language and mind

May 23, 2013

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

William Jones was a hyperpolyglot to have learned Greek, Latin, Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, and basic Chinese. By the end of his life he knew thirteen languages thoroughly and another twenty-eight reasonably well, says Wikipedia.

William Jones wrote The Sanscrit Language (1786), the book to tell that Greek and Latin had a common root, and that root was Sanskrit. The Proto-Indo-European “language” allegedly gave origin to contemporary European languages — well, except Irish literature, they say.

If we believe Wikipedia, William Jones had an at least reasonably good acquaintance with 41 tongues altogether. Such an acquaintance should encompass the words woman, man, child, and house. Let us compare these words in Latin, Greek, English, Russian, Polish, German, and French.


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


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


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


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

The words have been present on this Earth since the human started to speak, yet they do not have common, Proto-Indo-European stems. Vir or andros, child or rebionok, woman or kobieta ― have nothing to do one with another, whatever way to look at them. Progress in building shelters and dwelling has resulted in local linguistic influence, domus, do, and dom looking and sounding similar, house and Haus, or maison also to show geographic affinity.

The Proto-Indo-European proponents went into making a religion too, undeterred by the lack of a PIE root for our planet.


Latin: terra or tellus; Greek: gaia or aia; English: earth; Russian: ziemlia; Polish: ziemia; German: Erde; French: terre.

Finally, how do you even get to have a deity, if there is no stem in common to “him” or “her”? Well, it has to be the science-fiction Space 1999 to show reading Sanskrit accurately … ;)

I would not fit the picture of the “trained philologist” in the Space 1999 video. I got schooled in reading texts, not the people round. The holocaust in the clip is not the Holocaust.

Here is another idea for “fluency”. :)

Evidently, there was a pie, but that pie was India. The colonial era began about 1500, and there was much competition. Gaelic lands continue opposing inclusion into the Commonwealth: it is honest to have an own piece of a pie. ;)

May 3, 2013

Governance of the tongue

Filed under: language, language bias, language processing, language use — teresapelka @ 8:40 am

The “government of the tongue” has had two most prominent treatments: religious and poetic. The two may have stood at even dramatic odds, some preachers seeking consistency with early Christianity, poets cherishing the beauty of language itself. A linguist and a poet a bit, I will try to put consistency and beauty in the focus together.

James 3, Taming the Tongue

New International Version

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

James chapter 3 might be the sternest condemnation of a body part seen and heard of ever. Still, one may compare a sermon by Thomas Boston,

The keeping of the tongue is one of those duties that entitles a man to safety from evil times, and therefore must now be urged as a seasonable duty. The wisest monarch could hardly govern a great part of the world; how difficult then must it be to govern a world, and that a world of iniquity. The tongue is a world of iniquity, a heap of evils; as in the world many things are contained, so in the tongue. This world of iniquity is divided into two parts, undue silence, and sinful speaking. These are the higher and lower parts of this world, yet quickly may men travel from the one to the other.

Open BookThomas Boston on the keeping of the tongue

James’s words are fierce. The apostle yet is determined to appeal to the early Christian, a human being likely to face persecution to involve bodily damage. James’s allusion to fire is strictly metaphorical, and the apostle does not condemn language. He advises considerateness in language use.

The context is not the same with Thomas Boston. The intimation of physical peril is gone; the metaphor of a sear on the conscience is used in the negative. The preacher refers to hierarchical verticality ― the upside of godness and the downside of evil ― again, to counsel on reasonableness in language use. The present day perspective on freedom of speech would not support many of the guidelines.

Both texts may be appreciated for their use of metaphor. Naturally, there would not be any original Christian matter advocating fire to introduce or instill belief. The fact was recognized by John Paul II apologizing for the Inquisition.

We can find the original Christian matter in the Bible. The matter does not imply any necessity of physical restraint on speech; the metaphor shows in the variety of translations:

James 1:26

Wycliffe Bible

26 And if any man guesseth himself to be religious, and refraineth not his tongue, but deceiveth his heart, the religion of him is vain.

King James Version

26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.

New International Version

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.

Knox Bible

26 If anyone deludes himself by thinking he is serving God, when he has not learned to control his tongue, the service he gives is vain.

New Life Version

26 If a person thinks he is religious, but does not keep his tongue from speaking bad things, he is fooling himself. His religion is worth nothing.

Hoffnung für Alle

26 Wer sich für fromm hält, aber seine Zunge nicht zügeln kann, der macht sich selbst etwas vor. Seine Frömmigkeit ist nichts wert.

Luther Bibel 1545

26 So sich jemand unter euch läßt dünken, er diene Gott, und hält seine Zunge nicht im Zaum, sondern täuscht sein Herz, des Gottesdienst ist eitel.

Joseph Butler came closer to the literary and linguistic sense of government,

Grammar The influence of a word over the morphological inflection of another word in a phrase or sentence.

Joseph Butler says,

The translation of this text would be more determinate by being more literal, thus: “If any man among you seemeth to be religious, not bridling his tongue, but deceiving his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.” This determines that the words, “but deceiveth his own heart,” are not put in opposition to, “seemeth to be religious,” but to, “bridleth not his tongue.”

Open Book

Fifteen Sermons Preached at the Rolls Chapel, by Joseph Butler (1827 edition)

Frugality would be less desirable in literature and poetry, fineness not to denote prolixity.

The Government of the Tongue_Seamus Heaney and T.S. Eliot memorial lectures

The thought of the government also happens to bring on awkward re-phrasings,

In the process of doing justice to the events of political violence―and in particular death―poetry could not help but forge a higher consciousness of these events that was political in its ironic detachment from claims as to the necessity of such violence. The achievement of this alternative form of politics, this government in exile, was to establish that identity and belonging are aspects of consciousness and imagination, rather than of territory and power.

I cannot help but disagree on inevitableness of ironic detachment, as well as identity belonging with imagination.

The Government of the Tongue Lexis Nexis

April 21, 2013

The president, the queen, and the dear, one and only head

Filed under: citizenship, grammar, language, language processing, language use — teresapelka @ 7:08 am

My dear head does not give me headaches and this is one of the reasons I literally love it. Should I write, ‘my dear Head…’ ?

Some guys will tell you to spell words with capital letters for respect. You say ‘the Queen’s English’, and you say ‘the Chairman’, the guys would argue. Well, but then you’d have to look respectful about the Nazis and the Jihad …

Human thought has had the human body in view. We humans have heads of sentences and clauses; we have heads of states. And we humans could not live without own heads cozy with own necks. This might be the reason for some singularity in the use of capital letters.

The capital, that is, big letters work along with the way we orient in the reality. There are no proper nouns objectively, proper nouns are nouns as perceived by humans. I do not and would not advocate misspelling family or second names. This is, however, a human idea to spell them with big letters, and not any supernatural endowment.

With heads of states, relevance would matter most. The President would be the relevant president in office. The Queen would be the relevant ruler. Therefore, I would not have it for a mistake, if an American or person of a nationality other than British would write, ‘the queen’ about Elizabeth II. Ms. Windsor is not the head of the U.S.A. or all countries, she is the head of the UK and the Commonwealth. It might be actually un-diplomatic towards other rulers, if to try to nominate the one and only crowned head.

Well, plurality could come naturally cumbersome: one head not giving you headache, no one can tell what would be, should you have two … ;)

What if you’d have two heads of states to write about in one essay, for example? The language matter happens to pool information also on reference. Just as one can write the Flag for the American (or another, relevant) flag, one can write the American president and the English queen, not capitalizing either — again, for diplomacy’s sake. Naturally, the phrases ‘Mr. Obama’ or ‘Ms. Windsor’ could not be taken for terms of offense.

The Queen’s (or King’s) English is a phrase not to refer to any particular person. England has had quite a few queens and kings so far. The phrase denotes the Standard English or Received Pronunciation. Viewing the phrase as belonging with one person only and making a proper noun reference could compare with coining ‘standard terms’ such as ‘Stalin’s Russian’ or ‘Hitler’s German’. The English themselves might go unhappy, however they are experts at splendid isolation. ;)

Feel welcome to see the Word Reference forum,

April 13, 2013

It, him, or her: America, the world, and the human being

Martin Buber by Andy Warhol

Martin Buber would envision the human being in a bit of an embryonic role. I can agree that human cognition has its limitations, yet an embryonic status about human minds looks exaggerated. The matter evidently evolves round personal pronouns.

The philosopher, whose earnestness of study I do not mean to question, would yet see humans as entities in incessant ties; he would only differentiate this persistent condition into the I-You and I-It relationship. Simply speaking, every human would be an “I”. And every human would be always in a relationship, to a “You” or to an “It” like an embryo, incapable of independent living.

Buber’s famous essay on existence, Ich und Du, has been about as famously translated into I and Thou. Arguments on philosophical intricacies have not convinced me on the alleged non-existence of an English word for the German ‘du’. It would not be just me, looking to the translation for Bist du bei mir — If you are with me.

There a few more unconvincing details about Buber philosophy and its followers. Let us think about the word “being”. It is construed with the third person singular, “it”. However, if we modify this word with the adjective “human”, we refer to the “human being” as “him” or “her”.

According to Buber, the world would be an It. We yet may think about a world as by a man or by a woman, in which case the semantics would play its good trick and add male or female attributes to the notion of the world. Naturally, everyone may try own perception on The World According to Garp. ;)

Semantics is the language matter about meaning. This meaning may be not bound by singular, isolated lexical items. A “human being may be a male or a female. A “world can be a male or female world.

Languages also happen to have arbitrary, grammatical gender. In French or Spanish, a “book” is going to be a “him”. In Russian, a book is going to be a “her”. Ancient Romans had a day-book or diary for an “ephemeris”, a “her”. This arbitrary gender has had nothing to do with recognizing sex, since the beginning of time: mostly males were literate in ancient Rome.

Let us think about reference to countries: English would speak about a country as an “it”. French or Spanish would have their “pays” or “pais” for males.  As regards home countries, the legitimate Italian “she”, “patria”,  would keep company to the legal French “patrie”, Germans remaining unpersuadable on their “Vaterland” : there would be “Muttersprache”, but “Mutterland” would mean the country of origin, not the home country. American English would allow both fatherland and motherland, the home country or homeland prevailing.

Importantly, whether fatherland or motherland, when we go back in our thoughts, we use the third person singular again, “it. We would say, My fatherland, it …” We would not say, “My fatherland, he …” We also can say, and the vast majority would say, America in its time …

Well, America is a name of a country, same as Germany, France, Italy, or any other name of a country, fair and square. Concluding, human thought is not reducible to three pronouns, I, you, and it. Already the pronouns may have and often do have connotations to other pronouns, which though potentially arbitrary is a real factor to influence the way we formulate our thoughts. 

March 28, 2013

British grammar nazis

ImageDisclaimer: 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.

BGN Facebook

The logo dubious pulchritude may be seen in its full form on the right. Now, without going into matters of the meaning of life or the spoken lore on WWII and British losses — invaluable for those hard of reading — let me focus on the statistics and implications.

 The site has about 50 K ‘likes’. Taking the British population alone, that would make the maximum of 50 thousand functionally illiterate among about 63 million people. I mean, much has been written about WWII; evidently, mere gathering orthography and other detail does not make you capable of text interpretation.

Some might say it is not so bad, it is not even one percent. Still, you’d better ‘think literacy’, going to the UK.

Keep your profile according to your passport photo; the guys demonstrate attention to picture specifics. ;)

Remember to wave your hand, getting a taxi; 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 a visiting card small print. ;)

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

When it comes to 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, especially open: they might be taken for other utilities. ;)


March 27, 2013

‘Amour propre’ and ‘Hassliebe’ – the pit of the olden cniht

The history of human endeavor with words is long. Language use might show changes in human thinking. Some of the changes yet wouldn’t be progress.

Since the times when a thunder was a sure sign from the gods, humanity has considerably improved on literacy. We have also overcome — statistically, or on the most part, if you please — the Medieval limitations on mental representation. The corset would have anthropomorphized and zoomorphized notions and values. Hate would have been a woman. Envy and Greed would have been dogs to keep watch and ward, though Dante definitely was a literate man.

We haven’t made it out of the pit completely, however. The Dark Ages were mad about mottos. The ‘carpe diem’ and ‘memento mori’ have showed change: the 16th century British clergyman Thomas Neville is reported to have said, ‘Ne vile velis’  — with a negative (!) We yet can’t have the negative for an absolute improvement, if we think about the ‘Sustineo alas’.

Well, the pit: however contemporary men or women, some would talk about amour propre, hass-liebe, or verstandnis, fossilizing language like olden cnihtas. Those Old English boys practiced repeating what they heard for a skill. The incongruity of resorting to another language for own esteem or comprehension is probably obvious. Similarly, there is no possibility to love and hate really, even if you have a bipolar disorder.

Let us take the Umwelt theory. J. Uexküll and T.A. Sebeok wanted to believe in ticks, sea urchins, amoebae, jellyfish, and sea worms to have own worlds. They would have studied those for an analysis of ‘both communication and signification in the human [and non-human] animal.’ The thing does not look serious with regard to the ‘prosaic’ matter of nouns and their plurals, either. German does not have the feminine noun Umwelt in the plural, the PONS dictionary would insist.

When you pluralize nouns that do not usually take plurals, you go into synonymy. German synonyms for the ‘Umwelt’ would be ‘Natur’, ‘Wildnis’, as well as ‘sociale Umgebung’ and … ‘Milieu’ — right, a French man or  woman might frown thinking about those under the age.

I enclose a link to the Wikipedian lore and leave everyone to another perspective with Ella Fitzgerald.

June 28, 2012

Magic mirror on the wall, which is the fairest of them Englishes all?

Snow White in her glass coffin

‘Magic mirror on the wall,

who is the fairest of them all?’

Picture: Snow White in her glass coffin



William Butler Yeats remains consistently rumored to have had    a weakness about Eva Gore Booth and Constance Markievicz.

Looking to the contour of the ‘politics’, ‘seek’, ‘speak’, and ‘mix’, one might think that things were so, indeed: ;)

['pä-lə-ˌtiks], ['sēk], ['spēk], ['miks]

Well, overcoming is part human life.

It happens that students need to overcome, so to speak, especially initial encounters with poetry.

I know not what the younger dreams -

Some vague Utopia – and she seems,

When withered old and skeleton-gaunt,

An image of such politics.

Many a time I think to seek

One or the other out and speak

Of that old Georgian mansion, mix

pictures of the mind, recall

That table and the talk of youth,

Two girls in silk kimonos, both

Beautiful, one a gazelle.

Honestly, the regular classroom practice is to tell the young people — gathered for reasons other than free will at times — that the matter is going to be about a great poet:

Synonyms and related words:
Brobdingnagian, Cyclopean, Establishment, OK, VIP, able, absolute, abundant, accomplished, ace, ace-high, active, acute, adept, adroit, aggrandized, anticipating, apotheosized, arch, ardent, arrant, artistic, ascendant, authoritarian, authoritative, authorized, autocratic, awesome, awful, bad, bang-up, banner, baron, basic, beatified, best, big, big gun, big man, big name, big with child, big-laden, big-league, big-name, big-time, bighearted, bigwig, bigwigged, bonzer, boss, brass, brass hat, breeding, brilliant, bull, bully, bumper, but good, canonized, capacious, capital, cardinal, carrying, carrying a fetus, celebrated, celebrity, central, champion, chief, chivalrous, choir, claviature, clever, close, clothed with authority, colossal, commanding, competent, comprehensive, consequential, considerable, console, consummate, controlling, cool, corking, countless, crackerjack, critical, crowning, crucial, cutting, dandy, dedicated, deep, deified, delicious, devoted, dignitary, dignity, distinguished, dominant, double-barreled, drastic, ducky, duly constituted, eager, earthshaking, echo, egregious, eighty-eight, elder, elevated, eminent, empowered, ennobled, enormous, enshrined, enthroned, enthusiastic, ex officio, exalted, excellent, exceptional, excess, excessive, exhaustive, exorbitant, expecting, expert, extensive, extraordinary, extravagant, extreme, fab, faithful, famed, famous, fast, fat, father, fierce, figure, fine and dandy, fingerboard, first, first-rate, first-rater, flagrant, focal, foremost, full, furious, gargantuan, gear, generous, genius, gestating, giant, gifted, gigantic, glaring, glorified, good hand, goodly, governing, grand, grave, gravid, great man, great of heart, greathearted, grievous, groovy, handsome, headmost, healthy, hear, heavy, heavy with child, heavyweight, hegemonic, hegemonistic, heinous, held in awe, heroic, high, high and mighty, high-minded, high-powered, horrendous, horrible, horrific, hot, huge, hunky-dory, husky, idealistic, illustrious, immense, immoderate, immortal, immortalized, imperative, important, important person, incomparable, influential, inordinate, intemperate, intense, interests, intimate, irresistible, ivories, jam-up, just dandy, keen, keyboard, keys, knightly, knocked up, large, large-scale, largehearted, leading, liberal, lion, lofty, lords of creation, loving, loyal, magician, magisterial, magnanimous, magnate, magnified, mahatma, main, major, mammoth, man of genius, man of mark, man-sized, manual, marked, marvy, massive, master, master hand, mastermind, matchless, material, maximum, mean, mighty, mogul, momentous, monocratic, monstrous, nabob, name, neat, nifty, nobby, noble, noble-minded, notability, notable, noteworthy, numerous, official, okay, openhanded, organ manual, out of sight, out-and-out, outrageous, outstanding, overruling, panjandrum, paramount, parturient, passionate, past master, peachy, peachy-keen, pedals, peerless, person of renown, personage, personality, piano keys, piercing, pillar of society, plenary, potent, power, power elite, powerful, practiced hand, predominant, preeminent, preggers, pregnant, preponderant, prestigious, prevailing, primal, primary, prime, princely, principal, prodigious, prodigy, proficient, profound, prominent, pronounced, puissant, ranking, remarkable, renowned, rigorous, ripping, rough, ruling, ruling circle, rum, sachem, sage, sainted, sanctified, scrumptious, self-important, senior, serious, severe, sharp, shrined, significant, sizable, skilled, skilled hand, slap-up, smashing, solid, solo, somebody, something, something else, sovereign, spacious, spectacular, spiffing, spiffy, splitting, star, stellar, strong, stunning, stupendous, sublime, substantial, superb, supereminent, superfetate, superimpregnated, superior, superlative, superstar, supreme, surpassing, swell, talented, tall, teeming, terrible, terrific, the great, the top, throned, tidy, titanic, top, top brass, top people, topflight, topnotcher, total, totalitarian, tough, transcendent, tremendous, TRUE, tycoon, unconscionable, unforgivable, vast, vehement, venomous, very important person, violent, virtuoso, virulent, weighty, well-known, whiz, with child, wizard, wonderful, world-shaking, worthy, zealous

Source: Moby Thesaurus, which is part of the Moby Project created by Grady Ward. In 1996 Grady Ward placed this thesaurus in the public domain.

Moby Project is in the public domain, everybody is therefore welcome to look up good poets, famous poets, and eminent poets, too. ;)

Let me think about language matter and Dante.


A faithful witness. Thou shalt leave each thing

Beloved most dearly: this is the first shaft

Shot from the bow of exile. Thou shalt prove

How salt the savor is of other’s bread;

How hard the passage, to descend and climb

By other’s stairs.

(Paradiso, XVII; The Harvard Classics series edited by Charles W. Eliot, translation by Henry F. Cary, Grolier Enterprises, Danbury, Connecticut, 1980.)

Naturally, talking metaphors, many students become “emotionally and intellectually exiled”, having to repeat pret-a-porter opinions and analyses. Returning to Yeats, I would not duel with a lover of his poetry. It is yet fair to say he was tone deaf and … well, a narcissist.


My arms are like the twisted thorn
 And yet there beauty lay;
 The first of all the tribe lay there
 And did such pleasure take;
 She who had brought great Hector down
 And put all Troy to wreck.

The piece indicates Maud Gonne, who wrote him, … I have prayed and I am praying still that the bodily desire for me may be taken from you too.

I am not going to quote Moby for narcissism, as the set is strictly non-complimentary, let us delicately say. I believe the author of the thesaurus may not be blamed. Yeats may be blamed for his unfavorable picture of female aging: Some vague Utopia – and she seems, When withered old and skeleton-gaunt

In 1923, the Nobel Committee awarded Yeats the Nobel Prize in Literature as the first Irishman. The Committee described his work as “inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation.” Well, later in life, Yeats wrote three songs for Eoin O’Duffy‘s Blueshirts.

Poetry or verse does not have to bring grandeur. It does its job excellently, encouraging language skill, I say.


part my poetry project, ‘Letters From Over the Fall’, about the letters of the alphabet; this one is about the letter H

the Englishes of the world have differed interpreting the sound; some would have a history, some an history…

ha’p’orth is a short form for ‘half a penny’s worth’, meaning a trivial amount; colloquial American English has the American one cent piece for a ‘penny’, a name to derive from the British coin; the American plural ‘pennies’ corresponds with the British form ‘pence’

search engines for ancient languages would have results according to word frequency statistics

Explaining all verse could only kill it, hence the hints only I enclosed with my book of verse, Marvels for a Wednesday Dawn.

I was born on a Wednesday, which remains the only inexplicable matter here to need no rationale, however. :)

The statistic Helen, though intent,

wasn’t born Hippolyta to befriend:

in common such a little bit

ha’p’orth so petite

an illiberal, bigoted detail

provincial, greatness to belittle

often just a voiceless glottal

and not a stop –

shouldn’t we just have it chopped?


Hidebound like a numerical fact

hesitation to occasion vowel double act

put to note time and again post-haste

would it have vexed also Theseus’ taste?


Arisen of mid-vanity

bore yet to eternity

should this simple letter humane

make one siege Troy, or hold the mane?

If Yeats expressed the spirit of the nation, did he render the spirit of the Irish English language? Or, could we say there is one English language, THE English language? If not, would there be the better and prettier, or the uglier and worse — varieties of English

The inferiority complex contradicts the nature of language. The same applies to the superiority complex, as well as narcissismImplying a superior or inferior status about any of the Englishes is like putting the Snow White in her glass coffin. ;)

A language variety can be an independent language within a group of languages of the same kind. American English is a variety of English coequal with British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealander, Scottish, Irish, and other recognized Englishes of the world; none is superior or inferior (Travelers in Grammar 2).

Not only does the beauty I beheld

Transcend our lives, but truly I believe

Its Maker only may enjoy it all.

(Paradiso XXX, Project Gutenberg, translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, e-text prepared by Dennis McCarthy, Atlanta, GA). :)

June 10, 2012

Apples grow on noses: two languages – two minds?

Filed under: language, language processing, language use, psycholinguistics — teresapelka @ 12:18 pm

Kids may take language tasks easy. Adults might need some time. The New Scientist of May 5th, 2012 provides an article by Catherine de Lange, ‘Mon espirit paratage – My two minds’, that proves it.

“Speaking a second language can change everything from problem-solving skills to personality. It is almost as if you are two people”, she says (or they say). The author quotes an experiment to compare the cognitive progression in monolingual and bilingual children.

“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”.

I am bilingual and I am completely flummoxed. Monolingual kids can hear or read fairy tales. If you told a monolingual kid that long, long time ago, there was a kingdom where apples grew on noses and roses flew to the sea, you wouldn’t hear anything like, ‘gramma is amphigo-ree’, unless the kid would be poking you. Bilingual kids, on the other hand, do not have their vocabularies for lexicons of empty items.

A kid speaking English and French will not have pain for bread, whatever you’d feel like saying about his or her syntactic capacities. More, any attempts at negotiation could look only sick. Seriously sick. Mal a l’oreille.

To appreciate kids’ syntactic abilities, you need to use empty lexical items. For example, ‘Phimos bimoes’, right or wrong? Kids knowing the singular, ‘Phimo’, and the infinitive, ‘to bimo’, would not be likely to show differences, monolingual or bilingual. Bilingualism is not a dissociative disorder.

Bias flaws also another experiment quoted in Catherine de Lange’s article. Mexicans were asked to rate their personalities in Spanish and English. She says, “Modesty is valued more highly in Mexico than it is in the US, where assertiveness gains respect, and the language of the questions seemed to trigger these differences. (…) When questioned in Spanish, volunteers were more humble than when questioned in English”.

Languages, Spanish included, are spoken worldwide, in various cultures and by people of different social standings. Never try to tell a Spaniard that humility would come from his or her language (!)

Feel welcome to visit my grammar blog, My project uses virtual lexical items to encourage syntactic progression. Virtual items do not deny sense: Form can’t be empty. You bet. A todas luces.

Important: the project is not an experiment.

April 28, 2012

Burning the Flag – where is the language?

Filed under: language, language processing, language use, law, psycholinguistics — teresapelka @ 10:46 am

Having earned a legal badge with EzineArticles should not make one overconfident, I realize. The legal profession is a depth of recondite detail the Supreme Court has the right firmly to deliberate. The linguist I am, I yet can venture a few observations — and this has been quoting freedom of speech to invalidate prohibitions on desecrating the American flag.

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

Let me think. I imagine a person burns something. Is there a speech sound produced, should the human just silently sit 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 the anacrusis?

I could not, and there is nothing wrong with my hearing. Things do not produce language. Facts remain similar with hammers, saws, wrenches, screwdrivers, and whatever a handyman’s bag might contain: there is no speech produced with the use, unless the guy is eloquent, interesting, and whatsoever handsome — however noisy the job. ;)

Non-verbal acts cannot convey speech and language. The Flag itself – the many the people, the many the answers; ask someone what the Flag looks like and what it symbolizes: no description will be identical, owing to language specifics.

The Supreme Court decided the Flag could be burned under the First Amendment. It does not allow abridgment of free speech. If a burning object could be legally a speech act, what do you do if you see the Flag burning on a barrel saying ‘TNT’ – would putting it out be against the law? ;)

The Flag Code may be found here,,,, and many other places.

I do honestly believe that flags are for people and, naturally, their use should not be forbidden. I have put an image of the American flag on my grammar book covers. For one thing, I like it: I think the flag is visually attractive. More, the grammar is not a temporary idea. :)

November 6, 2011

Tongue entanglement, part one

Filed under: language, language autonomy, language bias, language use — teresapelka @ 8:31 am

Language is often taken for granted or given the regard for the humanity’s unloved child. RTE One show, The Limits of Liberty — narrative by Diarmaid Ferriter, according to what I got from RTE over the web — was a classic. Mr. Ferriter avouched that people spoke English in Ireland out of cultural submissiveness. You cannot dominate someone who does not speak your language, and the English speak English, he observed. 

Well, you could not make a prodigal son or daughter of language. It does not spend much, and it can bring a lot: most businesses in Ireland work on English language papers and cash. People have business talks with partners from round the world, not only English-speaking countries. Getting rid of all that would not be freedom; it would be fanaticism and financial ruin.

Show authors recognized two kinds of power. The police and the military were the ‘hard power’. Language was the ‘soft power’. Well, saying ‘come in’  is physically more efficient than carrying people into rooms, especially if wholesome. Yet saying ‘fish and chips’ does not give one a Leo Burdock, unless there is the cash to make the deal.

Historically, the power hypothesis does not have ground. Invaders always were fiercer on people they could not comprehend. Nowadays, political debates may prove that humans are phylogenetically capable of days and more of language production without any influence to thinking or decision making. ;)

I have looked for a corpus of Irish English: autonomous language environments always have own corpora. Google brings Gaelic-English glosses if you key in ‘Irish English dictionary’. Limerick university would not focus on Irish English offering courses. The International Corpus of English requires a request form and does not promise anything.

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