Saturday, December 30, 2017

Mate in 14

In a game of speed chess, I mated my opponent in 14 moves. He was Kambell from Canada, who played white. My opponent played fast, but made many mistakes. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 c5
2. f4 d5

I offer a pawn in an attempt to break white's control of the centre.

3. exd Nf6
4. c4 Bf4

White can protect his pawn with Nc3, a move which also develops his knight. Though white has an extra pawn, I lead in development of my pieces.

5. d4 cxd
6. Qxd4 e6

My pawn is immune from capture.

7. Nc3 Bb4
8. Bd2 Nc6

The knight is also immune from capture.

9. Qe3 Ng4
10. Qe2 Nd4

The queen is attacked for the third time in a row.

11. Qd1 Nc2+
12. Qxc2 Bxc2

White can survive longer with Ke7.

13. dxe fxe
14. Nb4 Qxd2#

White blunders. Though the position is lost, a far better move is Nge7. The knight on c3 must not move.

Despite the loss of his queen, white decides to play on. However, his thirteenth move is a blunder which leads to mate on the next move. He plays quickly, but in doing so plays many questionable moves.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Raspberry Cake

Raspberry cake is easy to prepare. Here is the French recipe for this delicious cake:

1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
zest of one lemon
1 cup raspberries
3 tablespoons melted butter
icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Mix the eggs and sugar until well blended.
Add the flour and the lemon zest.
Butter and flour the pan and add the batter.
Add the raspberries and pour the melted butter on top.
Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Let the cake cool and sprinkle with icing sugar.

Languages of India

India is the home of many languages. 75% of the languages are Indo-Aryan and 20% are Dravidian. In addition to Hindi and English, many other languages are spoken.

India now recognizes 22 official regional languages. They are the following:


Few Indians speak Sanskrit as a first language. It is the liturgical language of Hinduism.

Languages with more than 25 million speakers include Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Malayalam, Odia, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Kannada, Malayalam and Telugu are Dravidian languages. Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam, Odia, Punjabi and Urdu are Indo-Aryan.

India is a country with many languages. Urdu is also spoken in Pakistan, Bengali in Bangladesh and Nepali in Nepal. Of the languages spoken in India, Hindi has the most first-language speakers.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Horse-Hoarse Merger

The horse-hoarse merger is also known as the north-force merger. In this merger, only one mid back vowel occurs before /r/. This merger occurs in most varieties of English today.

Varieties of English which do not have the horse-hoarse merger are Irish, Scottish and Caribbean. In the varieties which lack the merger, hoarse is pronounced with a higher vowel. In certain speakers, the distinction is one of length rather than vowel quality. In this case, the vowel of hoarse is longer than that of horse.

Most speakers of American English have the merger. However, many speakers from New Orleans and St. Louis maintain a distinction. According to a study by William Labov in 2006, black speakers are less likely to have the merger than are whites. In the study only a little over half of the black participants had the merger.

The horse-hoarse merger is a very common merger in English. Another common merger before /r/ is the marry-merry-Mary merger. These mergers are examples of simplification.

Sunday, December 24, 2017


Phonotactics is a branch of phonology which deals with the permissible sound sequences in a language. In phonotactics permissible syllable structure, consonant and vowel sequences can be defined with phonotactic constaints. Phonotactic constraints are language specific.

The consonant clusters /gn/ and /kn/ are not permitted in word-initial position in English, but are in Swedish. For example, the Swedish words kniv (knife) and gnista (spark) have the consonant  clusters at the beginning of the word. In English, they only occur word-medially as in weakness and magnet.

In Spanish the consonant cluster /st/ never occurs word-initially. The Spanish word for student is estudiante. However, the Spanish word muelle (wharf) begins with /mw/, a consonant cluster which never occurs word-initially in English.

English onsets have a maximum of three consonants. Examples of words with three consonants include school, squeeze and street. In Japanese onsets are restricted to one consonant The Japanese onset is thus CV or V. To show that the consonant is optional, this can be represented as (C)V.

Due to the phonotactic constraints of each language, syllable structures which are not allowed can be repaired. For example, the Swedish and Norwegian name Knut has the cluster /kn/ in word-initial permission. Since this cannot occur in English, the sequence is repaired with an epenthetic schwa. This can be represented with the spelling Canute.

Every language has phonotactic constraints which determine the sound sequences which may occur. They determine the syllable structure, consonant and vowel sequences of the language. In the  case of foreign words with different sound sequences, the sequences can be repaired.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Prefix -dis

Many English prefixes tend to combine with only one grammatical category. The prefix -un combines with adjectives to form words such as uncertain, unhappy and unknown and the prefix -re produces redo, reexamine and resell. However, the prefix -dis combines with verbs, adjectives and nouns.

The following list illustrates that -dis combines with verbs, adjectives and nouns:




Certain words belong to more than one grammatical category. For example, disadvantage and disregard can be both adjectives and nouns. In certain cases, the prefix -dis combines with the same root to form three grammatical categories as in disobey, disobedient and disobedience. In other cases, two grammatical categories are formed as in dishonest and dishonesty and in other cases only one grammatical category is possible as in distasteful.

In the case of discomfort, the prefix -un is needed to form uncomfortable. Dislike can be a verb and also a noun, but is more commonly used as a verb. Dissimilar is used far less than different.

The prefix -dis occurs in verbs, adjectives and nouns. In certain cases, the same root occurs in all three grammatical categories. Unlike other English prefixes which usually only occur in one grammatical category, the prefix -dis can occur in three.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Use of Articles in Languages

Many languages use definite and indefinite articles. However, the use of articles varies. Let's look at a few examples.

In English the indefinite article is used in sentences such as I'm a doctor and He's a teacher. However, in German the indefinite article isn't used in these sentences. They are Ich bin Arzt and Er ist Lehrer. However, if we add adjectives such as I'm a new doctor and He's a good teacher, the indefinite article is required. The sentences are then translated as Ich bin ein neuer Arzt and Er ist ein guter Lehrer.

In the sentence That's life, no article is used before life because it's used in a general sense. However, in French the sentence is translated as C'est la vie. The definite article la is required.

No articles are used before names in English, but in colloquial Portuguese they are common. The sentence Maria studies a lot can be translated as A Maria estuda muito. The definite article isn't necessary in Portuguese, but in informal language it's often used.

Though many languages use definite and indefinite articles, their usage varies. English uses indefinite articles before professions, but German doesn't. English doesn't use definite articles before general nouns, but French does. The rules for the use of articles are thus language specific.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Yiddish Phonology

Yiddish phonology is similar to that of German. This is not surprising because much of the vocabulary has a German base. However, a few features are distinct.

Yiddish lacks final obstruent devoicing. As a result, Rad (wheel) and Rat (advice) are pronounced differently. Voiceless plosives as in Kopf (head) are unaspirated.

Yiddish has a smaller vowel inventory than German and has no vowel length distinction. Unlike in Standard German which distinguishes offen (open) and Ofen (oven), no such distinction occurs in Yiddish. Yiddish has only six vowel phonemes.

Yiddish is similar to German and is classified as a Germanic language. However, the phonology of Yiddish is in many respects quite different from that of German. Yiddish has no final obstruent devoicing, has no aspirated plosives and does not distinguish vowel length. In addition, Yiddish has fewer vowel phonemes.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Phrasal Verbs and Latinate Equivalents

Many phrasal verbs have latinate equivalents. The Latinate equivalents are derived from Latin and tend to be more formal. Here is a list:

add up calculate
call for necessitate
call off cancel
carry on continue
fall apart disintegrate
find out discover
get away escape
get across communicate
give in yield
leave out omit
look into research
make up fabricate
pass out distribute
pick up resume
point out explain
set up arrange
take after resemble
touch on mention
turn down reject
use up exhaust

Many phrasal verbs have words such as up, down, off and on. Phrasal verbs are very common in conversation and informal writing, but latinates are preferred in formal speech and writing. The phrasal verbs in the list all consist of two words, and the latinates consist of only one.  

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Male and Female Versions of Names

Many names have male and female versions. In certain cases, the male name is more popular, but with some names, the female version is also very common. Here is a list:

Alexander Alexandra
Andrew Andrea
Brian Briana
Clement Clementine
Daniel Danielle
Edwin Edwina
Eric Erica
Fredrick Frederica
Gabriel Gabriella
George Georgia
Gerald Geraldine
Harry Harriet
Henry Henrietta
Joseph Josephine
Justin Justine
Louis Louise
Martin Martina
Michael Michelle
Nicholas Nicole
Oliver Olivia
Patrick Patricia
Paul Paula
Peter Petra
Robert Roberta
Victor Victoria

The names Fredrick, George, Henry and Joseph are more popular than the female names Frederica, Georgia, Henrietta and Josephine. However, many female names such as Gabriella and Nicole are very popular. The popularity of female and male versions of names can vary from one decade to the next.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Cognac Shrimp in White Sauce

Cognac shrimp in white sauce is a French dish which is easy to prepare. Here is the recipe:

1 shallot, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cream
6 tablespoons butter
white pepper
2 tablespoons butter
250 grams shrimp
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cognac

Simmer the shallot, white wine and lemon juice over moderate heat for 5-10 minutes.
When the mixture reduces to 2 tablespoons, add the cream.
When the first bubbles start, turn down the heat.
Add the butter one tablespoon at a time.
When the butter is fully incorporated, add the white pepper and set aside.
In another pan, melt the butter and saute the shrimp for 3-4 minutes.
Reduce the heat and season with salt.
Add the cognac and stir.
Pour the white sauce over the shrimp and serve.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

English Plurals with Vowel Mutation

Most English plurals are formed with the suffix -s or -es. However, English has seven irregular plurals which are formed with vowel mutation. Here is the list of these plurals:

foot feet
goose geese
louse lice
man men
mouse mice
tooth teeth
woman women

In the pairs foot/feet, goose/geese and tooth/teeth, the vowel mutation is the same. The pairs louse/lice and mouse/mice also exhibit the same vowel mutation as well as the pairs man/men and woman/women. In these seven plurals three vowel mutations can be observed. They are:

a --> e man/men woman/women
ou --> i  louse/lice mouse/mice
oo --> ee foot/feet goose/geese tooth/teeth

English has many examples of vowel mutation in verbs such as break/broke, give/gave and take/took. Vowel mutation is less common with nouns. However, it also occurs in seven irregular plurals.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Polysemy is the association of a word with two or more meanings. For example, the word bright has different meanings in the sentences You have a bright future, The room is bright and She's a bright student. In the first sentence bright means full of hope, in the second it means full of light and in the third it means intelligent. The word get is also a good example of polysemy. Notice the different meanings of get in the following sentences:

I can get a refund.
I hope you get well soon.
I have to get home now.
I get the idea.
The police are confident they'll get the thief.

In the first sentence get has the meaning of receive. and in the second sentence get can be replaced with become. The third sentence has the common expression get home in which get can be replaced with arrive. In the fourth sentence get can be replaced with understand and in the fifth it has the meaning of capture.

All languages have examples of polysemy. In fact, many words have more than one meaning. In English the word get has many possible meanings. The examples illustrate five.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Set Theory

Set theory is a branch of mathematical logic. Though set theory is usually applied in mathematics, the theory can also be used in other fields. The modern study of set theory was developed in the 1870s.

Set theory expresses a binary relation between an object and a set. Every object of a set is a member or an element. Sets are also objects and can belong to other sets.

A binary relation between two sets is the subset relation, which is also called set inclusion. If all the members of set A are also members of set B, then A is a subset of B. To give a more concrete example, we can say that the members of set A are puppies and the members of set B are dogs. Thus we can express the relation between the two sets by stating that the set of puppies is a subset of the set of dogs.

Numbers are common in set theory. The union of the sets X and Y is the set of all objects that are members of X, Y or both. The union of {1,2} and {2,3} is the set {1,2,3}. The intersection of the sets X and Y is the set of all objects that are members of both sets. The intersection of {1,2} and {2,3} is {2}.

A Venn diagram is a diagram that shows all the possible logical relations between different sets. The diagram usually consists of overlapping circles representing a set. The Venn diagram was conceived by John Venn around 1880. It is used to teach elementary set theory as well as illustrate simple set relationships.

Set theory is common in mathematics, but can also be applied to other areas such as computer science, linguistics and statistics. In set theory the relation between objects and sets and also between sets and other sets is clearly illustrated. Venn diagrams can be used to express all possible relations between sets.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Mate in 12

In a game of speed chess, I mated my opponent in 12 moves. He was Food of the USA, who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. d4 b6
2. e4 B7
3. Nc3 e6
4. Bd3 g6
5. Be3 Bg7

Black's decision to develop his two bishops before his knights is unusual.

6. Nf3 Ne7
7. Qd2 d5
8. Bh6 dxe
9. Bxe4 Bxh6
10. Qxh6 Bxe4

My queen prevents black from castling. Black's decision to take my bishop is a mistake because it allows my knight to take control of a key square. A better move for black is Nc6.

11. Nxe4 Nbc6

Black doesn't have time to make this move. A better move is Ng8.

12. Nf6#

Black loses quickly because he fails to protect his king. His eleventh move is a blunder because it allows my knight to deliver checkmate on f6. His tenth move is also an error because it allows my knight to advance to a key square. In this game black's inability to castle leads to his demise.

Thursday, December 7, 2017


The Canadian poet Elaine George wrote the short poem Snowflake. Here it is:


A fragile winter butterfly
Flutters from the sky
So soft and yet her heart
Is cold and made of ice
But if I warm it
She will melt and die

The poem is composed of six verses and one stanza. The lack of punctuation is typical of many modern poems. The rhyme scheme is aabcda. In the poem Snowflake the author compares a snowflake to a winter butterfly fluttering from the sky. The author uses personification when she describes the heart of the snowflake. This poem expresses the fragility of life

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Blueberry Pie

Blueberry pie is delicious and easy to make. This Finnish recipe includes sour cream. Here is the recipe:


10 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoons baking powder


2 cups blueberries
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Beat the butter and sugar.
Mix in the egg and then the flour and baking powder.
Mix until a smooth batter forms.
Spread over the bottom and sides of a greased pan.
Bake for 10 minutes in the oven and remove.
Pour the blueberries onto the pie base and spread out.
Whisk the sour cream, sugar, eggs and vanilla until well combined.
Pour over the blueberries.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Leave the pie in the oven until the surface becomes firm.
Cool and serve.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Rhoticity in English

One of the most noticeable features of English dialects is the pronunciation of post-vocalic /r/. Rhotic speakers pronounce the consonant in words such as dark and word, but non-rhotic speakers do not. Evidence from written documents suggests that the loss of post-vocalic /r/ began sporadically during the 15th century.

For non-rhotic speakers, the historical vowel plus /r/ is now usually realized as a long vowel. This is known as compensatory lengthening. However, a final schwa usually remains short as in the word weather. In many accents such as Received Pronunciation the high vowels [i] and [u], when followed by an /r/ become diphthongs ending in a schwa. The same happens to diphthongs such as tire and sour in which the /r/ is replaced with a schwa.

Variably rhotic accents, in which speakers sporadically waver between rhoticity and non-rhoticity, are common in many varieties of Caribbean English such as the Bahamas and Guyana. Many residents of Boston and New York also have variably rhotic accents.

All English dialects can be classified as rhotic and non-rhotic. However, a number of speakers have variable rhotic accents. The loss of post-vocalic /r/ was first documented in the 15th century and is now common in the English of Australia, England, New Zealand and Wales.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Relativity in Semantics

Words have meaning which varies according to the speaker and context. Certain words such as dead and alive have absolute meaning, but others are relative. Words with relative meaning can be interpreted in many ways.

The phrase a big whale can exemplify relative meaning. Compared to humans, all whales can be classified as big, but the difference between an adult whale and a baby whale is significant, and sperm whales are far smaller than blue whales. Baby sperm whales are usually a little over one metre at birth. Compared to human babies, this is big, but for whales, this is actually small. For humans, all  blue whales are big, but relative to adult blue whales, baby blue whales are not big.

The phrase a small breakfast is also relative. The typical French breakfast of a cup of coffee, a croissant or piece of toast and maybe fruit or yoghurt is small by American standards, but to the French it is typical. The heavier American breakfast of coffee, pancakes, sausage and eggs is big to the French but is common in the USA.

The words cheap and expensive are also relative. In Japan fruits tend to be expensive, so fruits in other countries may be very cheap. However, to people in those countries, the prices they pay are regular prices and not particularly cheap. Imported goods are often more expensive than local goods. They may be expensive because of factors such as transportation costs and tariffs, but in their country of origin they may actually be cheap.

For people used to spicy food, a food described by spicy by a person who isn't so used to spicy food may not be so spicy to the other. For example, Russians tend to eat relatively mild food compared to Indians. Even within India, though, there is variation. The food of southern India tends to be spicier than the food of northern India.

Many words have relative meaning. The meaning of the word varies depending on the situation in which it is used and the perception of the speaker. This must be taken into consideration when interpreting the value of the words used in communication.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Subject and Topic

The terms subject and topic are often used in semantics. Sometimes the subject and topic are the same but not always. Let us illustrate with an example.

The sentence The pencil is on the table consists of a subject (the pencil) and a verb phrase. The verb phrase can further be divided into a verb phrase (is) and a prepositional phrase (on the table). However, the sentence can be used to emphasize different information. If one hears the question What's on the table? it's sufficient to answer The pencil. But if one hears the question Where's the pen? it's sufficient to answer On the table.

In the sentence The pencil is on the table the subject is the pencil. In response to the question What's on the table? the phrase the pencil is also the topic. However, in response to the question Where's the pencil? the topic of the sentence is on the table. In this case the subject and the topic are different.

In English the subject usually occurs at the front of the sentence because English has SVO order. The topic, however, can occur in either subject or object position and is the focus of the conversation. Languages such as Japanese and Korean have separate markers to indicate the subject and topic of the sentence.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Minimal Pairs With the Alveolar Flap

The alveolar flap is common in North American English. It occurs in intervocalic position between an unstressed vowel and a stressed one. In other varieties of English such as Irish, Australian and New Zealand the alveolar flap is also common. For those speakers who have an alveolar flap, the following words are pronounced the same:

Adam atom
coding coating
ladder latter
leader litre
medal metal
odder otter
pedal petal
rider writer
tidal title
tudor tutor

In Canadian English and also in varieties of American English, the pairs rider/writer and tidal/title are not identical. Due to vowel raising in words such as write, speakers who maintain a distinction have a raised vowel in writer but not in rider. In the case of tidal/title, speakers who distinguish the pair have a raised vowel in title. In addition to the raised vowel in writer and title, the vowel in rider and tidal has a longer duration.

Though many speakers pronounce words such as leader/litre and pedal/petal identically, the meaning is usually understood from context. In the sentences I have a tutor and I bought one litre, the meaning is clear. For this reason misunderstandings are rare.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Catenative Verbs

Catenative verbs are verbs that can be directly followed by another verb. The second verb can be an infinitive or gerund. The name catenative derives from the ability of the verbs to form chains as in the sentence We promised to try to practise more.

The following sentences illustrate catenative verbs:

I advise leaving now.
I regret telling him everything.
I love to swim in the ocean.
He didn't dare answer.
They have gone to see an action movie.
They helped pack her bags.
They helped to pack her bags.
We want to please all our clients.
You are allowed to wear casual clothes.
You seem to be tired today.

The verb help can be followed by the bare infinitive or the to-infinitive in the examples. This is different from other verbs such as want in which the to-infinitive must follow rather than the bare infinitive. Catenative verbs can combine with other verbs which are in either gerund or infinitive form.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Foot-Goose Merger

The foot-goose merger refers to a merger of the high back vowels in the words foot and goose. It is found in the English of Scotland and Northern Ireland. In the foot-goose merger, both words are pronounced with a high back rounded tense vowel.

In Northern Ireland and Scotland, many speakers pronounce foot and goose with the same vowel, the vowel of goose. For these speakers, the words Luke and look sound identical and the words food and good rhyme. The distinction between the tense vowel of goose and lax vowel of foot is lost.

The foot-goose merger neutralizes the distinction between the tense and lax high back vowels of English. The marked lax vowel is replaced with the unmarked tense vowel. The foot-goose merger also exists in Singapore English. In Singapore English, however, the vowel is not as advanced as in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The foot-goose merger is one of the many mergers in English.

Thursday, November 23, 2017


Romanian is a Romance language spoken primarily in Romania and Moldova. Romanian nouns have three genders- masculine, feminine and neutral. Definite articles are suffixed to the end of the noun rather than placed in front. In Spanish the apple is la manzana. In Romania this is marul, which is composed of mar (apple) plus the definite article. Here are the numbers in Romanian from one to ten:


Unlike in other Romance languages, the word for four begins with a (Spanish quatro and French quatre) and the word for ten begins with a (Spanish diez and French dix). Distinguishing features of Romanian include three genders for nouns and postnominal definite articles. However, the numbers illustrate the similarity of Romanian to other Romance languages.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Prune Tart

This Agen prune tart is delicious and doesn't take so long to make. Agen is located in the southwest of France. Here is the recipe:


1 cup flour
7 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sugar
5 tablespoons water
pinch of salt


400 grams pitted prunes
1 egg
6 tablespoons icing sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup cream
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar

Let the prunes soak in boiling water for half an hour.
Prepare the pastry.
Let it rest for an hour and then roll it to fit the pan.
Grease and flour the pan before adding the pastry.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Drain the prunes and add them to the pastry.
Sprnkle two tablespoons of sugar over the prunes.
Bake for twently minutes.
Mix the egg with the icing sugar, 1 tablespoon of flour and the cream.
Add the cinnamon.
If you wish, you can also add a bit of Armagnac.
Pour over the prunes and bake another 25 minutes.
Sprinkle with vanilla sugar.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

False Friends in Spanish and Portuguese

Spanish and Portuguese are closely related. However, they have a number of false friends. Here is a list with the Spanish word on the left and the Portuguese on the right:

cadera (hip) cadeira (chair)
cena (supper) cena (scene)
doce (twelve) doce (sweet)
exquisito (exquisite) esquisito (unusual)
largo (long) largo (wide)
polvo (dust) polvo (octopus)
pronto (soon) pronto (ready)
rato (while) rato (rat)
rojo (red) roxo (purple)
salsa (sauce) salsa (parsley)

As the list illustrates, certain words in Spanish and Portuguese are false friends. The difference in meaning is often great as in the case of polvo- dust in Spanish and octopus in Portuguese. For this reason it is good to be aware of the false friends in the two languages.

Beer Porridge

Beer porridge is a Dutch dish which is simple to make. Despite the name, it is often served as a drink. Here is the recipe:

2 cups milk
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup dark beer
1 tablespoon sugar

Bring two cups of milk to a simmer.
Dissolve the flour in two tablespoons of milk.
Add to the warm milk.
Bring the milk to a boil and stir until the mixture thickens.
Lower the heat and stir in the sugar and beer.
Mix well and cook a minute longer.
Serve warm in mugs or bowls.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Latest Poem

Here is my latest poem. I wrote it for my wife's birthday.

My Wife

It was cloudy, it was rainy,
Nearly dinner time when we met.
From this moment began our story
With background weather grey and wet.

Who knew what would come from this encounter?
Who could say that marriage was near?
But after our first day together
My heart told me to reappear.

With every moment spent with you,
In conversation and adventure,
Every moment felt so new
And our love deepened further.

I remember well our time together.
You are my day, my night, my life.
Days with you are filled with wonder.
I am proud to call you my wife.

My poem has four stanzas with four verses each. The rhyme scheme is abab cdcd efef ghgh. The second stanzas begins with two questions. The title of the poem appears in the final two words.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Distribution of English Phonemes

The distribution of English phonemes varies. Many phonemes can occur word-initially and word-finally, but others only occur word-initially or word-finally. Let us look at the distribution of various phonemes in English.

The velar nasal of sing only occurs word-finally. Unlike the bilabial nasal of me and the alveolar nasal of now, the velar nasal never occurs word-initially. It is the case that this phoneme never occurs word-initially in European languages.

The glottal fricative of house never occurs word-finally. English once had a velar fricative in words such as night, but this is no longer the case. In German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian, glottal fricatives are also restricted to word-initial position.

The voiced interdental fricative of the can occur word-initially and word-finally, but it is more common in word-initial position. An example of the voiced interdental fricative in word-final position is bathe.

The lax vowels of end and it occur word-initially and word-medially, but not word-finally. However, this is not true for all dialects of English because in certain dialects, the high front unrounded lax vowel occurs in words such as happy,

The lax vowel of good never occurs word-initially or word-finally. It occurs after a word-initial consonant such as look and should. It has a much more restricted distribution than the tense vowel of boot.

The examples illustrate that English phonemes occur in different environments. The phonemes with restricted environments are marked. Thus the lax vowel of look is a marked vowel, but the vowel of boot is unmarked. The distribution of phonemes varies not only in English but in fact in all languages.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Resignation after 11 moves

In a game of speed chess, my opponent resigned after my eleventh move. I forced his bishop to retreat, which took away the escape square for his rook. When it was clear he couldn't save his rook, he resigned. My opponent was Starianovea of South Korea, who played white. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 c5
2. Bc4 e6

White develops the bishop early. I play e6 so that I can later play d5.

3. e6 Nc6

Black prevents d5.

4. Nf3 a6
5. a4 f6

Black prevents b5.

6. exf Nxf6
7. d3 Be7
8. Bg5 0-0
9. Bxf6 Bxf6

Black's move is very committal. My bishop now has control of the f6-a1 diagonal.

10.  0-0 d5

I can play Bxb2, but I want to drive back the bishop so that the rook loses its only escape square.

11. Ba2 Bxb2

White blunders. He should play Bb3 to give his rook an escape square. By playing Bb3, he loses his rook.

Down a pawn and unable to save his rook, white resigns. His eleventh move leads to the loss of his rook and his ninth move gives me control of an important diagonal. In a difficult position, white decides to resign early.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Strawberry Cake

There are many recipes for strawberry cake. This Swedish recipe is easy and very tasty. Here is the recipe:

8 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon lemon peel
2 cups strawberries
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla sugar
1 cup flour

Melt the butter.
Butter a pan and coat with breadcrumbs.
Chop the strawberries into small pieces.
Mix the eggs and the sugar.
Add the baking powder and vanilla sugar.
Now add the flour, melted butter and lemon peel.
Mix well.
Put in the pan.
Place the chopped strawberries on top.
Bake at 175 degrees Celsius for 35 minutes or until the cake has a golden colour.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

French Influence Of English

The French language has strongly influenced English. During the Norman occupation, around 10,000 words were incorporated into English and more than half of them are still in use today. This influence extends not only to vocabulary, but also to pronunciation and word order.

Many French words and words of French origin are used in English. Here is a small list:

carte blanche
cordon bleu
deja vu
double entendre
haute cuisine
je ne sais quoi
joie de vivre
noblesse oblige
nouveau riche

French has also influenced English pronunciation. Words such as vol-au-vent have a nasalized vowel not present in native English words. Old English had the voiceless fricatives of for, she, sit and three, but French added the voiced counterparts of mirage, the, valley and zone. 

Another area of French influence is word order. The compounnds secretary-general and surgeon general retain the word order typical of French rather than the adjective + noun sequence used in English.

The English language exhibits many signs of French influence. These can be seen in many words as well as word order and pronunciation. Despite this reality, many English speakers are not fully aware of the extent to which French has influenced English.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Italian Words with a Final Consonant

Most Italian words end with a vowel. However, this is not the case for all words. Here is a list of Italian words which end with a consonant:

ananas (pineapple)
con (with)
est (east)
film (film)
in (in)
non (not)
nord (north)
ovest (west)
per (for)
sud (south)

Word-final consonants also occur as a result of apocope. For example, the word bello means beautiful, but in a beautiful dream, this becomes un bel sogno. The word for sea is mare, but in Mediterranean Sea, this becomes Mar Mediterraneo. Apocope is also common in poetry.

Italian has few words that end in a vowel. In the list, the words are prepositions or borrowed words such as ananas and film. The Italian language has fewer words with a final consonant than the other Romance languages.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Lenition of /k/ in Liverpool English

The accent of Liverpool is a distinct English accent. Of the features associated with the accent, one is lenition of the /k/. This occurs word-finally and in certain speakers also word-medially.

An example of lenition of the [k] occurs in the word back. In standard English the final sound is [k] but in Liverpool English this becomes either [kx] or [x]. Lenition can also occur word-medially. For example, the word chicken has a word-medial [kx] or [x] in the English of many speakers of Liverpool English.

The word-final /k/ lenition of Liverpool English bears resemblances to German. For example, the German words for book and cook are Buch and Koch. Lenition is a weakening process and is common in many languages. In the Liverpool accent, the /k/ never lenites word-initially but it can lenite word-medially and categorically lenites word-finally.

Monday, November 6, 2017


Antonyms are words which express opposite meanings. They are found in binary relationships such as big/small, long/short and possible/impossible.  Antonyms are pairs in a set of opposites. They can be classified into three types- gradable, complementary and relational.

Gradable antonyms are antonyms with meanings which lie on a continuous spectrum. For example, hot and cold are gradable antonyms because they lie at extreme ends of the temperature spectrum. Between hot and cold we can add warm.

Complementary antonyms have meanings which do not lie on a continuous spectrum. The existence of one excludes the other. For example, dead and alive are complementary antonyms because they are the only words used to describe life. If A is dead, he/she cannot be alive and likewise if A is alive, he/she cannot be dead. Life and death cannot be expressed in degrees. Other examples of complementary antonyms include entrance/exit, off/on and occupied/vacant.

Relational antonyms express a relationship. The word student has no lexical opposite, but in the context of a relationship, the opposite is teacher.  Other examples include buy/sell, husband/wife and doctor/patient.

Antonyms are word pairs which express an incompatible relationship. One word in the pair entails that it is not the other. The relationship between the two words is known as opposition. Antonyms can be further divided into three types.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Woman/Women in New Zealand English

The words woman and woman are pronounced differently. The difference is heard in the first syllable of the two words. However, in New Zealand English, many speakers pronounce the two words identically.

New Zealand English is a dialect which permits schwas in stressed position. As a result, the first syllable of women can be pronounced with a schwa. This produces a word which is pronounced very similarly to woman. Perhaps because of this similarity, many New Zealanders have neutralized the distinction of the two words and now pronounce them the same.

In New Zealand English, the words woman and women tend to be pronounced identically. This makes New Zealand English distinct from other varieties of English. The pronunciation of the two words is evidence of language change.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Schwa

The schwa is a mid central vowel sound. In English this sound normally occurs in unstressed positions, but in certain languages it occurs more frequently as a stressed vowel. The name schwa is sometimes used for a neutral and unstressed vowel that is not necessarily mid central.

The word schwa comes from Hebrew. It was first used by the linguist Eduard Sievers in the 19th century. The spelling is of German origin.

The schwa is the most common vowel sound of English. It is a reduced vowel which is found in many unstressed syllables. A short vowel, the vowel quality varies depending on the adjacent consonants. In most varieties of English, it occurs almost exclusively in unstressed syllables. However, in New Zealand English, the high front vowel of words such as sit has shifted and now has a vowel quality similar to that of a schwa. This is true for many speakers of South African English as well.

In non-rhotic varieties of English, the schwa is common in word-final position in words such as here, there and pure. The schwa serves to distinguish words such as he and here. 

French has a vowel similar to the schwa, but the French vowel is rounded and less central. In fact, the French vowel has a more advanced articulation than the schwa of English. It also occurs in unstressed position, but languages which allow stressed schwas include Afrikaans, Albanian, Bulgarian and Slovenian.

Many English speakers delete the schwa in certain positions. However, deletion is variable. Deletion of the schwa can occur in words such as interesting, family and memory.

The schwa is a common vowel not only in English but in many other languages. It usually occurs in unstressed positions, but a number of languages also allow the schwa in stressed positions. It is classified as mid central unrounded and reduced vowel.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Word-Final Obstruent Devoicing

Word-final obstruent devoicing is a phonological process which occurs in many languages. Though it does not occur in English, English obstruents are partly devoiced when word final. Languages with word-final obstruent devoicing neutralize the contrast between voiced and voiceless obstruents.

Languages with word-final obstruent devoicing include Afrikaans, Bulgarian, Catalan, Czech, Dutch, German, Maltese, Polish, Russian, and Slovak. Though common in the Slavic languages, it does not exist in Croatian, Serbian or Ukrainian. Among the Germanic languages, it is not found in Danish, English, Norwegian or Swedish.

Languages with word-final obstruent devoicing often have homophones. For example, the Dutch words hard (hard) and hart (heart) are pronounced identically. The same is true for the German pairs Rad (wheel) and Rat (advice).

Word-final obstruent devoicing is common in many languages. Many languages with word-final obstruent devoicing also have syllable-final devoicing, but in certain cases only if the following obstruent is voiceless. Catalan is unique among Romance languages because it exhibits word-final obstruent devoicing.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Yogurt Cake

Yogurt cake is delicious and easy to make. This French cake doesn't take long to prepare. Here is the recipe:

3/4 cup yogurt
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Butter a cake pan.
Put the yogurt in a bowl.
Add the sugar, vanilla sugar and the eggs.
Mix well.
Add the flour, baking powder, salt and oil and mix.
Put in the pan and bake for approximately 35 minutes.

Monday, October 30, 2017

False Friends in German and English

German and English are both Germanic languages. They share many similar words such as Wasser (water), und (and) and Haus (house). However, they also have a number of false friends- words that appear similar but have different meanings. The following words look identical but differ greatly in meaning. In German all nouns are capitalized. Here is the list:

bald (soon)
Boot (boat)
Brief (letter)
fast (almost)
Gift (poison)
Hut (hat)
Kind (child)
Rat (advice)
Rock (skirt)
Wand (wall)

The list illustrates that German words are sometimes identical in spelling to English but can have very different meanings. The German word for boat is similar to the English counterpart, but is spelt like the English word boot. To master German, English learners need to be aware of the false friends that exist in the two languages.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Variable Pronunciation in French Words

A number of French words have variable pronunciation. This is due to the environment in which they occur. Let us look at a few examples.

The words six and dix mean six and ten. The pronunciation of these words varies. If they occur in isolation or at the end of a sentence, they are pronounced [sis] and  [dis]. However, when they occur before a vowel as in six enfants/dix enfants (six children/ten children), they are pronounced [siz] and [diz]. When these words are followed by a word which begins with a consonant, they are pronounced [si] and [di] as in six tables/dix tables (six tables/ten tables).

We can choose /sis/ and /dis/ for the underlying representations. The reason is that these forms are not phonetically conditioned. In the case of [si] and [di], we have deletion and in [siz] and [diz] we have voicing assimilation. Here are the rules:

[sis] --> [siz] / _ V
[sis} --> [si]/ _ C

[dis] --> [diz]/ _ V
[dis] --> [di] / _ C

The word les (the) is pronounced [le]. However, when it's followed by a word with an initial vowel, it's pronounced [lez]. This preserves a CV syllable structure and avoids VV. Here is the rule:

[le] --> [lez] / _ V

In isolation the word bon  (good) is pronounced [bõ]. However, when [bõ] is followed by a word with an initial vowel, the pronunciation becomes [bon]. This preserves a CV syllable structure and thus avoids two successive vowels.

Certain French words have more than one pronunciation. The underlying representation is the one which isn't phonetically conditioned. Once the underlying representation has been determined, rules can be created to derive the other pronunciations.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Analysis of Assimilation in Dutch

Dutch has many examples of assimilation. Without question, assimilation is an important feature of the language. Two types of assimilation can be identified: progressive and regressive.

In the word zakdoek (handkerchief) the /k/ becomes /g/. This is an example of regressive assimilation. However, in the word drijfzand (quicksand) the /z/ becomes /s/. This is an example of progressive assimilation. Dutch also has a word-final devoicing rule which means that a word such as hond (dog) is pronounced with a word-final /t/. However, in compounds with a combination of a voiceless plosive and a voiced plosive, the voiceless plosive becomes voiced as in zakdoek. When a voiceless fricative is followed by a voiced one, the voiced fricative becomes voiceless as in drijfzand.

With certain cases, however, two analyses are possible. For example, zandbak (sandpit) is pronounced with a /d/. This can be analyzed as regressive assimilation. The reason is that zand (sand) is pronounced with a word-final /t/. This is the result of word-final devoicing.  The underlying representation is /zand/ and the phonetic representation is [zant]. The process can be illustrated as follows:

UR /zand/ + /bak/
word-final devoicing /zantbak/
PR regressive assimilation [zandbak]

However, it is also possible to argue that the voiced /d/ blocks word-final devoicing. If this is the case, the underlying representation is the same as the phonetic representation. This can be illustrated as follows:

UR /zandbak/
PR [zandbak]

Another example is the word bloedproef (blood test). In this compound the /d/ becomes /t/. This can be analyzed as a case of regressive assimilation. The process can be illustrated as follows:

UR /bloedproef/
PR Regressive Assimilation [bloetproef]

However, we can also argue that the surface form is the result of word-final devoicing. The voiceless /p/ fails to block the process. If this the case, the process can be illustrated as follows:

UR /bloedproef/
word-final devoicing /bloet/ + /proef/
PR [bloetproef]

Both analyses are plausible. However, phonologists tend to prefer the most elegant solution. In the word zandbak, the most elegant solution is to say the underlying representation surfaces because the voiced plosive of bak prevents word-final devoicing. This requires fewer rules than the other analysis. If we accept this analysis, we must say that the /t/ of bloedproef is the result of regressive analysis and not word-final devoicing.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Marry-merry-Mary Merger

The Marry-merry-Mary merger consists of a merger of the vowels before intervocalic /r/ in the three words. The merger is common in North America but rare in other varieties of English. It is found in all of Canada except Montreal, which pronounces marry distinctly.

For speakers who lack the merger, marry has the vowel sound of mat and Mary has a longer vowel sound than merry. In the United States, speakers who lack the merger are primarily found in the northeast, in cities such as New York, Boston and Philadelphia. A merger of only the words merry and Mary is found in Montreal and the southern United States. Speakers who have the full Marry-merry-Mary merger pronounce each vowel with the sound of the word met.

Those who have the Marry-merry-Mary merger are usually rhotic speakers, and those who do not are usually non-rhotic. Philadelphia and Scotland, areas which lack the merger, are primarily non-rhotic and thus an exception. In certain cases, speakers have a merger in only two words. Of the American speakers who have a partial merger, the most common is the merger of Mary and merry.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Resignation after 14 Moves

In a game of speed chess my opponent resigned after only 14 moves. He was  Tlep222 from the Vatican, who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. f4 Bc5

The moves exf and d6 are more common for black.

3. Nf3 exf
4. d4 Bb6

Black has to retreat the bishop at the expense of the development of his pieces.

5. Bxf4 Qf6

The black queen attacks my bishop, but this move is premature. A developing move such as Nf6 is preferable.

6. Be3 Nc6
7. c3 Nge7
8. Bc4 d6
9. 0-0 0-0
10. Ng4 Qg6

Black must move the queen, but the f7 square is vulnerable.

11. Nxf7 Rxf7
12. Bxf7+ Qxf7

Black must lose his queen.

13. Rxf7 Kxf7
14. Qh5+

In this difficult position black decides to resign. He plays aggressively, but questionable moves such as Bc5 and Qf6 worsen his position. This leads to his quick resignation.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

False Friends in Italian and Spanish

Italian and Spanish are Romance languages with many similar words. However, the two languages also have a number of false friends, words which look similar but have different meanings. Here is a list with the Italian word on the left and the Spanish word on the right:

barato (cheated) barato (cheap)
burro (butter) burro (donkey)
guardare (look at) guardar (guard, keep)
largo (wide) largo (long)
officina (workshop) oficina (office)
pronto (ready) pronto (soon)
salire (go up) salir (go out)
sembrare (seem) sembrar (seed, sow)
subire (undergo) subir (go up)
topo (mouse) topo (mole)

In the list of false friends, some are spelt identically. In a few cases, the Italian word ends with a vowel as in guardare/guardar and salire/salir. Though Italian and Spanish have a high degree of lexical similarity, they also have words that look similar but are not.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Minor Bird

The American poet Robert Frost wrote many famous poems. A Minor Bird is a beautiful short poem. Here is is:

A Minor Bird

I have wished a bird would fly away
And not sing by my house all day;

Have clapped my hands at him from the door
When it seemed as if I could bear no more.

The fault must partly have been in me.
The bird was not to blame for his key.

And of course there must be something wrong
In wanting to silence any song.

The poem has eight verses and the rhyme scheme is aa bb cc dd. Through the poem, Robert Frost expresses mankind's inability to appreciate nature. The speaker comes to the realization that he cannot fault the bird for singing and should not try to stop it.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Differences between American and British Punctuation

Though similar, there are some differences between American and British punctuation. These differences extend to dates, titles, time and quotes. Here are examples:

For writing the date, Americans write the month first followed by the day and the year. On the other hand, the British list the day first. For example, December 31st is 12/31/2017 in American English, but it's 31/12/2017 in British English.

In American English, titles are used with a period. This is the opposite of British English, which doesn't use periods. For examples, Americans write Mr. Williams and Dr. Jones, but the British write Mr Williams and Dr Jones.

With time, the American system uses colons, and the British system uses periods. Americans write 1:30 and the British write 1.30.

Quotes are also different. American English uses double quotation marks for initial quotations and then single quotation marks for a quotation inside the quotation. British English does the opposite. Here are the two styles:

(American punctuation) "I love the words of Martin Luther King," said the professor, " like 'I have a dream.'"

(British punctuation) 'I love the words of Martin Luther King', said the professor, 'like "I have a dream."'

American and British punctuation are very similar. In fact, the similarity is greater than in vocabulary and pronunciation. However, it is good to be aware of the differences.

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.

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