June, 2011

Ghoti – a common English word

Tweet Obviously, the way to pronounce “gh” sounds like “f” — examples; rough, enough, tough. Obviously, the way to pronounce “o” sounds like “i” — example: women. Obviously, the way to pronounce “ti” sounds like “sh” — examples:  nation, emotion Put them all together and you have — FISH. Tracing the reasons why “ghoti” does […]

New book: Grammar Matters: The Social Significance of How We Use Language

Tweet Jila Ghomeshi writes about many aspects of language from a social and historical point of view.  We have a tendency, for example, to judge as unintelligent those people who don’t use language in the same way we do. Ghomeshi helps us understand why this is an unproductive way to evaluate others.  She writes of […]

Is proofreading important?

Tweet Spellcheck is only human, after all.  It can’t catch everything.  Here are some errors that Spellcheck will not catch, and, by the way, one more reason why writers should read their work aloud. You are all welcome at the Christmas concert.  The choir is not rehearsing. (instead of now rehearsing) Pubic relations director instead […]

Pidgins and Creoles

Tweet When groups speaking different languages gathered to accomplish something (for example, trading in ports, or running a plantation when slave and owner speak different languages), they had to communicate.  Either they agreed to speak a common language (French, Russian, Chinese, Latin, English and many others have historically been that common language), or they scrambled […]

Dictionary exercise

Tweet The Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are relying on dictionaries to define the terms in their legal opinions.  Read about it here. A good exercise would be to give students the definitions of three words the Justices have looked up recently, and ask them to compare the definitions.  The exercise would be best […]

A challenge – can you use anything but the singular “they.”

Tweet Excuse me for writing about sex, but I think I have found a sentence in which the singular they is necessary. A good friend has written several popular books on senior sex, and on her blog she attached the answer a newspaper advisor gave to a reader whose wife had Alzheimer’s Disease and no […]

New words – language change

Tweet Spend a few minutes in class making a list of all the new words which have entered the language recently.  Examples are: bff, twitter, bushism, 9/11, Duchess of Cambridge. You might also review some words which have come and gone within the last few years, which are soooo yesterday.  They’ll know these words better […]

The plural you

Tweet (I have been in California visiting my son and his family, including a three-year-old and a five-year-old — I’m sure that many of you will understand why I haven’t been posting for the past few days.  They are a constant delight, and profoundly exhausting.) There have been several recent discussions about the lack of […]

Grammar and Syntax: Part Two

Tweet This is another of a perhaps infinite number of posts differentiating grammar from syntax, this time focusing on the definition of Syntax. Syntax is more interactive than grammar — grammar being a set of static rules in its traditional definition. Syntax studies the interrelationships between elements in a sentence, how a sentence is constructed, […]