Letter “E”

Question mark


Did you know that the letter “e” is the most frequently used letter in English?


Dear All,
One of the interesting facts about English is that the most frequently used letter in this language is “e”. How does it help to know this? Well, first of all it is interesting not only to know what is helpful in speaking English, but also what makes it what it is; this helps to satisfy our linguistic curiosity.

Besides stirring our (our students’) interest, knowing such facts about a language may be of use to linguists who decode languages. For example, if an archeologist finds a text in a language which is lost, a linguist who relies on this and other techniques can help to translate this text. Also if parts of an ancient text are lost, a linguist can help to reconstruct some parts knowing the structure and the way in which this language functions.

See a similar post on “ough“.

Economic – economical


Dear All,
When we learn a foreign language, sometimes it is a small difference that can confuse us. This post discusses the differences in meaning between the words “economic” and “economical” to help learners of English to differentiate easily between these words and to use them correctly.

Economic means related to the financial industry or science studying financial processes.

Here are several sentences in which this word is used:
Helen, would you like to listen to recent economic news on the radio with me?
Economic analysis of the budget for this year has revealed that the economy of this country is steadily growing.
The auditing of this company has shown that the company is well managed financially and is in an excellent economic state.

Economical means thrifty; spending little money or other resources (e.g. gasoline).

Below are several sentences in which this word is used:
Ben, you are so lucky, your wife is an excellent hostess and is also economical.
This worker is very economical with materials and yet produces 10 beautiful vases a day.
This car is very economical – it only consumes 4.5L/100km on a highway.
Modern washing machines are very economical – they consume relatively little electricity.

I hope this this post may be of help to learners of English and to ESL instructors as an aid to help their students to differentiate and use correctly the words “economic” and “economical”.

See similar posts: Historic – Historical and Little – Small.

How to be a better orator

Dear All,
An orator is a person who speaks publicly and can convey his/her ideas clearly and convincingly. Would you like to improve your oratory skills for a school, work, or even TedTalk presentation? If so, you may find this post of interest.

Gestures, gestures, and gestures (Demosthenes in Pease & Pease, 2006, p. 156).

Demosthenes was one of the best known and most skillful orators of ancient Greece. When asked what makes a good orator, he simply answered, “Gestures, gestures, and gestures.” It is notable that he attributed so much importance to nonverbal means of communication for successful speeches and, to extend it a little more, for communication in general.

Although the importance of nonverbal means of communication was noticed long ago, the scholarly interest in nonverbal component of communication was documented much later, in the 20th century with the development of ethology (animal behaviour studies), psychology, and linguistics.

The video below explains what kind of nonverbal communication in particular can contribute to a better public presentation. Specifically, it discusses the following three elements:

1) hand gestures – purposeful hand gestures contribute to charisma and likability;
2) vocal charisma (vocalics) – is the ability to be energetic/enthusiastic about the topic you are discussing; this shows itself in using variations in tone, appropriate pauses, and the pitch of voice;
3) smile – a sincere smile during a speech can further contribute to the success of a presentation.

Another interesting point that is raised in this video is that it is nonverbal means of communication that contribute considerably to the overall impression about a given presentation (people who were shown a muted video were able to identify successful speeches), at times even more than the words. Moreover, the initial impression that lasts for the first 7 seconds, may be a determining factor in how a speech is evaluated by listeners/viewers.

Interestingly, although gestures and other nonverbal means of communication are so important people rarely pay attention to them. By paying more attention to gestures one can become not only a better orator, but also a better listener by following the presenter’s train of thought more carefully.

In summary, this post has briefly discussed how nonverbal means of communication can contribute to better presentations. In particular hand gestures, vocal charisma, and smile have been discussed.

Have you ever tried using nonverbal means of communication purposefully when you are presenting? What was your experience?

Have you noticed how a skillful presenter (e.g. your professor or a colleague) uses nonverbal means of communication? What exactly have you noticed?

Please share your ideas in the comment section of this post.

Video credit: Vanessa Van Edwards, “How to Be Instantly Irresistible” February 19, 2016, via YouTube.

Pease, A., & Pease, B. (2006). The definite book of body language. New York: A Division of Random House Inc.

Work joyfully and peacefully

Work joyfully and peacefully, knowing that right thoughts and right efforts will inevitably bring about right results (James Allen).

Dear All,
Taking a course at a university or doing research rarely yields anticipated results straight away. This may lead to disappointment and even cessation of work. The quote above by James Allen is right encouragement in such a situation. Indeed, the task of a learner or a researcher is not to lament, but rather to work joyfully and peacefully believing strongly that right efforts will surely bring about right results.


Dear All,
What do we know about salt from the linguistic perspective and in general?

According to Oxford Dictionary the origin of the word “salt” can be traced to:
“Old English sealt (noun), sealtan (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch zout and German Salz (nouns), from an Indo-European root shared by Latin sal, Greek hals ‘salt'” (OD, 2016).

Different words have been derived from this word: salad, sauce, salami, etc. Interestingly, the word “salary” is also derived from the word “salt” – it came to English through Old French from the Latin word “salarium“. A salarium was Roman soldiers’ allowance to buy salt.

Salt is also used in numerous phraseology units such as “salt of the earth“. This particular phraseological unit comes from the Bible:

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men (Matt. 5:13, NKJV).

Originally this was said by Jesus Christ about His disciples. Now the expression “salt of the earth” is used to describe people who have “flavour”, i.e. who have such qualities as sincere kindness, humility, ability and willingness to support, respect, positive attitude, faith, hope, and love.

The word “salt” can be used in different expressions in different languages.In French, for example, the colour of hair can be “salt and pepper” (sel et poivre) meaning grey/white-haired.

What do people do with salt across cultures? Well, a lot of things, there are hundreds of uses of this product. It can be used to improve taste of products, as a natural preservative to keep food fresh longer, or as a treatment against illnesses for cattle. Did you know that salt in combination with water can also be used as a source of energy? The video below speaks about this and other uses of salt and its importance:

Video credit: Documentary Hd, “How Stuff Works Salt Discovery Channel BBC Documentary Full Documentary” September 25, 2014, via YouTube.

How is the word “salt” used in your language? How is salt used in your culture? Please share in the comment section below.

Oxford Dictionaries (OD) (2016). Retrieved July 10, 2016, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com

Historic – historical


Learners of English sometimes find it difficult to differentiate between the words “historic” and “historical”. This post briefly discusses the semantic differences between them.

Historic means “important, outstanding, famous in history”.

Historical means “related to history, concerning the past”.

Therefore, if we want to say that a scholar has just made an important discovery, we should say:
Dr. Rolland has just made a historic discovery! The herb that he has discovered is now going to help people fight cancer.

If we are speaking about something that has to do with the past (belongs to history, a part of the past), then we should use “historical” as in the example below:
Although little Tommy is just in grade one, he already knows such historical events as the first celebration of Canada Day, and establishment of first European Canadian settlements in Canada.

Sometimes, it is possible to use wither “historic” or “historical” in the same phrase; however, the meaning is not identical. For example, “historic event is one that was very important, whereas a historical event is something that happened in the past” (OD, 2016).

E.g. Professor, now I see that your today’s discovery is a historic event for all humanity.

The first celebration of Canada Day (Dominion Day) happened about 150 years ago and is now a historical event.

See also a similar post on little – small.

Oxford Dictionaries (OD) (2016). Retrieved July 3, 2016, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com


Canada Day – Fête du Canada

Barrie_Canada_Day_Fireworks.pngDear All,
July 1 is Canada Day (Fête du Canada). This posts discusses briefly the history of this day, its importance, and associated traditions.

On July 1, 1867 “The British North America Act (today known as the Constitution Act, 1867) created Canada” (Canada Day, 2016). Following this, on June 20, 1868 the Governor General signed a proclamation that requested people across Canada to celebrate July 1, however, this was not yet a holiday. Only in 1879 a federal law made July 1 a statutory holiday known then as the “anniversary of Confederation.” This name was later changed to “Dominion Day.” Finally, on October 27, 1982 “Dominion Day” became known as “Canada Day”.

The importance of this day together with Constitution Act, 1982 for Canadians and Canada is great. While the former (July 1) united the nation, the latter established its independence.

Today people across Canada and Canadians abroad celebrate the day with different kinds of festivities such as special events in parks, barbecues, family reunions, fireworks, and free musical concerts. Canada Day is a statuary holiday in Canada meaning that people have a day off. If this day falls on Sunday (or Saturday in most cases), next Monday is a day off instead.

If you ever chance to be in Canada on July 1, do consider visiting the capital to enjoy various events, to meet people, and to enjoy beautiful fireworks.

Happy Canada Day!

Canada Day (2014). Retrieved July 3, 2016, from http://canadaday.gc.ca/eng/1402068737686/1402077241673


Video credit: Vanessa Van Edwards, “The Three Types of Eye Gazing” August 4, 2014, via YouTube.

Dear All,
Have you ever heard the proverb, “Eyes are the mirror of soul”? This proverb means that eyes can communicate a lot of information, probably, even something beyond words. Indeed, eyes can communicate in different ways. This post focuses on how eyes communicate with respect to position at which eye gaze is directed.

The video above discusses three types of eye gazing:

  1. Power gazing – eye gaze shifts between the two eyes of the collocutor and his/her forehead. This type of eye gazing is characteristic of a business conversation.
  2. Social gazing – eye gaze shifts between the two eyes of the collocutor and his/her mouth. This type of eye gazing is characteristic of a friendly chat.
  3. Intimate gazing – eye gaze shifts between the two eyes of the collocutor and his/her chest. This type of eye gazing is characteristic of close communication.

What are some of the implications of this nonverbal behaviour? The implications are two-fold: first,we can understand better what our collocutor is trying to communicate and second, we can be more effective communicators trying to be consistent in what we are communicating verbally and following this up by a certain type of gaze that is appropriate for the given situation.

For example, if we communicate with a friend and notice his/her gaze following the eye-eye-forehead pattern, this can signal that our friend is serious and is trying to communicate business (rather than just chatting).

Another example is if we, for instance, speak with business colleagues and want to be taken seriously, then it may be a good idea to follow up our words by the eye-eye-forehead pattern of eye gazing.

In brief, this post has discussed three types of eye gazing: power gazing, social gazing, and intimate gazing. Being aware of these types of nonverbal behaviour can help to facilitate communication through better decoding of a nonverbal message sent by our collocutor and through adjusting our nonverbal behaviour in accordance with the message we want to communicate verbally.

Similar post: Proxemics: Personal space


Google Translate

Dear All,
Have you ever thought that it would nice to speak X language? Indeed, it would be. All it takes is to start and little by little to pursue the goal. While you are doing this, there is a tool that can help you to communicate in a different language in the meanwhile. The tool is called “Google Translate”:


This is a free online application that helps to translate separate words and texts from over 100 languages. As a linguist I should admit that the tool is far from being ideal. For instance, it can translate a word out of its context and put back that way. As a result, the translation tends to be inaccurate. However, this should prevent from taking advantage of this tool. For example, it can be used to communicate with a friend in his/her native language; to say “hi” or “thank you” to a colleague in their native language; or conduct linguistic research across multiple languages.

Thus, although imperfect, the given linguistic tool can be used to advantage of those who study a language or want to communicate in different languages more efficiently.

Little – Small

Dear All,
What is the difference between “little” and “small”? This post compares these two words and points at some of the differences in use.

Before we start the discussion about the differences, let’s look at what is in common. Both words are semantically close, they both mean “tiny, not big”. In this sense, it is correct to say either: “Ann has corrected a little typo” or “Ann has corrected a small typo”.

However, there are cases when only one of these words can be used. The table below helps to understand the differences between the words:



Means: young, inexperienced:
e.g. Ann is a little girl.
Means: short, tiny in size:
e.g. Ann is small for her age.
Tends to be subjective, involving feelings, emotions:
e.g. I have a little brother.
Tends to be objective, involving knowledge, facts:
e.g. This vase is small.
Often used with adjectives expressing a subjective opinion such as cool, nice, poor, pretty, tiny, etc.:
e.g. He has a cool, little dog.
Can be used with uncountable nouns to indicate that something is not in big quantity:
e.g. I have little water (opposite to “much”).
I have a little water (just some, not much).
Can only be used with the word “amount” to indicate a modest quantity (uncountable):
e.g. I have a small amount of water.Can only be used with the word “number” to indicate a modest quantity (countable):
e.g. A small number of students can afford their own apartment.
Does not have comparative or superlative forms.
Has comparative and superlative forms:
e.g. Your cup is smaller than mine. Your cup is smallest of all.
Can be used in front of an adjective in a comparative form:
e.g. Ann, you can try a little harder.
Used in a number of set expressions:
little doubt
little she can do about it
a little bit
little by little
little to say
Used in a number of set expressions:
small town
small scale manufacturing
small quantities
small business
small world
small talk

In summary, this post has addressed the question of differences between the use of the words “little” and “small”.  Understanding these differences can help learners of English to use the aforementioned words correctly in their speech.

The biggest luxury

The biggest luxury is the luxury of human communication.

Dear All:
Have you ever dialed a phone number trying to reach a particular service and instead of a person you heard a recorded voice asking you to make a selection as to what you would like to do next? Most of us have, probably, had this experience. How did you feel about it?

According to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “La grandeur d’un métier est peut-être, avant tout, d’unir des hommes: il n’est qu’un luxe véritable, et c’est celui des relations humaines” (The greatness of a profession is, probably, above all to unite people: the biggest luxury is the luxury of human relationships). This quote underlines the importance of relationship-building between people. The basis of any relationship is communication.

Are you working on a group project for a university course, conducting research with a team of researchers, organizing a conference? In any of these cases communication is the key, the better it is, the more successful the outcomes are likely going to be. Certainly, we know this, but how easy it is to neglect this.

Yes, communication is a luxury, but whether you are a student taking a  university course or a professor (particularly) offering a course, let communication be abundant. Importantly, choose a better kind of communication. Face-to-face communication can be better than a phone call. A phone call, can be better than an email. An email can be better than an SMS (Short Message Service – a text message over phone). Why so? The reason for this is the ability (or its absence) to use nonverbal means of communication. The importance of nonverbal means of communication is great and compared to words, nonverbal means of communication can communicate 93% of information as compared to 7% of information communicated by words.

When we speak face-to-face, we not only hear words, but also see the facial expressions, the expression of the eyes, the gestures, the body posture, the smile, etc. Thus, for example, when a student approaches a professor, the professor can get a better feedback concerning whether the student has understood the explanations or needs more help. In turn, nonverbal means of communication also help the professor to be a better instructor by offering information in more expressive way and, therefore, in a more lasting way too. This role of nonverbal means of communication is supported by abundant research that is consistent in that nonverbal means of communication work in two ways: they help to understand the information that is being communicated better (1) and also help to communicate information in a more efficient and effective way (2) (see e.g. Pankovskyi, 2011).

The discussion in this post started by asking the question concerning experiences with “communicating”with a recorded voice message. As for me, the answer to this question is – it depends. If the choices are as simple as to select language in which the communication is going to take place and at any time I can press “0” to be connected with an operator it may be a good use of technology to facilitate communication, but if one has to go through numerous choices which one is unable to skip and pressing “0” terminates the call, well the company that has such practice may lose a customer. In an ideal world where all other conditions are the same except the chance of speaking with a person versus going through a chain of numerous selections, the first choice is more preferable for me. How about you?

Lastly, yes, communication is a luxury because it can help to achieve goals and to make a project a success, but communication does not have to be scarce, it has to be abundant. With the development of modern technology one has more choices with respect to communication and it is up to each person to make a better choice in every given situation. Communication does not have to be long, it has to be effective and as long as is necessary to communicate an idea in a respectful and meaningful way.

Pankovskyi, I. (2011). Call for nonverbal means of communication in SLA. AATSEEL Newsletter: Psychology of language learning: San Juan Bautista, CA, USA. 14-15.

Studying/teaching Ukrainian: Conjugations

ConjugationImage credit: the image above is a screenshot of the website discussed in this post. Accessed May 19, 2016 from http://lcorp.ulif.org.ua/dictua/dictua.aspx.

Dear All:
This post provides a link to a valuable free online resource for learners, teachers, and speakers of Ukrainian who want to improve learning/teaching and speaking.

Grammar is one of the most difficult aspects of the Ukrainian language. In fact, one can learn how to read in Ukrainian just in 45 minutes (without any prior knowledge of Ukrainian), but using grammar to speak and write in Ukrainian requires more effort. This is explicated by the fact that Ukrainian has relatively complex system of grammatical cases: there are seven cases, the category of number (singular/ plural), and gender (masculine, feminine, and neuter). Combined together these grammatical categories yield about 42 (7 cases * 2 numbers * 3 genders) possible endings of a noun.

To help learners, instructors, and users of the language to speak more correctly in grammatical terms, the following website has been created:


This website allows users to enter a dictionary form of a word (e.g. мама) and get all the possible forms of this word (i.e. its conjugation). Besides nouns, this website also provides similar help with verbs and other parts of speech. Verbs, for instance, are conjugated according to the tense, the person, the mood (active, imperative) and other forms.

In addition to conjugations, each word (including the conjugated forms) contains accents, a feature which is of use to both beginner learners and speakers of Ukrainian to improve their language skills.

In brief, this post has provided a link to a website which helps to conjugate words and to check the correct accents in words and can be of help to learners, teachers, and speakers of Ukrainian.


SVG-to-PNGDear All:
Have you ever had to convert a file from one format to another for your studies or research?

I often need to convert files to different formats for my research. Most recently I came across an image in public domain which I wanted to convert from SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) format to PNG (Portable Network Graphics). I have found two Web resources which can do this online. One of these resources that worked considerably better by preserving better quality of the image is:


I have not seen their policies concerning privacy (except the following statement on the bottom of the page: “All data submitted/uploaded is deleted after 1 hour.”). Therefore, it is hard to say if this particular resource can meet particular objectives, but for images in public domain, this free Web resources can be helpful in research and studies.

Comparative linguistics

And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech (Gen. 11:1, KJV).

Dear All,
Have you ever heard the story about the tower of Babel? It is described in Genesis 11:1-9. The quote above is the beginning of this story. What is important for us in this discussion is that there is a statement that there was only one language on the earth. Then God scattered people to different places and confounded their language,

“(t)herefore is the name of it called Babel*; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth” (Gen. 11:9, KJV).

As can be seen from the quote above, at certain point after the events took place in Babel, people spoke different languages. How is this story related to CL? Well, first of all, let us define comparative linguistics (CL) and its objectives:

Comparative linguistics (=comparative philology) is a branch of historical linguistics that compares languages to determine their relatedness.

The objective of CL as can be seen from the definition suggests is to find out how languages are related to one another (e.g. what languages should be included in the Germanic family of languages). Another important goal of CL is to find the origin of individual languages and language families tracing this origin as far back in history as possible.

Starting at least by Italian writer Dante Alighieri (1265 – 1321), linguists began to notice and inquire into similarities and possible relatedness of languages. In his essay entitled “De vulgari eloquentia”, Dante wrote about the identical origin of Italian, French, and Provençal. More work in this area was done by Guillaume Postel (1510 – 1581) in his work “De affinitate linguarum”, by Friedrich Schlegel (1772 – 1829), Franz Bopp (1791–1867), Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm (1785 – 1863), Rasmus Christian Rask (1787 –1832), Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767 – 1835), and other scholars who suggested theories and found linguistic evidence that multiple languages had the same origin. This language is referred to as “Proto-Indo-European” (PEI) as the linguistic evidence suggests the languages that are now spoken in Europe all the way to India derive from it.

Building on research over the past several centuries, linguists have managed to trace back the origin of a lot of individual languages and language families. The results of this research can be depicted in the diagram below:

IndoEuropeanTreeDielli1.svgImage credit: Zoti Zeu, “Indo European Tree Language” February 24, 2015, via Wikimedia Commons, (CC BY-SA 4.0).

The languages highlighted in green in the diagram above are living; the languages highlighted in red are extinct. The languages without any highlight are language families (e.g. Germanic, Romance, Slavic). The left half of the graphic is centum languages** and the right half is satem languages.

What is the major method that is used by CL scholars to identify that one language is related to another language? The major method used in CL is comparison of morphemes. Importantly, similar words are not considered to be a proof of relatedness between two languages since words can be easily borrowed from one language to another (the vocabulary of some languages consists of up to 70% of borrowed words).

How does this method work? Knowing how phonemes shifted in one language and how they shifted in a different language allows, on the one hand, revealing identical morphemes in these languages and therefore establishing their relatedness, and on the other hand reconstructing separate morphemes (including roots) or the whole words in a proto-language (the predecessor of given languages).

For instance, comparing the word “new” in Armenian “nor“, French “nouvel“, German “neu“,Greek “νέος“, Latin “novus“, Ukrainian “новий” and knowing the laws according to which phonemes shift (phonetic laws) in languages, it is possible to reconstruct the Indo-European proto-form *nevos***.

In order to determine, whether languages are related or not, CL scholars hold to the rule that “if the quantity of shared parts of words exceeds the quantity of shared words, then languages are related; if the quantity of shared words exceeds the quantity of shared parts of words, then the languages are not related or distantly related” (Kocherhan, 2010, p. 363).

4 principles are fundamental to CL research: 1) comparison of languages can reveal their relatedness – the shared proto-language; 2) shift of sounds in a language happens based on strict linguistic laws due to which it morphemes are stable and it is possible to reconstruct earlier versions of a language and its proto-language; 3) according to how languages are related they can be grouped into families, groups, and subgroups; and 4) the differences between languages can be explained by their individual development.

To advance CL research linguists compare forms both between different languages (outside reconstruction) and within the same language (inside reconstruction).

CL scholars often conduct their research on ancient manuscripts. However, with the development of computers, CL scholars also take advantage of computers to compile and analyze databases with considerable amounts of forms and languages to study. One of the linguistic tools that is available to the public and can be used for CL research is Ngram Viewer.

In conclusion, CL research has advanced considerably over the last several centuries, however, more is still to be discovered. For instance, how is the language described in Gen. 11:1 related to modern languages? Is this the PIE language or was PIE a “descendant” of that language? How to refine research tools to answer this and other CL questions? These are some of the outstanding tasks of CL and I hope that this post may encourage you to think over these matters and possibly to take the CL research one step further.

To recapitulate, this post has defined comparative linguistics and briefly discussed its objectives, and the major method. The post has also discussed the story about the tower of Babel in connection with CL. The discussion has concluded by looking at some possible directions of further research in CL.

* “Babel” – from Heb. בָּבֶל [bavel] “Babylon”, from בִּלְבֵּל [bilbel] “confuse”.
** Centum languages are those languages in which the word the word for “100” (from Lat. centum – hundred) is pronounced with the initial [k]. Satem languages are those languages in which the word for “100” is pronounced with the initial [s].
*** The “*” sign is used in CL to identify a reconstructed form (i.e. not something that was found in an original text, but what linguists have found relying on CL methods and principles).

Kocherhan, M.P. (2010). Zahal’ne movoznavstvo (3rd ed.). Kyiv: Academiia.

Easter greeting

Christ is RisenDear All:
Pascha (Easter) is a very special day for people all over the world. Special food and traditions are associated with this day. Even greetings are special. If you go to Ukraine on this day, you are likely to be greeted with “Khrystós voskrés!” (Christ is Risen!). The appropriate answer to this greeting is “Voístynu voskrés!” (Indeed He is Risen!).
Happy Easter!

Easter baskets

Dear All,
This post continues exploring traditions associated with Holy Pascha (Easter) and focuses on the Easter baskets.

Pascha is the Feast of Feasts and Christians prepare for it by fasting and prayer. Pascha is the day when fasting ends. For this reason Christians bring baskets with food to Church for blessing. These baskets include food which is usually not eaten during fasting such as cheese, meat dishes, and hard boiled eggs.

Families come to Church (usually around midnight on Sunday or early on Sunday morning) and bring their baskets. When the Easter service in Church ends, people usually take their baskets outside the Church, light a candle, and stay in rows waiting for the priest to come and bless them. In Ukraine there are two most important ingredients in Easter baskets, they are Easter bread (paska) and Easter eggs (pysanky and krashankas). Easter bread symbolizes the fullness of life and eggs remind of resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The tradition holds that it was Equal to the Apostles, Mary Magdalene who initiated the tradition of giving eggs on Easter. One day she stood before Emperor Tiberias. All people were supposed to bring a gift to the emperor – rich people brought expensive things and poor people brought what they could. Mary Magdalene brought an egg to help her explain to the pagan emperor how life can spring from a seemingly dead object. This was a metaphor to refer Jesus Christ’s resurrection from a tomb. The emperor exclaimed that this was as impossible as for the white egg that Mary had brought to become red. The egg then turned bright red in Mary Magdalene’s hand.

This tradition has continued to our days. After Church people take their Easter baskets and share their blessed Easter bread and eggs with their family, friends, neighbours, and the needy and greet one another with a special greeting on Holy Pascha.


Pascha: Date

Dear All,
Have you ever wondered why Pascha (Easter) is celebrated each year on a different day? Why it is always celebrated on Sunday and is referred to as “the Feast of Feasts”? This post focuses on these questions above.

To clarify, how exactly the date for celebrating Pascha is defined each year I decided to go ad fontes (i.e. to the sources) and asked an Orthodox priest. According to him, “Holy Pascha is celebrated on the 1st Sunday, after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox but not together with the Jews (Canon Law).

Indeed, Pascha is always celebrated on Sunday. The reason for this is that Jesus Christ rose on the third day after His crucifixion (Friday) – that is on Sunday. Interestingly, the Russian word for Sunday is “воскресенье” (resurrection).

In the Orthodox Church there are twelve Great Feasts that are celebrated in a special way during the year. Interestingly, Pascha is not among these Feasts because it stands above them all. This is why Pascha is referred to as “the Feast of Feasts”.


Holy Fire


Dear All,
The previous post focused on Good Friday, the Friday before Pascha (Easter). The present post focuses on Pascha Saturday and more particularly on Holy Fire.

Each year on Great Saturday Orthodox people from all over the world come to the Jesus Christ’s tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. An Orthodox Patriarch comes into the Holy Sepulchre with a bunch of unlit candles. Before he goes in, he is scrupulously examined to see if he carries any matches or the like. After it is confirmed that he has none, he enters and the candles are lighted with Hole Fire. The Patriarch goes out of the Holy Sepulchre and shares Holy Fire with the pilgrims around. Some of these candles are then used to light lamps and in this way Holy Fire gets transported to different countries of the world by plane. These lamps are then kept in Orthodox Churches for several days and every care is taken to ensure that Holy Fire burns during all this time.

Therefore, if you enter an Orthodox Church on Pascha or around this time, you have a good chance to see one of the lamps lighted from Holy Fire.

The French for Holy Fire is “Feu sacré“. The Ukrainian for Holy Fire is “Благодатний Вогонь” (Grace Fire pointing at Grace of God due to Which people get this Fire). The Greek for Holy Fire is “Ἃγιον Φῶς” (Holy Light).

Happy Pascha to All!

Good Firday

336px-Wüger_KreuzigungDear All,
It is the special time of the year when people all over the world prepare and celebrate Pascha (Easter). This year Orthodox people celebrate Pascha on Sunday May 1, 2016. There are a lot of traditions associated with this Feast of Feasts and I would like to dedicate this post and the following four posts to the traditions associated with it. This post is going to focus on Good Friday.

First of all, what is Good Friday? Good Friday is the day when Christians commemorate the day on which our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ was crucified. The question may arise, if this is such a day, why do people call it “Good”.

To answer this question I decided to go ad fontes (i.e. to the sources) and asked an Orthodox priest. The reason for this is that the Church believes that this is the way in which God made our salvation, on the Cross.

Good Friday is also referred to as “Holy Friday” (pointing at the importance of the Feast) and Easter Friday (pointing at the closeness of Pascha). In French, the Feast is referred to as “Le Vendredi saint” (Holy Friday). In Ukrainian, the Feast is referred to as “Велика п’ятниця” (Great Friday), “Страсна п’ятниця” (Passionate Friday – the word ‘passion’ in this case is used in the meaning of “suffering” pointing at the pain that Jesus Christ endured for people), “Свята п’ятниця” (Holy Friday).

Wishing all imminent Paschal joy!


How linguistics can help in space exploration

Video credit: SpaceX, “CRS-8 Dragon Hosted Webcast” April 8, 2016, via YouTube.

Dear All,
The video above shows the first successful launch + landing (on a landing pad in the ocean) of the first stage of a rocket delivering cargo to space (see also the first successful launch + landing on a landing pad on the ground in the reference section (video 1) of this post). This is an important achievement in the world of technology and space exploration as it significantly reduces the cost of a space flight and makes space exploration more available for projects which can benefit more people and our environment.

The previous post has addressed the question of why linguistics matters. This post looks at how linguistics can and should contribute to space exploration.

Exploration of space is connected with astronauts. They are the people who go to space on a mission to conduct experiments and return to share the results of the research and their experiences with scholars and the wider community of interested people (e.g. see the video (2) in the reference section where astronaut Chris Hadfield delivers a TED talk). A trip of astronauts to space is called an “expedition”. A space expedition is like “a unit of measure” for space exploration; for example, an experiment or a project in space can be referred to as project X during 35th expedition. To make an expedition a success a lot needs to be done before, during, and after an expedition. Therefore, it is interesting to see how linguistics can help space exploration at each of these stages.

So, how can linguistics help? It can help by:




1) lending methodologies in instruction (teaching and learning) to prepare new astronauts faster and more effectively;

2) designing websites and social media to attract some of the best specialists from all the corners of the world to projects;

3) creating a media environment where people can exchange ideas about space exploration and where investors can support talents;

4) launching social media campaigns to increase awareness of the importance of space exploration to attract people’s attention and particularly the attention of the growing generation to keep exploring space;

5) designing instructions (e.g. how to use a tool) and guidelines (e.g. how to act in a particular situation) in the most efficient and effective way;

6) instructing foreign languages to some of the best specialists from around the world facilitate their cooperation.

1) improving communication between the command centre on the earth and the crew in space;

2) ensuring successful communication of astronauts among themselves as a team and with other teams of astronauts;

3) creating and maintaining a crew journal to report on everyday activities for researchers on the earth to be able to analyse the course of an expedition and draw on the experiences;

4) exploring extra-terrestrial forms of communication;

5) creating a certain format for reporting on experiments or for other communications to increase their efficiency (e.g. short blog or email message with a certain structure (e.g. a video or an image on the left and X amounts of words));

6) exploring the influence of being in space on communication habits of people.

1) setting up social media and conference environments for astronauts to share their experiences with other people;

2) translating research articles (based on the findings from an expedition) and thus making them available to specialists to stimulate progress in space exploration;

3) ensuring that research findings in space are disseminated to the benefit of all the people.

The table above briefly outlines some of the points in connection with which linguistics can help exploration of space. The information in the table is subdivided into three groups: Before (1), During (2), and After (3). Every group consists of several points. Each point is connected with language and communication, the primary scope of linguistics.

In conclusion, this post has looked at how linguistics can help exploration of space. The objective of the post has not been to list all the possible ways in which linguistics can contribute, rather it has been to give an idea of possible ways and to encourage linguists to be more active contributors to space exploration.

It would be interesting to hear from you on how linguistics can/should contribute to space exploration. Please leave a comment in the comment section below.

First successful launch + landing on a landing pad on the ground:

Chris Hadfield at a TED talk:


Why linguistics matters

Dear All:
When it comes to University courses some students opt out for “the real thing” which, in their opinion, is more related to something they want to do in their future profession. Today I would like to speak about linguistics and why it is the real thing.

Regardless of what profession a student chooses one thing is certain: communication is going to be the basis of it. Consequently, good communication yields good fruits in any profession or activity; poor communication may result in a less positive outcome. Thus, communication is the key. What area of science studies communication? Various aspects of communication and communication-related topics are covered by linguistics.

When one speaks about linguistics one may think that linguistics is all about sounds, letters, grammar, and tribal languages. However, linguistics is much more diverse. Applied linguistics, for instance covers such areas as

  • teaching and learning foreign languages
  • developing online dictionaries
  • designing spellcheckers for browsers and other software applications
  • improving communicative efficiency of websites
  • communicating more effectively using nonverbal means of communication, etc.

Theoretical linguistics, for instance, focuses on such areas as:

  • meaning of words
  • the origin of languages and how they are interrelated
  • structure of languages
  • phonemic composition of a language
  • how meaning works in communication (see for example SPEAKING model and Speech act theory), etc.

Another linguistic question that fascinates some linguists is how language can influence the way we think. This is called the theory of linguistic relativity.

If you would like to learn more about what linguistics is and its structure, I encourage you to browse through this blog.

Linguistics has to do with so many practical tasks we do in our everyday life, work, and commerce. Therefore, when students consider taking a course in linguistics, I want them to stay assured that they are going to be doing the real thing,  but I also want them to make an educated choice concerning what area of linguistics they would like to study and this post with the related links may be of help.

For those, who have to take linguistics as a part of their university program (as a core curriculum course in their classical education), I would like to draw their attention that besides expanding their horizons as an educated person, this course may also help to solve practical tasks such choosing more effective approaches to solving job-related tasks, becoming better public speakers and interpersonal communicators, and mastering foreign languages.

In summary, linguistics is a unique science which includes various areas dealing with various language and communication-related questions. Similar to any other science, it can help to solve concrete practical tasks besides contributing to theory. When a student considers taking a course in linguistics, the choice should be educated. This post has shown how diverse linguistics is and provided a few links to find out more about how linguistics is defined, its structure, and some of the questions addressed by this amazing discipline.

The following post is going to address the question of how linguistics can help in space exploration.

Descriptive linguistics


Dear All:
I have recently come across two sources which seem to understand descriptive linguistics (L.) in opposite ways.

The Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Literatures and Cultures’ Web page on the University of Kentucky website explains how the field of descriptive L. is represented there in the following way:
“Descriptive Linguistics research is currently represented in our programs in the areas of phonetics (the scientific study of speech sounds), semantics (the study of meaning in language), historical linguistics (the study of language variation and change over time), and sociolinguistics (the study of language in society)” (MCLLC, 2016).

Dictionary.com, in turn, defines descriptive L. as follows:
“the study of the description of the internal phonological, grammatical, and semantic structures of languages at given points in time without reference to their histories or to one another Also called synchronic linguistics Compare historical linguistic” (Dictionary.com, 2016).

The difference between the two views of descriptive L. is that the former includes historical L. in definition of descriptive L. whereas the latter puts the equal sign between descriptive and synchronic L. and, therefore, contrasts descriptive L. to historic L. (=diachronic L.).

In order to clarify the matter, let us define descriptive L.:

Descriptive L. is a term for the approaches in L. which rely on
a) synchronic perspective,
b) empirical procedures, and
c) description of individual languages (based on the acquired data for studying this particular language) rather than looking for features across languages which are general to all languages (cf. generative grammar).

Descriptive L. can also be understood in a broader sense as:
“any type of non-prescriptive or non-normative description of different linguistic varieties, which codifies regularities according to use” (Bussmann, 1998. p. 296).

In this broader sense descriptive L. is the opposite to prescriptive L. which establishes linguistic rules which are supposed to guide speakers to use language in a particular way.

Thus, the definition by MCLLC (2016) can be seen as right if descriptive L. is understood in its broader sense. Whereas the definition by Dictionary.com can be seen as right if descriptive L. is understood in its narrower sense.

In brief, this post has defined descriptive L. in the classical linguistic way to help avoid confusion on encountering non-linguistic sources which may provide partial or inaccurate definition of the term.

Bussmann, H. (Ed.). (1998). Routledge dictionary of language and linguistics; translated and edited by Gregory Trauth and Kerstin Kazzazi. London: Routledge.
Dictionalry.com (2016). Retrieved April 10, 2016 from, http://www.dictionary.com/
Modern and Classical Languages, Literatures and Cultures (MCLLC) (2016). Retrieved April 10, 2016 from, https://mcl.as.uky.edu/theoretical-linguistics
Cambridge Dictionaries Online (CDO) (2016). Retrieved March 6, 2016 from, http://dictionary.cambridge.org/


Theoretical linguistics

Dear All,
The previous post has focused on applied linguistics (L.). This post focuses on theoretical L.

Theoretical L. is a branch of L. that is focused on developing linguistic knowledge in general (e.g. what are the linguistic levels of any language) and concrete models in particular (e.g. how the phonemes are organized in a given language).

Theoretical L. has several branches:

  • Graphemics (graphematics) – studies particular writing systems and their basic units (graphemes).
  • Lexicology (from Gr. λέξις “word”) – studies lexis (the total word-stock of a language).
  • Quantitative L. – uses statistical methods to solve linguistic tasks. It can focus on the structure of natural languages or such practical areas as language education, internet L. (e.g. the frequency of use of a particular linguistic phenomenon), and stylistics.
  • Generative L. – is looking for ways (rules) according to which a particular language functions and tries to predict general (hence “generative”) features natural to all languages. See the post on generative grammar for more detail.
  • Functional grammar – “theoretical approach to the description and explanation of linguistic phenomena based on their various functions” (Bussmann, 2006, p.439). See the post on SFL functional perspective for more detail.
  • Cognitive L. (= cognitive psychology (Bussmann, 2006, p. 197)) – views language as a tool for organizing, processing, and conveying information. It operates with such notions as concept, metaphor, metonymy, embodiment, prototypicality, perspectivization, etc.

In conclusion, this post has defined theoretical L. and discussed briefly its individual branches. It is worth mentioning that both theoretical and applied L. work in harmony to enrich the general line of linguistic research and to solve practical language-related tasks.

Bussmann, H. (Ed.). (1998). Routledge dictionary of language and linguistics; translated and edited by Gregory Trauth and Kerstin Kazzazi. London: Routledge.


Applied linguistics

Language acquisition is “the greatest intellectual feat any of us is ever required to perform” (Bloomfield, 1933, p. 29).

Dear All,
The previous two posts have defined linguistics (L.) and discussed briefly its structure. This post focuses on one of the branches of L. called “applied L.”

Applied L.is a conglomeration of linguistic sub-disciplines and interdisciplinary areas that use linguistic methods.

Unlike theoretical L., applied L. is directed towards solving language-related practical questions; although it can also help to answer certain theoretical questions.

Applied L. includes the following branches (these are subbranches=sub-disciplines in relation to L. in general):

  • Stylistics – developed from rhetoric and the interpretation of literature – it looks at texts from the perspective of its style (e.g. formal, informal, scientific, poetic, etc.).
  • Language acquisition – examines the ways in which people get (acquire) the ability to speak and to understand language as well as how these ways can be enhanced.

The quote above by Bloomfield underlines the complexity of the process and the importance of this gift bestowed on human beings.

  • Second language* acquisition (SLA) – focused on the processes involved in learning (acquiring) a second, third and so on language and the ways in which learning and teaching of a foreign language can be enhanced.

Have you ever used a book devoted to studying a foreign language? This book is a product of work of one or more SLA linguists.

  • Language education (= pedagogy) – instructs future instructors of languages (either first or second language) how to instruct their students about languages efficiently and effectively.
  • Language assessment (= language testing) – devoted to development of methods and supporting materials to help instructors and institutions to check language skills.

Language assessment helps pedagogues to test (assess) the level of knowledge and the ability to use a language and to adjust teaching methods on this basis to ensure that students’ language education is efficient and effective. It is also useful in showing to students some of their strengths and the areas which may require some help or additional work. CELPIP is an example of language assessment system.

  • Computational L. – has to do with statistical or rule-based modeling of language from a computational perspective.

Online Web services (e.g. Google Translate), computer translation software, and spell checkers (e.g. Speckie) are some of the fruits of the work of people working within the framework of computational L.

  • Forensic L. – application of the linguistic knowledge to the sphere of law. Forensic L. studies terminology and other features of the language applied to the context of law.
  • Internet L. – studies the ways in which language-based communication takes place through the Internet, the Web, and via other modern technology.

This is is a new area of L. which is associated with the name of D. Crystal who suggested that with the development of New Media and new ways to communicate (e.g. brief phrases, abbreviated words, and smileys in Short Message Services (SMS or mobile phone text messages), online chats, etc.) there should be a separate linguistic sub-field to study these innovative ways of communication.

  • Language documentation – aims at creating as full description of a language as possible for the purpose of preserving this language or further studying it in detail.

Creating a vocabulary of a language, detailed description of its phonetic system, and creation of a language map showing where this language is used geographically are some of the methods used by language documentation linguists.

  • Language planning – uses various linguistic tools and methodologies to influence the structure, function or acquisition of a particular language or languages within a speech community.
  • Linguistic anthropology – studies how language influences social life.
  • Contrastive analysis compares two or more languages trying to reveal their similarities and differences which helps to identify how these languages are related to one another (e.g. both belong to the Germanic family of languages) or to understand better some features which are common to all or a certain group of languages.
  • Sociolinguistics – studies language in its social context.

In my view, one of the greatest achievements of scholars working within the framework of sociolinguistics is further revealing language as a system, in particular that the lowest (phonetic) level is dependent on the highest (social) level. A well-known in linguistic circles example of sociolinguistic research is “The Social Stratification of English in New York City“, a book written by Labov.

  • Psycholinguistics (= psychology of language) – “(i)nterdisciplinary area of research concerned with the processes of language production, language comprehension, and language acquisition, in which neurolinguistics, discourse analysis, sociolinguistics, cognitive psychology, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence are closely allied” (Bussmann, 2006, pp. 965-966).

One of the areas that psycholinguistics is interested in is nonverbal communication.

  • Neurolinguistics – focuses on the structures in the brain that underlie grammar and communication.

In brief, this post has addressed some of the sub-fields of L. and interdisciplinary areas functioning within the framework of applied L. This post is not a complete list of applied L. sub-fields, but rather a discussion of some of the areas that modern L. is interested in. As a living discipline L. continues to grow and this blog continues to study different language-related questions and to admire the varied field of L.

The following post is going to discuss theoretical L.

Bloomfield, L. (1933). Language. New York: Henry Holt.
Bussmann, H. (Ed.). (1998). Routledge dictionary of language and linguistics; translated and edited by Gregory Trauth and Kerstin Kazzazi. London: Routledge.

* “Second language” is the classical term used to refer to a second, third, etc. language that an individual learns. Another term that is frequently used in this case is an “additional language” – this term underlines the fact that this language is learned “on top of” the native language without specifying whether it is second, third etc. language to avoid confusion.

Structure of linguisitcs

Branches_indo-européen-IImage credit: Aucasin, “Branches indo-européen” September 13, 2015, via Wikimedia Commons, (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Dear All:
This post continues exploring what linguistics (L.) is. This post is going to focus on the branches of of L. which do study language, but are not directly focused on a particular structural level of language.

Depending on what in particular we are interested in, L. can be divided into different areas or branches. Two points are worth mentioning prior to any further discussion: 1) the branches of L. are conditional – a lot of studies cross the boundaries (again boundaries are conditional) to penetrate into the subject matter deeper and therefore to study it better and 2) the branches of L. are not a finite list of sciences, but rather a constantly growing body of research which grows as the application of language and our knowledge about it also grow. Therefore, the objective of this and the following posts is not to provide the most complete list of linguistic branches, but rather to show the diversity of L.

To begin with, L. can study some general features that are characteristic of all language systems (general L.) or it can focus on a particular language/s (descriptive L.). The former aims at finding generalities which can help us to study languages better or to understand better the very nature of language and communication. The latter (descriptive L.) aims at studying particular features of a language and possibly to apply this knowledge in order to make generalizations about languages or communication. Thus, general L. can be said to rely more on the deductive (from general to particular) method, whereas descriptive L. can be said to rely more on the inductive (from particular to general) method.

Depending on whether L. looks at language at a given moment or at its development over a certain period of time, L. can be synchronic or diachronic [=historical]. Synchronic L. studies language at a particular point of time (horizontal perspective) – either right now or at a certain moment in the past. Historical L., in turn, focuses on the development of language over a certain period – either in the past or from the past to present. The chart above, for instance, is the work of historical linguists. It shows that all the Indo-European languages are derived from one language – Indo-Europeen (Proto-language). This conclusion is based on a large body of research comparing words from multiple languages over a large geographical area extending from territory of modern India to western Europe*. It may be interesting to compare these findings with Genesis 11:9.

Depending on the general scope of L., it can be either micro L. or macro L. Micro L. is interested in the structure of language and includes phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics (see post “What is linguistics?” for more detail on these). Macro L. includes such branches as applied L., psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, neurolinguistics, and computational L.

Depending on use of the statistical methods L. can be either quantitative (uses statistical methods) or qualitative (does not use statistical methods).

Depending on the orientation of L. to either (1) find solutions to certain linguistic or everyday questions related to language or (2) to expand linguistic knowledge, L. can be applied (the former) or theoretical (the latter).

The following post is going to discuss applied L. in more detail.

* Did you know that brothers Grimm, the people who popularized such fairy tales as “Cinderella”, “The Frog Prince, “The Goose-Girl”, “Hansel and Gretel”, “Rapunzel”, “Rumpelstiltskin”, and “Sleeping Beauty” are famous historical linguists?



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