PDA

View Full Version : English Language Oddities



Cougar
2013-Sep-25, 12:19 AM
I'm not thinking of any particular one at the moment, but I wanted a place to put them as they come up... :)

Gillianren
2013-Sep-25, 02:10 AM
Yesterday, I was asked for clarification as to the grammatical correctness of "the data are." I observed that it is technically always correct, unless "data" is capitalized and refers to the android on Next Gen. Not that I use "data" as a plural any more than most people, but that wasn't what I was asked.

Cookie
2013-Sep-25, 04:16 AM
Two to too...
We have three different ways to spell it!
Four; if you count the numeral...

Romanus
2013-Sep-25, 04:28 AM
Those maddening past participles, e.g., work vs. wrought, drank vs. drunk. Apparently these are relics of a "strong" / "weak" verb distinction that you see in a lot of highly inflected languages (such its Anglo-Saxon ancestor), but not often in modern English.

profloater
2013-Sep-25, 08:46 AM
I am both old fashioned yet recognise the evolution of English however I grate at the the current popularity of "me and him went to the movies" It was and should be "He and I" and in UK English it's the flicks for goodness sake.

Solfe
2013-Sep-25, 11:25 AM
I thought people in the UK stopped speaking English after they kicked the Pilgrims out for wearing belt buckles on their hats and shoes.

Nick Theodorakis
2013-Sep-25, 12:37 PM
That there are so many specific names for collective groups of animals (murder of crows, e.g.).

Nick

Nick Theodorakis
2013-Sep-25, 12:39 PM
Gender-specific names for some professions, but not others: Waitresses, but not bartendresses. Actresses, but not doctresses.

Strange
2013-Sep-25, 02:26 PM
I am both old fashioned yet recognise the evolution of English however I grate at the the current popularity of "me and him went to the movies" It was and should be "He and I"

I have always been annoyed by people correcting my use of "me and John went to the cinema". For every "logical" reason that it should be "I" there is an alternative argument that "me" is acceptable in informal speech. There are very complicated conditions governing when people use nominative and accusative case in coordinated pronouns; it depends on the order of the pronouns, whether one or both are pronouns, whether they are in object or subject position and various other things (as well as the more obvious things like age, class, dialect, etc.)


and in UK English it's the flicks for goodness sake.

Isn't that (a) very dated and (b) American? I don't think I have heard it used (in speech) in my lifetime.

Trebuchet
2013-Sep-25, 02:28 PM
"Tough" "Though" "Through" "Thought"

A different pronunciation of "ough" in each case, none of which makes any sense.

It's what happens when you put together a language from a dozen different sources.

I had a heck of a time typing those four words correctly, by the way.

Strange
2013-Sep-25, 02:29 PM
Yesterday, I was asked for clarification as to the grammatical correctness of "the data are." I observed that it is technically always correct, unless "data" is capitalized and refers to the android on Next Gen. Not that I use "data" as a plural any more than most people, but that wasn't what I was asked.

I suppose we could get into an argument about what "correct" means (etymology versus usage in carefully written/edited text versus speech, etc). But let's not. :)

Strange
2013-Sep-25, 02:34 PM
"Tough" "Though" "Through" "Thought"

Cough. Slough (which can be either sluf (like tough) or sl-rhymes-with-cow depending on the meaning).

caveman1917
2013-Sep-25, 02:58 PM
I am both old fashioned yet recognise the evolution of English however I grate at the the current popularity of "me and him went to the movies" It was and should be "He and I" and in UK English it's the flicks for goodness sake.

One of my UK friends calls it "the pictures".

Strange
2013-Sep-25, 03:23 PM
One of my UK friends calls it "the pictures".

Yes, that is still in common use - hasn't been completely displaced by "the movies".

Not among people of my age, anyway ....

Trebuchet
2013-Sep-25, 04:24 PM
Cough. Slough (which can be either sluf (like tough) or sl-rhymes-with-cow depending on the meaning).

Also pronounced "slew", for a sluggish body of water. That may be the meaning you're rhyming with "cow", however.

Then there are "red", "redd", and "read", all pronounced the same, and "read" and "reed" and "rede", also all pronounced the same. But of course, "read" is the past tense of "read".

Strange
2013-Sep-25, 04:48 PM
Two to too...
We have three different ways to spell it!
Four; if you count the numeral...

Five if you count tutu. :)

Strange
2013-Sep-25, 04:55 PM
Also pronounced "slew", for a sluggish body of water. That may be the meaning you're rhyming with "cow", however.

Probably related at least; the meaning I am familiar with is "marshy ground" (there is a town called Slough in southern England which is named for this).

Kaptain K
2013-Sep-25, 04:57 PM
I love the differences between Brittish and American words for car parts and tools. For example; hood/bonnet, roof/head, trunk/boot, fender/wing, wrench/spaner.

profloater
2013-Sep-25, 05:03 PM
I have always been annoyed by people correcting my use of "me and John went to the cinema". For every "logical" reason that it should be "I" there is an alternative argument that "me" is acceptable in informal speech. There are very complicated conditions governing when people use nominative and accusative case in coordinated pronouns; it depends on the order of the pronouns, whether one or both are pronouns, whether they are in object or subject position and various other things (as well as the more obvious things like age, class, dialect, etc.)


Isn't that (a) very dated and (b) American? I don't think I have heard it used (in speech) in my lifetime.

Oh my goodness you never hear anyone say "Me went to the cinema" except possibly Tarzan, but add another and so often it's "me and him went" It seems to be a reticence to say "I" ever; possibly a reaction to the overposh "one went to the cinema" I am very dated and was trying to make a joke but I know better than to try to explain a joke. I suppose you approve of "different to" too, two words that still sound wrong to me. (Could not engineer tutu into that) However we can blame the dutch for spelling cough, enough, and so on and who, arabs? for "yacht". Used to catch me out every time in primary skool.
Lastly may I say it is bad manners to correct someone personally but this is a forum; equivalent to writing on the wall, tagging and running away. As if any of us would.

Solfe
2013-Sep-25, 05:04 PM
Ground and Earth in electronics.

Strange
2013-Sep-25, 05:30 PM
Oh my goodness you never hear anyone say "Me went to the cinema"

Which is why I said coordinated pronouns. There is no rule that says that two subjects joined by a conjunction have to be treated in the same was as they would be when alone. For example, we don't say "I went to John's and Mary's house for dinner" but "John and Mary's house". Applying the same logic that says "both pronouns need to be in the nominative case" would say that both nouns need to be genitives. But no one does that.


I suppose you approve of "different to"

I have absolutely no problem with different from, than or to. Some forms are more common in different dialects of English. None are "wrong". Something like "different by" would be wrong because no one says that.

Round here they say things like, "where did you get married to?". It ain't wrong, it's the local dialect.


I am very dated and was trying to make a joke

Fair enough. I thought "flicks" might be exciting new slang in Norfolk. :)

Strange
2013-Sep-25, 05:31 PM
Ground and Earth in electronics.

The American pronunciation of solder will probably get Brits giggling.

grapes
2013-Sep-25, 05:31 PM
This morning as I drove to work, at 7:39am EDT, on NPR I heard "We will learn what will happen when the US hits its debt ceiling in ten minutes." I swear there was no comma spoken.

Strange
2013-Sep-25, 05:34 PM
I have heard the "comma of direct address" called the Donner Party comma because of the example:
Time to eat, grandma! vs. Time to eat grandma!

Perikles
2013-Sep-25, 05:44 PM
Which is why I said coordinated pronouns. There is no rule that says that two subjects joined by a conjunction have to be treated in the same was as they would be when alone. For example, we don't say "I went to John's and Mary's house for dinner" but "John and Mary's house". Applying the same logic that says "both pronouns need to be in the nominative case" would say that both nouns need to be genitives. But no one does that.I don't think there is any parallel here. John and Mary are one couple living in the same house, so "John and Mary" is treated as one entity with one Saxon genitive. You could say "the house of John and Mary" and clearly Mary is still in the genitive case with John. This has nothing to do with having two nominative pronouns rather than one or two accusative ones instead.

Sorry, but "me and John went to the cinema" sounds primitive to me, taken out of context. If it is part of a conversation in Yorkshire, that's a different matter. I've heard that kind of language there often enough to assume it's just dialect.

profloater
2013-Sep-25, 05:55 PM
I and me gets more tricky when the pronoun can be either nominative or accusative as in "He is taller than me" vs "He is taller than I" where people can be heard to say that is short for "He is taller than I am tall" But both are wrong because he is shorter than me anyway. Of course none of this can be said to be wrong, it just firmly places you in a tent for others to sprinkle...judgements upon.

walker1001
2013-Sep-25, 06:01 PM
i have absolutely no problem with different from, than or to. Some forms are more common in different dialects of english. None are "wrong". Something like "different by" would be wrong because no one says that.

that's altogether different by a long shot.:)

Perikles
2013-Sep-25, 06:03 PM
I and me gets more tricky ....That's "I and me" gets more tricky...or trickier

Yesterday was Punctuation Day (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Punctuation_Day), apparently. You must have missed it!

Strange
2013-Sep-25, 06:30 PM
I don't think there is any parallel here. John and Mary are one couple living in the same house, so "John and Mary" is treated as one entity with one Saxon genitive.

And why wouldn't "me and John" going to the flicks not be treated as a single item with different rules than the two individuals?


Sorry, but "me and John went to the cinema" sounds primitive to me, taken out of context. If it is part of a conversation in Yorkshire, that's a different matter. I've heard that kind of language there often enough to assume it's just dialect.

Well, I am from the south east and it has always been part of my dialect.

NEOWatcher
2013-Sep-25, 06:37 PM
I didn't know English was it's own language. I just thought it was a set of accepted mispronounced words from various other languages. ;)

DonM435
2013-Sep-25, 06:43 PM
A group that includes me planned to go to the cinema.
More accurately, a group that includes John and me planned to go to the cinema.
The rest of the group didn't show up, so John and me went to the cinema without 'em.

Sounds logical to me!
;)

Gillianren
2013-Sep-25, 07:00 PM
I didn't know English was it's own language.

You did that just to make me twitch, didn't you?

Perikles
2013-Sep-25, 07:02 PM
A group that includes me planned to go to the cinema.
More accurately, a group that includes John and me planned to go to the cinema.
The rest of the group didn't show up, so John and me went to the cinema without 'em.

Sounds logical to me!
;)It doesn't sounds logical to me, because the first two instances of 'me' are objects, whereas your conclusion is a subject. If you want a language which says "Me went to the cinema" is the same as "I went to the cinema" you are of course free to choose it. Why people want to do away with vestiges of inflection is beyond me.

By the way, I've just stumbled across this from The Merchant of Venice

BASSANIO
[Reads] Sweet Bassanio, my ships have all
miscarried, my creditors grow cruel, my estate is
very low, my bond to the Jew is forfeit; and since
in paying it, it is impossible I should live, all
debts are cleared between you and I, if I might but
see you at my death. Notwithstanding, use your
pleasure: if your love do not persuade you to come,
let not my letter.

That makes me cringe, but it is a letter from an educated Elizabethan.

NEOWatcher
2013-Sep-25, 07:05 PM
You did that just to make me twitch, didn't you?\
Purely an innocent oversight. (yes; I do usually pay more attention to certain words, and that('s/is) one of them )

But; If that twitch is accompanied with even a mild smile, I'm glad that I can oblige.

Strange
2013-Sep-25, 07:12 PM
If you want a language which says "Me went to the cinema" is the same as "I went to the cinema" you are of course free to choose it.

Strawman. I don't believe that is correct in any dialect of English (apart from, as you say, Tarzanese).


That makes me cringe, but it is a letter from an educated Elizabethan.

That sounds wrong to me too!

Here is an interesting thesis that analyses all(?) the factors that affect pronoun choice:
Case, person, and linear ordering in English coordinated pronouns by Thomas Grano
http://home.uchicago.edu/~tgrano/uht.pdf

grapes
2013-Sep-25, 09:08 PM
Weird. To me it sounds like a deliberate intensifier. :)

LoneTree1941
2013-Sep-25, 09:27 PM
I have always been annoyed by people correcting my use of "me and John went to the cinema". For every "logical" reason that it should be "I" there is an alternative argument that "me" is acceptable in informal speech. There are very complicated conditions governing when people use nominative and accusative case in coordinated pronouns; it depends on the order of the pronouns, whether one or both are pronouns, whether they are in object or subject position and various other things (as well as the more obvious things like age, class, dialect, etc.)



Isn't that (a) very dated and (b) American? I don't think I have heard it used (in speech) in my lifetime.
Rather than resorting to the rules a person can simplify and refine the process by mentally asking themselves... if they dropped "John" from the subject would it sound correct to then say "Me went to the cinema..."

As for the word Flick, it was the most common and universally used word for the word "movie" by military service members in the 60's and I would think still today. It might have been picked up in WW-II in England but my service was in the Marines and the Marines served mainly in the Pacific or Italy not England

profloater
2013-Sep-25, 09:30 PM
That's "I and me" gets more tricky...or trickier

Yesterday was Punctuation Day (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Punctuation_Day), apparently. You must have missed it!

I did miss it right before I left. I did miss it, right, before I left. I did miss it right before; I left.

Strange
2013-Sep-25, 11:30 PM
Rather than resorting to the rules a person can simplify and refine the process by mentally asking themselves... if they dropped "John" from the subject would it sound correct to then say "Me went to the cinema..."

But that assumes that nouns or pronouns used with a conjunction have to behave the same way as single nouns or pronouns. There are plenty of examples where that is not the case and so there is no logical reason why it must be true for this example.

Strange
2013-Sep-25, 11:33 PM
By the way, English is #33 in the Language Weirdness Index: http://idibon.com/the-weirdest-languages/ :)

swampyankee
2013-Sep-26, 12:03 AM
"Tough" "Though" "Through" "Thought"

Plow (Commonwealth: plough), cough, through, tough, hiccough, all used to rhyme.

English is weird in quite a few ways, most obviously its spelling. Some of the plurals are kind of odd: mouse:mice, goose:geese, man:men. And it's irregular verbs are, well, irregular.

And what happened to the second person familiar pronouns? Thou, where art thou?

And why can I talk about one cow or one bull or one steer but not one bovine of indeterminate sex without either a) abusing the word for a female bovine or the word for a male bovine or b) using an expression like "one cow or bull."

Gillianren
2013-Sep-26, 12:27 AM
As to your last, I'd suggest a few things.

One, maybe the female is the universal singular for once. Maybe "cow" is okay when you aren't sure of the sex of that bovine.

Two, what about "bovine"?

Three, some people use "beef," plural "beeves."

Four, be a cowboy and go "head of cattle"?

Hornblower
2013-Sep-26, 12:32 AM
We park our cars in driveways and drive them on parkways.

Torsten
2013-Sep-26, 01:30 AM
No discussion of English language oddities is complete without mentioning "The Chaos" (http://ncf.idallen.com/english.html).

it starts,

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.

and lists about another 800...

Gillianren
2013-Sep-26, 04:26 AM
We park our cars in driveways and drive them on parkways.

I can explain this. It will be for at least the fourth time on this board, however.

jokergirl
2013-Sep-26, 11:35 AM
"Route" (as in the song "Route 66") and "Router" (the internet kind) are pronounced differently. I blame Cisco for that. I'd never have imagined it to be pronounced differently than the routes it is made to create, but they pronounce it consistently differently* in all their course material.

;)

*Question to the native speakers: -ly in both endings? Just one? Which is grammatically correct ?

Nick Theodorakis
2013-Sep-26, 11:54 AM
"Route" (as in the song "Route 66") and "Router" (the internet kind) are pronounced differently. I blame Cisco for that. I'd never have imagined it to be pronounced differently than the routes it is made to create, but they pronounce it consistently differently* in all their course material.
...

"Route" has two pronunciations, at least in American English. Oddly, I tend to use both of them.

The term "router" is also a woodworking tool and I've only heard it pronounced in the Cisco fashion at least as far back as the 1970s when I took shop class in junior high.

Nick

orionjim
2013-Sep-26, 12:36 PM
Obliviously missing of course is they’re there is their place.

Cougar
2013-Sep-26, 12:38 PM
they pronounce it consistently differently*
*Question to the native speakers: -ly in both endings? Just one? Which is grammatically correct ?

Both. It's an adverb modifying another adverb that is modifying a verb.


"Route" has two pronunciations, at least in American English. Oddly, I tend to use both of them.

I was just about to say that! Now, that's weird.

DonM435
2013-Sep-26, 03:36 PM
We park our cars in driveways and drive them on parkways.

Steamshovels don't shovel steam, and bulldozers don't doze bulls.

NEOWatcher
2013-Sep-26, 05:05 PM
... and bulldozers don't doze bulls.
Except during a mad cow breakout.

Kaptain K
2013-Sep-26, 06:13 PM
Leta not forget the tufted titmouse, which is not a mouse and as a bird, does not have mammary glands!

DonM435
2013-Sep-26, 07:07 PM
Doze Bulls was Mayor Daley's favorite team, I think.



(That's pronounced "Mare Daley," but I didn't think it would look well in print.)

grapes
2013-Sep-26, 11:08 PM
"Route" has two pronunciations, at least in American English. Oddly, I tend to use both of them.

The term "router" is also a woodworking tool and I've only heard it pronounced in the Cisco fashion at least as far back as the 1970s when I took shop class in junior high.

Yep, and there is another question: is the root of router "route" or "rout"? :)

starcanuck64
2013-Sep-26, 11:25 PM
Cough. Slough (which can be either sluf (like tough) or sl-rhymes-with-cow depending on the meaning).

Here that's pronounced slew, in regards to wetlands.

swampyankee
2013-Sep-26, 11:37 PM
Yep, and there is another question: is the root of router "route" or "rout"? :)

Which router? The electro-mechanical woodworking tool

"router (n.)
"cutter that removes wood from a groove," 1818, from rout "poke about, rummage" (1540s), originally of swine digging with the snout; a variant of root (v.1)."
(from http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=router)

Since route is also a verb -- see http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/route?qsrc=2446 -- "router" would be somebody who routes, so the etymology of the data processing device is probably "route." Having it be "rout" would be particularly silly.

The pronunciation varies by region: I've always said it "root," but there are a lot of people who pronounce it "rout," rhyming with "out."

Cougar
2013-Sep-27, 12:44 AM
No discussion of English language oddities is complete without mentioning "The Chaos" (http://ncf.idallen.com/english.html).


Wow, indeed!



Woven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.

Cougar
2013-Sep-27, 12:50 AM
I've always said it "root," but there are a lot of people who pronounce it "rout," rhyming with "out."

I guess I use "root" a lot, but do you say "paper root"? I don't. It's "paper rout." :lol:

absael
2013-Sep-27, 04:45 AM
English is hard; sometimes I think it's comprised almost *entirely* of oddities. I like to think that my spelling and grammar are at least average, but I frequently have to look up a word or phrase to be sure that I'm using it correctly, or that there isn't a better one. I suppose the latter example may be more a reflection of the richness of the language than its difficulty, but the fact remains that a huge amount of memorization is required in order to use English well, or even to just use it properly.

Jens
2013-Sep-27, 07:41 AM
I was just about to say that! Now, that's weird.

I use them both as well. I also use both pronunciations of data, depending on how fast I'm talking and what word came before it and stuff like that.

Jens
2013-Sep-27, 07:44 AM
Steamshovels don't shovel steam, and bulldozers don't doze bulls.

And pineapples are neither pines nor apples.

And generals eat in a private mess, while privates eat in the general mess.

Inclusa
2013-Sep-27, 08:12 AM
English is hard; sometimes I think it's comprised almost *entirely* of oddities. I like to think that my spelling and grammar are at least average, but I frequently have to look up a word or phrase to be sure that I'm using it correctly, or that there isn't a better one. I suppose the latter example may be more a reflection of the richness of the language than its difficulty, but the fact remains that a huge amount of memorization is required in order to use English well, or even to just use it properly.

The exact reason is that English evolves considerably from its beginning, and has modified substantially after the Norman conquest; beside, English is much more open than other languages in adopting foreign vocabularies, and this renders the English lexicon one of the largest in the world.

Cougar
2013-Sep-27, 12:25 PM
English is much more open than other languages in adopting foreign vocabularies....

Yes, the language has quite the repertoire. :D

On the other hand, Swahili does a bit of borrowing, e.g., motokaa. A car.

walker1001
2013-Sep-27, 12:45 PM
Here that's pronounced slew, in regards to wetlands.

Where is your here? This site does not seem to allow us to mention our whereabouts with our moniker and so it's either look it up or remember it, both choices difficult for a lazy man. Pretty easy in your case fellow Canuck.

Taeolas
2013-Sep-27, 12:55 PM
I guess I use "root" a lot, but do you say "paper root"? I don't. It's "paper rout." :lol:

Actually, I would use both, depending on what mode my mind is in. But neither sounds particularly wrong to my ears.


English is hard; sometimes I think it's comprised almost *entirely* of oddities. I like to think that my spelling and grammar are at least average, but I frequently have to look up a word or phrase to be sure that I'm using it correctly, or that there isn't a better one. I suppose the latter example may be more a reflection of the richness of the language than its difficulty, but the fact remains that a huge amount of memorization is required in order to use English well, or even to just use it properly.

I suspect that the rules of English are any common practice that covers about 40% of the cases. The other 60% are exceptions to the rule of course, but not otherwise internally consistent.

Nick Theodorakis
2013-Sep-27, 01:35 PM
Many of the oddities in English language spelling and pronunciation are due to the fact that English spelling was becoming standardized at the same time that major changes in pronunciation (such as the great vowel shift (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Vowel_Shift)) were occurring. Unfortunately, spelling standardized on words using pronunciations which were becoming obsolete, but they would have made more sense if the words were pronounced in the older style.

Nick

Trebuchet
2013-Sep-27, 02:29 PM
Where I worked, here in America, we built airplanes out of aluminum. The Brits, if they were still building them, would be building aeroplanes out of aluminium. I had quite a few British expat coworkers over the years and many of them still said "aeroplane" but I don't recall ever hearing them say "aluminium".

swampyankee
2013-Sep-27, 02:35 PM
Where I worked, here in America, we built airplanes out of aluminum. The Brits, if they were still building them, would be building aeroplanes out of aluminium. I had quite a few British expat coworkers over the years and many of them still said "aeroplane" but I don't recall ever hearing them say "aluminium".

They still build airplanes. Conversely, you could argue Boeing doesn't as it contracts a lot of work out.

Trebuchet
2013-Sep-27, 04:46 PM
They still build airplanes. Conversely, you could argue Boeing doesn't as it contracts a lot of work out.

You got that right! I knew it was time to start thinking about retiring when I saw them allowing the interior decorators to dictate external aerodynamic lines of the airplane.

JohnD
2013-Sep-27, 06:45 PM
Exactly!

English is a language that has this wonderful adhesive effect, that latches onto words that its speakers encounter, that they twist and turn into new words in English, that they then use as synonyms to express subtle differences in meaning, that are just not available in other languages.

It's an exaggeration, but I love this statistic:
The Oxford English Dictionary, first 'fascicle' published 1884, words defined 600,000.
Dictionnaire de l'Academie Francaise, first volume published 1687, expected ninth edition to contain 50,000 words.

Despite trying to fight off 'le weekend', etc. French, wonderful lyrical expresisve French, just doesn't have so many words to use!
John

Trebuchet
2013-Sep-27, 11:58 PM
French, of course, is fighting a losing battle against "Franglish". They may not put such words in the dictionary, and even try to officially ban them, but I understand they are common in everyday life.

Jens
2013-Sep-28, 12:49 AM
Exactly!

English is a language that has this wonderful adhesive effect, that latches onto words that its speakers encounter, that they twist and turn into new words in English, that they then use as synonyms to express subtle differences in meaning, that are just not available in other languages.


I'm just curious, but how many languages are you fluent in outside of English? And do you really find them less expressive?

Inclusa
2013-Sep-28, 03:40 AM
I'm "fluent" in Cantonese and English, and somewhat fluent in Mandarin (due to my typing in pinyin, I pronounce with relative correctness.)

Jens
2013-Sep-28, 04:29 AM
I'm "fluent" in Cantonese and English, and somewhat fluent in Mandarin (due to my typing in pinyin, I pronounce with relative correctness.)

The question wasn't directed at you, but I think you would be a great person to answer. Do you feel you can express meanings more easily in English than in Cantonese because of the large vocabulary?

Inclusa
2013-Sep-28, 06:19 AM
It really depends on the meanings we try to convene. I'm not absolutely sure, 'cause I miss the "translation process" long long ago, although I do translations from time to time.
Jens, do you know Japanese? How would you translate "failure study" into Japanese? (The sound.)

Jens
2013-Sep-28, 07:50 AM
By failure study I guess you mean 失敗学? It oils be pronounced shippaigaku.

Strange
2013-Sep-28, 10:01 AM
"Route" has two pronunciations, at least in American English.

I don't know if that is unique to American English, or if other forms have both.


The term "router" is also a woodworking tool and I've only heard it pronounced in the Cisco fashion at least as far back as the 1970s when I took shop class in junior high.

Over here, the tool is a "rowter" (as in outer) but the Cisco thing is a "rooter".

Strange
2013-Sep-28, 10:05 AM
I also use both pronunciations of data

There are two pronunciations of data !? :)

Jens
2013-Sep-28, 12:48 PM
There are two pronunciations of data !? :)

Maybe. Do you use one pronunciation exclusively?

swampyankee
2013-Sep-28, 01:10 PM
Also interesting is "row."

At least in this part of the US there are two distinct pronunciations with quite distinct meanings: "row" as in "Michael row the boat" rhymes with toe, as does "row" as "rows and columns." "Row" the verb only refers to boat propulsion; "row" (rhymes with toe) the noun only refers to putting things in nice horizontal lines. The other pronunciation of "row" rhymes with "cow" and refers to the sort of argument that would get the neighbors thinking of calling 911.

Another oddity: why does US English quote words "like this," where the comma is inside the quotes but Commonwealth English quotes them 'like this', where the comma is outside the quote (I won't even ask about " vs ' in US vs Commonwealth usage)

Hlafordlaes
2013-Sep-28, 01:17 PM
Another oddity: why does US English quote words "like this," where the comma is inside the quotes but Commonwealth English quotes them 'like this', where the comma is outside the quote (I won't even ask about " vs ' in US vs Commonwealth usage)

That is simply a typesetters' convention. It was thought to be more pleasing to the eye to keep punctuation inside quotes and parenthesis.

Cougar
2013-Sep-28, 01:31 PM
Also interesting is "row."

Huh. I was about to say the same thing about "sow." A single spelling = two different words with different meanings and different pronunciations!

Strange
2013-Sep-28, 02:10 PM
Maybe. Do you use one pronunciation exclusively?

I do. For me the first syllable is always a diphthong that rhymes with day. I have heard a long 'a' in the first syllable (like a non-rhotic 'dart') which may be an RP thing. And there may be a third pronunciation with a short 'a', as in pat.

Which reminds me of one of the first books I looked at when I started studying Japanese. The pronunciation section had "a as in pot". At first I thought it was a misprint, then realised it was an American book. :)

Trebuchet
2013-Sep-28, 02:14 PM
Also "sow". Plasnting seeds, it sounds like "no". As a female swine, it sounds like "cow". Enough already!

DonM435
2013-Sep-28, 05:51 PM
I've occcasionally seen the apostrophe after a word that has the "s" sound but not an actual "s," e.g. "Schultz' homer dimmed the Red Sox' pennant hopes." Is that correct, or do those need an additional "s" tagged on?

swampyankee
2013-Sep-28, 06:14 PM
I've occcasionally seen the apostrophe after a word that has the "s" sound but not an actual "s," e.g. "Schultz' homer dimmed the Red Sox' pennant hopes." Is that correct, or do those need an additional "s" tagged on?

I think it's a matter of fashion. I believe current usage is that the added "s" has to be tagged on except for cases like Jesus (Jesus'), and Aristophanes, (Aristophanes'), so it would be Shultz's or Jones's. Of course, I usually hear people say something like more like Jesus's and don't every hear people talking about things that Aristophanes may have owned. Where I live, "Red Sox' win" is usually expressed more like "Red Sox WIN!" ("win" is a verb) or with an expletive "<deletede> Red Sox won."

Romanus
2013-Sep-28, 07:00 PM
I think we need to be careful about being too enthusiastic about English expressiveness; numerous languages past and present are notorious for words and expressions with shades of meaning that languages as analytic as English find difficult or impossible to translate. For instance, Ancient Greek has the Swiss Army word logos, which is usually translated as "word", but which could mean almost anything depending on context, as well as Derrida's favorite, pharmakon.

jokergirl
2013-Sep-28, 08:11 PM
Treasure, treachery, treason.

;)

There is a famous rant in Goethe's Faust about logos. There's a translation of it online, but I'm too lazy to google.

Gillianren
2013-Sep-29, 01:12 AM
All languages have terms and concepts that appear in no other language. The question is how many, and I'm not sure it's one that can be answered.

Hlafordlaes
2013-Sep-29, 01:46 AM
I think terms do differ, and sets of concepts do, as false cognates show, but there is no idea that cannot be expressed in almost any language. A term, however, can still take very long explanation to convey, as what is often unique is the set of ideas it gathers, the contrasts it draws, its historical role in the literature, or how it plays on phonetic similarities with other terms in that language. But I do not think you can find any components of the term, in terms of basic concepts, that are unique.

Then there are emotional terms, here the example would be the Catalan seny, which they hold intranslatable, but that can be broken down well enough. It is so closely tied to ethnic identity that it has a mystical quality to the native speaker. Roughly, it means "common sense," but with a Joan of Arc feel to it. But we can all connect to those emotions in other ways, so no true uniqueness.

The caveat, of course, lies with languages spoken by isolated peoples, with an extreme example perhaps being those that have words, say, for innate numeracy, but have not developed arithmetic. (Innate numeracy is a trait shared with other primates, and is based on two or three powers of three, by some accounts, so we get few, many, very many.) Yet barring this, one finds that even primitive languages have their generally capable resources.

Obviously, anyone speaking any language, if they have not encountered the object or technology referred to, will have difficulty with the new concept, but that is not a limitation of the language spoken, but of experience.

Delvo
2013-Sep-29, 03:11 AM
"Tough" "Though" "Through" "Thought"

A different pronunciation of "ough" in each case, none of which makes any sense.

It's what happens when you put together a language from a dozen different sources.Actually, the "ough" and "igh" business is what happens when a language loses a phoneme: in this case a phoneme more comparable to German "ch" and Dutch "g" than anything in current English, whose nearest English phonemes to it are "k" or "g" and "h". A sound that's getting dropped from the language must either disappear from words that have it or get replaced by some other sound, but tends to get different treatments in different words (based largely on what other sounds are present before and after in those words).

A couple of possible examples you can even see underway right now...

First, consider the sound of "oo" in "good"... There are only about 20 words/suffixes using it, maybe a couple dozen if you include all words which are pronounced with this sound in some accents and with another vowel sound in other accents (even if no single accent contains them all). I'm fairly sure that makes it the least-used phoneme in English, and certainly the least-used vowel phoneme by far. The letter combination "oo" represents two other sounds in "soon" and "blood", both of which are more like the one in "good" than they are like each other. They both also are usually assigned to the letter "u", whereas "oo" is by far the usual way to represent the sound in "good". This is exactly what you would expect to see if the sound in "good" is the original but is gradually fading away out of the language and getting replaced in some cases with the "soon" sound and in other cases with the "blood" sound.

Also, consider, how much we seem to hate "t". At the end of a word, we cut off before getting to it (so much that it's even beginning to spill over into words ending with "d"). In the middle of the word, we either skip it by cutting a hole out of the word and picking up again after it, smear it out into an "s", or half-*** it into a "d", as if desperately casting for any way of avoiding the horror of actually pronouncing it as a "t". The only place where we really pronounce it the way we claim it's supposed to be is at the beginning of a word, but even there it's not safe; it turns into a "ch" if followed by an "r" or, from some people, even a "w". (And those might be all of the consonants that ever follow it at the beginning of a word anyway.) Having only one refuge left (as a lone consonant at the beginnings of words) is the kind of situation a phoneme would be expected to be in right before either dying out completely or merging with another phoneme.


Some of the plurals are kind of odd: mouse:mice, goose:geese, man:men.That's typical of Indo-European languages in general, not an oddity of English. In some cases you can see the counterparts pretty straightforwardly: in Latin, for example, tooth/teeth = dont/dent, and foot/feet = pod/ped. I'm not sure the two forms are always a singular and a plural instead of something else like an objective and a subjective, but there is a consistent pattern of one form having "a" or "o" or "u" where the other form has "e" or "i".


Where I worked, here in America, we built airplanes out of aluminum....in a company that was based where it was because of proximity to the main resource planes were made from at the time: spruce trees. :)

Jens
2013-Sep-29, 03:34 AM
I think terms do differ, and sets of concepts do, as false cognates show, but there is no idea that cannot be expressed in almost any language. A term, however, can still take very long explanation to convey, as what is often unique is the set of ideas it gathers, the contrasts it draws, its historical role in the literature, or how it plays on phonetic similarities with other terms in that language. But I do not think you can find any components of the term, in terms of basic concepts, that are unique.
.

It's a good point, because you can always express subtleties by using more words. What's interesting though is that languages sometimes force you grammatically to express things you might want to express. So for example, because of the personal pronouns, English nearly forces you to reveal whether a person you are discussing is male or female. It sounds very contrived in English to discuss a person without a he or she. It also forces you to reveal whether a topic is single or plural. By contrast Japanese in practice forces you to reveal whether your brother is older or younger, so that with twins, it's important to know which was born first.

Jens
2013-Sep-29, 03:43 AM
In response to Delvo's post about T, at least in American English, we do province the T in the middle or end of a word when it's part of a cluster. So in words like east or cluster or went we do pronounce it.

Trebuchet
2013-Sep-29, 04:48 AM
...in a company that was based where it was because of proximity to the main resource planes were made from at the time: spruce trees. :)

And whose founder was originally a lumber baron. The location continued to be great after the age of aluminum began because of the Bonneville Power Administration providing abundant cheap electricity for the smelting of aluminum.

Back on topic, I recall a history professor explaining why the English names for animals and the meats that come from them are different. Beef, pork, and mutton were derived from French; while cow, pig, and sheep were derived from the Anglo-Saxon. This reflected the linguistic differences, in Norman times, between the people who raised the animals and those who could afford to eat them. I don't know how correct that is, but it seems logical.

Jens
2013-Sep-29, 05:39 AM
Back on topic, I recall a history professor explaining why the English names for animals and the meats that come from them are different. Beef, pork, and mutton were derived from French; while cow, pig, and sheep were derived from the Anglo-Saxon. This reflected the linguistic differences, in Norman times, between the people who raised the animals and those who could afford to eat them. I don't know how correct that is, but it seems logical.

It's interesting that actually English isn't the only language in the world that does that. In Japanese the situation is very similar. In general, the names of animals (at least those that existed in Japan a long time ago) are called by the native Japanese name, but the meat is generally called by the Chinese name. It may be partly because eating meat was forbidden until fairly recently because of Buddhism.

Gillianren
2013-Sep-29, 05:54 AM
In Spanish, the word for "live fish" and the word for "fish that is dead and food" are different. I don't remember about the other animals, but that one struck me, because it's one of the ones that isn't different in English.

Jens
2013-Sep-29, 06:58 AM
In Spanish, the word for "live fish" and the word for "fish that is dead and food" are different. I don't remember about the other animals, but that one struck me, because it's one of the ones that isn't different in English.

I'd forgotten about that from high school Spanish. It's a bit subtle though because the word for caught fish, pescado, literally means "fished" or "caught fish."

Hlafordlaes
2013-Sep-29, 10:14 AM
First, consider the sound of "oo" in "good"... There are only about 20 words/suffixes using it, maybe a couple dozen if you include all words which are pronounced with this sound in some accents and with another vowel sound in other accents (even if no single accent contains them all). I'm fairly sure that makes it the least-used phoneme in English, and certainly the least-used vowel phoneme by far. The letter combination "oo" represents two other sounds in "soon" and "blood", both of which are more like the one in "good" than they are like each other. They both also are usually assigned to the letter "u", whereas "oo" is by far the usual way to represent the sound in "good". This is exactly what you would expect to see if the sound in "good" is the original but is gradually fading away out of the language and getting replaced in some cases with the "soon" sound and in other cases with the "blood" sound.

Interesting idea, that "oo" is on the way out. I'd have to go back and check on its role in the ongoing Great Vowel Shift to see if it is being skipped in shifts of back vowels as they rise and recycle. Could very well be the case.


Also, consider, how much we seem to hate "t". At the end of a word, we cut off before getting to it (so much that it's even beginning to spill over into words ending with "d"). In the middle of the word, we either skip it by cutting a hole out of the word and picking up again after it, smear it out into an "s", or half-*** it into a "d", as if desperately casting for any way of avoiding the horror of actually pronouncing it as a "t". The only place where we really pronounce it the way we claim it's supposed to be is at the beginning of a word, but even there it's not safe; it turns into a "ch" if followed by an "r" or, from some people, even a "w". (And those might be all of the consonants that ever follow it at the beginning of a word anyway.) Having only one refuge left (as a lone consonant at the beginnings of words) is the kind of situation a phoneme would be expected to be in right before either dying out completely or merging with another phoneme.

Hugo Weaving is doing all he can to change that.


That's typical of Indo-European languages in general, not an oddity of English. In some cases you can see the counterparts pretty straightforwardly: in Latin, for example, tooth/teeth = dont/dent, and foot/feet = pod/ped. I'm not sure the two forms are always a singular and a plural instead of something else like an objective and a subjective, but there is a consistent pattern of one form having "a" or "o" or "u" where the other form has "e" or "i".

Pinker takes the position that the progressive loss of some of these (s. book, pl. beek) is a natural thing, which it is, but I love having quirky artifacts hang around in the language. No so good for language students, though.

swampyankee
2013-Sep-29, 11:16 AM
In response to Delvo's post about T, at least in American English, we do province the T in the middle or end of a word when it's part of a cluster. So in words like east or cluster or went we do pronounce it.

Some regional accents in the US (and there are regional accents at the town level in some parts of the country) replace "t" in the middle word with a glottal stop. One town near where I grew up was pronounced by its townies as "New Bri'ain" where ' represents a glottal stop; the folk from adjacent towns pronounced the t.

Accents are fun, but they're certainly not peculiar to English.

Cougar
2013-Sep-29, 12:11 PM
Some regional accents in the US (and there are regional accents at the town level in some parts of the country) replace "t" in the middle word with a glottal stop.

That is so true here in the Wild West, and I'm not so sure they even use the glottal stop. "Look at that moun-in." or "It's Hillary Clin-in." They don't seem to know how to pronounce a long "e" either. A steel building? No, it's a still building. It's like they're not long off the farm.

Hlafordlaes
2013-Sep-29, 02:38 PM
Here's a little item: If you are a native American English speaker and would like to learn to pronounce a trilled 'r,' repeat the word 'today' over and over until it sounds like 'tre.' The 'd' in 'today' for many speakers is a single flap, which with practice can roll.

And if you are wondering how to make the glottal stop in the posts above, just say 'a apple.' You'll need a glottal stop if you don't say 'an.'

walker1001
2013-Sep-29, 05:44 PM
You get even more subtle in Spanish with "ser" and "estar" for "to be" which English does not have, but is this a disadvantage for English speakers/writers? I think not.

Hlafordlaes
2013-Sep-29, 08:09 PM
In English, we often use the present participle (?, forget my grammar names) to signal temporary states, and the simple present for permanent. So "he is being/acting stupid" is "está tonto, hace el idiota," and "he is stupid" is "es tonto."

Jens
2013-Sep-29, 11:22 PM
And if you are wondering how to make the glottal stop in the posts above, just say 'a apple.' You'll need a glottal stop if you don't say 'an.'

Or just say uh-oh. I think that's pretty universally said with a glottal stop in English.

Delvo
2013-Sep-30, 01:02 AM
English speakers have no trouble figuring out how to do a glottal stop. We already do it routinely before any word that starts with a vowel if either it's the first word we're saying in that breath or the word before it ends with a vowel and we're not going to glide those vowels together (connect them with an R/W/Y). And some, at least in the UK, also use it for silence in the middle of a word where they're desperately trying to avoid saying "t", like turning "water" into "wa'er". And it's also pretty common at the end of words ending with "t" when we're, again, desperately trying to avoid saying "t" by just cutting off the sound before we get there; the glottis is what's used to do the cutting-off.

What we DO have trouble with is being aware of when we are and aren't doing it! That's an effect of a serious "English Language Oddity": making such frequent use of something that we don't think of as a spoken sound at all. Some other languages do count this as a phoneme, treating it as another member of the same group with "t", "p", and "k". The fact that we don't recognize it as a phoneme makes it possible for us to use it as a symbol for nothing, the momentary absence of any phoneme, which is what the uses in my first paragraph here amount to. It's like a phonetic zero digit.

That actually might be unique to English. It might be necessary sometimes for other languages to use something that they don't recognize as a phoneme even if other languages do... for example, German doesn't represent the bilabial glide (our "w") in any way at all, but it still has to happen between the "u" and "e" in "dauert" anyway... but examples like that seem to be few and far between, and I think the speakers are at least usually aware of it, thinking of it at least as a sound they don't have a letter for or transition between sounds, rather than as a hole or gap in the word.

Strange
2013-Sep-30, 08:07 AM
And some, at least in the UK, also use it for silence in the middle of a word where they're desperately trying to avoid saying "t", like turning "water" into "wa'er".

Hey! We don't "desperately avoid" the /t/ sound. It's just the way we speak. Unlike those who desperately avoid glottal stops and insist on inserting an alveolar plosive instead. :)


The fact that we don't recognize it as a phoneme makes it possible for us to use it as a symbol for nothing, the momentary absence of any phoneme, which is what the uses in my first paragraph here amount to. It's like a phonetic zero digit.

I disagree with this. In my native dialect (which I no longer speak regularly) it is just an allophone of /t/.


That actually might be unique to English.

Agreed. Even a largely phonetic writing system like Italian doesn't represent all phonemes in the language. But people often assume that the writing system accurately reflects the language (many English speakers assume English has 5 vowels for example, whereas it is probably 12 or 13 in my dialect).

HenrikOlsen
2013-Sep-30, 11:01 AM
That is simply a typesetters' convention. It was thought to be more pleasing to the eye to keep punctuation inside quotes and parenthesis.

Also, the physical types for the comma and periods are very narrow and putting them inside the quote protects them physically from damage during printing.

NEOWatcher
2013-Sep-30, 05:44 PM
In Spanish, the word for "live fish" and the word for "fish that is dead and food" are different. I don't remember about the other animals, but that one struck me, because it's one of the ones that isn't different in English.
I don't find that one as a particularly unique. I think that happens a lot with food.
Cow-Beef
Pig-Pork
Squid-Calamari
Roe-Caviar
Deer-Venison
Lamb-mutton
Stomach-Tripe

Of course, a lot of those is "the meat of" rather than "as a food", but I think the idea is fairly close. It's all names that distinguish a food from it's live name.

Trebuchet
2013-Sep-30, 06:32 PM
But in French, both a steer and the meat from it are "boeuf". Sheep and mutton are both "mouton". And pigs and pork are both "porc".

Edit: "Pork" in French is "porc", not "pork"!

Gillianren
2013-Sep-30, 06:33 PM
Mmm. Technically, "calamari" refers to a specific means of preparation. And, yes, it does happen a lot with food, but as I said, it struck me because it's one of the ones that didn't happen in English. Also, "lamb" is still called "lamb" when you eat a young sheep. It's when you eat an adult sheep that it's called "mutton."

Hlafordlaes
2013-Sep-30, 06:36 PM
I don't find that one as a particularly unique. I think that happens a lot with food.
Cow-Beef
Pig-Pork
Squid-Calamari
Roe-Caviar
Deer-Venison
Lamb-mutton
Stomach-Tripe

Of course, a lot of those is "the meat of" rather than "as a food", but I think the idea is fairly close. It's all names that distinguish a food from it's live name.

Great list! It ably illustrates the social divide following the Norman invasion of England. The animals retain the anglo-saxon names given them by those who take care of them (lower class,) and the names for food on the table come from the French lords who were eating them (upper class.) Eating the animals, that is.

The Spanish example only describes the act needed to get the animal on the table, but your list is chock full of major history.

ETA: As the legal system was nascent at that time, that is also why we have lots of repeating terms, like "aid and abet," (FR, EN), to help all citizens understand the law.

NEOWatcher
2013-Sep-30, 07:02 PM
Mmm.
Is that a Hmm( :think:) or a Yum?


Also, "lamb" is still called "lamb" when you eat a young sheep.
I know it's not a the same, but I call it Gyro.

profloater
2013-Sep-30, 07:45 PM
Great list! It ably illustrates the social divide following the Norman invasion of England. The animals retain the anglo-saxon names given them by those who take care of them (lower class,) and the names for food on the table come from the French lords who were eating them (upper class.) Eating the animals, that is.

The Spanish example only describes the act needed to get the animal on the table, but your list is chock full of major history.

ETA: As the legal system was nascent at that time, that is also why we have lots of repeating terms, like "aid and abet," (FR, EN), to help all citizens understand the law.

and we can add potatoes - chips fries and frites
all well after the Normans where the usage is reversed, or mashed. for the aristocracy these are spuds, where does that originate?

Gillianren
2013-Sep-30, 09:28 PM
Is that a Hmm( :think:) or a Yum?

Neither; it's "mild noise of disagreement that is intended to convey uncertainty without provoking argument."

HenrikOlsen
2013-Oct-01, 07:59 AM
Great list! It ably illustrates the social divide following the Norman invasion of England.
Apart from calamari which comes from Italian and caviar which entered the language several centuries after the rest.

Delvo
2013-Oct-01, 10:22 AM
Also "poultry".

I don't believe the English didn't eat those meats, but I do believe the Normans in England didn't farm them.

I was pondering our weird spelling not very long ago, and noticed that most of the words that break the rules, like "do", are short and used pretty frequently, but there actually aren't very many of them. Most words follow the rules, even if they're longer and/or not so common. So if we were to just change the spellings of a relatively short list of words, all of them would be within the rules, and it wouldn't take long to get used to the new spellings because they're the words we use most.

Jens
2013-Oct-01, 11:25 AM
I was pondering our weird spelling not very long ago, and noticed that most of the words that break the rules, like "do", are short and used pretty frequently, but there actually aren't very many of them. Most words follow the rules, even if they're longer and/or not so common. So if we were to just change the spellings of a relatively short list of words, all of them would be within the rules, and it wouldn't take long to get used to the new spellings because they're the words we use most.

What rules are you talking about when you say that most words follow them?

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Oct-01, 11:59 AM
Having read a number of traditional pedantica in this thread, I thought the time had arrived to draw attention to this scholarly article on these matters.
http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/people-who-highlight-minor-grammar-points-are-amazing-2013082378916

caveman1917
2013-Oct-01, 01:58 PM
I don't find that one as a particularly unique. I think that happens a lot with food.
Cow-Beef
Pig-Pork
Squid-Calamari
Roe-Caviar
Deer-Venison
Lamb-mutton
Stomach-Tripe

Of course, a lot of those is "the meat of" rather than "as a food", but I think the idea is fairly close. It's all names that distinguish a food from it's live name.

We don't tend to do that in Dutch, the name for the meat is generally just putting the animal and the word meat (which is "vlees" in Dutch) together. For example pig is "varken" so pork is "varkensvlees" (literally "pig-meat").

Trebuchet
2013-Oct-01, 03:24 PM
I don't believe the English didn't eat those meats, but I do believe the Normans in England didn't farm them.

Oh, the Normans farmed them, in that they owned the land. It was their non-Norman subjects who did the actual work with the animals. I'm sure those folks got to eat the meats as well, especially if they actually worked in the manor house and got the leftovers, but most humble folks didn't get them every day.

Hlafordlaes
2013-Oct-01, 04:09 PM
Having read a number of traditional pedantica in this thread, I thought the time had arrived to draw attention to this scholarly article on these matters.
http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/people-who-highlight-minor-grammar-points-are-amazing-2013082378916

Good one. If I may quibble a sec myself, those who worry about written language aren't worried about the language itself, but writing conventions. So they are defending proper use of those conventions. (Which is fine.)

For example, the many who confuse {their/there/they're} in writing, and even have trouble understanding the differences, have no difficulty properly identifying the use in context of all those words in spoken language. None at all. IOW, there are two separate competencies involved, and only one (spoken language) is handled by our native capacities as a species. Like mathematics, writing is a cultural artifact not linked to evolutionary skills, though each is related to one that does exist.

Hlafordlaes
2013-Oct-01, 04:26 PM
It's a good point, because you can always express subtleties by using more words. What's interesting though is that languages sometimes force you grammatically to express things you might want to express. So for example, because of the personal pronouns, English nearly forces you to reveal whether a person you are discussing is male or female. It sounds very contrived in English to discuss a person without a he or she. It also forces you to reveal whether a topic is single or plural. By contrast Japanese in practice forces you to reveal whether your brother is older or younger, so that with twins, it's important to know which was born first.

I once did a (cursory, undergraduate) study of the Wintu language spoken by a native American tribe. It was truly fascinating, although the information I am going to explain is long in the tooth (70's), and may have been modified by subsequent research or information. Do be forewarned I have not fact-checked since that time.

In Wintu, the conjugation of verbs changes on the basis of the justification for my knowledge. For example, if I wish to state the sentence:

"Jens is chopping wood."

the verb form will change depending on whether:

I can see Jens chopping wood.
I can hear Jens chopping wood and/or a flying wood chip hit me and so he is chopping wood.
I went to his tent, and both he and his ax are missing; I conclude he is chopping wood.
I know he chops wood every day at this time.
Someone told me he is chopping wood.

Now, of course, I have been able to communicate the equivalent rough idea in English of the verb conjugations, but the unique thing here is that Wintu forces the speaker to always specify the basis for the knowledge, something we can fudge very easily in, say, English. I have heard Wintu called the "perfect language for a legal system," due to what it would do for both testimony and argument.

I think Wintu should be the official language for the LiS section. For obvious reasons.

Strange
2013-Oct-01, 05:42 PM
Technically, "calamari" refers to a specific means of preparation.

I was going to argue with this but then discovered I was about to fall for the etymological fallacy. Although English is my first language, I had never realised that calamari is used almost exclusively for fried squid. I always assumed it was just a "fancy" word for squid (because I know that is what the word "really" means).

Interesting that we seem to have imported some words in their plural form (from Italian, at least) and use them as singular: panini, biscotti ... and probably lots of others I can't think of right now. (Not calamari, which is uncountable. Or unaccountable, if you don't like it. :)).

swampyankee
2013-Oct-03, 01:39 AM
Mmm. Technically, "calamari" refers to a specific means of preparation. And, yes, it does happen a lot with food, but as I said, it struck me because it's one of the ones that didn't happen in English. Also, "lamb" is still called "lamb" when you eat a young sheep. It's when you eat an adult sheep that it's called "mutton."

"Calamari" is Italian for "squid"; at least in Italian-American households, "calamari" is not necessarily fried. In this part of the US, you'll usually see it on the menus as "fried calamari."

Jens
2013-Oct-03, 06:45 AM
I once did a (cursory, undergraduate) study of the Wintu language spoken by a native American tribe. It was truly fascinating, although the information I am going to explain is long in the tooth (70's), and may have been modified by subsequent research or information. Do be forewarned I have not fact-checked since that time.


I've heard of that language before, probably in some book on linguistics. I remember the example they gave was that if you ask someone if they're married, they can't say "yes," but have to say, "I remember being so," because unless their spouse is with them, the spouse could have suddenly died without them knowing it.

There's another language, I can't remember from where but I think it's a Pacific language, where they have words for "left" and "right," but only north, south, east, and west. So instead of saying "left hand" they have to say "south hand" or "west hand" and have to know which way they are facing all the time. But apparently they gain a great ability to remember where they are facing. I think an experiment was done where a person was spun around and they still knew which way was north. I looked it up, and it's an aboriginal Australian people called the Guugu Yimithirr.

Inclusa
2013-Oct-03, 09:00 AM
I once did a (cursory, undergraduate) study of the Wintu language spoken by a native American tribe. It was truly fascinating, although the information I am going to explain is long in the tooth (70's), and may have been modified by subsequent research or information. Do be forewarned I have not fact-checked since that time.

In Wintu, the conjugation of verbs changes on the basis of the justification for my knowledge. For example, if I wish to state the sentence:

"Jens is chopping wood."

the verb form will change depending on whether:

I can see Jens chopping wood.
I can hear Jens chopping wood and/or a flying wood chip hit me and so he is chopping wood.
I went to his tent, and both he and his ax are missing; I conclude he is chopping wood.
I know he chops wood every day at this time.
Someone told me he is chopping wood.

Now, of course, I have been able to communicate the equivalent rough idea in English of the verb conjugations, but the unique thing here is that Wintu forces the speaker to always specify the basis for the knowledge, something we can fudge very easily in, say, English. I have heard Wintu called the "perfect language for a legal system," due to what it would do for both testimony and argument.

I think Wintu should be the official language for the LiS section. For obvious reasons.

Unfortunately, Wintu is a nearly extinct language, and we are facing extremely massive language extinction these days.


I've heard of that language before, probably in some book on linguistics. I remember the example they gave was that if you ask someone if they're married, they can't say "yes," but have to say, "I remember being so," because unless their spouse is with them, the spouse could have suddenly died without them knowing it.

There's another language, I can't remember from where but I think it's a Pacific language, where they have words for "left" and "right," but only north, south, east, and west. So instead of saying "left hand" they have to say "south hand" or "west hand" and have to know which way they are facing all the time. But apparently they gain a great ability to remember where they are facing. I think an experiment was done where a person was spun around and they still knew which way was north. I looked it up, and it's an aboriginal Australian people called the Guugu Yimithirr.

This is yet another dying language again. Isn't it funny that the international languages such as English and Spanish are somewhat weird? I type in Mandarin Chinese daily, but I don't speak it often enough.

Gillianren
2013-Oct-03, 03:20 PM
All languages are "somewhat weird." Gaelic, another dying language, doesn't have a verb for "to have." When I studied it in college, we joked that it explained a lot about the mutual histories of the English and the Irish. Also, in Indonesia, it's rude to say no flat out. (I believe it's possible, just impolite.) You have to say, "Not yet." No matter what language you choose, there are serious cultural oddities embedded in it.

caveman1917
2013-Oct-03, 03:36 PM
Also, in Indonesia, it's rude to say no flat out. (I believe it's possible, just impolite.) You have to say, "Not yet."

How would that work if being asked a question about the past, such as "did you get a bike for your 12th birthday?"? You can hardly say "not yet" then.

Gillianren
2013-Oct-03, 05:02 PM
I don't know. I don't speak Indonesian. I just read it somewhere. I can find out, though; the person who taught me Gaelic also speaks Indonesian. (She's an ethnomusicologist, of all things!) She confirmed it for me, but didn't go into a lot of detail. And I took that class the summer of 2000, so I might not have remembered the details if she'd given them.

Strange
2013-Oct-03, 08:56 PM
Also, in Indonesia, it's rude to say no flat out. (I believe it's possible, just impolite.)

Japanese is similar. There is a perfectly good word for no and phrases for "we don't have any". But, at least once, I have gone into a shop and said, "Do you have X". The shopkeeper smiles, says yes, then brings out something slightly different. At first I think it must be me so I explain what I want more carefully. "Ah, of course, just wait a moment" ... brings back something else. After couple more attempts I realise he is trying to tell me that he doesn't have what I want and will I please stop bothering him.

BigDon
2013-Oct-03, 11:05 PM
Japanese is similar. There is a perfectly good word for no and phrases for "we don't have any". But, at least once, I have gone into a shop and said, "Do you have X". The shopkeeper smiles, says yes, then brings out something slightly different. At first I think it must be me so I explain what I want more carefully. "Ah, of course, just wait a moment" ... brings back something else. After couple more attempts I realise he is trying to tell me that he doesn't have what I want and will I please stop bothering him.

Now was he actually out or did he just not want to serve you?

There is a lot of that, too.

NorthernDevo
2013-Oct-03, 11:59 PM
A particular incongruity with the English language that always interested me: Back when I was learning to ride part of my duties was watering the horse - that is, give the horse water. That always made me scratch my head a bit because if it's correct; I just milked the cat.
:D

Cheers!

PetersCreek
2013-Oct-04, 12:03 AM
Often heard at our house: "Did you kibble the dog?" (or the cats)

BigDon
2013-Oct-04, 12:08 AM
Devo, when I moved furniture one of the things we had to do on occasion was explain to our Latin co-workers the difference between "la playa" and "la perra". (The beach and the American Kennel Club name for a female dog.)

Most couldn't hear the difference until you got them to say the words "each" and "itch".

BigDon
2013-Oct-04, 12:09 AM
Hey! Mr. Creek! How are you doing?

Jens
2013-Oct-04, 02:03 AM
A particular incongruity with the English language that always interested me: Back when I was learning to ride part of my duties was watering the horse - that is, give the horse water. That always made me scratch my head a bit because if it's correct; I just milked the cat.


I wonder if that is a regional thing or occupational? If somebody asked me to water the horse I'd go get a hose and spray water on it!

Cougar
2013-Oct-04, 11:54 AM
Now was he actually out or did he just not want to serve you?

It's widespread throughout the country. Seems like saying "no" is considered the height of rudeness. Beating around the bush is much preferred.

swampyankee
2013-Oct-04, 11:57 AM
I wonder if that is a regional thing or occupational? If somebody asked me to water the horse I'd go get a hose and spray water on it!

...in which case either the horse would be happy or kick and bite you to death.

In the US, "watering" animals is giving them water to drink, analogously to watering plants.

When NorthernDevo tries to milk a cat (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?146383-English-Language-Oddities&p=2160567#post2160567), I think one or more of his|her friends should with be there with cameras so we can all see the video.

LookingSkyward
2013-Oct-04, 12:17 PM
canning - at my house, involves putting stuff in jars. Jarring is something completely different :)

caveman1917
2013-Oct-04, 01:58 PM
Japanese is similar. There is a perfectly good word for no and phrases for "we don't have any". But, at least once, I have gone into a shop and said, "Do you have X". The shopkeeper smiles, says yes, then brings out something slightly different. At first I think it must be me so I explain what I want more carefully. "Ah, of course, just wait a moment" ... brings back something else. After couple more attempts I realise he is trying to tell me that he doesn't have what I want and will I please stop bothering him.

If that were to happen to me it could go on for hours, i'd never pick up on that. Well, after a while i'd just give up and try another store, but would never have picked up on the intention. It's hard enough for some of us to understand non-verbal communication as it is, but that is just cruel.

walker1001
2013-Oct-04, 02:34 PM
Look out! as far as I know in all English-speaking countries means Beware!

Look out the window! in AmerEnglish does not mean Beware of the window! but Look out of (or "through") the window. Similarly they go "Out the door" not Out of or "through" the darn thing.

NEOWatcher
2013-Oct-04, 02:41 PM
Japanese is similar. There is a perfectly good word for no and phrases for "we don't have any". But, at least once, I have gone into a shop and said, "Do you have X". The shopkeeper smiles, says yes, then brings out something slightly different. At first I think it must be me so I explain what I want more carefully. "Ah, of course, just wait a moment" ... brings back something else. After couple more attempts I realise he is trying to tell me that he doesn't have what I want and will I please stop bothering him.
Another possiblity other than the ones presented, is that the shopkeeper just wanted to make a sale hoping he would get to the point of you saying "close enough".

Trebuchet
2013-Oct-04, 03:00 PM
Look out! as far as I know in all English-speaking countries means Beware!

Look out the window! in AmerEnglish does not mean Beware of the window! but Look out of (or "through") the window. Similarly they go "Out the door" not Out of or "through" the darn thing.

Duck!

walker1001
2013-Oct-04, 03:05 PM
Duck!

:D

NorthernDevo
2013-Oct-04, 04:23 PM
(chuckle) At least I didn't cream the cat; that'd be cruel.

You know one of my own greatest disappointments was that I never bothered to learn another language so I can only think in terms of an English perspective. The great joy - as we see here - in English is its wonderful playfulness - its ability to be pulled, stretched and squashed like Plasticene. Favourite authors of mine - Douglas Adams and of course Sir Terry - excel at this. (Pratchett once compared the prehistoric fossil record of his Discworld as God "Playing with the Pleistocene".)

I'm just curious: To what extent do other languages share this flexibility and playfulness?

Of course, another of my life's disappointments is that when I was in the Army, as a Private I had to park in General Parking and the Generals parked in Private Parking. Go figure. ;)

Strange
2013-Oct-04, 07:16 PM
I'm just curious: To what extent do other languages share this flexibility and playfulness?

I think it is pretty much universal. Japanese, like English, has a lot of homophones and they are very fond of puns. They also have a kind of "visual pun" where the sounds, meanings and appearance of characters can be played with.

PetersCreek
2013-Oct-04, 08:10 PM
canning - at my house, involves putting stuff in jars. Jarring is something completely different :)

Up here, canning involves both jars and cans. Folks who fish salmon for subsistence (not commercially) frequently preserve it by canning it. One finds cases of cans here alongside the mason jars.

Buttercup
2013-Oct-04, 08:21 PM
Around here (lots of Spanish speakers), a word of French origin usually confuses them. They'll ask me, "Why is it said like that?" or "Why does it look so different from the way it's said?" An unflattering comment on "English" is then thrown in...

...and then I say, "Well, it's a French word actually."

swampyankee
2013-Oct-04, 08:31 PM
Up here, canning involves both jars and cans. Folks who fish salmon for subsistence (not commercially) frequently preserve it by canning it. One finds cases of cans here alongside the mason jars.

Over here -- in New England -- "canning" includes preserving things in mason jars, so I don't think it's a usage limited to Alaska. Most people around here who do can, probably mostly do vegetables. There are some people who hunt as a major source of their meat in New England, but I think they're mostly in Northern New England.

As an aside, I found out that in at least some states black-powder muzzle loading guns don't count as firearms. This is probably more a peculiarity involving lawyers than English, however.

Gillianren
2013-Oct-04, 11:36 PM
I think it is pretty much universal. Japanese, like English, has a lot of homophones and they are very fond of puns. They also have a kind of "visual pun" where the sounds, meanings and appearance of characters can be played with.

Yes, and some of them are just as terrible as ones in English. There's a character on one of my favourite anime who is always making them, and we routinely pause the thing to read the "footnotes" on the fan subs. It's seldom worth it.

Trebuchet
2013-Oct-05, 12:00 AM
As I recall, when "canning" was originally invented, the containers used were champagne bottles, the only thing strong enough to withstand the required boiling after sealing. Once cans came along, they were originally closed with with lead-based solder ("sodder" to us Americans) which had other problems and may have been a contributing factor to the failure of the Franklin expedition.

Solfe
2013-Oct-05, 12:36 AM
Pop vs soda.

Buttercup
2013-Oct-05, 01:35 AM
Over here -- in New England -- "canning" includes preserving things in mason jars...

In the Midwest, at least when I lived there until 20 years ago, "canning" referred only to mason jars in pressure cookers. My mother made the best pickled beets. :D Also bread & butter pickles, a variety of garden veggies, etc.

My sister has canned for a while now (I never have). Pear sauce, asparagus tips, etc.

Substantia Innominata
2013-Oct-05, 01:42 AM
Pop vs soda.

If in doubt, leave both out, and call a coke a coke.

BigDon
2013-Oct-05, 02:10 AM
Pop vs soda.

And then the separated compound word, soda pop.

and I won't even go into caustic soda. (No really, I won't!)

Gillianren
2013-Oct-05, 02:23 AM
If in doubt, leave both out, and call a coke a coke.

I do. It's a registered trademark of the Coca-Cola Corporation.

HenrikOlsen
2013-Oct-05, 08:33 AM
It's widespread throughout the country. Seems like saying "no" is considered the height of rudeness. Beating around the bush is much preferred.
That reminds me of a website I've been involved with, part of its function is to announce to different countries that there was a traineeship available and they are invites to suggest a student for it. The idea is that the countries will tell of they have a suitable student and the country with the offer will then decide which to pick.
This website was programmed by a Dane who considered "Accept" and "Reject" to be obvious easy to understand words for the choice given to the country who got the offer.
This resulted in quite a lot of delays because about half the involved countries consider it extremely impolite to reject something, so they'd never answered if they couldn't use the offer.

This was fixed by changing the response choices to "Accept" and "Decline".

Strange
2013-Oct-05, 09:56 AM
Pop vs soda.

Here is a nice map of the distribution of these and other terms: http://strangemaps.wordpress.com/2008/08/18/308-the-pop-vs-soda-map/

Taeolas
2013-Oct-07, 11:47 AM
Not completely related to this, but tangentially so I'm tossing it in.

The Debit card machines for some of the stores up here can be a bit confusing (especially when you consider we're in Canada and nearish to the States).

When you put your card in to pay, the first thing that comes up is your total, with CAN to the left and ACC to the right.


For me, and my mom, and (according to the clerks, a lot of other people), most people will push the CAN button first, which of course actually means Cancel.

The design of that interface is a two-fold failure. First, CAN is often recognized (especially when near a dollar amount) to mean Canadian Currency. And the first choice to the left is usually accept while the choice to the right is reject. So that design starts off counter intuitive; and just seeing CAN doesn't obviously indicate it means Cancel. I really wish they would update those terminals.

NEOWatcher
2013-Oct-07, 02:29 PM
If in doubt, leave both out, and call a coke a coke.
In places you STILL get asked "What kind of coke? We have pepsi, 7-up, etc..."

( I see that Strange's map backs up my experience)

Trebuchet
2013-Oct-07, 02:35 PM
"Do I turn left at this next corner?"
"Right."

Hornblower
2013-Oct-07, 08:57 PM
(chuckle) At least I didn't cream the cat; that'd be cruel.

You know one of my own greatest disappointments was that I never bothered to learn another language so I can only think in terms of an English perspective. The great joy - as we see here - in English is its wonderful playfulness - its ability to be pulled, stretched and squashed like Plasticene. Favourite authors of mine - Douglas Adams and of course Sir Terry - excel at this. (Pratchett once compared the prehistoric fossil record of his Discworld as God "Playing with the Pleistocene".)

I'm just curious: To what extent do other languages share this flexibility and playfulness?

Of course, another of my life's disappointments is that when I was in the Army, as a Private I had to park in General Parking and the Generals parked in Private Parking. Go figure. ;)That's a gem. As an Army veteran I had a nice chuckle about that one.

NorthernDevo
2013-Oct-10, 11:47 AM
I think it is pretty much universal. Japanese, like English, has a lot of homophones and they are very fond of puns. They also have a kind of "visual pun" where the sounds, meanings and appearance of characters can be played with.

Can you expand? I've studied Aikido for 26 years and often pride myself on an understanding of the Japanese nature. Of course; all it takes is for me to meet an actual Japanese person for me to realize that I understand nothing at all. But for that; I am awate the Japanese language is extremely subtle; and its written characters capable of an astonishing range of interpretation (as I discover every time I get into an argument regarding the term 'AiKiDo'.)

Can you please provide an example - and explanation - of the 'visual pun' you describe? I would be delighted to learn more about it. :) Thank you!

Strange
2013-Oct-10, 01:12 PM
Examples!? You want examples? Well, I suppose it is a science forum. :)

You may have seen furigana, the small characters written above kanji to show the reading/pronunciation? These are often "subverted" in various ways. For example, a shop might write furigana above their phone number (sometimes based on quite unusual possible readings of the number) to make up a slogan. For example, there was a restaurant whose phone number was something like:

o i shi i o ni ku (= oishii oniku; delicious meat)
0 1 4 1 0 2 9

Or manga might use write some dialogue using a different kanji than you would expect to contrast the character's thoughts with what are saying out loud. Sometimes, this might use an unusual (or non-existent) reading of the character and so, again, use furigana to indicate how it should be read.

And people occasionally make up characters. One I remember used the components (radicals) for "up", "down" and "woman" and was supposedly pronounced erebetaa gaaru ("elevator girl", a girl who operates the elevators in department stores .... do they still have them, I wonder...).

It is many years since I read much Japanese so I am a bit stuck for anything better. Jens might have something...

Jens
2013-Oct-11, 02:20 AM
Can you please provide an example - and explanation - of the 'visual pun' you describe? I would be delighted to learn more about it. :) Thank you!



Can you please provide an example - and explanation - of the 'visual pun' you describe? I would be delighted to learn more about it. :) Thank you!

I wasn't exactly sure what Strange meant. But I think I do now. You can make up kanji that have some meaning that can be deduced from the parts in a sort of ingenuous way, and it's sometimes featured on game shows on TV, where contestants have to guess. I can think of a similar one in English, which might give you an idea. What does this mean?

NaCl
----
NaOH

(the dotted line is supposed to be a divisor line)

The answer: The base is under a salt.

Jens
2013-Oct-11, 02:33 AM
o i shi i o ni ku (= oishii oniku; delicious meat)
0 1 4 1 0 2 9


That's very common. Interesting story, but most people have trouble remembering phone numbers. I can probably remember 3 or 4 at the most. Well, I have a Japanese acquaintance who can remember phone numbers from years earlier, and the reason she can is that she does exactly that. She remembers them as phrases. It's also used superstitiously. Many years ago we tried to get into public housing, and didn't win but ended up getting an apartment because other people on the waiting list dropped out. The reason may be because it was room 402, and in Japanese 4 is pronounced "shi" and 2 is pronounced "ni" or possibly "nin". And shinin means "dead person."

Also, just about the homonyms, Japanese has many more homonyms than English, because of the restricted sound set and word forms. There's one sentence I know that can mean three things depending on how you write it. The pronunciation is "sukiidekisou." It can be written:

スキー出来そう (he seems like he can ski)
スキーで着そう (he will probably come by ski)
スキーで競う ([they] compete by ski) (Japanese is a pro-drop language, so as a response that is a perfectly reasonable sentence).

Here's another nice one:

Ura niwa niwa niwa niwa niwa niwa niwa tori ga iru. (裏庭には二羽庭には二羽鶏がいる)

It means, "there are two chickens in the back garden and two chickens in the garden".

caveman1917
2013-Oct-11, 10:31 AM
The reason may be because it was room 402, and in Japanese 4 is pronounced "shi" and 2 is pronounced "ni" or possibly "nin". And shinin means "dead person."

So the answer to life, the universe and everything is "dead person".

Cougar
2013-Oct-11, 03:06 PM
So the answer to life, the universe and everything is "dead person".

Eventually.

Jens, if I may interpose, what, if anything, might "chi en basu" mean?

Strange
2013-Oct-11, 03:31 PM
Jens, if I may interpose, what, if anything, might "chi en basu" mean?

A delayed bus, maybe?

Inclusa
2013-Oct-14, 05:02 AM
A delayed bus, maybe?

Is the "verb" as an adjective an oddity in English? The stabbed Homo sapien, the skinned Castor canadensis, a threatened Branta canadensis, the renovated home, etc.
Usually, when a "verb" is used as an adjective, it means the subject is under the impact of an action.
Ok, the "canadensis" animals somewhat reveal my Canadian identity.

Strange
2013-Oct-14, 08:23 AM
Is the "verb" as an adjective an oddity in English?

It is common in many languages. English restricts it to the past and present participles. Japanese, for example, also uses the present tense.

The exact meaning may be ambiguous or idiomatic. A "stoned fruit", for example is a fruit that has had the stone removed, rather than one that has been turned to stone or had stones thrown at it.

HenrikOlsen
2013-Oct-14, 02:22 PM
It is common in many languages. English restricts it to the past and present participles. Japanese, for example, also uses the present tense.

The exact meaning may be ambiguous or idiomatic. A "stoned fruit", for example is a fruit that has had the stone removed, rather than one that has been turned to stone or had stones thrown at it.
And neither did it partake in illegal substances.

swampyankee
2013-Oct-14, 04:57 PM
It is common in many languages. English restricts it to the past and present participles. Japanese, for example, also uses the present tense.

The exact meaning may be ambiguous or idiomatic. A "stoned fruit", for example is a fruit that has had the stone removed, rather than one that has been turned to stone or had stones thrown at it.

French, I have been told (I took French in high school), is famously idiomatic. Perhaps there should be a new thread: Idiomatique française. Of course, my fluency in French is roughly the same as that of my dog, so I'm not likely to contribute.

Jens
2013-Oct-14, 11:06 PM
Is the "verb" as an adjective an oddity in English? The stabbed Homo sapien, the skinned Castor canadensis, a threatened Branta canadensis, the renovated home, etc.
Usually, when a "verb" is used as an adjective, it means the subject is under the impact of an action.
Ok, the "canadensis" animals somewhat reveal my Canadian identity.

I would be surprised to find a language that doesn't. All four languages I speak allow it, and for example in Chinese, there are words like 炒饭, fried rice, where the first character is, I believe, a verb that means to fry.

swampyankee
2013-Oct-15, 12:41 AM
Is the "verb" as an adjective an oddity in English? The stabbed Homo sapien, the skinned Castor canadensis, a threatened Branta canadensis, the renovated home, etc.
Usually, when a "verb" is used as an adjective, it means the subject is under the impact of an action.
Ok, the "canadensis" animals somewhat reveal my Canadian identity.

I'm pretty sure French (my last exposure to French was in a US high school in 1969, so take this with some grains of salt) uses verbs as adjectives. French for "iced tea" is, if I recall thé glacé, where glacé is derived from the French word glace, to freeze (or to glaze).

Delvo
2013-Oct-15, 09:48 PM
I can't picture how a language that didn't do that would work. Being able to say that some action has been taken on something, which means that thing was the recipient of that action, seems like it must be one of the basic functions that a language must be able to do in order to be a language.

Strange
2013-Oct-15, 10:13 PM
I can't picture how a language that didn't do that would work. Being able to say that some action has been taken on something, which means that thing was the recipient of that action, seems like it must be one of the basic functions that a language must be able to do in order to be a language.

It is possible to do it without using verbs attributively. For example, in English, we can't use the certain forms of the verb (e.g. "my book borrowed man", which you can say in Japanese) so we have to use a phrase such as "the man who borrowed my book". It seems plausible that there are languages that never use verbs attributively. But I don't know any. A quick search just found discussion of languages without attributive adjectives (like Japanese).

swampyankee
2013-Oct-15, 10:33 PM
That's very common. Interesting story, but most people have trouble remembering phone numbers. I can probably remember 3 or 4 at the most. Well, I have a Japanese acquaintance who can remember phone numbers from years earlier, and the reason she can is that she does exactly that. She remembers them as phrases. It's also used superstitiously. Many years ago we tried to get into public housing, and didn't win but ended up getting an apartment because other people on the waiting list dropped out. The reason may be because it was room 402, and in Japanese 4 is pronounced "shi" and 2 is pronounced "ni" or possibly "nin". And shinin means "dead person."

Also, just about the homonyms, Japanese has many more homonyms than English, because of the restricted sound set and word forms. There's one sentence I know that can mean three things depending on how you write it. The pronunciation is "sukiidekisou." It can be written:

スキー出来そう (he seems like he can ski)
スキーで着そう (he will probably come by ski)
スキーで競う ([they] compete by ski) (Japanese is a pro-drop language, so as a response that is a perfectly reasonable sentence).

Here's another nice one:

Ura niwa niwa niwa niwa niwa niwa niwa tori ga iru. (裏庭には二羽庭には二羽鶏がいる)

It means, "there are two chickens in the back garden and two chickens in the garden".

One of my professors when I was getting my teaching certificate had asked students to write down all the phone numbers they remembered. He was tracking the average; when I took his class (2010), it was about 20. When he started having them do this, the average was well over 100.

jokergirl
2013-Oct-16, 06:57 PM
Nahuatl has a difference between "we-including-you(the person being talked to)" and "we-not-including-you". I've always thought most languages rather lacking in that distinction.

;)

Jens
2013-Oct-16, 10:34 PM
Nahuatl has a difference between "we-including-you(the person being talked to)" and "we-not-including-you". I've always thought most languages rather lacking in that distinction.

;)

Actually, I know of an English-based Creole that does that: Tok Pisin, which is spoken in PNG. They use:
Mi, yu, miyu (just you and me), mipela (us but not you), and miyupela (us and you).

I'm not sure how common it is; it may be in some language families.

Solfe
2013-Oct-22, 12:00 PM
Here is phrase/sentence that threw me: "He made a model with a picture to hand." I would say "on hand", but "to hand" also makes sense. Are both correct?

Trebuchet
2013-Oct-22, 01:53 PM
Here is phrase/sentence that threw me: "He made a model with a picture to hand." I would say "on hand", but "to hand" also makes sense. Are both correct?

I'd probably say "at hand" sooner than "to hand". I'm not sure why.

Gillianren
2013-Oct-22, 03:55 PM
They're all correct, but I'm not sure I'd use any of them. Or I suppose what I'd say would be "a picture he had on hand."

profloater
2013-Oct-22, 04:58 PM
I would say to hand every time but here is another one. In business reply emails, people say to me "I will revert to you" meaning "reply" it seems ugly use to me and revert means go back to a previous version to my mind.

vonmazur
2013-Oct-23, 06:20 AM
There is a Japanese Carbine, adopted in 1911, year 44 of Mejii, that the collectors refer to as "Yon Yon Shiki". An author on this subject, in a guide book, pointed out to the US Collectors that the Japanese would be reluctant to say "Shi Shi Shiki". I do not know if this is really true, but because of this book, most of the collectors in the US use the alternate word for "4". I suppose this is sort of like the US students of Japanese Martial Arts who are somewhat scrupulous about using the "Correct" Japanese words...

Dale

Jens
2013-Oct-23, 09:39 AM
The shi versus yon is a bit tricky. It would take a long time to explain but I think it may have a lot to do with pronunciation. There is another number, seven, which is pronounced shichi in the Chinese reading, so it is often pronounced with the Japanese reading nana.

BTW in Japanese there are two readings for each number, one the native Japanese form and the other the Chinese pronunciation. The Japanese starts with hitotsu, futatsu, while the Chinese is ichi, ni... The two systems are used in different places.

HenrikOlsen
2013-Oct-24, 12:05 AM
. . . I suppose this is sort of like the US students of Japanese Martial Arts who are somewhat scrupulous about using the "Correct" Japanese words...
BTW in Japanese there are two readings for each number, one the native Japanese form and the other the Chinese pronunciation. The Japanese starts with hitotsu, futatsu, while the Chinese is ichi, ni... The two systems are used in different places.
Interesting that martial arts counting uses the Chinese ich, ni, . . . numbers, could that have something to do with giving an impression of the arts having an ancient traditional background?

Jens
2013-Oct-24, 01:57 AM
Interesting that martial arts counting uses the Chinese ich, ni, . . . numbers, could that have something to do with giving an impression of the arts having an ancient traditional background?

No, it's just the way people count. For example, when children count to ten in a game, they use the same pronunciation. It's shorter, with two syllables the longest. If you count with the old Japanese pronunciation, you get lots of numbers with three syllables, and it's not really practical for counting quickly.

One place where the old Japanese system is used is in the days of the month. It's like:

Tsuitachi, futsuka, mikka, yokka. . . The first is an exception but otherwise they are Japanese. . . Until you get to 11, where it reverts to the Chinese pronunciation! So it's really kind of a mess to explain.