, it also has oral vowels.

3)  Voiceless plosives are more common than voiced plosives.  If a language has  a voiced plosive, it also has a voiceless counterpart.

4)  Short consonants are more common than long consonants.  All languages have short consonants, but not all languages have long consonants.  If a language has long consonants, it also has short consonants.

5)  Simple onsets are more common than complex onsets.  All languages have simple onsets, but not all languages have complex onsets.  If a language has complex onsets, it also has simple onsets.

Universal markedness theory helps to clarify the relationship between marked and unmarked sounds.  Short vowels are more common than long vowels because they are simpler to produce.  A long vowel has a longer duration if the contrast is quantitative and is a diphthong or a less common vowel if the contrast is qualitative.  Oral vowels are easier to articulate than nasal ones.  Voiceless plosives require less articulatory effort than voiced ones because the glottis does not vibrate in their production.  Short consonants have a shorter duration than long ones and are thus easier to pronounce.  Simple onsets have only one segment in contrast to complex ones which have two or more.  It is clear that marked sounds are rarer because they require more articulatory effort.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mate in 17

In a game of speed chess, I mated my opponent in 17 moves.  He was Callasse of the USA, who played black.  Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 Qf6

Black brings out the queen early.  The move Nf6 is common here.

4. Bxc6 Qxc6
5. 0-0 Bd6

Black's move blocks the d-pawn and prevents the development of the light-squared bishop.

6. c3 Qxe4

Black gains a pawn, but with the king in the centre of the board this is risky.

7. Re1 Qf5
8. d4 f6

My aim is to open the centre.

9. dxe fxe
10. Nbd2 Nh6
11. Nc4 Ng4

It is better for black to castle.

12. Nxd6+ cxd6
13. Qxd6 e4

Now black cannot castle.  My knight is immune from capture because of my rook on e1.

14. Bg5 Qf7

Black prevents mate on e7.  The problem is that e4 is now unprotected.  A better move for black is Nf6.

15. Rxe4+ Qe6

Black's move is forced.

16. Rxe6+ dxe6

17. Qe7#

Black's failure to castle and lack of development allow me to achieve a quick mate.  His third move, Qf6, is a mistake because it develops the queen too early and puts the queen on a square ideal for the knight.  The sixth move, Qxe4, is an example of a move that neglects development.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Swedish o

The o of Swedish has four main pronunciations.  This is unusual because most Swedish vowels only have two different pronunciations.  The o is a special vowel.

When the o is long, it often sounds very much like the u of many languages such as German and Spanish.  However, the Swedish o is pronounced with more lip rounding.  An example of this o is the word ros (rose).  In certain cases, long o sounds similar to the English o of home, but the Swedish vowel is a monophthong rather than a diphthong  This sound often occurs in loanwords.  An example is the word telefon (telephone).

When the o is short, it is often pronounced like the o in the English word cold.  An example is the word tolv (twelve).  In certain cases, short o sounds like the English vowel in put.  An example is the past participle trott (believed).

The Swedish word kort is interesting.  When pronounced with the long vowel of ros (rose), it means map, but when it is pronounced with the short vowel of tolv (twelve), it means short.

The Swedish o is a vowel with four different pronunciations.  This is also the case for the Norwegian o.  This vowel has more pronunciations than in many other languages.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Knight Sacrifice

In a game of speed chess, I sacrificed my knight to mate in fourteen moves.  My opponent, who played black, was Lonnavenue of the USA.  Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 c6

Black's move is a surprise.  The move Nc6 is very common here.  I suspect black plans d5 with the aim of a strong pawn centre, but the immediate d5 leaves e5 unprotected.

3. Bc4 Qe7

Black protects e5, but this locks in the king bishop.  The move d6 is better.

4. 0-0 Nf6
5. d4 d5
6. exd cxd
7. Bb3 e4

Black has a strong pawn centre, but his king is in the centre and my knight now has a nice square.

8. Ne5 Qd8

Black moves his queen so that he can free the king bishop and then castle.

9. Bg5 Be7
10. Nxf7 Kxf7

I sacrifice my knight.  This prevents black from castling and begins an attack on the kingside.

11. Bxf6 gxf6

I capture the knight because I want to check with my queen on h5.  Black makes a bad move.  The capture Bxf6 is better because it doesn't weaken the kingside.

12. Qh5+ Kf8
13. Bxd5 Qe8

I have control of the light squares.  Black wants to exchange queens, but I have mate in one.

14. Qh6#

Black's eleventh move, gxf6, weakens his kingside and allows me a quick victory.  Another mistake, but not as critical, is his third move, Qe7.  This move locks in the king bishop and prevents black from castling quickly.  My control of the light squares and ability to shatter the black kingside give me mate in fourteen.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Papal Names

For the first five centuries, popes used their birth names.  However, it is now the custom for popes to choose a name after their election.  As part of tradition, Peter, the name of the first pope, is not chosen.

The ten most common papal names are the following:

John, Gregory, Benedict, Clement, Innocent, Leo, Pius, Stephen, Boniface, Urban.

Double names are an innovation.  The first pope to take a double name was Pope John Paul I in 1978.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Metric and Imperial Systems

The metric and imperial systems are very different from one another.  The metric system is the one used by most countries, but the imperial system is the system which was used by the British Empire.  It is still used in the USA.

In the metric system, one kilometre is one thousand metres and one kilogram is one thousand grams.  However, in the imperial system, one mile is 5280 feet and one pound is sixteen ounces.

The metric system also has metres and centimetres.  One meter consists of one hundred centimetres.  In the imperial system, one yard consists of three feet and one foot consists of twelve inches.  The metric system is based on the decimal system.  The imperial system is not.

The metric system is undoubtedly easier to use than the imperial system.  However, those who are familiar with the imperial system often find it difficult to switch to metric.  In Canada, the metric system is official, but many people still use imperial weights and measures in their daily lives.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Opponent Blunders

The blunders of my opponent in a game of speed chess enabled me to mate in 18 moves.  My opponent who played black was Dragstar of Serbia.  Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6
3. Nxe5 Qe7

Black usually plays d6 here.

4. d4 d6
5. Nc4 b5

Black attacks my knight again, but this pawn move is committal.  It is better to regain material equality with Nxe4.

6. Ncd2 Bg4

Black makes a bad move.  Now I can attack the black bishop and protect my e-pawn on my next move.  The move Nxe4 is better.

7. f3 Bd7

Now black cannot capture the e-pawn.

8. Bd3 Nc6
9. c3 a6
10. 0-0 Nh5
11. Nb3 g5
12. f4 gxf

The black knight is unprotected.  A better move is Nf6.

13. Qxh5 0-0-0
14. Bxf4 h6
15. a4 bxa

With the black queenside already quite exposed, black must not allow me to open the position more.  A better move for black is Na7.

16. Bxa6+ Kb8

The black king has inadequate protection.  Now black cannot prevent mate.

17. Qb5+ Ka7
18. Qb7#

Black makes two blunders in this game.  The first blunder is gxf on the twelfth move, a move which leads to the loss of the knight on h5.  The second blunder is on the fifteenth move, bxa, which exposes the king to a decisive attack.  Both blunders in this game are captures.  This game illustrates that captures are sometimes inferior moves.

Monday, February 18, 2013

German of Hamburg

The German of Hamburg is distinct from other varieties of German.  In German the dialect is called Hamburgisch.  One area in which the dialect differs from standard German is pronunciation.

In standard German, a word initial sp and st are pronounced with a voiceless alveopalatal fricative.  However, in the dialect of Hamburg, the initial consonant is a voiceless alveolar fricative.  This is the same as in other Germanic dialects such as English and Dutch.

The city Hamburg is pronounced with a word-final voiceless velar plosive in standard German.  In the Hamburg dialect, however, this is replaced with a voiceless velar fricative.  The words Zug (train) and Tag (day) are pronounced with a fricative in the Hamburg dialect and a plosive in standard German.

Another pronunciation difference occurs with the intervocalic voiceless alveolar plosive.  In the Hamburg dialect, this plosive becomes voiced.  Thus the word Vater (father) is pronounced with a voiced alveolar plosive in the Hamburg dialect.

In addition to pronunciation, differences also occur in vocabulary.  Though speakers of Hamburg can use standard German, Low German is often used in conversation.  To illustrate, a famous park in downtown Hamburg is called Planten un Blomen.  This is Low German for Plants and Flowers.  In standard German, also known as High German, this is Pflanzen und Blumen.

One well-known German dialect is the one spoken in Hamburg.  It differs from standard German in pronunciation and vocabulary.  It is spoken in the north of Germany, a region with many speakers of Low German.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Multiplying Square Numbers from 51 to 59

Multiplying square numbers from 51 to 59 is very simple.  In fact, it can probably be done more quickly than with a calculator.  All that is needed is the rule.

The secret to multiplying square numbers from 51 to 59 is to apply three steps.  The first step is to square the first digit of the number.  With the numbers 51 to 59, the first digit is always 5 and the square is always 25.  Next we add this number to the digit on the right.  For example, if we take the number 51, the square of 5 is 25.  We add this to the 1 on the right and get 26.  Next we square the number on the right and make sure that we have two digits.  We square the number 1 and write 01 because we need two digits.  The product is 2601.

Now we can do the same with 52.  We square the number 5 and get 25.  We add this to the number 2 and get 27.  Next we square the number 4 and write 04.  The product is 2704.

Finally we can try this with a larger number.  Let us try 59.  We square the number 5 and get 25.  To this number we add 9 and get 34.  Now we square 9 and get 81.  The product is 3481.

Here are the squares of the numbers 51 to 59:


The rule for multiplying squares from 50 to 59 has only three steps.  By applying this rule, these squares can be multiplied quickly and easily.  With knowledge of this rule, a calculator is not needed.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Offensive Struggle

I played a game of speed chess that was an offensive struggle from start to finish.  My opponent, Eastlynne of the USA, played white.  Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 c5
2. d4 cxd
3. Qxd4 Nc6
4. Qd1 e5
5. Nf3 Bc5

White is behind in development.

6. c4 Nf6
7. Nc3 h6

I prevent Bg5.

8. Be2 0-0
9. 0-0 a6
10. Nh4 Nd4

Here I should play d6 to free my light-squared bishop.

11. Nf5 Nxe2+

I also consider the move Nxf5.  In hindsight this move seems better than Nxe2 because the white knight on f5 is a real threat to my king.

12. Qxe2 d6

I finally free my light-squared bishop.

13. Bxh6 Bxf5

I decline the sacrifice of the bishop because I do not want to lose the pawn shield around my king.

14. Bxg7 Kxg7

This time I accept the sacrifice.  White's move is a surprise.  I expect exf5.  My king is more exposed than white's but I have more material.

15. exf5 Rh8
16. h3 Qd7
17. Qf3 Qc6

With a little more material than white, I offer to exchange queens.

18. Qg3+ Kf8
19. Qg5 Ke7

I decide to defend the knight with my king but this is a bad move.  It is much better to play Ne4.  The problem with Ke7 is that white can play Nd5+ on his next move and win my knight. 

20. Rae1 Rag8

White fails to play Nd5+, a superior move to Rae1. 

21. Qd2 Qxg2#

The best move for white is Qxg8.  In his desire to save his queen, white fails to notice that I can mate his king. 

Without question, I am lucky to win this game.  My eleventh move, Nxe2+, and my nineteenth move, Ke7, are both mistakes.  However, white also plays bad moves.  The move that he fails to play on his twentieth move, Nd5+, probably wins him the game.  I emerge victorious because his mistakes are more crucial than mine.

Monday, February 4, 2013


Tequila is a Mexican drink made from the blue agave plant.  Tequila was first produced in the 16th century near the city of Tequila.  It usually has an alcohol content between 38 to 40%.

Tequila can be classified into four types:  silver, gold, rested and aged.  Silver is usually not aged or only aged up to two months; gold is a mixture of silver and rested tequila; rested is aged from two months to one year; aged is from one to three years.

Tequila can be served in a variety of cocktails.  The traditional margarita uses tequila.  Another famous cocktail which uses tequila is the tequila sunrise.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Victory Without Castling

In a game of speed chess against Andyhk of China, I could not castle but emerged victorious.  Playing as white, I chose to open with the King's Gambit, an exciting opening that offers a pawn for rapid development.  Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. f4 d6

Black declines the offer of a pawn.

3. Nf3 Bg4
4. Be2 exf

Black decides to accept the pawn.

5. d4 Bxf3

Black gives up his bishop but can now check with the queen on h4.

6. Bxf3 Qh4+

7. Ke2 Nf6

Black has taken away my right to castle.

8. Nc3 Nc6
9. e5 dxe

Perhaps black thinks he has won a pawn.

10. Bxc6+ bxc6
11. dxe Qg4+

Ng4 is a better move for black.

12. Kf2 Qh4+

Black makes a bad move.

13. g3 fxg+
14. hxg Ng4+

Black uses a check to escape the double attack.

15. Kg2 Qe7

The knight is no longer protected.

16. Qxg4 Qxe5

The black queen captures a pawn, but with the black king in the centre of the board this is risky.

17. Bf4 Qf6
18. Rae1+ Be7
19. Bg5 Qd6

I take advantage of the pin on the black bishop.

20. Rxe7+ Kf8
21. Rhe1 g6

Black makes another bad move.  The move h6 is better, but black is clearly losing.

22. Bh6+

Black decides to resign.  The only possible move is Kg8.  I then play Re8+.  Black must play Rxe8 and then I mate with Rxe8.  Since mate cannot be avoided, Black ends the game here.

Black manages to prevent my king from castling by checking with his queen.  However, black's twelfth move, Qh4+, is a mistake which exposes him to a double attack.  Two other factors in his loss are his exposed king and his two rooks which never leave their original squares.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Question

Robert Frost wrote the short poem A Question.  The poem is very philosophical.

A voice said, Look me in the stars
And tell me truly, men of earth
If all the soul-and-body scars
Were not too much to pay for birth.

The poem has four verses.  Each one is eight syllables in length and the stress pattern is weak strong.  The poem is in iambic tetrameter.

In this poem the narrator hears a voice.  This voice is from heaven and asks the narrator to answer a question.  The question is for all mankind.  God asks if all the sins and pains of life are too great for the gift of life. 

The question is addressed to mankind, but at the same time it may also reflect God's disappointment with His creation.  Though short and simple, the poem poses a complex question.  The style is typical of Robert Frost.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Belgian French

The French of Belgium is not so different from that of France.  In fact, there are only a few differences in vocabulary and pronunciation.  These differences are also present in the regional varieties of French spoken in France.

In standard French, seventy is soixante-dix and ninety is quatre-vingt-dix.  In Belgium, however, seventy is septante and ninety is nonante.  These words are also used in Swiss French.

Belgian French also has a few differences in pronunciation.  The labiopalatal approximant of Standard French does not exist.  For example, the word huit (eight) is pronounced similarly to the English word wheat. 

In Belgian French, long vowels occur in word-final position.  As a result, feminine adjectives are different from the masculine ones.  For example, vrai/vraie (true) are pronounced differently.  Also, the r is often pronounced as a uvular trill rather than a uvular fricative.  The uvular trill also occurs in France, but is often associated with Belgium. 

For some speakers, word-final plosives are devoiced.  Words such as grande (big) and bague (ring) have voiceless plosives in word-final position.

Though the French of Belgium and northern France is similar, differences nevertheless exist.  They are mainly in vocabulary and pronunciation.  In pronunciation, one of the notable differences is the absence of the labiopalatal approximant.