July, 2011

Verbs Nouns and Modifiers

Tweet The heart of language is verbs, nouns, and modifiers. I gave a simple verb exercise last time, in which students wrote a three-element sentence, Subject/Verb/Object; for example, John plays basketball. If you are teaching a formal linguistics class, there are many terms and concepts that would be introduced at this point, but for purposes […]

Nouns, Verbs, Modifiers

Tweet The vast majority of language is made up of nouns, verbs, and modifiers. The use of each has its peculiarities, and every language handles them differently. Nouns are or are not accompanied by articles, there is no universal set of verb tenses, and modifiers are usually placed flexibly. I write “usually” because I don’t […]

Testing your voice

Tweet In writing and speaking, “voice” means your instantly identifiable style.  It is a combination of word choice, philosophy, level of formality, and other factors, such as local or age-appropriate slang.  The following exercise challenges students to use someone else’s voice, which will illuminate their own voice for them, I hope. Exercise: Each student must […]

What does “objective” mean?

Tweet The blog “The Cranky Linguist” has a longer article giving Ron Kephart’s take on the word “objective” as applied to anthopology, a very interesting read.  According to your own understanding and experience, which definition do you think is the best one? 1.  From the Postmodern Dictionary (http://www.postmodernpsychology.com/ Postmodernism_Dictionary.html): Being objective means to have no bias […]

It pays to know another language

Tweet When I was young, my ability to speak French, Italian, and Spanish was pretty useless professionally, unless I wanted to teach. Businesses made the assumption that “Everybody speaks English.” In Europe at that time, I was routinely expected to speak at least two languages, and most people spoke more than that, so speaking another […]

The Downside of Literacy

Tweet We spend most of our time promoting literacy, but rarely think about its downsides. One is that our memories are weakened. When I lived in Greece in the 1960’s, a waiter could take orders from a dozen people without a pad to write on.  At that time, Greece was more of an oral society, […]

Teaching linguistics in U.S. high school

Tweet Teacher Suzi Loosen taught linguistics in her high school last year, and has provided a full, detailed report to the Linguistlist.  She gives not only exercises and activities, but also reports on their success, and the student reaction.  The top rated activity was a “pidgin dinner” during which it was forbidden to speak English. […]

The vocative case

Tweet In proto-Indo-European, Sanskrit, and Latin, nouns were divided into declensions, each having a distinctive set of endings indicating whether the noun was the subject, direct object, indirect object, or possessive, and also had a case that was used only when speaking to someone.  Poetically, one could also address the sun, or Love, a “little […]

Noun declensions

Tweet In many languages, nouns have endings to indicate whether the noun is the subject, object, indirect object, or possessive — these categories are called “cases.”  In Latin, there are three separate sets of declensions to which a noun can belong, each with different endings. In German, nouns are declined differently according to their gender, […]

The Web of Language blog

Tweet U. of Illinois professor Dennis Baron publishes an occasional blog called The Web of Language (http://www.illinois.edu/goto/weboflanguage) which is well worth following. His latest posting (http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/plc/clpp/images/cartoons/cartoons.html) contains cartoons about various language policy issues, including one in Hungarian, and one which points out that the first publication of the Declaration of Independence was in German.  He […]