Monday, October 31, 2016

Garden Path Sentences

Garden path sentences are sentences which are often misinterpreted. They are not so easy for the reader to parse. The reason is that they contain words which appear to have more than one structural analysis.

Here are five examples of garden path sentences:

The old man the boat.
The horse raced past the old barn fell.
I told the girl the cat scratched Mark would help her.
The florist sent the roses was pleased.
The government plans to increase taxes were defeated.

The first sentence can be misinterpreted because old man isn't a noun phrase. Here old is a noun and man is a verb. If we write It is the old who man the boat, the meaning is clear.

The second sentence is in passive voice. We can clarify the meaning by writing The horse which was raced past the barn fell.

In the third sentence Mark is not an object but a subject. We can rewrite the sentence as follows: I told the girl who the cat scratched that Mark would help her.

The fourth sentence is also in passive voice. We can clarify the meaning by writing The florist who the roses were sent to was pleased.

In the fifth sentence government plans isn't a noun followed by a verb. Here government plans is a noun phrase. We can clarify the meaning with a possessive noun: The government's plans to increase taxes were defeated.

Garden path sentences often confuse the reader because they have a structure which can be misread. They're called garden path sentences because to be led down the garden path means to be deceived. In many cases, the addition of a few words can help to clarify the intended meaning.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

R-Dissimilation in American English

Many American speakers drop one /r/ from words which have two /r/s. The deleted segment is always post-vocalic. This type of deletion is normally produced by rhotic speakers who tend to retain the /r/ in every other position. It is a dissimilation process because it avoids the presence of identical segments in the same word.

The process usually occurs with adjacent syllables such as in larger but also with intervening syllables such as in thermometer. The latter is an example of long-distance assimilation. Deletion usually occurs in unstressed syllables, but can also occur in stressed syllables such as in farther.

Here is a list of words with r-dissimlation:


(The /r/ in parentheses indicates the deleted segment).

The deleted /r/ is usually the first post-vocalic /r/ in the word, but this is not the case in formerly, forward and northerner. Notice that in these cases the deleted /r/ is unstressed. R-dissimilation doesn't apply to word-final position. Here the /r/ is always maintained.

R-dissimilation appears to be most common between labial and coronal consonants. This is the case in adversary, caterpillar, farther, formerly, governor, northerner, particular, repertoire, southerner, surprise, thermometer, vernacular and westerner. It doesn't occur with velar consonants. For example, the first /r/ is never deleted in worker.

R-dissimilation is common in many varieties of American English. This phonological process deletes a post-vocalic /r/ from a word with two. The deleted /r/ is usually unstressed and between coronal and labial consonants. The speakers who apply r-dissimilation usually retain the /r/ in all other positions.

Friday, October 28, 2016


Goulash is Hungary's most famous dish. There are many variations of this soup. Here is the recipe:

600 grams of beef cut into cubes
2 tablespoons oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 green peppers, seeded and sliced
3 potatoes, sliced
1 tablespoon paprika
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil and fry the onions until they are golden.
Add the beef cubes and brown.
Add the garlic, salt and pepper.
Pour water to cover and let simmer on low heat.
After 30 minutes add the potatoes, tomatoes and green peppers.
Add water (2-3 cups) to cover.
Cook until the vegetables are ready.

If you like, you can serve goulash with sour cream. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Trisyllabic Laxing

Trisyllabic laxing is a process in English which affects tense vowels and diphthongs. They become lax in word formation when followed by two or more syllables and the first syllable is stressed. The process first occurred in Old English.

Here are examples of trisyllabic laxing:

divine divinity
profound profundity
serene serenity

denounce denunciation
pronounce pronunciation
renounce renunciation

apply applicative
derive derivative
provoke provocative

impede impediment
school scholarly
sole solitude

fable fabulous
tyrant tyranny
vile vilify

In the cases of denounce, pronounce and renounce, the lax vowel in the nouns denunciation, pronunciation and renunciation does not carry primary stress but rather secondary stress. This stress shift is also evident in word pairs such as civilize/civilization, organize/organization and realize/realization. In these word pairs, however, trisyllabic laxing is optional.

Trisyllabic laxing has exceptions. The process does not apply in the following words:

alien alienate
brave bravery
danger dangerous
hyphen hyphenate
lone loneliness
moment momentary
motor motorist
nice nicety

The rule of trisyllabic laxing applies to many English words. The process first developed in Old English and affects tense vowels and diphthongs. They become lax when they are stressed and are in the third syllable or farther from the end of the derived form. However, this rule has exceptions.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

British and American Compound Nouns

English uses many compound nouns. Most of them are the same in all varieties of English. However, a few compounds are different in British English and American English. Here is a list with the British compound on the left and the American on the right:

cookery book cookbook
dialling tone dial tone
doll's house dollhouse
driving licence driver's license
filing cabinet file cabinet
sailing boat sailboat
skimmed milk skim milk
skipping rope jumprope
sport section sports section
swimming suit swimsuit

In a number of compounds, British English uses a gerund such as in sailing boat and swimming suit. British English uses a possessive noun in doll's house, and American English uses one in driver's license. Though most compound nouns are the same in all varieties of English, these examples illustrate a few differences.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Excerpt from Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet is undoubtedly one of William Shakespeare's most popular plays. The language of the play is very beautiful. Let us analyze the language of one excerpt.

Juliet says the following words:

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

Juliet tells Romeo that it is only his name that is her enemy. He is the one she loves, but he is not a Montague. This seems to be a contradiction because his last name is Montague, but she means that he is not her enemy. She explains that the word Montague is not a part belonging to a man. In other words, his name does not define him.

She wishes that he had another name. If he did, her family could accept him. She then explains that if a rose had a different name, it would still smell the same. For her Romeo's name is not important because she loves him. It is only a title. Even if he had a different name, he would be just as perfect. But then she asks him to remove his name.

At the end of Juliet's monologue, she tells Romeo that his name is no part of him. He bears no responsibility for his name and she cannot fault him for it. She offers herself to him.

These powerful words spoken by Juliet affirm her love for Romeo. She makes it clear that his name does not change the person he is. Juliet wants to be with him and asks him to take her. These words are among the most famous in the play Romeo and Juliet.

Hasselback Potatoes

Hasselback potatoes are a great way of preparing potatoes. Use a wooden spoon to slice through the potatoes but not all the way. These potatoes are the Swedish version of baked potatoes. Here is the recipe:

5 potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees Celsius.
Peel the potatoes and make small slices in each one.
Add butter and bake for 20 minutes.
Take the potatoes out and add salt and breadcrumbs.
Bake for another twenty minutes or until the potatoes are ready.

If you prefer, you can add grated cheese instead of breadcrumbs. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Phonetic Merger in Spanish

The Spanish y of yo (I) and ll of lleno (full) have merged in most dialects. The two are now pronounced as a palatal fricative or approximant by most speakers. For those who maintain a distinction, the ll is a palatal lateral.

In most of Argentina and Uruguay, the sound is pronounced as a voiced alveopatal fricative. This sound is present in the words leisure, pleasure and treasure. Among younger speakers of Buenos Aires, this sound is often realized as a voiceless alveopalatal fricative as in fish, pressure and sugar.

A few parts of the Spanish-speaking world maintain the distinction between the y of yo and ll of lleno. The distinction remains in parts of Argentina, Ecuador and Peru, in most of Bolivia, and in Paraguay and the Philippines. In Spain the distinction has been lost in most of the country.

The original palatal approximant and palatal lateral of Spanish have merged in the speech of most speakers. This is the result of a process known as delateralization. However, a few areas still maintain the distinction.

Milk Porridge

Milk porridge is not as well known as sour cream porridge, but is a great alternative. Here is the recipe for this Norwegian dessert:

1 litre milk
200 millilitres flour
50 grams butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Slowly add the flour to the milk over medium heat. Stir until the mixture thickens. Lower the temperature and cook for five minutes. Add the butter and salt at the end. Serve with sugar and cinnamon .

This is a simple and tasty dessert. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Sponge Cake

Sponge cake is delicious and easy to make. Here is a Swedish recipe:

2 eggs
150 ml sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
300 ml flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
75 grams butter
100 ml milk

Beat the eggs and sugar until thick.
Add the flavouring, flour and baking powder.
Melt the butter and cool.
Stir into the batter.
Add the milk gradually.
Mix to form a smooth batter.
Pour into a buttered cake pan that has been sprinkled with breadcrumbs.
Bake for about 45 minutes at 175 C.

This cake is great with coffee or tea. Enjoy!

Post-nominal Article

Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are Germanic languages, but unlike English and German, they have post-nominal articles. In these languages, the definite article is placed after the noun and not before. This is relatively rare in the languages of the world.

The English definite article is placed before the noun. This can be seen in the book, the car, the house, the street and the wind. However, this is not the case in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish. Here are the phrases in these respective languages:

the book, the car, the house, the street, the wind

Danish: bogen, bilen, huset, gaden, vinden
Norwegian: boken, bilen, huset, gaten, vinden
Swedish: boken, bilen, huset, gatan, vinden

With common nouns, the suffix variant is -en, and with neuter nouns, it is -et. In these languages, the majority of nouns have common gender. However, the suffix variant is different for plural nouns. Here is a list of words for the cars, the days, the dogs, the houses and the streets.

Danish: bilerne, dagene, hundene, husene, gaderne
Norwegian: bilene, dagene, hundene, husene, gatene
Swedish: bilarna, dagarna, hundarna, husen, gatorna

Though Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are Germanic languages closely related to English and German, their use of post-nominal articles is quite rare in the languages of the world. They suffix the definite article to the noun. This suffix has three variants- one is for common nouns, one for neuter nouns, and another for plural nouns.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Latin Word Order

Latin word order is very different from that of English. The reason is that Latin uses case to indicate the function of words in a sentence. The result is that Latin word order is far more flexible.

Consider the sentence A dog bites a man. The noun dog is the subject and man is the object. This is determined by the position of the words in the sentence. If we changed their positions in the sentence and uttered A man bites a dog, we'd have a very different meaning. In Latin, however, the same sentence can be stated in six different ways.

The sentence A dog bites a man is Canis mordet virem in Latin. The Latin sentence only has three words because no articles are used in Latin. The word canis (dog) has the ending -is to indicate that it is the subject of the sentence, and virem (man) has the ending -em to indicate it is the object.

The result is that the sentence A dog bites a man can be expressed in Latin with different word orders. Here they are:

Canis mordet virem.
Canis virem mordet.
Virem canis mordet.
Virem mordet canis.
Mordet canis virem.
Mordet virem canis.

The usual word order of Latin is SOV. This corresponds to Canis virem mordet. However, as we have seen in the previous examples, the sentence A dog bites a man can be expressed with six different sentences. In contrast, only one sentence is possible in English.

English is classified as an SVO language. We see this in the sentence A dog bites a man. In Latin the usual word order is SOV. However, Latin is a language which marks nouns with subject and object endings. The result is a flexible word order.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


Kir is the name of a popular French cocktail. It is very simple to make and has only two ingredients. To make it you need white wine and blackcurrant liqueur known as creme de cassis.

Here is the recipe:

Put two tablespoons of cassis in a wine glass. Add a 3/4 cup of dry white wine and stir.

Traditionally it is made with a white wine from the Burgundy regjon of France, but other wines are also used. If champagne is added instead of white wine, it's called a kir royal.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Similarity of Romanian and Spanish to Latin

Romanian and Spanish are both Romance languages. They are descended from Latin and show a number of similarities to Latin and to one another. Here is a list of ten words with the Latin, Spanish and Romanian equivalents:

chair sella silla scaun
cloud nubes nube nor
flower flos flor floare
fruit fructus fruta fruct
gold aurum oro aur
milk lactis leche lapte
sun solis sol soare
table mensa mesa masa
time tempus tiempo timp
tooth dente diente dinte

Most of the words on the list are very similar. The exceptions are the Romanian words scaun and nor. With the exception of the Spanish word oro, all the words begin with the same letter. A few Spanish and Romanian words are almost identical- they include mesa/masa (table), tiempo/timp (time), diente/dinte (tooth) and fruta/fruct (fruit).

The Spanish words for chair, cloud and sun show more similarity to Latin than do the Romanian words. The Romanian word for gold reflects greater similarity to Latin than does the Spanish word. With the remaining six words, both languages have words similar to Latin.

Romanian has word-final consonant clusters which do not occur in Spanish. These clusters occur in fruct and timp. Nine of the Spanish words end in a vowel, but only four of the Romanian words do.

The vocabulary list shows that Spanish and Romanian are descendants of Latin. The three languages share many similar words. In contrast to Spanish, Romanian permits word-final consonant clusters.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Apple Crisp

Apple crisp is delicious and easy to make. It's a great alternative to apple pie. Here's a simple recipe:

6 apples, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup oats
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup butter

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
Mix the apples with sugar and cinnamon and put into a baking dish.
Mix the sugar, oats, flour and cinnamon in a separate bowl.
Mash the butter into the mixture until it resembles crumbs.
Spread evenly over the apples in the dish.
Bake in the oven until golden brown for about 40 minutes.

The Mystery

Sarah Teasdale wrote The Mystery. Here is her poem:

The Mystery

Your eyes drink of me,
Love makes them shine,
Your eyes that lean
So close to mine.

We have long been lovers,
We know the range
Of each other's moods
And how they change;

But when we look
At each other so
Then we feel
How little we know;

The spirit eludes us,
Timid and free--
Can I ever know you
Or you know me?

The poem consists of four stanzas. Each stanza has four verses and the second and fourth verses of each stanza rhyme. The poem ends with a question: Can I ever know you or you know me?

The first stanza expresses the intimacy of the couple. This is revealed in their eyes that lean closely to one another. In the second stanza the reader learns that they have been together for a long time and know how their moods change. The third stanza explains that even though they know each other well, they feel they know little about each other. The fourth verse is connected to the title. Love can be a mystery. Even though the two have been together long, there is so much they don't know about one another.

Sarah Teasdale tells the reader that relationships are complex and develop over time. Regardless of how long couples have been together, they'll never know everything about one another. In this regard, relationships are like a mystery.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Victory in 18

In a game of chess my opponent resigned after 18 moves. He was apricotshandy of Australia. In this game I played white. Here are the moves of the game with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 d6
3. d4 exd
4. Bc4 h6

I decide to develop rather than capture the pawn. Black's move fails to develop a piece.

5. 0-0 Bd7

Black should develop a piece on the kingside so that he can castle quickly.

6. e4 dxe

My aim is to open the centre of the board.

7. Nxe5 Be6
8. Bxe6 fxe6

The black king is exposed.

9. Qh5+ Ke7
10. Qf7+ Kd6
11. Bf4 Nc6
12. Ng6+ Kd5

I use a discovered check to win the black rook on h8.

13. Nxh8 Nf6
14. Ng6 Nh5
15. Bxc7 Qg5

I win a pawn.

16. Qf3+ Kc5
17. Nxf8 Nf6

I win a piece. Black wants to capture my knight.

18. Nxe6+

My knight check forks the king and queen, so black resigns.

I force an early resignation with my quick development and material advantage. Black makes a number of mistakes in the game. His most critical is probably Bd7. It fails to develop his kingside and keeps his king in the centre.


Frisian is a Germanic language closely related to English. Most Frisian speakers are located in the northern Netherlands. The language also has speakers in Germany and Denmark. Here are the Frisian numbers from one to ten:

1) ien
2) twa
3) trije
4) fjouwer
5) fiif
6) seis
7) sân
8) acht
9) njoggen
10) tsien

With the exceptions of one, eight and nine, all the numbers start with the same letter as in English. They are also similar to the numbers in Dutch. The Dutch numbers from one to ten are een, twee, drie, vier, vijf, zes, zeven, acht, negen, tien. Frisian is thus also closely related to Dutch.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

City Demonyms

Demonyms refer to the people of a place. English uses different suffixes for the residents of cities. Here are examples:

-ite Lisbonite, Vancouverite, Denverite, Seoulite, Tokyoite
-ian Parisian, Budapestian, Bangkokian, Madridian, Bostonian
-er Praguer, Berliner, Dubliner, New Yorker, Hamburger
-an Hanoian, Nairobian, Mumbaian, Chicagoan, Miamian

Here is a list of irregular city demonyms:

Warsaw-Varsovian Moscow-Muscovite Los Angeles-Los Angelino Liverpool-Liverpudlian
Manchester-Mancunian Florence-Fiorentine Venice-Venetian Naples-Neapolitan
Athens-Athenian Sydney-Sydneysider Glasgow-Glaswegian New Orleans-Orleanian
Cambridge-Cantabrigian Oxford-Oxonian Damascus-Damascene Aberdeen-Aberdonian
Oslo-Oslovian Cairo-Cairene New Castle-Novocastrian Halifax-Haligonian

English doesn't have a single suffix for city demonyms. However, the suffix -an occurs with cities that end with a vowel sound and -er, -ian and -ite with words that end with a consonant sound.  English also has a number of irregular city demonyms.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Baked Cod

Baked cod is both delicious and nutritious. For this recipe hake can be used instead of cod. Here is a Portuguese recipe:

1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons parsley
4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 slices of cod or hake

Saute the onion, garlic and green pepper in olive oil over moderate heat for 5 to 6 minutes.
Add the bay leaves, parsley, tomatoes, wine, tomato paste, salt and pepper.
Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
Uncover and simmer about 25 minutes more until the sauce thickens.
Preheat the oven to 175 C.
Put the pieces of fish in a casserole and arrange in a single layer.
Pour the sauce evenly over all, cover and bake for 15 minutes.
Uncover and bake 25 to 30 minutes more, until the fish almost breaks at the touch of a fork.

This fish can be enjoyed with either a dry white or red wine.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The prefix -re in English

The prefix -re can be attached to many English words. It has the meaning of again to indicate repetition or back to indicate backward motion. This prefix often occurs in loanwords from Latin.

Here is a small list of words with the prefix -re:


The prefix -re occurs with read and write, but not with listen and speak. It occurs with marry but not with divorce, with start but not finish and also with sell but not with buy. The number of words that the prefix occurs with is restricted.

In most cases the meaning of the prefix is again. The verb redo means to do again. However, in return the prefix means back. We can thus analyze return as turn back.

Many English verbs can be prefixed with -re. In certain cases, only one word pair is possible. For example, we can attach this prefix to live (relive) but not to die. Though the prefix originally occurs in Latin loanwords, it also occurs in native English words such as build, read and sell.

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