No men, women, children, or houses with the pie


William JonesWilliam Jones was a reported hyperpolyglot. He learned Greek, Latin, Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, and basic Chinese, says Wikipedia to add he knew thirteen languages thoroughly, and another twenty-eight reasonably well.

Mr. Jones wrote The Sanscrit Language to tell that Greek and Latin had a common root, Sanskrit. This Proto-Indo-European “language”, PIE in short, was to originate contemporary European tongues.

Altogether, Mr. Jones remains described as having had at least reasonably good knowledge of 41 tongues. Such a reasonably good acquaintance should have encompassed the words woman, man, child, and house. Let us compare these words in Latin, Greek, English, Russian, Polish, German, French, and Sanskrit.

Is there a root PIE vocabulary?


Woman silhouetteWOMAN

Latin: femina; Greek: gyne; English: woman; Russian: zenshchina; Polish: kobieta; German: Weib; French: femme; Sanskrit: nari.

Man silhouetteMAN

Latin: vir; Greek: andros; English: man; Russian: muzshtschina; Polish: mężczyzna; German: Mann; French: homme; Sanskrit: naro.

I do not know Sanskrit. I can only compare resources. The morpheme man, as quoted by supporters of the PIE, yet seems to refer to thinking, not sex. It is common lore that masculinity is not strictly synonymous with pensiveness. ;)


Child silhouetteCHILD

Latin: putillus; Greek: pais; English: child; Russian: rebionok; Polish: dziecko; German: Kind; French: enfant; Sanskrit: sutah.

Words for children would have varied in Sanskrit. The culture has been publicized as rigidly stratified, in status and ancestry. “Children of men” made another name, napraja. The notion is unlikely to have regarded speciate or sexual differentiation.

House silhouetteHOUSE

Latin: domus; Greek: do; English: house; Russian: dom; Polish: dom; German: Haus; French: maison; Sanskrit: vasati.

Vir or andros, child or rebionok, woman or kobieta ― the words do not resemble one another, and they are the basic vocabulary. In all languages, these are the words hardly ever to change. Polish and Russian could make a group. We may compare the words muzshtschina and mężczyzna. There is not much point deriving Polish from Russian or Russian from Polish, however. We can compare rebionok and dziecko.

Domus, do, and dom, or house and Haus, show geographic affinity. The similarities in form are characteristic of urban or other developments and do not decide on language grouping.

Language groups or families

Language groups work better than language families. “Families” derive languages, one from another. This might not work, as in the Polish and Russian examples above. Proto-languages are mostly constructs: there is no written evidence for them.

Whatever the finds, the fact will remain that people speak languages as the tongues are, without looking up to any “parent languages”. Within evolutionary approaches, languages may have emerged independently, owing to human cognitive advancement. Much language knowledge has become shared among humans, also owing to intellectual progress, as in terms on architecture.

Why derive European vocabularies from Sanskrit, while Sanskrit might have absorbed loan words?

There is no evidence for the Proto-Indo-European. The Rosetta Stone was absolutely unique for Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the Demotic, and Ancient Greek. It yet allowed translation, not an etymological study to provide for a PIE. Finally, Marco Polo was probably not the first visitor to the Far East. 

Carbon dating

Whenever possible, written resources should be carbon-dated. There is no philological method to affirm the original beyond evidence. Writings were copied in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and later, hand style and pen craft.

Radiocarbon results happen to be misunderstood. A website shares a story about a find from 9.5 thousands of years ago. It is … a piece of wood from an underwater site, without written matter. The picture on the left shows an archaeological find dated with pollen. Palynology is less likely to work for written resources.

Oldest does not mean wisest

Able to appraise linguistic craft and inspiration ― see The conscious mind of Emily Dickinson ―  I appreciate modern languages as some progress since the Antiquity. I would not have a share in the enthusiasm about deriving language roots. In ancient times, people were mostly illiterate, lived without running water, and had many health problems. The lifestyle diseases of the present day are those the Ancients could have never gotten as … they could never live that long. Intellectually, people were not more sophisticated than today. One needs to be very selective, seeking wisdom in olden times.

Compare A New People Come.

However, supporters of the Proto-Indo-European “family” have gone into making out religion, too. There is not a PIE root for the name “Earth”.

Earth silhouetteEARTH

Latin: terra or tellus; Greek: Gaia or Aia; English: Earth; Russian: Ziemlia; Polish: Ziemia; German: Erde; French: Terre; Sanskrit: vasudha.

It seems there was a pie more than the PIE, Mr. Jones time, and that pie was India. The colonial era began about 1500, and there was much competition.

Deriving the humanity from the outer space, again, would not make much difference on contemporary standards of living. Space 1999 would show reading Proto-Sanskrit accurately … ;)

My YouTube: Sanskrit Readout

The holocaust in the clip is not the Holocaust.

British grammar nazis

GrammerDisclaimer: the adjacent — and colored meaningfully yellow — graphic piffle is not intended to mean the Union Jack proper. It is the British Grammar Nazis logo on Facebook.

British grammar nazis header




The logo dubious pulchritude may be seen in its full form on the right here, also with a click.


Much has been written about WWII. Evidently, mere gathering orthography and other detail does not make one capable of text interpretation. The Daily Mash got misread, same as Thomas Weber: some guys focus on the words “rhetoric” and “confirmed” too much. 


Without going into matters like the meaning of life, or the spoken lore on WWII and British losses — invaluable for those hard of reading — let me think text, statistics, and implications.

Daily mash

Daily Mash

British grammar nazis shares

GN (Grammar Nazis) Facebook



The Daily Mash article appears full size, when clicked.



The GN (Grammar Nazis) reactions page does the same. Should there be visiting GNs,   I promise a brief primer on irony after this indispensable piece of advice on living with them on the same planet.



The site has about 50 thousand “likes”. Taking the British population alone, that would make about 50 thousand functionally illiterate, among about 63 million people. Some might say it is not so bad, it is not even one percent. Still, you’d better think literacy, going to the UK: the guys wouldn’t have had the UK flag their capriccio, if it were not permitted. More, such odd types tend to occupy big towns.



Try for a plain passport photo, that is, without brooches, scarves, ties, anything you do not always carry. The piffle shows the guys’ attention to picture specifics. ;)


Remember to wave your hand, getting a taxi. It is a simple, therefore legible gesture. Try to get a map with statues and other tourist attractions in large icons. It is better to take a walk from the National Museum than end up the Piccadilly, owing to small print. ;)


In hotels, always tick the boxes. Ask for those straight, should you be provided with a form without boxes to tick. ;)


Mailing letters, get the recorded: they have ID strips. Seeking directions, approach people with newspapers: there are odds they can read them. Never ever leave your books or papers open: they might be taken for other utilities. ;)


Now, the primer on irony. The basics are in the affirmative and the negative. You do not take them for a yes or no merely. Let me quote the Mash:


In no way are any of these people vain, arsey pedants.


A GN, do not take this for a refutation, as Wikipedia explains.


Naturally, life cannot be about statements only. Let me continue with the Mash.


The way they selflessly dedicate themselves to correct punctuation, for example by pointing out to the staff of a chip shop why the term ‘chip’s’ is a sloppy obfuscation, confirms they are bold and righteous individuals.


Apply antonymy, to grasp the gist. The rest becomes plain with the close synonymy nobody would use for a complimentary note.


Laying all that out in detail to a GN looks discouragingly big a task, hence the handful of thoughts and the primary color, yellow (adjective, reference 3).


Grammar Nazis evidently do not have the courage to admit that picking on people’s works has no chance to bring in anything creative, sophisticated. They do not offer own blogs or websites, especially with serious language work, for evaluation.

Apples grow on noses: two languages – two minds?

Two minds_Speaking a second language can change everything from problem-solving skills to personality. It is almost as if you are two people, says Catherine de Lange.


We can read “Mon espirit paratage — My two minds”, in The New Scientist of May 5th, 2012. Ms. de Lange compares monolingual and bilingual children. Washington Post has her article.


Ms. De Lange reports she tested children on syntax. Both monolinguals and bilinguals could see the mistake in phrases such as “apples growed on trees”, but differences arose when they considered nonsensical sentences such as “apples grow on noses”. The monolinguals, flummoxed by the silliness of the phrase, incorrectly reported an error, whereas the bilinguals gave the right answer, says Ms. de Lange. 



Picture 1. Is there even one nose in the picture, if we do not know what noses count?

Monolingual or multilingual, children get fairy tales. It does not matter, if the kid speaks one or more languages. It it important that the child comprehends the language in which he or she can hear, there was a fairy land, a long time ago, where apples grew on noses.



Picture 2. Do apples grow square, if we have Big Apple Corners?



No matter if in one or many languages ― but dependent on pragmatics ― we could or could not count any noses in picture 1; the Big Apple Corner in picture 2 only might have apples. 




Talking the science, the task was deictically misconstrued, if the account is accurate. The children evidently did not know if they were to tell the syntax or the pragmatics. Further, we can doubt nonsense for a good test on syntax.



Ms. de Lange says she speaks English and French. All languages have spellings. What we write as bread in English is un pain in French.


To a boy as in the picture below, eating bread, a test to neglect semantics might be un mal a l’oreille, seriously sick, you know. This would influence results, as a test during which you would not say a word could be only awfully awkward. You cannot expect to find many boys ― as well as girls ― who do not eat bread, never went shopping with parents or carers, and have no idea how to spell the word.


I believe there is such a “language interface” among many languages. Either the spoken or the written forms happen to have some similarity. It is a natural reaction to distance oneself from ambiguities and “surf” the language form, which seems to be the case with Ms. de Lange results. Multilingual persons are well able to be pragmatic in language use. Monolingual persons are well capable of abstract thinking. The “surfing” is not a linguistic developmental stage: it is enough you are showed how to do this and you can, whether you speak one language or many.


Boy eating bread


To work on syntax, we can use virtual or invented words ― regardless of age. Students might not show if they are monolingual or multilingual, on task.


Phimos can bimo.

A car rolls, a doll dances, a troll hops, and a ball bounces. Toys are things. They can be phimos. Every phimo can bimo. Before long, a kid may tell easy if we are correct saying, The phimo bimo now. :)


Not only syntax, also speaking rewards a degree of autonomy. If we make our virtual words with speech sounds which learners need to exercise, we avoid the flummoxing that verbal associations might bring.

[th] is the sound in mother;

[th] is the sound in father

[th] is the sound in brother;

[th] is the sound in … pother ;)

Virtual words do not have meaning. They can help exercise form.

Bread is always bread; there are many languages.

Multilingualism is becoming an everyday thing in more and more countries and cultures. I like that. I do not like bias about an ability to comprehend, speak, write, read, and communicate in more than one language. It is not true that multilingualism makes one prone for nonsense. Multilingualism does not require any unusual wit, on the other hand. 


The bias in Ms. de Lange’s experiment implies that multilingual kids do not mind if something is real or true, and look to syntax only. Monolingual children would be presented as literal in all language use. Another ethical and linguistic concern comes with Ms. de Lange reporting infant brain scans for experimental purposes.  There is no way to obtain informed consent from an infant. Washington Post has more.

Click to enlarge

Read why I cannot see sense in such scans.

Burning the Flag – where is the language?

Themis and the Flag


The legal profession is a depth of recondite detail the Supreme Court has the expertise firmly to deliberate. The linguist I am, I yet cannot yield on a few principles.


Freedom of speech has been quoted to justify burning the American flag.

United States versus Eichman, United States versus Haggerty, Texas versus Johnson: all cases argued freedom of speech under the First Amendment. Haggerty’s case would have had the implication to make the Flag necessarily your piece of cloth before burning. It is when the Flag belongs to an institution like Seattle Capitol Hill Post Office that you get fined. ;)

Let us analyze the First Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

We can paraphrase, to exercise comprehension. We can say the First Amendment

forbids the Congress to regulate the matters of religion, to inhibit legal  linguistic behavior by individuals as well as groups or in the media, to delimitate people’s right to convene, or to prevent people’s formally requesting the authorities for reparation of damages.

We could not quote the Amendment to justify slander. The original says, the freedom of speech. Is there a speech sound produced, if the human just sits silently by a campfire, warming his or her hands? Is there any written or printed stretch of language to emerge from the flame? Should one try to interpret the wood or coal crackling and hissing as stanzas, quatrains, epodes? Could we hear an anacrusis?

The Supreme Court holding on Eichman says:

The government’s interest in preserving the flag as a symbol did not outweigh the individual right to disparage that symbol through expressive conduct.

Let us analyze linguistic terms. Symbols and icons may be exact same objects, without language. For example, we work with a computer. We click an icon and it takes us to a website. The icon symbolizes the website. If we associate the content, it is only when we know the website. The icon is an arbitrary symbol. It does not express the content.

If we want to use the word “symbol” with reference to speech and language, we make a lexical item, a unit of meaning. We can say we use letter symbols, or even letter-symbols. There are many alphabets, and graphemes may be arbitrary.

Wikiepdia octagon

Wikipedia illustration

Wikipedia implies that a red octagon means “stop”, even without language.

Stop__roundWith flags or road signs, we can talk about referential codes only. The codes are not linguistic. Without reference, nobody gets any meaning.




Let us compare graphetics. Without patterns for written language, how could we interpret Hello? There is no linguistic patterning in the American flag.HelloFlag associations 1

What is the meaning of a national flag?   

It referentially  symbolizes the country, the people, and the language. The Flag does not correlate with the authorities only. By design, it does not contain a spoken or written message, either.

Even if you don’t like everybody round, would rather live in a tent, make own clothes  and hunt for food to liberate yourself of American capitalism, the nonsense of burning the Flag remains appalling, if to think about cause and effect.

Flag associations 3

The Constitution would not have come to existence without the people fighting for American freedom, also in Fort McHenry, about which The Star Spangled Banner tells. The First Amendment would never have been passed, without the Constitution.


As for symbolizing language: it is a human faculty to consist of grammar, phonology, and a lexicon. As in all areas of human activity, there is no uniform definition of language. Some researchers will say syntax, phonology, and vocabulary can make a language. To me, syntax belongs well within grammar.

There yet is considerable agreement that a language needs to be spoken or written. Braille belongs with writing, and sign languages with spoken forms of language. “Body language” is a figure of speech. I cannot agree with Wikipedia on counting languages. Wikipedia does not tell language as such. It tells a language or particular languages: as if we could not count the apples, because there are varieties of apples. No linguist would have a dialect for a sign code. :)

Any precise estimate depends on a partly arbitrary distinction between languages and dialects.

Language logo


Despite such differences, the Flag may and very often does symbolize American English. It is yet not American English itself, just as just it is not an actual country or people. The First Amendment says the people have the right to the freedom of speech. The Amendment does not say,

Congress shall make no law abridging expressive conduct in association with speech and language …

Fortunately: human expressive behaviors are a very wide spectrum. Part of this spectrum belongs under parental guidance and does not meet the criteria for language at all.


I do not support the Supreme Court verdict. It is not because I would uphold the notion of Flag desecration. The word desecration suggests abuse on sanctity. I think flags are for people, and I have put images of the American flag on my grammar books, which are absolutely my human work.

Flag burning or malicious damage are not speech acts. I hope time will bring the change necessary for legislation to rule out physically abusive behaviors from the category of speech acts.

Tongue entanglement

Language is often taken for granted, or given the regard for the humanity’s unloved child.


Diarmaid Ferriter of The Limits of Liberty ventured his frown on RTE One. Irish people speak English owing to cultural submissiveness, avouched Mr. Ferriter. You cannot dominate someone who does not speak your language. These have been the English to speak English; they brought the language.

Well, you could not make a prodigal son or daughter of language.


It does not spend much, and it can give a lot. ;)


Most businesses in Ireland work on English language papers and cash. Important: all kinds of English, to include American, Australian, and whichever you like. People have English language business talks. People learn in English language schools. People go to English language medics and shops. Many have never learned British. Irish English has a distinct sounding, one might find more pleasurable than that from over the Thames, as Pete McCarthy has noticed.


Getting rid of all this would not be freedom. It would be a disaster.



Contrary to Mr. Ferriter, I think Irish English should have a corpus

language environments always have own corpora. Google brings mostly Gaelic-English glosses, should you key in the phrase “Irish English dictionary”. Limerick university do not focus on Irish English, offering courses. The International Corpus of English requires a request form, and does not promise anything.

Bus tours in Dublin represent English with the Union Jack. The Irish flag is for Celtic.


There are two kinds of power, The Limits said. The police and the military were the “hard power”. Language was the “soft power”.


I agree that saying “come in”  can be physically more efficient than carrying people into rooms, especially if the persons would be wholesome. Yet saying “fish and chips” does not give a Leo Burdock, unless there is the cash and consensus to make the deal. Language does not have an overpowering potential. Political debates world round prove humans phylogenetically capable of days and more of a language production to have no influence on thought or decisions. ;)


Language is not muscle power. It can be an opportunity.

See the Grammar course.

Larry Selinker’s interlanguage – Emily Dickinson and Mark Twain didn’t have it right?

Solemnly, I do not and would not postulate error about the two authors. :)

Larry Selinker, a professor emeritus of linguistics, developed his theory  of  interlanguage” or “third language”, in 1972. People who learn English after they’ve spoken a word of another tongue, learn English as a second language. A “latent psychological structure” becomes woken in the brain, when a human learns a second language, says Mr. Selinker.


We do not really think about language, if we mean university lectures only. Let us reason about language and life.


Eduardo was born in America, in an immigrant Hispanic family. He spoke mostly Spanish before he went to school: his parents spoke Spanish, and his little friends in the town area he lived were all Spanish. Mr. Selinker would say Spanish is Eduardo’s first tongue. Eduardo has always had a good awareness of American English in his environment, also via the media.


Let us think Eduardo becomes 20. He never wanted to stay in the small town. He is doing an IT degree. He takes elliptic integrals easy, but he would need a dictionary to translate math from English to Spanish — he learned math at school, in English-speaking classes.


Love wouldn’t come Spanish-first to Eduardo, either. His girlfriend is an American. American English is the only language she has ever spoken. She is a real treasure and a natural for a good conversation. When Eduardo tells his sweetheart he loves her, he says it in English and he means it.


Ai-li also was born in America. Her grandparents were Chinese. She has always been for languages. Before she went to school, she learned American along with Chinese. She started to learn German and French, when she was about seven years old.


Let us think Ai-li grows up and writes a thesis about spatial reference in German and French — her two “second languages” or her “third-second languages”? Should American count as the second, German and French would make the third or fourth, but actually she has learned and worked with all her languages at the same time …


Both Eduardo and Ai-li are made up figures, but they are absolutely possible in modern America. Larry Selinker would imply abnormal mental and neural realities about both, whereas they could easily communicate with one another, as well as with other people.


It is owing to latent psychological structures in the brain that second language learners show simplification, circumlocution, and over-generalization, claims Mr. Selinker. Idiosyncrasy is a tag common to all the precedent. An idiosyncrasy may be


a structural or behavioral characteristic peculiar to an individual or group, a physiological or temperamental peculiarity, or an unusual individual reaction to food or a drug.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. 


Medically, there are no “latent” brain areas in unimpeded humans, and injury cannot produce neural structures for language. Human brains do not have purely “functional”, “mathematical”, or “psychological” connectivities.


The Role of Feedback in Language Processing, a defended thesis in language psychology


Mr. Selinker claims that second language learners generally produce utterances different from those by native speakers. Let us compare.


The brain is wider than the sky,

For, put them side by side,

The one the other will include

With ease, and you beside.

The brain is deeper than the sea,

For, hold them, blue to blue,

The one the other will absorb,

As sponges, buckets do.

The brain is just the weight of God,

For, lift them, pound for pound,

And they will differ, if they do,

As syllable from sound.

The Brain by Emily Dickinson. Source: Project Gutenberg; daguerreotype: Wikimedia Commons.


Emily Dickinson would never have come to existence in human awareness, without her talent and individuality. As many people might like her poetry as many could hate it, yet anybody’s creating the exact same poem is not probable. Everyone has own idiolect. An idiolect is individual speech and writing. It can be talent. It is not idiosyncrasy. Feel welcome to my website translating her poetry.




Another author to have won my innocent admiration is Mark Twain. He may be a natural association, when we speak about idiolects. He remains adorable — the celebrated author he was — in his attitude to himself. Let us mind he traveled much, and got to know language and life well. I do not imagine him saying, you do not speak as I do, therefore you are wrong.


And if I sell to the reader this volume of nonsense, and he, instead of seasoning his graver reading with a chapter of it now and then, when his mind demands such relaxation, unwisely overdoses himself with several chapters of it at a single sitting, he will deserve to be nauseated, and he will have nobody to blame but himself if he is. ;)

Mark Twain’s Speeches by Mark Twain, Project Gutenberg. Caricature by Leslie Ward “Spy” for Vanity Fair, May 13 1908.


Let us analyze Second Language Acquisition: An Introductory Course by Susan M. Gass and Larry Selinker.


Imperfective morphology emerges with durative and/or stative verbs (i.e. activities and states), then gradually spreads to achievement/accomplishment and punctual verbs.


I say, if you have good language advice, you would share it with people who speak the tongue. We do not have to think Harlem or Bronx, to worry how we persuade anyone to hold accomplishment and achievement apart.


The situation might be as hopeless with uptown young Americans:


(7-33)      She dancing (activity)

(7-34)      And then a man coming … (accomplishment)

(7-35)      Well, I was knowing that. (state)

(7-36)      Other boys were shouting ‘watch out’! (achievement).


The study was begun on children aged 8 years. For the developmental stage, kids can walk and shout. How could walking be “accomplishment” (7-34) and shouting “achievement” (7-36)?


I have been able to find the “punctual verbs” mostly in Japanese or Slingish contexts. The kids in the study are reported as French and Dutch.


The French learners were overall less proficient than the Dutch learners and never reached the stage where they could use the regular past morphology productively. Transfer factors were also involved, in that learners appeared to be predisposed by basic distinctions in their L1 tense-aspect system to look for similar distinctions in the L2 input, specifically in the case of the past/non-past distinction, where Dutch is closer to English (page 209).


The study lasted three years. It is longer than long enough to teach past tenses and more, in my ordinary experience.


It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another.

But above all, try something.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, American President


 I would encourage also an American-born learner:

Try Language Mapping :)