Monthly Archives: June 2012

The IPA: Consonants Part I – Place of Articulation

This is part of a series. The other posts are here. You can get your copy of the IPA here. It is helpful for following along.

As I mentioned in the first post, consonants are characterized by obstruction of airflow, and the consonant chart is organized around this. Each row in the chart represents to what degree the airflow is being obstructed, and this is technically known as “manner of articulation”. The top row, “plosives”, are consonants produced with a brief period of silence where no air escapes at all. As we move down the rows, the constriction widens and more air flows, and the final row represents approximants which have the minimum degree of obstruction possible to still be a consonant.
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Review of “Comma Sutra”

I was looking for something grammar related on google books, when I came across Comma Sutra, by Laurie Rozakis. I read the first chapter and was pretty shocked by some of the content. This is no amateur either. She has a PhD in English, she’s written 100 books including some of the Dummies and Idiot’s guides, and she’s on faculty at Farmingdale State Collge.

So while I can’t speak for the quality of her teaching or writing on other subjects, I’ve got more than a few things to say about her explanations of grammar and language.
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“the” is not an adjective

I see this all over the in place in grammar books. Where did anyone get the idea that ‘the’ is an adjective? This is clearly wrong. Linguists would call it a ‘determiner’, but even the more traditional name of ‘article’ would be fine. So long as it gets put into a different category from words like ‘delicious’ or ‘colorful’, it doesn’t really matter what you call it.

Three simple reasons why the determiner the, and its companion a, should not be considered adjectives:

(1) Adjectives can “stack”, but the determiners do not:

The huge hairy angry black bear.
*The an a bear.

(If you don’t know what that star means, see this post)

(2) Adjectives have comparative forms, the determiners do not:

The red dot. The redder dot. The reddest dot.
The dot. *The-er dot. *The-est dot.

(3) Some adjectives can occur after the noun they modify. No determiners do this:

The visible stars tonight are shown on this map.
Shown on this map are the stars visible tonight.

The footballer kicked a puppy.
**Footballer the kicked puppy a.

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The IPA: Introduction

This is part of a series. The other posts are here. You can get your copy of the IPA here. It is helpful for following along.

This is the International Phonetic Alphabet (you can get your own copy here). Continue reading

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