pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

…you see it written in ASCII and your mind automatically fills in the appropriate diacritics. (In some cases, even guessing them based on some kind of statistical process.)

I shall have to make some time to brush up on my Slovak before I head to SES again this summer, but probably not till after my Cornish exam in June as I don’t want to get mixed up.

Recently, Maltese has started to tickle the back of my brain again as well. We’ll see which language will be the next to take hold of me. Though currently I’m hoping to stick with Cornish till at least next year and take the level 3 exam then.

pne: A happy dolphin emerging from water (amused)

John Cowan posted this list of self-describing linguistic terms in a comment on this blog entry:

pyalatyalizyation, methatesis or metasethis, redup-reduplication, frikhathive, schwə, positionpost, teefoicink, anology, triephthouong, superlativissimus, diminutivito, ancicipation, rules of redundancy rules, { reduced grud : zr grd : e grede : o grod }, sekont sount shiftz, { ebleut : ümläut }, folk-entomology or folk ate-a-mology, frönting, voized, fəˈnɛtʰɪk, suffix-ed, pre-fixed, epenethesis, rhotarism, haspʰiration, gemmination, apfrication, noun, noun phrase, adjectival, adverbially, conjunction and/or disjunction, "This is a complex sentence because it has a subordinate clause", genitive’s, gloʔʔalization, vowol harmono, to back formate, dithsimilation, anapityxis, execrescence, metan alysis, agglutinatinglanguages, apfricate, -pheresis, aphas...., diephthoung, kpoarticulated stop, compēsatory lengthening, condamination, diäeresis, díäçrît’ǐč, digræph, duplication, duplication, monophtong, nãsąlĩzątĩǫn, lharyngeal, mprenasalization, weagening or lenizhion, relick form, infuckingfixation, sibboleth, pro clitic, and derivationalizationalize; also, from the field of writing, lipgraphy and dittotography.

I'm much amused :)

Accents of English

Saturday, 9 May 2009 13:47
pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

I'm reading Wells's Accents of English series right now, which I got as a present from my father a while back.

It's comforting to me that my pronunciation is mostly fairly close to RP, though it's interesting to see the little details in which it differs—the two most common influences are words that I learned from their spelling and whose pronunciation I guessed incorrectly on the one hand, and influence from American (which doesn't make quite the same phoneme distinctions) on the other hand. There are also a few things that are probably from "near-RP" (Wells's term), such as "happy tensing", and a fair number of cases where there are two (or more) RP variants, of which I take a less-common one.

So my speech is not really quite RP, but near enough that I'm happy with my speech—and also happy to pass on the way I speak to Amy.

The only artificialisms in my speech that I can think of are pronouncing "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc." with a final short -y as in "windy, thirsty"—which I gave up after a while—and pronouncing something like [hw] for orthographic "wh". Which I'm starting to think I should probably abandon, not only because Amy doesn't seem to be picking it up anyway, but also because wh-lessness isn't really stigmatised so even if I think it's nifty, it's a bit pretentious. And, after reading a bit of Wells, because he says that in England, only the speech-conscious do it; it's not part of (nearly) anyone's natural speech. On the other hand, I've been doing it for so long that the habit has become more ingrained, and pronouncing "white" as "wight" feels wrong now! Even though when I speak quickly (and don't have enough time to "fix" my speech), it comes out like that anyway....

The one thing that genuinely surprised me was to find that supposedly, "pour" is an exact homophone of "pore", and for non-rhotics such as myself also of "paw". I'd always thought it would rhyme with "poor" and "tour". (Though of course, for many native speakers, NORTH and CURE merge anyway, making the point moot: "poor, pour, pore" will all sound exactly the same.)

Is it really "Pore me a drink"? How odd.

And apparently, "lather" has a long A sound as in "rather" or "father". Which dictionary.com didn't agree with, and my Penguin English Dictionary only lists as an alternative after the short-A version as in "gather", which is how I pronounce it.

Fun stuff.

'nke

Monday, 23 March 2009 09:02
pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

The common word for "thank you" in German is "danke", pronounced as two syllables, something like [ˈdaŋ.kə].

But in casual speech, this is occasionally reduced to a mumbled sound along the lines of [ŋ.kə]... but is it really two syllables? When I thought about it this morning, I wonder whether what we have here is actually a prenasalised velar stop, so something more like [ᵑkə] (or [ŋkə], if that doesn't show up), with one syllable. (I don't think it's usually a plain velar stop, [kə]—I think there's always at least some degree of prenasalisation.)

Prenasalised stops in German... whodathunkit? (Though it's not a phonemic one, granted.)

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

I think Amy hasn't yet grasped the subtle difference between the mass-noun and count-noun senses of noise.

To see what I mean, compare When I drag this stick along the ground, it makes lots of noises (count; German "viele Geräusche") and When I drag this stick along the ground, it makes lots of noise (mass; German "viel Lärm/Krach").

Subtly different meanings of "noise" in each case.

And I bet many of you native speakers have never thought about the distinction, just used it automatically :)


In unrelated news, I just renewed Amy's kindergarten coupon, so her kindergarten place will continue to get subsidised by the city. And we upped the number of hours from 4 to 5 (the maximum you're entitled to—if you want more, you either have to pay for the place yourself or prove that you need longer hours e.g. because both parents are working or are attending language courses or whatever) and added dinner, since she said several times that she'd like to eat dinner in kindergarten with the other children.

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

So... "rhotic" has the GOAT vowel ("rhoatic")? Why'd nobody ever tell me?

(Prompted by the 2 September entry of John Wells's phonetic blog.)

I suppose that's yet another word that I mispronounce because I've only seen it in writing.

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

I heard from a Swiss a sentence along the lines of "Ich bin froh, hab' ich ein Auto" where I would have said (if I understood her correctly from context) "Ich bin froh, dass ich ein Auto habe". ("I'm glad I have a car.")

It made me think about similar constructions; I would say, for example, "Ich wäre froh, hätte ich ein Auto" alongside "Ich wäre froh, wenn ich ein Auto hätte" but not *"Wäre ich froh, hätte ich ein Auto" yet "Wäre ich froh, wenn ich ein Auto hätte". (Actually, the asterisked sentence is fine but would mean something else: not "I'd be happy if I had a car" but "If I were happy, I'd have a car".)

But I think that sort of thing only works in the conditional for me. Interesting to see different constructions in different regional varieties of German.

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

I was just reading the German Wikipedia article on Grammar of Rumantsch Grischun when I came across the section on "collective plurals", in which it says:

Ein typisch rätoromanisches Phänomen ist der Kollektivplural. Er tritt auf bei männlichen Substantiven, die häufig im Plural vorkommen. Er verhält sich wie ein feminines Substantiv im Singular.

  • il mail -> der Apfel
  • ils mails -> die Äpfel (zählbar, nach Mengenangaben)
  • la maila -> die Äpfel (nicht zählbar, allgemein)

That is, some masculine nouns form a regular (masculine) plural but also a collective plural (called "a typically Rhaeto-Romance phænomenon" here) which looks like a singular feminine noun.

Which is (as regards the grammatical genders) pretty much the opposite of what happens in Maltese, as I understand it: the examples there would be:

  • it-tuffieħa (fem.) -> the apple
  • it-tuffieħiet (fem.pl.) -> the apples (e.g. counted plural, after numbers: 3 tuffieħiet)
  • it-tuffieħ (masc.) -> the apples (not specifically counted; apples in general)

Similarly with ħobż "bread (as a material)", ħobża "a (loaf of) bread"; ġobon "cheese", ġobna "a cheese"; ward "roses", warda "a rose"; etc.

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

I just read a page of Greek jokes, and one of them went like this:

Αν θέλεις η γυναίκα σου να σε ακούει και να δίνει την δέουσα προσοχή σε αυτά που λες τότε ξεκίνα να παραμιλάς στον ύπνο σου.

And the beginning of that made me think: specifically, the fact that «η γυναίκα σου» was in the nominative case rather than the accusative.

It sounded correct to me, though, so I took it as one difference between modern Greek and some other languages. For example, I imagine Latin would have used a.c.i. (accusative with infinitive) here: something grammatically along the lines of “If you(nom.) want your wife(acc.) to listen(inf.) to you…”. Which is pretty much how it works in English, too, for that matter! (Compare the equivalent sentence with a pronoun: “If you want her to listen to you, …” which has “her” in the objective or “accusative” case rather than the subjective or “nominative”, and has the “to” typical of English “infinitives”. [Some grammatical terms in scare quotes since they don’t fit completely for English.])

Compare also the structure in English “If you want that your wife listens to you” and the Greek (“If you want your wife that [she] listens to you”)—English puts “your wife” after “that” but Greek puts «η γυναίκα σου» after «να». (I think another way to say it would be to put the subject after the verb: «Αν θέλεις να σε ακούει η γυναίκα σου…».) German, of course, puts the verb right at the end: „Wenn du möchtest, dass deine Frau dir zuhört, …“ = “If you want, that your wife to you listens, …”.

On the other hand, the English and German on the one hand, and the Greek on the other hand, aren't really equivalent since «να» is not a conjunction: English and German is along the lines of “If you want [that [your wife listens to you]]”/„Wenn du möchtest, [dass [deine Frau dir zuhört]]“, while Greek is more like «Αν θέλεις [η γυναίκα σου να σε ακούει]» with “subjunctive” in the second clause but no explicit conjunction. If you wanted one, it would probably be something like «Αν θέλεις [ότι [η γυναίκα σου σε ακούει]], …» which is more parallel to the English and German, but the version with «να» sounds more natural to me—just as the English aci construction sounds more natural to me than the one with the conjunction. (German also has aci constructions—for example, „Ich sah ihn[acc.] essen[inf.]“ = “I saw him[acc.] eat[inf.]”—but not with “to want” as the main verb.)


Anyway, it was interesting to see how different languages work!

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pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)
Philip Newton

June 2015

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