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Month: December 2015

Will synthetic language speakers realize how inconvenient their mother tongues are after studying some analytic language?

By: | Post date: 2015-12-30 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Other Languages

Sure, I did. But I’m a linguist, so I don’t count. 🙂 Not that agglutinative/flexional is the same thing as analytic/synthetic, but Esperanto did spoil me for language learning in my teens, and I have read a Turkish grammar just for aesthetic enjoyment. And the most joy in the historical grammar of Greek is tracing […]

Why do the same letters in English have radically different pronunciations in different words?

By: | Post date: 2015-12-28 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: English, Linguistics

There are, not so much rules, but tendencies for why letters are pronounced so crazy-different in different dialects of English, and so differently from Early Middle English. Unfortunately you need to go through a lot of historical phonology to make sense of it. Fortunately Wikipedia has a decent summary of both the historical phonology, and […]

What impact did Crete have on Ancient Greece?

By: | Post date: 2015-12-28 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Ancient Greek, Culture

As Toby Williams said, significant in pre-Classical Greece—after all, the Mycenaeans got their writing system from the Minoans, and there are echoes of the old Cretan dominance in the myths around Crete. In Classical times, not much at all. A couple of philosophers (including Epimenides and his paradox), but Crete was a backwater. That continued […]

Why does the word ‘correlation’ have two r’s?

By: | Post date: 2015-12-23 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: English, Linguistics

The Latin prefix for “with” was con-, but like other Latin prefixes, its final consonant changed to match the following consonant. So com-pare, col-late, cor-rupt. The prefix in- does the same: im-port, il-literate, ir-relevant. Now, another variant of con- was co-, before h and vowels: co-herent, co-agulate. English generalised this version of the prefix into […]

Spelling: Why can’t we officially remove silent letters from English words and otherwise make English more consistent?

By: | Post date: 2015-12-23 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: English, Writing Systems

It’s not just that the words came from languages where the silent letters used to be pronounced. It’s also that silent letters were reintroduced by pedants, to remind people of the languages they came from, though they had long since passed out of pronunciation. Latin debitum went to French and Middle English dette (via *debte). […]

What was the characteristics of the Greek dialects that were once spoken in western Anatolia?

By: | Post date: 2015-12-20 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

I assume OP is asking about the West Anatolian dialects of Modern Greek, not Ancient Greek. 1. Not studied enough. 2. Not old. Pontic and Cappadocian are relic dialects, cut off from the rest of Greek for a millenium, and they are both archaic in phonology and morphology, and influenced by Turkish to a great […]

What is the etymology of the name suffix “maus” seen in the name “Oenomaus”/Oenamaus” where the prefix “oeno” stands for “wine”?

By: | Post date: 2015-12-20 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Ancient Greek, Linguistics

The book reviewed here: Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2008.07.58  proposes μέμαα, μέμονα “lust for”, “be eager”, “rage”. (The verb is related to mēnis, the rage of Achilles.) So, “striving for wine”. The book is about poetic etymologies, so it’s not clear to me this would be a linguistically correct derivation; but looks like it’s right, […]

Evolutionary changes often hold improvements out of natural selection. Does the memetic evolution of languages hold any improvements, and if so, in what sense?

By: | Post date: 2015-12-19 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: General Language, Linguistics

Very, very good question, and I don’t know if I will answer it satisfactorily. Yes, language evolves, and yes, particular features of language are “naturally selected” because they count as an improvement. The catch is that humans have conflicting criteria for what is desirable in human language. These seem to result in an equilibrium: languages […]

What does the Portuguese language sound like to foreigners?…

By: | Post date: 2015-12-18 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Other Languages

In my considered opinion, Portuguese sounds like a drowsy headcold. I randomly surveyed a representative sample of objective language critics (my wife), and have the additional answer “tongue-twisted”. Answered 2015-12-18 [Originally posted on http://quora.com/What-does-the-Portuguese-language-sound-like-to-foreigners/answer/Nick-Nicholas-5]

Do languages other than Turkish have intensified adjectives? How are these intensified adjectives constructed? I am especially interested in the case of Japanese.

By: | Post date: 2015-12-18 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

http://www.turkishlanguage.co.uk/intadjlist.htm To add to Achilleas Vortselas’ answer for Greek, The prefix παν- “all” is another intensifier, which was also in use in Ancient Greek. So πάμμαυρος “all-black” (which is not ancient), παμμάταιος “all-vain” (which is). Greek also has superlative adjectives (so μαυρότατος “blackest”). And a colloquial (negative) intensifying prefix is in fact… καρα-, which is […]

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