Languages Articles

Folk Dress and Folk Etymology

June 27, 2017 9:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Title Image: Traditional Romanian dress. The focus of this blog is the linguistic phenomenon known as folk etymology. Last week, a well-known pharmacy in Romania launched a campaign that drew my attention. Farmacia Catena advertised that from June 22 to June 24, if you come into one of their stores... read more

Two Observations on the Japanese Language

June 13, 2017 9:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

日 ‘sun’ + 本 ‘origin/tree’ = Japan         日本語= Japanese Language I’m in Japan now. Sure, I can say ohayō gozaimasu ‘good morning’, arigatō gozaimasu ‘thank you very much’ and order basic food items, e.g. I have shōchū  rokku ‘(Japanese) vodka on the rocks,’ down. Beyond that, I... read more

Geneva: Thoughts on Relative Fame

January 20, 2017 10:22 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Fame, what is it? I’m in Geneva to give a talk at a linguistics conference with an Atelier Saussure-Chomsky (atelier = workshop). A good reason such a conference is held in Geneva is because the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) lived and taught here. The American linguist Noam Chomsky... read more

English Settings II: British Slang

December 23, 2016 9:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

British Slang is a sequel to English Settings I: Britishisms. I’ll start where I started before: So you’re an American novelist and you’ve chosen to set your story in England. That’s great. But now here’s your problem: English. In my earlier blog I said that British slang was a category... read more

English Settings I: Britishisms

December 20, 2016 5:05 pm Published by 2 Comments

So you’re an American novelist and you’ve decided to set your story in England. That’s great. But now here’s your problem: English. You need to get a handle on Britishisms. If your story is set in France it’s perfectly legit for your characters not to speak French if they happen... read more

vocal fry/creaky voice

Vocal Fry/Creaky Voice: Repost

September 22, 2016 9:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Note: Vocal Fry/Creaky Voice was first posted earlier this year. I am reposting it because when I was in Romania over the summer a friend described to me a new show one of her friends was watching. I said in some astonishment, “I think you’re talking about Flip or Flop.”... read more

Balkan Grammar – a Sprachbund

August 5, 2016 9:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Strange as it may sound, there is such a thing as Balkan grammar. The term Sprachbund ‘language league/area’ was first coined to refer to the unusual language situation in the Balkans. (Linguistic note: the word balkan is Turkish and means something like ‘wooded mountain chain’.) A glance at the map... read more

English and the Romanian Language

July 1, 2016 9:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

I’m putting the Romanian language at issue here. In Chapter 12 of Languages in the World we introduce Jean-Louis Calvet’s gravitational model comparing the different “weights” of languages across the world, each language having an attractive power, like stars and planets. The heavier the language, the more likely people are... read more