Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Swadesh Word List

The Swadesh word list is a list of basic words for the purposes of historical and comparative linguistics. It was compiled by the American linguist Morris Swadesh. He compiled several versions, but his final one has only 100 words.

Morris Swadesh believed that a comparison of the basic vocabulary of related languages could be used to establish the degree to which they were related and to determine when they diverged from one another. He determined the list on the basis of intuition. Here are some of the words from his final list:


The words on the list have what Morris Swadesh considered the core vocabulary of a language. He selected vocabulary which was unlikely to be borrowed from other languages. Other linguists have published similar lists, but they aren't as widely used as the Swadesh list.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Schwa of Catalan

In unstressed syllables Catalan often has a schwa. This is different from Spanish. Here are examples of the schwa in Catalan:

aigua (water)
cosa (thing)
Europa (Europe)
febre (fever)
geografia (geography)
pare (father)
punta (tip)
taula (table)
teatre (theatre)
torre (tower)

In the examples the schwa occurs word-finally. The schwa in Catalan only occurs in unstressed position. The Spanish spoken in Mallorca is an exception because in this dialect the schwa can even occur in stressed position. In the dialect of western Catalan the schwa occurs less frequently than in other dialects. In the word geografia, the schwa occurs in the syllable gra as well as in word-final position. Both of these syllables are unstressed.

One of the features which distinguishes Catalan from Spanish is the schwa. As in English, the schwa occurs in unstressed position. As the examples illustrate, the schwa is a very common vowel in Catalan.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Analysis of Ain't

The contraction ain't is considered a nonstandard form of am not. It was first used extensively in the early nineteenth century in the Cockney dialect of London. In addition to am not, ain't can also mean are not, is not, have not and has not.

The word was derived from am not. The following illustrates the process:

am not --> amn't (vowel deletion)
amn't --> an't (consonant deletion)
an't --> ain't (vowel raising)

Here are examples with ain't:

I ain't seen him = I haven't seen him.
You ain't told me = You haven't told me.
I ain't sure = I'm not sure.
You ain't late = You aren't late.
He ain't well = He isn't well.

The five examples illustrate the different uses of ain't. Though the contraction isn't considered standard, it often occurs in informal speech. In writing, though, the word is far less frequent.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Stress Shift in The Same Word

English is a language with variable stress. The words photograph, photographer and photographic are all stressed differently. However, stress can also vary in the same word.

The word afternoon is stressed on the final syllable. In the compound afternoon tea, many speakers put the main stress on the first syllable of afternoon. This avoids the occurrence of two syllables with strong stress. English tends to prefer a combination of stressed and unstressed syllables. This example also applies to a sentence such as This afternoon's weather is terrible.

The word thirteen has second-syllable stress. In the phrase thirteen students, however, the stress is often placed on the first syllable of thirteen. This results in the stress pattern Strong + Weak + Strong + Weak.

Another example is the word bamboo. It has second syllable stress, but in the compound bamboo mat many speakers stress the first syllable. The trisyllabic compound then has the stress pattern of Strong + Weak + Strong. Note that if bamboo were pronounced with second syllable stress, the compound would have two consecutive syllables with strong stress. By stressing the first syllable of bamboo, this is avoided.

In certain cases, however, many speakers do not shift the stress. For example, cosmetic has second-syllable stress. In the compound cosmetic surgeon, though, most speakers maintain second-syllable stress on cosmetic. Here stress shift isn't so common. The reason may be that in this compound there is no occurrence of two consecutive syllables with strong stress.

Many English words can be stressed in two different ways depending on the context in which they are used. English favours an alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables. As a result, many words undergo a shift in stress when they occur before another word.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Languages of Spain

Spanish is the official language of Spain. It is also the official language of many other countries such as Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuatorial Guinea and Peru. Though Spanish is the official language, Spain also has regional and minority languages.

The regional languages of Spain are Basque, Catalan and Galician. Basque is spoken in the north of the country and also has a significant number of speakers in France. It is different from the other languages of Spain because it is classified as a language isolate, not an Indo-European language.

Catalan is the official language of Andorra, a small country located between France and Spain. It is also spoken in Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain. The region of Catalonia is in the northeast of Spain.

Another regional language is Galician. It is spoken in the northwest of Spain. Galician is a language which shares many similarities with Portuguese.

Asturian and Aragonese are also spoken in Spain. They are classified as minority languages and have relatively few speakers. Aragonese is spoken in northern Spain near the French border, and Asturian is spoken in the northwest.

Spain is a country with one official language as well as regional and minority languages. The most widely-spoken language after Spanish is Catalan. The Basque language is unique because it is completely unrelated to the other languages of Spain.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Lyonnaise Style Pork Chops

Lyonnaise Style Pork Chops are easy to prepare. Here is the recipe for this French dish:

4 pork chops
4 potatoes, peeled and finely sliced
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon butter

Put the pork chops in a pot and brown with butter.
Remove the pork chops and deglaze the pot with the vegetable stock.
Put the potatoes in the bottom of the pot.
Add the thyme, chopped onion and pork chops on top.
Cover the pot and cook for about 15 minutes over moderate heat.
When most of the liquid has evaporated, the pork chops are ready.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Different Spellings of English Phonemes

The English language has an irregular spelling system. The result is that many English phonemes can be spelt in various ways. Here are examples:

[f] forest off phone
[i] defeat feet grieve happy receive 
[k] car neck school skate
[m] hymn lamb morning
[n] knee now sign
[s] cycle pass seat
[o] so row though toe 
[u] boot do glue manoeuvre rude shoe you 
[v] of vine
[z] his possession zoo

Vowel sounds in particular often have many different spellings. This is especially true of the schwa, the reduced vowel present in words such as actor, singer and sugar. The list illustrates that many English phonemes have a variety of spellings.

Mate in 18

In a game of speed chess I mated my opponent in 18 moves. My opponent was Borosimic of Germany, who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 g6
2. d4 Bg7
3. Nf3 e6
4. Be3 h6

I overprotect my d-pawn. Black has only one developed piece.

5. Nc3 Nc6
6. Bd3 a6

Black's move prevents me from moving a piece to b5, but it's better for black to develop a piece.

7. Qe2 b5

I can castle on either side.

8. a3 Bb7
9. 0-0 Nf6
10. Rad1 g5

Black decides not to castle.

11. d5 Ne7
12. dxe fxe

I want to deliver a check with my queen on h5, but to do so I must move the black knight from f6 and clear the diagonal for my queen.

13. e5 g4

I expect the black knight to move, but black counterattacks.

14. Nd4 Nfd5
15. Qxg4 Nxe3

Here I have the option of capturing the black knight, but I decide to check first to prevent castling.

16. Qh5+ Kf8
17. fxe3+ Kg8

I capture with check. Mate is now inevitable.

18. Qf7#

My bishop prevents the white king from escaping to h7. All of black's pieces are on his first and second ranks. Black plays aggressively, but his failure to protect his king leads to his defeat.

Ten Common English Affixes

English has many affixes. They can be either prefixes or suffixes, but the majority are suffixes. Here is a list of ten common affixes with examples:

-able changeable, laughable, presentable
-al emotional, regional, verbal
-er painter, singer, teacher
-ful careful, doubtful, wonderful
-ish childish, greenish, selfish
-less careless, effortless, endless 
-ment establishment, government, punishment
-ness awareness, kindness, weakness
un- unhappy, unkind, unsure
-y rainy, salty smelly

Here is the structure of the affixes:

-able V + able
-al N + al
-er V + er
-ful N + ful
-ish N +ish, V + ish
-less N + less
-ment V + ment
-ness A + ness
un- un + A
-y N + y

Most of the affixes from the list combine with nouns or verbs. The agentive suffix -er as in teacher can also be a resident suffix as in Londoner. In certain cases the spelling of the base changes as a result of affixation as in beauty/beautiful.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin soup is healthy and delicious. This French recipe is simple and sure to please. Here is the recipe:

4 tablespoons butter
1 pumpkin peeled and chopped without the seeds
1/2 cup warm water
5 cups milk
1/4 cup rice

Melt the butter in a large pan and add the pumpkin.
Stir well and cook for 10 minutes over low heat.
Add the warm water, salt and nutmeg.
Cover and cook until soft.
Put in a blender and reduce to a puree with a little milk.
Return to the pan with the remaining milk.
Add the rice.
Bring to a boil.
Cook uncovered over low heat for 30 minutes.
If you wish, serve with garlic croutons.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Pronunciation of Irish Names

Irish names are often pronounced very differently from the way they look. Like English the Irish language isn't so phonetic. Here is a list of Irish names with the correct pronunciation:

Girls' Names

Aoife (eefa)
Caoimhe (keeva, kweeva)
Maeve (mayv)
Niamh (neeav, neev)
Saoirse (seersha, sairsha)

Boys' Names

Cillian (kileean)
Daithi (dahee)
Eoin (oin)
Oisin (uhsheen, osheen)
Seamus (shaymus)

The pronunciation of many Irish names is quite different from the spelling. The c in Irish is always pronounced [k] and all the names have first-syllable stress. The list gives the pronunciation of popular Irish names.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Silent Letters in English

English has many silent letters. They often reflect an older pronunciation of the language. Here is a list of words with silent letters:


Silent letters are very common in English. As the list illustrates, many letters can be silent in different words. Many words such as hope have a silent e at the end of a word. In this case the e is a diacritic letter. It is silent, but it also changes the sound of the preceding vowel. In the word hop the vowel quality is different.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Fire and Ice

The American poet Robert Frost wrote the short poem Fire And Ice. Here it is:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

The poem has nine verses. The rhyme scheme is abaabcbcb. Verses 2, 8 and 9 are short verses with four syllables, and the other verses all have eight. The poem is very philosophical and discusses the power of fire and ice to destroy the world. Fire can represent nuclear war, and ice can represent not only an event such as the ice age but also apathy and indifference.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Rules of Stress in English

English stress is irregular. Although first-syllable stress is the most common, it can appear on any syllable of the word. Nevertheless, a few rules can be given for stress in English.

Most disyllabic nouns and adjectives are stressed on the first syllable. Examples include climate, funny, knowledge and lovely.

Many disyllabic verbs are stressed on the final syllable. Examples include decide, excuse, insist and require.

Stress the penultimate syllable of words with the suffixes -ic, -sion and -tion. The suffix occurs in words such as basic, geographic, division, extension, organization and situation.

Stress the antepenultimate syllable of words with the suffix -al. This can be seen in words such as critical and exceptional. The word circumstancial with penultimate stress is an exception to this rule.

Though English stress is variable, rules can be given regarding the stress of certain words. Words with native suffixes such as childhood, faster and kindness have first-syllable stress, but words with non-native suffixes often do not.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Puns of William Shakespeare

A pun is defined as a play of words. William Shakespeare included many in his works. Here are five examples of puns used by William Shakespeare:

In the opening of Richard III, Richard describes himself as follows: ''Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York.'' The speaker refers to himself, a son of the house of York.

In Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio is stabbed by Tybalt. Before he dies, he makes a joke about his death, retaining his sense of humour until the final moment. He says, ''Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.''

Hamlet has several puns. Hamlet is annoyed by the king's constant referral to him as his son. When Claudius asks him, ''How is it that the clouds still hang over you?'', Hamlet responds, ''Not so, my lord, I am too much in the sun.''

Wandering in a graveyard, Hamlet asks a gravedigger whose grave he's digging. The gravedigger, standing in the grave, answers ''Mine, sir." Hamlet laughingly accuses the man of lying, saying ''I think it be thine indeed, for thou liest in it.''

After Hamlet has killed Polonius, the king asks him where Polonius is. Hamlet tells him ''Not where he eats, but where he is eaten.'' Hamlet means that Polonius is the supper for worms.

These examples illustrate William Shakespeare's skill in the use of puns. He was very fond of them. He used them extensively not only in his plays but also in his sonnets.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Barley Cream with Blackcurrant Sauce

Barley cream with blackcurrant sauce is a delicious Norwegian dessert. Here is the recipe:

1 cup barley
4 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup blackcurrants
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup water

Bring the barley to a boil over low heat with the milk and vanilla.
Boil until the milk evaporates.
Mix the blackcurrants, icing sugar and water in a saucepan.
Bring to a boil.
Whip cream and sugar.
Fold into the barley.
Serve with the blackcurrant sauce.

Sour Egg Soup

Sour egg soup is a traditional Hungarian dish and it's easy to cook. Here is the recipe:

2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon paprika
1 bayleaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
5 cups water
4 eggs
2 tablespoons sour cream

Heat the oil, onion and flour to make a roux.
When the roux is ready, remove from the heat.
Add the paprika and pour in the water.
Add the bay leaf, salt and pepper.
Boil over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the onions are tender.
Beat two eggs and pour into the soup.
Stir constantly.
Crack the remaining two eggs one by one.
Gently pour into the soup while it is simmering.
Let them cook for about 3 minutes.
Once the eggs are done, turn off the heat.
In a small bowl mix the sour cream and some of the soup until well combined.
Stir the mixture into the soup.
Add a little bit of vinegar.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Sound Correspondence between Dutch and German

Dutch and German are Germanic languages with many similarities. These can also be observed in sound correspondences. A k in Dutch often corresponds to a ch in German. The German word is on the left and the Dutch word on the right. Here are examples:

Besuch bezoek (visit)
Buch boek (book)
Dach dak (roof)
ich ik (I)
Koch kok (cook)
Milch melk (milk)
Schuhmacher schoenmaker (shoemaker)
schwach zwak (weak)
Tuch doek (cloth)
wirklich werkelijk (really)

The German words reflect lenition. The velar plosive of Dutch became the velar and palatal fricative of German. The palatal fricative is present in ich, Milch and wirklich. This sound correspondence is not only in Dutch and German but in fact in other Germanic languages. The word for book is bok in Swedish and Norwegian. However, because of the similarity of Dutch and German, this sound correspondence is best illustrated by comparing the vocabulary of these two languages.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tempo of Different Languages

Languages vary in their tempo. Certain languages are spoken more quickly than others. Researchers from the University of Lyon asked 59 native speakers to read the following passage in their own language: "Last night I opened the front door to let the cat out. It was such a beautiful night that I wandered down to the garden to get a breath of fresh air. Then I heard a click as the door closed behind me."

Researchers calculated the average number of syllables spoken per second. Here are the results for Chinese (Mandarin), English, Japanese and Spanish:

Syllables per second:

Japanese 7.84
Spanish   7.82
English    6.19
Chinese   5.18

Of these four languages, the one with the highest number of syllables per second was Japanese. The one with the lowest number was Chinese. Spanish placed a close second behind Japanese.

The language with the highest number of syllables per second, Japanese, is a language in which each syllable tends to convey little information. The reason is that Japanese words often have many syllables. In contrast, Chinese syllables convey more information because Chinese is a tone language and many words are monosyllabic. The research appears to indicate that languages with syllables which contain a significant amount of information tend to be spoken more slowly than languages with syllables which convey less information.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Epenthesis in Danish Compounds

Danish compounds often contain an epenthetic vowel. This vowel occurs between two consonants. However, epenthesis doesn't always apply. In the compound halbror (half brother), no epenthesis occurs.

Here are Danish compounds with epenthesis:

barnebarn (grandchild)
drengecykel (boys's bicycle)
fiskefrikadelle (fishball)
gulerod (carrot)
hestesko (horseshoe)
hundefoder (dog food)
hundesnor (dog leash)
julekort (Christmas card)
julelys (Christmas candle)
sygehus (hospital)

Here is the etymological analysis of the compounds:

barnebarn = barn + barn (child + child)
drengecykel = dreng + cykel (boy + bicyle)
fiskefrikadelle = fisk + frikadelle (fish + ball)
gulerod = gul + rod (yellow + root)
hestesko = hest + sko (horse + shoe)
hundefoder = hund + foder (dog + food)
hundesnor = hund + snor (dog + leash)
julekort = jul + kort (Christmas + card)
julelys = jul + lys (Christmas + candle)
sygehus = syg + hus (sick + house)

The epenthetic vowel in Danish compounds is an e. This epenthetic vowel is also common in Norwegian compounds. This can be seen in the Norwegian compounds barnebarn (grandchild), gulerot (carrot), hestesko (horseshoe), julekort (Christmas card), julelys (Christmas candle) and sykehus (hospital). This epenthesis is absent in Swedish words such as barnbarn (grandchild), julkort (Christmas card), julljus (Christmas candle) and sjukhus (hospital).

Epenthesis is common in Danish compounds. This is also common in Norwegian compounds but not in Swedish ones. The epenthetic vowel changes the CV structure of the word. The CC structure of the word-final consonant of the first compound and the word-initial consonant of the second compound becomes CVC.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Every Season

Every Season is the title of my latest poem. Here it is:

Every Season

In every season arrive lovely days
To help us reflect on each quarter year.
Every season becomes our hidden maze.
From there amazing adventures appear.
Spring brings sweet songs of birds and blooming flowers,
Warmth of sunlight and scenes of bright blue skies.
In heat of summer days leave longer hours,
Late evening sunset and early sunrise.
In autumn coloured leaves appear on trees
As temperatures cool after summer sun.
Winter's shorter dark days begin to freeze,
Falling snowflakes show winter's work begun.
Scenes from every season make lives complete,
Starting vivid images when they meet.

This is a Shakespearean sonnet. It has fourteen verses and each verse has ten syllables. The rhyme scheme is abba cdcd efef gg. The rhyming couplet at the end is typical of the Shakespearean sonnet.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Egg Cream

Egg cream is a Norwegian custard. It's easy to make. Here's the recipe:

2 cups milk (hot)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 eggs
pinch of salt

Mix the sugar, corn starch, eggs and salt.
Add hot milk.
Stir until thick.
Serve hot or cold.

Thursday, September 14, 2017


Breton is a Celtic language spoken in Brittany, France. The language now has approximately 200,000 speakers. Breton is related to Irish and Welsh. Here is a list of the numbers in Breton from one to ten:


From the list of numbers, we see that Breton bears little resemblance to French. The language is only spoken by about 5% of the population of Brittany. However, attempts have been made in recent years to encourage the growth of the language in order to ensure its survival.

Spaghetti in Red Wine

Spaghetti in red wine is tasty and easy to make. Though this isn't the most famous Italian spaghetti dish, it's well worth the effort. Here's the recipe:

250 grams spaghetti
1 cup red wine
olive oil
pepperoni, sliced
1 clove of garlic, chopped
grated parmesan

Put a bit of olive oil in a pan.
Add a clove of garlic and some pepperoni.
When the garlic starts to brown, add the wine.
Salt lightly and add the basil.
Now start to boil the spaghetti.
When the spaghetti is half-cooked (about 5 minutes), transfer to the pan with the red wine.
Add a bit of the liquid from the spaghetti.
Continue cooking until the liquid evaporates and the spaghetti is done.
Add the grated parmesan and serve.

This is a great way to cook spaghetti. Enjoy!

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Suffix -ship

The suffix -ship can be added to a number of nouns to create another class of nouns. It is less productive than the  very productive suffix -tion. In German the corresponding derivational suffix is -schaft, in Dutch -schap, in both Swedish and Norwegian -skap and in Danish -skab. Here is a list of ten common words with the suffix -ship:


The English suffix -ship attaches to nouns. Other Germanic languages have a similar suffix. In certain cases the noun is always singular as in censorship and in other cases the noun also has a plural form as in scholarship/scholarships.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Ten Popular Liqueurs

Liqueurs are liquors that have been flavoured and sweetened. Many different liquors are produced. Here is a list of ten popular ones:

Creme de Cassis
Cherry Heering
Grand Marnier
St. Germain

Amaretto is an almond-flavoured liquor from Italy. Bailey's is from Ireland, a whiskey-based cream liqueur. Chambord is from France and is flavoured with raspberry. Creme de Cassis is also from France and is flavoured with blackcurrant.  Cherry Heering is a cherry liqueur from Denmark. Chartreuse is from France and is a brandy-based liqueur with many herbs. Frangelico is from Italy and is flavoured with hazelnut. Grand Marnier is from France and is an orange liqueur. Sambuca is from Italy and is flavoured with licorice. Finally, St. Germain is from France and is flavoured with elderflower.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Sonnet 15

One of William Shakespeare's most famous sonnets is Sonnet 15. Here it is:

Sonnet 15

When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment,
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;
When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheered and cheque'd by the self-same sky,
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
And wear their brave state out of memory;
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay,
To change your day of youth to sullied night;
And all in war with Time for love of you,
As he takes from you, I engraft you new.

Sonnet 15 tells the reader that perfection is only temporary. Everything will decay over time. However, the poem has the power to immortalize the poet's friend and make him new again.

The rhyme scheme is abab cdcd efef gg. The rhyming couplet at the end characterizes the Shakespearean sonnet.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Then and Now

Then and Now is a historical novel by William Somerset Maugham. The novel is mainly set in Imola, Italy. It focuses on three months in the life of Niccolo Macchiavelli, a Florentine diplomat and writer. The main characters are Caesar Borgia, Niccolo Machiavelli, Piero Giacomonini, Niccolo's aide, Bartolomeo Martinelli, a merchant, and his young wife Monna Aurelia.

Niccolo Macchiavelli meets Caesar Borgia, the Duke of Valentinois. The government of Florence wants to conclude an agreement with Cesare Borgia to guarantee that he won't attack their city. However, the negotiations are far from simple. The Duke has a powerful army and proves to be a formidable rival.

The novel is full of political intrigue, analysis of human frailty and wit. In the middle of his negotations with the Duke, Niccolo Machiavelli becomes interested in Monna Aurelia, the wife of Bartolomeo Martinelli, a wealthy merchant of Imola. Parts of the dialogue of the novel are authentic based on the records of the time.

Though Niccolo Machiavelli is a very clever diplomat, he fails to convince Caesar Borgia to sign a treaty with Florence. As a result of his lack of success, Florence decides to reassign him and send another diplomat in his place. Humiliated upon his return to Florence, Niccolo Machiavelli decides to write a novel to gain his revenge against the Duke and all those who humiliated him.

Then and Now reflects the thoughts and emotions of Niccolo Machiavelli. The novel is set during the Italian Renaissance and contains many historical details. Then and Now is a fascinating perspective of the rivalry between Niccolo Machiavelli and Caesar Borgia.

Cream of Spinach

Cream of spinach is a very tasty French soup. It doesn't take very long to prepare. Here's the recipe:

450 grams spinach
1 onion
2 potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2/3 cup cream

Peel and chop the onion.
Peel and dice the potatoes.
Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat.
Add the onions and cook until soft.
Add the diced potatoes and broth.
Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
Cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
Add the spinach and cook for 5 more minutes.
Use a blender to puree the soup and then return to the pot.
Stir in the cream and add the salt and pepper.
Heat and serve.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Quantitative Vowel Length in English

English has quantitative vowel length, but this is phonetically conditioned. For this reason, it is not phonemic as in other languages. In Finnish, the words tuli (fire) and tuuli (wind), are distinguished by vowel length alone. English also has vowel length, but this never distinguishes words.

The words made and mate are minimal pairs. They have different word-final consonants, but the vowel quantity is also different. The diphthong of made is longer than the diphthong of mate. In the word pair maze/mace, the diphthong of maze is longer than the diphthong of mace. The reason is that vowels become long before tautosyllablic voiced consonants. This can be written as a phonological rule: V → [+long] / _ [+consonant] $.  The symbol $ represents a syllable boundary.

Vowel length also differs before plosives and fricatives. In the pair maze/made, the diphthong is longer before maze than before made. The word maze ends with a word-final continuant. The continuous airflow of the fricative results in a longer diphthong than is the case with made, a word which ends with a plosive.

Here are more examples of words with different quanitative vowel lengths from shortest to longest:

hit hiss hid his
neat niece need knees

The words which end with voiceless plosives have the shortest vowel length. The ones which end with voiced fricatives have the longest. The words with the shortest vowel lengths end with voiceless consonants, and those with the longest vowel lengths end with voiced consonants.

Unlike in languages such as Hungarian and Finnish, vowel length in English is not phonemic. However, English has examples of quantitative vowel length. Vowels are lengthened before voiced plosives, and vowels are longest before voiced fricatives.

Monday, August 28, 2017


The English poet Christina Rossetti wrote Remember while she was a teenager. Here is the poem:


Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of your future that you planned;
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

The poem Remember is a Petrarchan sonnet. As is typical with Petrarchan sonnets, there is a turn at the end of the eight verse and the beginning of the ninth. It consists of 14 verses with ten syllables in each. The ten syllables are further divided into five meters. The rhyme scheme is abba abba cdd ece.

Vanilla Custard

Vanilla custard is easy to make. Known in French as pot de creme, it's baked in a steam bath. Here is the recipe:

1 1/2 cups milk
4 tablespoons sugar
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Boil the milk and vanilla.
In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks and sugar.
When the milk has cooled, slowly add to the egg mixture.
Pour the mixture into four ramekins.
Be sure to feel only about 3/4 of the way.
Place the ramekins on a tray filled with water.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
After baking refrigerate the ramekins for at least four hours.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Lyonnaise Potatoes

Lyonnaise potatoes are boiled, fried and baked. This French dish takes a little time to prepare, but it's well worth the effort. Here's the recipe:

1 kilogram potatoes, peeled
10 tablespoons butter
2 onions, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
Put the potatoes in a pot and cover with salted cold water.
Boil for 10 to 15 minutes.
Drain and rinse under cold water.
Slice the potatoes into thin slices.
In a large pan, melt two tablespoons of butter.
Add about 1/4 of the potatoes.
Season with salt and pepper and fry until golden, about 6 minutes.
Continue frying, adding more butter each time.
Add 2 more tablespoons and fry the onions until golden, about 5 minutes.
Return the potatoes to the pan and mix gently.
Cook for 5 minutes to combine the flavours.
Transfer the potatoes and onions to a large baking dish.
Bake at 150 degrees Celsius for about 10 minutes.
Sprinkle parsley over the potatoes and serve.

These potatoes are very good with meat and fish dishes.

Pitch in Different Languages

Pitch varies significantly among languages. Also known as frequency, this varies not only among languages but also between men and women. Most men have a range between 85 and 180 Hertz, and most women between 165 and 255 Hertz.

Languages with low pitch include Hungarian, Greek, Finnish, Catalan and Hebrew. Those with high pitch include Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Hindi and Turkish. English has lower pitch than Spanish but higher pitch than Dutch.

With respect to English dialects, the difference in pitch is relatively small. New Zealand English has the lowest pitch, and Irish English has the highest. Spanish demonstrates a much greater difference in pitch among dialects. Argentinian Spanish has the lowest pitch, and Peruvian has the highest. European Spanish has a low pitch and Mexican has a high one.

Tone languages such as Chinese and Vietnamese have a high pitch, but non-tonal languages such as Hungarian and Finnish do not. Related languages often vary significantly with respect to pitch. Though Swedish, Norwegian and Danish are closely related, they are different in pitch- Swedish has the lowest pitch followed by Danish and then Norwegian. Swedish pitch is lower than that of English, but Danish and Norwegian have higher pitch than English does.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The suffix -dom

English suffixes such as -ly and -est (friendly, quickly, fastest, strongest) are very common. In contrast, the suffix -dom occurs in few words. Here's a list of common words with -dom:


Less common than kingdom is queendom. The suffix -dom combines with either a noun or an adjective. This is illustrated by the following:

boredom A + Af
fandom N + Af
filmdom N + Af
freedom A + Af
kingdom N + Af
martyrdom N + Af
stardom N + Af
wisdom A + Af

The structure of boredom is bored + dom and of wisdom it is wise + dom. Af corresponds to affix.

The suffix -dom also occurs in words which have more common equivalents. For example, the words Christendom, consumerdom and sisterdom are less common than Christianity, consumerism and sisterhood.

The suffix -dom is far less productive than other English suffixes. It can combine with both nouns and adjectives. It can derive nouns from adjectives such as freedom and is thus classified as a derivational affix.

Love of Literature

Here is my latest poem. I hope you enjoy it!

Love of Literature

Love of literature brings new lands,
Exciting journeys, wondrous scenes,
Masterful works of different hands,
Dragons, palaces, kings and queens.

Inside this world we discover
Mystery, suspense, laughter, surprise,
Characters with wit and valour,
Views of different ears and eyes.

Dialogue creates a picture
Aided by imagination.
Time can shift from past to future,
Writers combine word with action.

Works of literature are memories
Of beauty, wisdom, adventure.
They are pages of new journeys
To continue through each chapter.

Literature is art on paper,
Living in our homes, schools and minds.
Literature is part of culture,
Leaving genres of many kinds.

Monday, August 14, 2017


Hypercorrection is the overapplication of a rule of grammar or usage. The result is a form which is considered non-standard. Many speakers commit hypercorrection in an effort to appear educated and sophisticated.

The word regardless has the suffix -less. However, many speakers use irregardless, which is non-standard. The reason is the overapplication of the prefix -ir in words such as irrational and irreparable.

Hypercorrection also occurs in the phrase between you and I. The phrase you and I is correct in subject position, but not as object of the preposition. After between, me is required. The standard phrase is between you and me.

Another example of hypercorrection is octopi. The standard plural is octopuses. The non-standard form occurs because many words derived from Latin such as alumni and fungi end in -i. The word octopus, however, is derived from Greek.

Hypercorrection often occurs in language. It applies to native and non-native speakers of a language. Hypercorrection is the result of the overgeneralization of a particular rule.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Victory in 16

In a game of speed chess, my opponent resigned after my sixteenth move. He was KingMichaelVIII of Japan, who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6
3. Bc4 Bd6

The most common move for white here is Nxe5, but I choose a different line.

4. 0-0 h6
5. c3 c6
6. d4 Qe7
7. dxe Bxe5
8. Kh1 0-0
9. Nxe5 Qxe5
10. Re1 Re8
11. f3 d5
12. Bd3 dx3

I have a defensive position.

13. Bxe4 Bf5

If I take the bishop, black can mate. (Bxf5, Qxe1, Qxe1, Rxe1#)

14. Nd2 Bxe4
15. Nxe4 Nxe4

Black's move is a blunder. He needs to connect his rooks with Nd7.

16. Rxe4

Black resigns. His queen is under attack, but if he moves his queen, he loses his rook with check. Black's failure to connect his rooks on the backrank leads to his resignation.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

South African English

South African English has considerable social and regional variation. It features the trap-bath split and with the exception of speakers influenced by Afrikaans, is non-rhotic. The main phonological features of the South African dialect are the vowels.

The vowel in kit tends to be more centralized than in other varieties of English. In the word bath, the vowel is more open and retracted than in other dialects. The diphthongs of words such as town and side are often monophthongized.

With respect to consonants, /h/ is often voiced word-initially and voiceless plosives are often unaspirated or less aspirated than in other varieties.

Among South African speakers who don't monophthongize words such as town and side, the first component of the diphthong is more retracted than in standard English. The low front vowel of had is often raised to the vowel of head and the mid front vowel of head is often raised to the high front vowel of hid. This feature is also characteristic of New Zealand English.

Many South African speakers flap the [d] and [t] in intervocalic position. For these speakers, words such as medal and metal sound identical. Flapping is especially common in casual speech.

South African English has vowel retraction in words such as bath, a tendency to monophthongize the diphthongs of words such as town and side, vowel raising and flapping. It has the trap-bath split and is non-rhotic for most speakers. The English of South Africa is far from uniform and reflects the social and ethnic backgrounds of its speakers.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Fried Bread

Fried bread is popular in Hungary. It can be eaten with a variety of toppings such as sour cream and fresh dill, cheese and also chopped onions and garlic. Here is the recipe:

1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons yeast
1/2 cup warm milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup mashed potatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
oil to fry

Mix the sugar and yeast into the milk.
Let it stand for 10 minutes.
Place the flour into a large bowl.
Make a well in the centre.
Add the sugar, yeast and milk mixture.
Add the oil, mashed potatoes and salt.
Mix until the dough holds together.
Put on a smooth surface and knead for about 15 minutes.
Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for one hour.
After the dough has risen, flour your hands and divide into 4 portions.
Shape each into a round, flat cake.
Heat the oil to medium in a pan.
Fry for about 3 to 5 minutes on each side.
Serve with your favourite topping.

Spanish Adjective Order

In English adjectives are placed before the noun. This adjective order also occurs in Spanish, but Spanish adjectives usually follow the noun. In this post I will examine Spanish adjective order.

The adjectives bueno (good) and malo (bad) can be placed before or after nouns. Here are examples:

un libro bueno/un buen libro (a good book)
una idea mala/una mala idea (a bad idea)

Notice that the adjective bueno drops the o before the noun libro.

Certain adjectives must be placed before the noun. Here are examples:

el mejor actor (the best actor)
la peor clase (the worst class)

tres opciones (three options)
mi vida (my life)

In certain cases both orders are possible, but the meaning changes:

un amigo viejo (an elderly friend)
un viejo amigo (a longtime friend) 

un coche nuevo ( a modern car)
un nuevo coche ( a car that was recently bought)

Spanish adjectives usually follow the noun. However, certain adjectives can precede or follow the noun without a change in meaning and a few must precede the noun. With a few adjectives, the two adjective orders are possible, but the meaning changes.

Names of Major Cities in Esperanto

Esperanto, a language invented by Ludwig Zamenhof, is unique because all nouns must end in an o. This doesn't apply to all nouns, i.e., the names of people, but it applies to the names of major cities. Here is a list of major cities with their names in Esperanto:

Atlanto Atlanta
Berlino Berlin
Bruselo Brussels
Bonaero Buenos Aires
Detrojto Detroit
Filadelfio Philadelphia
Frankfurto Frankfurt
Hamburgo Hamburg
Jerusalemo Jerusalem
Manilo Manila
Montrealo Montreal
Moskvo Moscow
Novjorko New York
Osako Osaka
Oslo Oslo
Parizo Paris
Pekino Beijing
Prago Prague
Romo Rome
Seatlo Seattle

Many of the cities listed are very similar to their English counterparts. Cities such as Berlin, Hamburg and Jerusalem merely add an o. However, the Esperanto equivalents of certain cities such as Buenos Aires and New York may not be immediately recognized.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Plum Soup

Plum soup is popular in Hungarian cuisine. Here is the recipe:

2 1/2 cups plums
3 cups water
3 tablespoons sugar
six whole cloves
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Halve the plums and remove the pits.
Boil the plums, water, sugar and cloves for ten minutes.
Add the flour to the sour cream.
Slowly add to the soup.
Boil for five more minutes.
Add the cinnamon and lemon rind.

Plum soup can be served hot or cold. It's easy to prepare and very tasty.

Pronunciation of -ed in Adjectives

Many English adjectives have the ending -ed. They are formed from verbs as in cooked, processed and typed. However, a few adjectives have a different pronunciation in which the -ed ending is a separate syllable. 

These adjectives are relatively few. Here are five common ones:


When these words are used as verbs, the -ed ending is pronounced [d] or [t]. The pronunciation [Id] only applies when they are used as adjectives, and in most cases, as attributive adjectives. Here are examples where the [Id] pronunciation is used:

The aged leader announced his resignation.
My beloved grandparents are visiting tomorrow.
The baptism was a blessed moment.
They left the cursed home.
This is a learned journal.

In the case of They left the cursed home, cursed can also be pronounced with the ending [t]. Many speakers consider the pronunciation [Id] a bit archaic.

The adjective learned is pronounced with the pronunciation [d] in certain cases such as learned behaviour.

If the adjective aged has the meaning of age, the ending is pronounced [d]. For example, All high school-aged students will take part in the field trip uses the ending [d].

The ending [d] or [t] is used when these words function as verbs. Here are examples:

This cheese has been aged for 10 years.
They are dearly beloved by everyone.
Everyone felt blessed. (The spelling blest can also be used here).
The enemies cursed one another.
We have learned so much in the past year.

English adjectives formed from verbs which have the ending -ed are usually pronounced with a word-final [d] or [t]. However, certain adjectives are pronounced with the ending [Id] when they are used as attributive adjectives. The adjective learned is an exception and retains the pronounciation [Id] in predicates as in She is very learned. The pronunciation [Id] reflects an earlier pronunciation of the English language.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Icelandic Oatmeal Pancakes

Oatmeal pancakes are popular in Iceland. They are flavoured with cardamom. Here is the recipe:

1 1/2 cups cooked oatmeal
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cardamom
2 cups milk
1/3 cup raisins (optional)

Stir the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into the oatmeal.
Add the eggs and cardamom.
Add the milk.
If desired, add the raisins.
Add butter to a hot frying pan and prepare like pancakes.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Pronunciation of Swiss German

The pronunciation of Swiss German differs from that of standard German in several respects. Swiss German has many dialects with differences of pronunciation among them. However, certain pronunciation features pertain to all Swiss German dialects.

Unlike in standard German, which devoices word final obstruents, Swiss German maintains an opposition between words such as Rat (advice) and Rad (wheel). In Swiss German the plosives /p/, /t/ and /k/ are usually unaspirated. For example, Tee (tea) is unaspirated.

Swiss German lacks the palatal fricative of standard German. The velar fricative is used extensively. In addition, the /r/ is pronounced as an alveolar trill in many dialects, though certain dialects, especially in the northeast of the country, have a uvular trill.

Many words are stressed differently in Swiss German. First-syllable stress is used more than in the standard language. For example, Kaffee (coffee) is stressed on the first syllable in Swiss German and not on the second as is the case in standard German.

Swiss German is very different from standard German. With respect to pronunciation, Swiss German has no palatal fricative and no devoicing of word-final obstruents. More words are stressed on the first syllable than in the standard language and plosives are usually unaspirated. Many dialects pronounce the /r/ as an alveolar trill. Swiss German has a distinct pronunciation.

Consonant Mutation in English

Consonant mutation is the change in a consonant of a word due to the morphological or syntactic environment. It is evident not only in English but in languages all around the world. Consonant mutation provides evidence of sound change.

In Old English velar plosives were palatalized in certain environments. This resulted in alternations. This can be seen in the doublet ditch/dike.

Consonant mutation occurs in the past tense of certain verbs. These include seek/sought and think/thought. Consonant mutation also occurs in loanwords from Latin. Compare confess/confession and fuse/fusion.

The palatalization of velar plosives before front vowels results in forms such as induce/induction and produce/production. In act/action the word-final alveolar alveolar plosive of act is replaced with an alveopalatal fricative in action. 

Consonant mutation provides evidence of sound change. In English consonant mutation is often observed in verbs and in loanwords from Latin. Though consonant mutation can occur in all parts of the world, it usually occurs word-finally.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Compensatory Lengthening

Compensatory lengthening refers to the lengthening of a vowel sound due to the loss of a consonant. This usually occurs in the syllable coda.  This phonology process is common in English and many other languages.

The word night provides an example of compensatory lengthening. It used to be pronounced with a velar fricative. The phonetic transcription is thus [nixt]. However, the velar fricative was later lost. To compensate for the loss of the fricative, the vowel lengthened to compensate. The word was then pronounced [ni:t]. As a result of the Grent English Vowel Shift, the pronunciation of the word night later changed to [naIt].

In non-rhotic dialects of English, words such as her and service have a long schwa. This compensates for the loss of the consonant. In words such as here and tour, however, many speakers have a schwa which replaces the rhotic consonant.

An example of compensatory lengthening can also be observed in Spanish. The word dos [two] is realized as [do:] in certain dialects. The word-final s isn't pronounced. To compensate, the vowel is lengthened.

Compensatory lengthening is a common phonological process. It usually occurs in the syllable coda and exemplifies sound change. The loss of the syllable-final consonant results in the lengthening of the preceding vowel. As a result, the language preserves the rhythmical quality of the word.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Semolina Porridge

Semolina porridge is very easy to prepare. It makes a great breakfast dish. This Norwegian dish is lightly sweetened. Here is the recipe:

4 cups milk
1/2 cup semolina
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar

Boil the milk.
Gradually add the semolina.
Cook for about 10 minutes.
Add butter and sugar.
Serve with cinnamon if desired.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Chocolate Soup

Chocolate soup is very popular in Iceland. This soup can be served hot or cold and as an appetizer or a dessert. It's very easy to prepare. Here is the recipe for this Icelandic soup:

3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups water
3 cups milk
1 tablespoon potato starch
salt to taste

Mix the cocoa powder, sugar and cinnamon in a saucepan.
Gradually add the water and stir.
Bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes.
Add the milk and simmer for another two minutes.
Mix the potato starch with a little cold water and add.
Serve with salt to taste.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

French Liaison Rules

French liaison refers to the linking of a word-final consonant with the first segment of the following word. The word-final consonant is usually silent. The second segment is a vowel or a glide. Liaison sometimes changes the pronunciation of the consonant. The /s/ in les (the) is pronounced /z/ as a result of liaison.

The pronunciation of liaison follows specific rules. They can be divided into three categories: 1) required liaison; 2) prohibited liaison; 3) optional liaison. Let's look at examples of each.

In the noun phrase un homme (a man), the /n/ of the indefinite article must be pronounced. This is also the case in the verb phrase vous avez (you have). Here the /s/ must be pronounced and it is realized as /z/.

The phrase un homme et une femme (a man and a woman) provides an example of prohibited liaison. The word et retains the silent pronunciation of the word-final consonant. In the phrase les haricots (the beans), the article les is pronounced without liaison. This is because the word haricots has an asprirated h.

In the sentence L'enfant prend un bonbon (The child is taking a candy), liaison is optional. The final consonant of prend can be pronounced. In this case, the word-final consonant is realized as /t/. It can also remain silent. The absence of liaison is more common in formal situations.

Liaison is a common phonological process in French. It can be categorized into three groups: required, prohibited and optional. In certain cases liaison alters the pronunciation of the affected consonant.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Clipping in English

Clipping refers to the shortening of a segment. The segment is usually a vowel. Clipped vowels have a shorter duration than other vowels and often occur in unstressed syllables. Two types of clipping which occur in English are pre-fortis clipping and rhythmic clipping.

English has many examples of clipping in a stressed syllable before a voiceless consonant. This consonant is also known as a fortis consonant. For example, the vowel of hat is shorter than the vowel of had. Pre-fortis clipping fails to apply to vowels which precede voiceless consonants in an adjacent syllable. For example, the vowel of sea in seashell remains long.

Another kind of clipping is rhythmic clipping. This occurs in polysyllabic words. The vowels become shorter in words with a greater number of syllables. For example, the first vowel of leadership is shorter than the first vowel of leader, and the first vowel of leader is shorter than the vowel of lead.

English has many examples of clipping. They can be classified into two types, pre-fortis and rhythmic. Clipping is a common phenomenon not only in English but in many languages. The most common form of clipping shortens and centralizes vowels in unstressed syllables.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Guatemalan Spanish

Guatemalan Spanish refers to the variety of Spanish spoken in Guatemala. It is spoken by approximately 13.7 million of the country's 16 million inhabitants. In addition to Spanish, 23 other languages are spoken in the country. 21 of these languages are Mayan. 60% of the population speaks Spanish as a mother tongue.

The pronunciation of Guatemalan Spanish is characterized by a glottal fricative in words such as joya (jewel) and gemelo (twin). The intervocalic [j] in words such as silla (chair) and tuyo (yours) is often deleted.  The word-final [n] in words such as en (in ) and con (with) is pronounced as a velar.

A number of words used in Guatemala have Mayan origins. The words chucho (dog), chumpa (jacket) and shuco (dirty) are examples. In standard Spanish these words are perro, chaqueta and sucio.

The Spanish language isn't spoken by all of the inhabitants of Guatemala. 23 other languages are spoken besides Spanish. The Spanish of Guatemala features a glottal fricative, velar nasal and many words borrowed from the indigenous languages spoken in the country.

Language Change

Language change refers to the variation of a language over time. This can be observed in morphological, phonological, semantic and syntactic features. Language change can be caused by many factors.

Among the factors involved in language change are the principle of least effort, language contact, geographic separation, migration and social prestige. The principle of least effort states that speakers tend to make sound changes that require less articulatory effort. For example, the weak pronunciation of for replaces the back vowel with a schwa, a sound which is reduced. Languages often borrow words from other languages they come into contact with. For example, English has borrowed many cooking terms from French. As a result of migration, speakers change and create languages such as pidgins and creoles. Geographic separation has resulted in different forms of English in Britain and the United States. In the case of social prestige, language may not only change towards a prestigious accent, but away from one which is viewed negatively. In British English, non-rhotic accents are more prestigious than rhotic ones, but this is the opposite from the United States, which favours rhotic ones.

Language change occurs for a variety of reasons. German is a language with many dialects. As a result of early German Bible translations, High German is very prestigious today. Language change is inevitable and affects all languages.

Brown Penny

The Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote Brown Penny. Here is the poem:

I whispered, 'I am too young.'
And then, 'I am old enough';
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
'Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair.'
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.

O love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.

The poem Brown Penny consists of two stanzas with eight verses each. The rhyme scheme is irregular. In the first and second stanzas, the sixth and eighth verses rhyme. The seventh verse of both stanzas is identical. William Butler Yeats tells the reader that nobody has sufficient wisdom to understand love fully. However, one doesn't need to know everything about love and must decide the age at which love might begin.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Analysis of Stress in English Words

The majority of English words are stressed on the first syllable. This is true for many words such as city, grammar and airplane. However, since English stress can appear on any syllable, it is largely unpredictable. I analyzed 20 English words to determinine the distribution of English stress. I chose the words from four categories: fruits, nature, literature and school.

The 20 words I chose are the following:


Of these 20 words, 16 have sentence-initial stress. They are orange, apple, mango, lemon, mountain, forest, river, jungle, poem, story, character, setting, author, student, teacher, and pencil.

Three words have penultimate stress. They are banana, volcano and assignment. One word has sentence-final stress. The word is exam.

From the list the distribution of stress is as follows:

syllable-initial 80%
penultimate 15%
syllable-final 5%

Of course this list is to small to determine the distibution of stress in English syllables. A larger list is needed to derive a more accurate analysis. Nevertheless, the list appears to show that syllable-initial stress is definitely the most common in English.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Cardamom Ice Cream

This Swedish recipe for cardamom ice cream is simple and well worth the effort. Here is the recipe:

2 teaspoons cardamom
1 egg
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisp the egg in a bowl for about two minutes.
Whisk in the sugar a little at a time.
Add the cream, milk, cardamom and vanilla extract.
Blend all the ingredients together.
Continue to whip for about three minutes.
Transfer to a container.
Cover and freeze for three hours.

Cardamom ice cream is popular in Sweden. This ice cream is very good with berries and pancakes and is also wonderful on its own.

Canadian Literature

In the world of literature written in English, British and American are famous. British Literature has writers such as Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare and J.K. Rowling. American Literature has contributed writers such as Emily Dickinson, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Canadian literature is undoubtedly not as well known, but has made important contributions to the world of literature.

Eight Canadian writers who deserve attention are Roch Carrier, Robertson Davies, Margaret Laurence, John McCrae, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Farley Mowat, Alice Munro and Gabrielle Roy. Roch Carrier and Gabrielle Roy represent French-Canadian writers. Alice Munro is Canada's only Nobel Prize winner in literature. She won the Nobel Prize in 2013.

One of Roch Carrier's most famous short stories is The Hockey Sweater, a story which illustrates the tensions between English-Canada and French-Canada. Robertson Davies wrote The Rebel Angels, a story which takes place in a fictional college.

Margaret Laurence's most famous novel is probably The Stone Angel, a story about an elderly woman who reflects on her life. John McCrae is best known for his poem about war, In Flanders Fields. He served in World War I and died of pneumonia at the end of the war.

Lucy Maud Montgomery is best known for the series Anne of Green Gables. The Green Gables farm is now a tourist attraction in Prince Edward Island. She also wrote many poems. One of the most popular is Come, Rest Awhile. Farley Mowat wrote many novels about nature. One of the most famous is Never Cry Wolf, which takes place in the north of Canada.

Alice Munro has written many short stories. She has been compared to the great Russian writer Anton Chekhov. One of her earliest novels is titled The Shining Houses. Gabrielle Roy wrote a French novel which was translated into English as The Tin Flute. It tells the story of a waitress in Montreal who struggles with poverty while searching for love.

Compared to American and British literature, Canadian literature isn't so famous. Nevertheless, Canada has many writers who have gained recognition both at home and abroad. One of them, Alice Munro, won the Nobel Prize in 2013.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Lemon Bread

This Hungarian recipe for lemon bread is very simple to make. Here is the recipe:

3/4 cup butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
Grease and flour a baking pan.
Cream the butter and sugar.
Add the eggs and blend.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
Add to the wet mixture alternating with milk and lemon juice.
Mix well.
Add the lemon peel.
Pour into the pan.
Bake for about one hour.

This is a light dessert that is really nice after a heavy meal.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Love and Patience

This is my latest poem. It's dedicated to my father, who lost his life on July 9, 2016.

Love and Patience

Though you have gone, we remember.
You were quiet but spoke through action.
Your words of wisdom endure forever.
You exemplified dedication.

Those who knew you called you humble,
Diligent, kind and full of humour.
Life took you far from your cradle.
Canada became your future.

You experienced hardship and war in your early years,
But your words and actions bore no trace.
You were respected by your peers.
They recognized your kind face.

As time passes we miss you more.
Your love and patience are in your name.
Values of generosity and kindness we all adore.
You sought neither power nor fame.

We remember your love of family,
Hospitality offered to every guest.
Your words and actions are our memory,
As we strive to do our daily best.

Adjectives Ending With -ic and -ical

No rule can be given for the formation of adjectives with -ic and -ical. In certain cases -ic words are preferred over their -ical counterparts and in other cases, -ical words are preferred. A number of -ic and -ical pairs have differentiated themselves over time and now have distinct meanings.

Today the pair botanical is more common than botanic. Metaphorical is used more than metaphoric, but ironic and problematic are more common than their counterparts ironical and problematical. The word polemic is a noun and polemical is an adjective.

The word pairs classic/classical, comic/comical, economic/economical, electric/electrical, historic/historical and periodic/periodical have different meanings. The word classical is often used for well-defined historical periods of culture and science as in classical music. The word classic has a broader meaning. It has the meaning of great significance as in classic literature. The word comic relates to comedy and comical has the meaning of funny. The adjective economical relates to the economy and economics while economic means thrifty. The word electrical relates to electricity, for example, electrical outlets. Devices that run on electricity are electric such as electric cars and electric heaters. The word historical relates to the past as in a historical document. However, historic means historically signficiant as in a historic battle. The adjective periodic is used for situations that take place at regular intervals or are intermittent. The word periodical has a narrower meaning and means published at regular intervals.

In many cases adjectives with -ic and -ical are interchangeable as in botanic/botanical and ironic/ironical. Though these word pairs are identical in meaning, one of the two pairs is often more common than the other. With certain words pairs such as economic/economical and historic/historic, they were once identical but now have different meanings.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Red Currant Cake

Red currant cake is delicious to make and doesn't take so long to prepare. This Swedish recipe is flavoured with cardamom. Here is the recipe:

2/3 cup butter
3 tablespoons milk
3 large eggs
2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 cup red currants
1/2 cup red currants

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
Melt the butter and add the milk.
In another bowl whisk the eggs and the sugar.
Add the butter and milk to the egg mixture.
Add the cardamom.
In a separate bowl mix the flour, vanilla sugar and baking powder.
Add the dry ingredients.
Pour into a pan coated with butter and breadcrumbs.
Sprinkle the red currants on top.
Bake for about 30 minutes.

Here are the ingredients for the icing:

3 tablespoons cream
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cream cheese

Melt the butter in a pan and add the cream.
Now add the sugar and cream cheese.
Stir for a few minutes until the mixture thickens.
Let cool.

Spread the icing over the top of the cake.
Decorate with the remaining red currants.

This is a cake that combines the flavours of cream cheese, red currant and cardamom. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Resignation in 13

In a game of speed chess my opponent resigned after 13 moves. He was Joe 10000 of Serbia, who played white. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 d6
3. Nc3 Bg4
4. Bb5+ Nd7

I decide to develop my knight rather than retreat my bishop.

5. d4 cxd

White's move is aggressive but brings out the queen early.

6. Qxd4 Bxf3

I decide to weaken white's pawn structure.

7. gxf3 a6
8. Bc4 e6
9. Rg1 Ngf6
10. f4 e5

White plays aggressively, but it's safer to castle.

11. fxe Nxe5
12. Bg4 Nf3+

White can prevent my fork with Be2.

13. Ke2 Nd4+

White loses his queen and resigns. The keys to victory in this game are white's weakened pawn structure and the royal fork by my knight on move 12. White plays aggressively, but fails to attend to the safety of his king.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Chemical Symbols

Many elements have chemical symbols which are easily explained. The symbols for oxygen and hydrogen are O and H. Two letters are used for calcium and platinum, Ca and Pt. In the case of certain elements, however, such as iron and lead, the symbols are different. The reason is that the symbols are derived from Latin.

Here are chemical symbols which differ from their English names:

Antimony Sb
Copper Cu
Iron Fe
Gold Au
Lead Pb
Mercury Hg
Potassium K
Silver Ag
Sodium Na
Tin Sn
Tungsten W

The chemical symbols of ten elements are derived from Latin. The chemical symbol for tungsten is derived from German. Here are the names:

Antimony stibium
Copper cyprium
Iron ferrum
Gold aurum
Lead plumbum
Mercury hydragyrum
Potassium kalium
Silver argentum
Sodium natrium
Tin stannum
Tungsten wolfram

The chemical symbols of most elements are clear. The chemical symbols for carbon and hydrogen are C and H. However, a few elements have symbols with no connection to their English names. The reason is that they're derived from Latin and in the case of tungsten, from German.

Lemon Potatoes

Lemon potatoes are a fantastic way to prepare potatoes. This Greek recipe is great with lamb. Here is the recipe:

8 potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup chicken stock

Peel potatoes and cup in half.
Let them stand in water while preparing the sauce.
Combine all the other ingredients in a bowl .
Dry the potatoes and add to the bowl.
Marinate for two hours.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Roast the potatoes for about one hour while turning occasionally.
There should be plenty of sauce left over after roasting.

If the potatoes are very large, you can quarter them. The chicken stock can be replaced with lamb stock.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Tuscan Liver

This Italian recipe for liver is simple to prepare. Here is the recipe:

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
400 grams beef liver
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Heat the oil and butter over medium heat.
Coat the liver on both sides with flour.
Cook the liver for 30 seconds a side and remove.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Do not overcook.
The liver should be pink and moist.
Add the lemon juice to the pan.
Return the liver to the pan to heat briefly.
Transfer to a serving juice.
Pour the pan juices over the liver.
Serve immediately.

This is a great way to serve liver. If you really like lemon juice, you can add more.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Resignation After 12 Moves

In a game of speed chess, my opponent resigned after only 12 moves. He was Muyambokamdigare of Zimbabwe, who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. c3 Nf6

My third move isn't so common. Bb5 is often played here.

4. Bc4 Bc5
5. 0-0 Ng4

Black's move is aggressive, but not so effective. A better move for black is to castle.

6. d4 exd
7. cxd Bb6
8. h3 h5

Black sets a trap. I can't take the knight. If I do, he opens the h-file for his rook and queen.

9. Nc3 d6
10. Nd5 Be6

Black's move is a mistake. Here a better move is to castle.

11. Nxb6 axb6
12. d5

Now the reason black's tenth move is a mistake becomes clear. My pawn forks the black knight and bishop. Black resigns.

In this game black postpones castling because he doesn't see the need. However, his tenth move is a critical mistake which allows me to win a piece. For this reason he resigns early.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Ten Tricky Words To Spell

English spelling is irregular. The result is that many people misspell words. Here are ten words considered tricky to spell:

accommodate (this is spelt with a double c and double m)
collectible (the third vowel is an i)
inoculate (this word has only one n)
liquefy (unlike liquid, this has an e in the second syllable)
maelstrom (the ae sequence is unusual in English)
millennium (this is spelt with a double l and double n)
minuscule (the second vowel is a u)
possession (this word has four occurrences of the letter s)
privilege (the third vowel is spelt with an e)
threshold (this word has only one h)

Since English isn't a phonetic language, the spelling is often very irregular. The result is that many people misspell English words such as the ones in the list. Mastery of English spelling can certainly be a challenge.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Strawberry Snow

Strawberry snow is the name of a Finnish dessert. It's delicious and easy to make. Here's the recipe:

2 cups strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg whites
pinch of salt
3/4 cup heavy cream, whipped
12 strawberries

Press the strawberries through a sieve into a small mixing bowl.
Stir 1/2 cup of sugar, a little at a time.
Beat the egg whites and salt in a large bowl until stiff.
Fold the strawberry puree and then the whipped cream into the egg whites.
Pour the strawberry snow into an attractive serving bowl.
Decorate with the whole strawberries..

This can be served at once or it may be refrigerated and served later in the day. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Consonant Length

Many languages have distinctive consonant length. This feature is also known as gemination. In English consonant length is only distinctive across morpheme boundaries but never within a word.

In Finnish the words kuka and kukka are distinguished by consonant length. The former means who and the latter means flower. In English such a distinction never occurs within a single word, but it can occur across word boundaries. An example is night train and night rain. The first compound has a long consonant and the second has a short one. With affricates, consonant length isn't distinctive. For example, orange juice is pronounced with a single affricate.

Consonant length is distinctive in many languages. They include Arabic, Finnish, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese and Swedish. English has distinctive consonant length across word boundaries but not within a single word.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Chicken Marengo

Chicken marengo is a famous French dish. It's prepared with white wine. Here's the recipe:

8 pieces chicken, skinned
salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 cup dry white wine
3 chopped tomatoes
1 bouillon cube
1 teaspoon thyme
10 mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon cognac
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parley or basil

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, and then coat in the flour.
Melt the butter with the olive oil in a heavy skillet on medium heat and gradually add the chicken.
Brown the chicken pieces on all sides and remove from the pan.
Add the onion and garlic  to the pan and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes.
Add the white wine. Add the tomatoes, bouillon cube and thyme, and then add the chicken.
Cover and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and continue cooking for 15 minutes.
Stir in the cognac 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
Stir in the chopped parsley or basil just before serving.

Chicken marengo is a popular French chicken dish. It's not complicated and well-worth the effort!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Resignation after 24 moves

In a game of speed chess against Francibrezner of Slovenia, I forced a resignation after 24 moves. Actually, I had mate in 22, but I missed it. In this game my opponent played black. Here are the moves of the game with my analysis:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 f5

My opponent decides to play a relatively unusual move.

3. exf Bc5
4. d4 exd
5. Nxd4 Nf6

Black is down a pawn, but ahead in development.

6. Be3 d6
7. Bc4 Bxd4

Bd3 protects the extra pawn, but Bc4 prevents castling.

8. Bxd4 Bxf5
9. 0-0 Nc6
10. Re1+ Ne7
11. Bxf6 gxf6
12. Qh5+ Bg6
13. Qe2 c6

Black is in a very defensive role. The queen protects the knight on e7.

14. Be6 Bf7
15. Bxf7+ Kxf7

The black king is exposed.

16. Qh5+ Ng6
17. Nc3 Qb6

I must decide whether to protect the pawn or generate offence.

18. Ne4 Qxb2
19. Nxd6+ Kg7
20. Nf5+ Kf8
21. Qh6+ Kf7

Black's move is forced. Here I have mate with Qg7, but I miss it.

22. Nd6+ Kg8

Again black's move is forced.

23. Rab1 Qc3

My original idea is to play Rxb7, which threatens mate on g7. I can't play this, however, because if I do black plays Qxe1#. I then notice a very strong move.

24. Nf5

Black resigns because he can't prevent mate on g7.

Black plays an unusual second move for quick development. However, I prevent his king from castling and keep him on the defensive. In the end, his king is too exposed to prevent defeat.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Borrowed Words in English

English has borrowed many words from other languages. In addition to Greek and Latin, English has words from many languages in every corner of the world. Here's a list of ten words borrowed from ten different languages:

ballet (French) -this is a dancing style which originated in France

coleslaw (Dutch) -in Dutch the word is koolsla, which means cabbage salad

dim sum (Chinese) - a style of Chinese cuisine especially popular in Hong Kong

karate (Japanese) -the literal meaning for this martial art is empty hand

kindergarten (German) -the literal translation is children's garden

paparazzi (Italian) -the singular of this word is paparazzo

paprika (Hungarian) -the spice and the fruit are very common in Hungarian cuisine

plaza (Spanish) - an open public area sometimes called a square

sheikh (Arabic) - a leader or ruler

taekwondo (Korea) - this popular martial art originated in Korea

This short list illustrates that English has many loanwords. In addition to languages such as French, Greek and Latin, English has also borrowed from languages such as Arabic and Japanese. This is partly due to the fact that at its height, the British Empire was the largest in history.

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