Category: English

Counterpoint: Against Derivational Morphology

By: | Post date: 2017-11-11 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: English, Linguistics

Matt Treyvaud has refuted my argument in In Defence of Derivational Morphology, in the following comment which I’m happy to repost: “Speciesism” was a better choice than “specism” for the English word. Even an English speaker who was perfectly fluent in Latin would have chosen “speciesism” if they had any taste at all. To the […]

Does “nigh” have the same etymology as “near”?

By: | Post date: 2017-08-16 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: English, Linguistics

The five answers given quote the facts, but I’m afraid they don’t understand the facts. Nigh comes from the original Old English word for “near”. Near comes from the Old Norse for “nearer”. It came to England with the Vikings. They are not the same etymology. They are related (cognate) words, just as shirt from […]

Why use the term straight instead of heterosexual?

By: | Post date: 2017-08-16 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: English, Linguistics

Let me answer a different question. As I wrote on A cis lament for the Greek language and How to say transgender in Greek, the Greek language has a Greek term for transgender, diemphylikos. Trans Greeks were involved in coining it. The Greek peak body of LGB (with only token T) uses diemphylikos. Greek trans […]

English spelling is infamously irregular. Is it possible for it to branch into several categories (e.g., Germanic spelling, French spelling, Greek spelling, etc.)?

By: | Post date: 2017-08-13 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: English, Linguistics

Yes indeed. Bear in mind in particular that Greek and Latin fall under the rules of Traditional English pronunciation of Latin. (Greek is almost always borrowed into English via Latin; but there are late exceptions like kudos, not †cydus.) Those rules are not the rules of French words in English. For example, final –e in […]

Why does it seem that the prefixes of compound words end in O?

By: | Post date: 2017-07-29 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Ancient Greek, English, Linguistics

Ancient Greek used connecting vowels between two stems when forming compounds, unless the second stem started with a vowel (e.g. nost-os ‘homecoming’ + algos ‘pain’ > nost-algia). A vowel was also unnecessary if the first part of the compound was a numeral or preposition, which instead had their own optional vowels: tetr(a)– ‘four’, di(a)– ‘through’, […]

What is “does the bear shit in the woods” an example of in language?

By: | Post date: 2017-07-25 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: English, Linguistics

Aside from being a rhetorical question, it is also a Conventional Implicature: the primary meaning of the phrase is “this is obvious”, even though this is not the literal meaning of the phrase, and that meaning replies from Gricean maxims of conversation. (“What does ursine defecation have to do with my question as a counterquestion? […]

What are some examples of obfuscation of language to the point of amusement or downright hilarity?

By: | Post date: 2017-07-24 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: English, Linguistics

Pidgins have limited vocabularies, because they are by their nature sparse languages, and pidgins sound like colonial language babytalk, because paternalism. And some of the more amusing Pidgin coinages, we can be reasonably sure, are the colonials poking fun at the natives yet again, rather than genuinely used circumlocutions. Such as, for example, the notorious […]

Did ASCII and other character sets change the way people think about characters or letters?

By: | Post date: 2017-07-21 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: English, Writing Systems

Nice question! I believe that they have, though this is kind of speculative. ASCII and charsets have cemented the notion of a fixed repertoire of characters available to a language or a context. Specialist printers beforehand did have a little wiggleroom in making up characters for specialist purposes–various iterations of sarcasm marks, one-off diacritics or […]

Why is the “-ic” suffix used much less compared to “-an”,“-ese”,“-ish” suffixes?

By: | Post date: 2017-07-18 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: English, Linguistics

For starters, in the West, Greek affixes were used in scholarship, where it was felt they were more nuanced than what Latin had to offer. Suffixes to express ethnicity were felt to be a less rarefied domain, and English and Latin between them had it covered. For seconds, Greek differentiated between suffixes denoting ethnicity, and […]

Why are so many people today using the word “fuck,” like it’s a common everyday word, and not sparingly, like the vulgar, profane word that it is?

By: | Post date: 2017-07-15 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: English, Linguistics

Quite apart from the changing nature what is considered taboo in the English-speaking world, fuck has undergone weakening though overuse, and has lost its potency. It is simply not as profane as it used to be. This inflation of profanity is a linguistic commonplace: 150 years ago, the profanity to avoid in polite company was […]

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