Beginner Mistakes

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Hoarding Everybody wants to learn a language fast and with the least amount of effort. Nowadays there is a plethora of books, apps, methods advertised and the beginner can easily find themself confused as to where to start. They try one  and they get bored of it or they realise that it might not have […]

Ciao, Slavic Slaves

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Usually the name of a people comes from some very simple word, in fact the name of the Slavs come from slovo which meant word. This makes us believe that they identified themselves as a speech community and called the Germans nemac ‘numb’. (The story of the barbarian is very similar). Since these people were […]

Sexy Languages – Part 2

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Last time I talked about how it is really difficult to assess how a language sounds if you speak that language because you can’t dissociate yourself from meaning. Today, I’m going to look at why some languages sound sexy, beautiful, attractive – you name it – and others don’t. Of course linguistics cannot take a […]

Sexy Languages – Part 1

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The other day I was talking to an Italian person who said to me that the “sexiest” languages are French, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian. This made me think: can you form an opinion on how your native language sounds, and anyway, what does it mean that a language sounds “sexy” and how do we judge […]

SVO, SOV, VSO

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In 3 Types of Languages I talked about how languages are categorised based on morphology (affixation and word formation)—now it’s time to look at how languages differ in their word order. In order to do that, we need to look at the order of the subject (S), verb (V) and direct object (O) in the sentence. […]

If I Were a Rich Man

fiddler

Probably one of the most widespread mistakes among non-native speakers is the use of the Second Conditional, the one where we express a rather hypothetical or unlikely event as opposed to the First Conditional where the idea expressed by the speaker is probable. Let’s briefly look at the grammatical structure of both. Conditional sentences always […]

Do You Have an Accent?

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Yes, everybody does, including you. Many people think of accents as deviations from the norm, i.e. the correct way of speaking. Linguistically, however, we cannot distinguish between correct and incorrect accents as every native speaker’s accent has developed naturally and they are understandable within their speech community. Debating which accent is the most correct is […]

Relatives

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It is very easy to see that neo-Latin languages (Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian being the most well-known) are related because of their noticeable similarity. Some languages are so similar that their speakers can understand each other – they are mutually intelligible – like to some extent Portuguese and Spanish. What about other languages with […]

Dialect

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Dialects are regional varieties of a language that differ in vocabulary, pronunciation and even grammar. Like accents, dialects are all equally correct in their own varieties and there isn’t an absolute dialect which the others are inferior to from a linguistic perspective. Accent and vocabulary differences are apparent to all and I think they are […]