I’ve been involved in English proficiency testing for a few years, and in that time I’ve come across some unintentionally humorous answers from students and test-takers. When I say ‘humorous’, I don’t mean to make fun of anyone. On the contrary, I admire the effort these people put in to learn a second language, often as adults when it is more difficult. They really are doing their best to communicate, but when you read their answers as a native speaker of English you can’t help but smile. Continue reading
Monthly Archives: March 2015
Let’s say you’re planning something with your friend on the phone. You are going to her place later. You say “I’ll be there soon”. She says “I’ll be here waiting”. Even though you are both referring to the same location (her house), one person called it “there” and the other person called it “here”. Why?
It’s because the words here and there don’t have fixed reference. The location they refer to depends on the location of the person who is speaking. Things that are nearby the speaker are ‘here’ and things that are far away from the speaker are ‘there’. That can cover a lot of distance, from the table in the next room (“I left my keys there”) to the surface of Pluto (“What knows what’s there?”).
Words like here and there are called “spatial deictics” in linguistics. They give a sense of where something is located, relative to a reference point. The simple system of English, which divides up space between close to the speaker vs. not close to the speaker, is actually pretty common, but it is certainly not the only way to do things. Continue reading
I noticed a few references to this book recently on Twitter, so I had to check it out. The “Gwynne” in the title is a Mr. Nevile Martin Gwynne. He is apparently somewhat well-known already for writing in the Sunday Times, and because he teaches children Latin through Skype. He also has a website over at http://www.nmgwynne.net.
This review focusses mainly on the preface and first two chapters of Gwynne’s Grammar, because that’s where he lays out his philosophy of language, and that is the interesting part. The second part of the book is basically just a reprinting of Elements of Style. Part three has appendices. Continue reading
In this post, I’ll cover the vowel chart. The IPA divides up sounds based on their articulations, and vowels and consonants have fundamentally different kinds of articulation. In particular, consonants are sounds produced with obstruction in the vocal tract, while vowels are sound produced without any obstruction.