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).

More similar posts:
What is linguistics?
Structure of linguistics
Applied linguistics
Theoretical linguistics
Descriptive linguistics
What is language

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!

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Easter baskets
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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.


Similar posts:
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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”.


Similar posts:
Pascha – Easter – Passover
Easter greeting
Easter baskets
Ukrainian Easter eggs
Holy Fire
Good Friday

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!

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Good Friday

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!


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Pascha: Date
Easter baskets
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Easter greeting

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 more available for research 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 (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 a research “field trip” to space to conduct research and exploration space. To make an expedition a success a lot of things need 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.

It goes without saying that if we ever encounter extraterrestrial forms of communication, linguists should take the lead in helping people to understand this communication and, in turn, to communicate successfully and safely. Besides this, how else can linguistics help in exploring space? 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)., 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” (, 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 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.

See similar posts:
What is linguistics?
Structure of linguistics
Applied linguistics
Theoretical linguistics
Comparative linguistics
What is language

Bussmann, H. (Ed.). (1998). Routledge dictionary of language and linguistics; translated and edited by Gregory Trauth and Kerstin Kazzazi. London: Routledge. (2016). Retrieved April 10, 2016 from,
Modern and Classical Languages, Literatures and Cultures (MCLLC) (2016). Retrieved April 10, 2016 from,
Cambridge Dictionaries Online (CDO) (2016). Retrieved March 6, 2016 from,


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.

More similar posts:
What is linguistics?
Structure of linguistics
Applied linguistics
Descriptive linguistics
Comparative linguistics
What is language

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 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 modelling 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.

* “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.

More similar posts:
What is linguistics?
Structure of linguistics
Applied linguistics
Descriptive linguistics
Comparative linguistics
What is language

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.


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?

See similar posts:
What is language
What is linguistics?
Theoretical linguistics
Descriptive linguistics
Comparative linguistics


What is linguistics?

Video credit: The Virtual Linguistics Campus, “What is Linguistics (not)?” July 31, 2014, via YouTube.

Dear All:
We have been discussing so many interesting linguistic topics on BLOGONLINGUISTICS blog, but what is linguistics?

Linguistics (L.) (from Lat. lingua – “language”) is scientific study of language.

The core branches of L. are associated with language structure and the units of each level of this structure at which L. is looking at: sounds, words, sentences, and texts.
1. If L. looks at sound, then we can distinguish between the following linguistic branches:
a) phoneticsdeals with the production (articulatory phonetics), physical transmission (acoustic phonetics), and reception or perception (auditory phonetics) of speech sounds by people (e.g. what organs of speech participate in articulating the sound [t]?) and

b) phonology – how sounds are organized in a particular language (e.g. how many consonants and vowels does this language have?).

2. If L. looks at structure of words and sentences, we can distinguish between:
a) morphology – deals with the structure of words (e.g. the word “superuser” consists of the stem ‘superuser’, two roots: ‘super’ and ‘use’, the suffix ‘-r’, and a zero ending) and

b) syntax – how phrases and sentences are constructed (e.g. “I go to school” is a simple sentence consisting of the subject in the form of the personal pronoun ‘I’, the verb in the present simple tense ‘go’, the adverbial modifier of place ‘to school’ consisting of the preposition ‘to’ and the noun ‘school’) – see also the post on X-bar syntax.

3. If L. looks at meaning, we can distinguish between:
a) semantics – has to do with meaning of words and other communicative units (e.g. what does the word “aerodynamics” mean [lexical semantics]? or what does this idiom mean [phraseology]?);

b) pragmatics – how meaning works to produce a particular communicative effect (e.g.Bob says “Thank you for the book!” [locutionary act], his purpose is to convey gratitude [illocutioraly act], the effect is that Jo looks surprised [perlocutionary act] – see the post on Speech act theory) and

c) discourse – language in use – the focus here is the text and how it functions in a variety of contexts.

The image below summarizes the discussion above and also shows the main linguistic units studied within each branch:
These are the core areas of L., in other words, what L. is. But what is L. not? The video above touches upon this question. Is L. anything and everything that has to do with words, sounds, etc.? For instance, not literary criticism although linguistics is interested in how literary works are created (e.g. what style is used). L. is not a prescriptive set of grammatical rules stating how language should be used, although L. does take interest in what rules govern language. L. is not a snapshot of language use, but a science and as any science it evolves.
Major_levels_of_linguistic_structure-IPL. grows as the areas of language application grow. For instance, since the time computers have been adopted by people, L. has taken interest in how people can (e.g. using chats, audio, and video calls, share-screen sessions, etc.) and do communicate (e.g. how people use language in emails, in comments to video materials, blogs, etc.) using computers or how computers can be used to facilitate human communication (e.g. online dictionaries, training exercises on a computer or a smart phone) and even how to recreate communication (e.g. computer characters that are programmed to recognize such questions as “How are you today” and to give simple replies in response) on a computer.

What are some of the fascinating new horizons that L. can and has already disembarked on? Some of the questions that may interest language instructors and students are:

How to find new and optimize the existing ways of teaching and learning languages: for example how to make language classes more interesting and, therefore, more productive for students?

How to learn a language better to be able to communicate freely with native speakers?

How to minimize the time maximize the efficiency of time spent on learning a language and the obtained results?

Another interesting question that modern L. is interested in is artificial intelligence. Language is such a unique human ability that without recreating the whole thinking process it is impossible to recreate meaningful conversations on undetermined topics (see the post on artificial intelligence).

What areas of L. interest you?

In brief, this post has defined L. and its core fields. The following post explores the structure of L. or its branches in more detail.

Similar posts:
What is language
Applied linguistics
Theoretical linguistics
Descriptive linguistics
Comparative linguistics


Affect – Effect

Dear All,
Two words which may be easily confused by English learners and even by the speakers for whom English is their native language are “affect” and “effect”. This blogs compares these two words to help use them correctly.

First of all, let us define each of these words to make the differences more obvious:

Affect: v. 1) to influence:
e.g. This decision is going to influence my life.

2) to make it appear like:
e.g. When she gave me the present I expected, I affected surprise to make her happy.

n. 1) a feeling or emotion (esp. in the context of psychology and nonverbal communication):
e.g. The way we use gestures is different when we are in the state of affect.

Effect: v. 1) to bring about (esp. a change):
e.g. When you work hard with faith, you can effect change.

n. 1) the result of a particular influence:
e.g. He brought tickets to the movie for her; the effect was very positive: she stopped crying, smiled, and kissed him gently.

The potential point of confusion is when both of these words are verbs (meaning 1) above). However, if to look closely, it is possible to see the difference: “to affect” means ‘to influence somebody or something’, in other words to make it change in a certain way; whereas “to effect” means to ‘bring about’, in other words, to trigger, to cause, to make it happen.

To sum up, this post has addressed the question of differences in meaning between the words “affect” and “effect”. These words have been defined and the differences between them have been clarified.

Oh, but how about “ough”?​

Question mark

Did you know that in English “ough” can be read in 9 ways?

Dear All,
The English is a language which requires solid reading skills reading correctly. For instance, the “ough” can be read in at least nine different ways. Here is a sentence which contains all the instances:

A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed (European Day of Languages, 2016).

1) rough [rʌf]* – opposite to smooth
2) dough [dəʊ] – usually homogeneous substance used in cooking
3) thoughtful [ˈθɑːt.fəl] – pensive
4) ploughman [ˈplaʊ.mən] – a person who makes furrows (with a “plough”) in the ground to plant seeds
5) through [θr] – from one place to another
6) Scarborough [ˈskɑːrbər] – a district in Toronto
7) slough [sl] – wet area
8) cough [kɒf] – to force air out of lungs with sound
9) hiccough [ˈhɪk.ʌp] – unintentional, usually repeated, tightening of a muscle just below the chest

A natural question that may arise in this situation is:
Why does English have such a complicated system of pronunciation?

The reason for this is that English has a long history of interacting with other languages. In the past, one of the biggest influences was the Norman conquest which changed the language considerably from the phonetic and lexical points of view. Nowadays, English is spoken on all the continents and the languages and the English language dialects which interact with Standard English (either due to the geographical vicinity or through frequent communicative contacts (e.g. via the internet)) all contribute to Standard English to a certain degree. Therefore, although English does have reading rules, there are about 50% of words which are exceptions.

The languages which are read as they are written are called “phonetic languages”. Examples of such languages are Italian, Spanish, and Ukrainian. It is relatively easy to learn to read in phonetic languages: 60 minutes may be enough to acquire basic reading skills and to be able to read a newspaper. English, in turn, requires much more time to be able to read correctly. In fact, even an adult person for whom English is the native language may experience difficulty reading a new word in English.

To balance this complicated reading system, English has a relatively simple grammar with practically no category of gender or grammatical cases. Therefore, the learners who consider learning English (or any other language) may be surprized at how easy it is to learn it. Therefore, be sure to try and learn at least one more language.

European Day of Languages (EDL) (2016). Retrieved March 6, 2016 from,
Cambridge Dictionaries Online (CDO) (2016). Retrieved March 6, 2016 from,

* The transcription used in this post is from Cambridge Dictionaries Online (2016); the BrE version of pronunciation is transcribed.

Hyphen – dash


Dear All,
Sometimes it is possible to hear people using “hyphen” and “dash” interchangeably, however, there exist differences. This post addresses these differences.

First of all, it is worth mentioning that a hyphen (-) is twice shorter than a dash (–-). This is something that can be easily noticed, but to better understand what sets one punctuation mark apart from the other, let’s see what functions hyphens and dashes have.

1. Hyphens are used:

a) to combine two or more words (e.g. adjective+adjective, noun+noun, numeral+noun, numeral+numeral, etc.) into one word:
This is a united Canadian-Ukrainian space project.
She got married and her surname became Jones-Smith.
This is a 15-inch screen.
Our team won twenty-three games this season.

b) to substitute the word “to” in informal communication (it is preferable to use “to” in strictly formal communication):
We expect 5-7 percents of economic growth this year.

c) to continue a word on a new line if insufficient space is left on the current line (this function has somewhat come out of use with modern word processors allowing moving a word to a new line automatically):
Our company has improved its trans-
portation services recently.

2. Dashes are used:

a) to substitute such phrases as “it is”, “these are”, etc.:
There is only one thing you can do for the promotion to get a university degree.

b) to substitute parenthesis (or other punctuation marks such as commas) which introduce some additional information in the sentence:
This is a good deal — it was signed two weeks ago — and our partners are happy too.

c) to indicate an unfinished thought, particularly in books within direct speech:
“This is the key point of our –“ Ann’s presentation was interrupted by a phone call.

To recapitulate, this post has addressed the question of differences between a hyphen and a dash. Besides the fact that a hyphen is shorter than a dash, these two punctuation marks have also been shown to have different functions.

For the information in this post, I relied on Purdue OWL (the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University) (2016). You can check this resource by following the link in the reference section below.

Purdue OWL (2016). Retrieved February 21, 2016 from,

Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, Silent Generation

Video credit: Vanessa Van Edwards, “Communicating Across Generations” August 27, 2015, via YouTube.

Dear All,
In this post I would like to address the question of communication across generations. We already know that communication is a complex process involving multiple factors and multiple factors (e.g. “Speaking model“) need to be taken care of for success of communication and a generation can be one of such factors.

In the video above Vanessa Van Edwards and the interviewer discuss five different generations and some of the tactics that may contribute to the positive outcome of communicating with people belonging to a particular generation:

Gen Z = Eye Generation (born in 2000 – present).

  • Communicate briefly (smaller chunks of information).
  • Add entertainment (fun).
  • Use technology (shared calendar, texting, emails, etc.).
  • Use visuals (e.g. PowerPoint presentations, charts, videos, information in a bullet form, etc.).

Millennials = Generation Y (born in 1980 – 2000).
Millennials Get along well with their parents.

  • Ask their opinion sincerely.
  • Allow them to contribute to projects (e.g. by asking their opinion, asking to share their experience, asking how to make a project a success, etc.).

Gen X = Sandwich Generation (born 1965 – 1980).
Gen Xers are used to taking on a lot of responsibility (e.g. volunteering).

  • Offer some help (e.g. fix a computer issue, come up with a solution to a task).
  • Take away pressure.

Boomers (born in 1946 – 1964).
Boomers value respect and tradition.

  • Show respect to the ways they are used to do things.

Silent Generation (born before 1946).
Their needs were silenced by what the country needed.

  • Ask them about their life.
  • Celebrate the fact that they are here with you now.
  • Try to communicate with them the way they want.

What are some of the advantages in discussing communication patterns in terms of age groups (generations)? The biggest advantage is probably the chance to generalize in order to be able to draw on some of the common features in terms of communication which are shared by different representatives of this group. The biggest disadvantage may be the risk of regarding all the people from this age group as having certain determined communicative styles whereas, as we know, there is always a place for individual characteristics and exceptions. Therefore, it may be best to rely on what scholars have found in relation to one or another age group, but at the same time to be aware of possible individual features of each person.

Have you noticed anything from your own experience that can facilitate communication with people from any of these age groups? Please share in the comments to this post. Thanks!

See similar posts about
Hofstede’s cultural dimensions
Monochronic and polychronic cultures
High- and low-context cultures
SPEAKING model (D. Hymes)
Colours: What do they communicate?
The importance of nonverbal means of communication

Hide not your talents

Hide not your talents, they for use were made, what good is a sundial in the shade (Franklin)?

Dear All,
Each of us has a talent or a set of talents. The quote above by Franklin underlines the importance of using our talents. This is perfectly applicable in the the sphere of education.

Do you speak foreign languages and enjoy using them? How about you try to obtain a degree in this craft?

You like Math, but study art at the university? How about you bring some Math in your study of arts (e.g. use a formula/graphic/numbers to create a beautiful piece of art)? Didn’t you know that some of the best discoveries are found on the intersection of disciplines?

You enjoy cooking and are studying for a degree? Well, use your talent to nourish your brain and to keep your body healthy. This will, in turn, pay off in a positive way with regard to your studies.

Whatever you do in life, there is always space to apply your talent either directly or indirectly. Hide not your talents, use them.

Set aside mornings for work

A person who has not done one half his day’s work by ten o’clock, runs a chance of leaving the other half undone (Emily Bronte).

Dear All,
The quote about by English novelist and poet Emily Bronte points at the importance of fulfilling the duties as early during the day as possible. In my opinion and from my experience, this is important because the more the day is advanced in time, the more tired we are. When we are tired, we are less likely to finish our set tasks effectively. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to tackle tasks early.

I believe that this approach is applicable to education and research. If I start the day with checking my emails, for instance, instead of conducting research straight away, I end up falling behind with research. Emails and other minor matters are worth attending to as well, but as a rule, they should not be the priority.

What did I do to avoid distraction by details? When I was conducting important research, I set certain periods of time during the day when I turned off my internet connection and even phone. At least three hours were devoted to research. The result – success in research and yet all caught up with other minor matters including emails.

I have shared my experience hoping that it may be of help to somebody else. Each individual has his/her own situation and needs to choose what works best for him/her. The two biggest points here are
1) When you study or conduct research, avoid being distracted by minor matters.
2) Devote your morning (the time when you are still fresh) to the most important things.

You who has – you who have

WhoDear All,
Today I would like to speak about an interesting syntactic construction consisting of the following elements:

pronoun + who + verb

The reason why this construction is indeed interesting is because it raises the question, what form of the verb should we use after “who”: with -s (3rd pers. sing.) or without -s?

As a general rule, “who” is a pronoun which always requires the verb in 3rd pers. sing (i.e. -s), for instance:

  1. Who has read the Bible in four languages?

The answer can be, for example, “Tom has” or “Tom and Julia have”. The point here is that regardless of what the answer could be, who is the subject of this simple interrogative sentence and as such is used with a verb in 3rd pers. sing.

However, sometimes “who” is used in complex sentences within a relative clause:

2. Do you know the people who live next door to us?

3. It was Tom who has prepared this beautiful gift for you.

4. It is you who has (or: have) read the Bible in four languages.

in this construction the use of -s depends on the context, unlike the previous case (a simple interrogative sentence): when speak about several people (plural noun) like in example 2 above, the verb takes the plural form (without -s); but when we speak about one person, then the verb is used in its 3rd pers. sing. form (example 3). In some cases, it is possible to use either form: without -s or with -s depending on the context. For instance, in example 4, we can use either “has” (if speak about Tom only) or “have” (if we speak about Tom and Julia).

Notably, although “you” is typically used with verbs in the plural form (e.g. Mr. Smith, you look [not looks] happy today; Linda, you were [not was] great in the performance today), in “who-clauses” we can use you + who + verb either in singular or in plural forms (example 4). Thus, the conjugation of the verb in the “who-clause” depends on the logical (semantic) number of the noun in the main clause, but not on its person.

Sometimes, the pronoun “who” is used in constructions like:

5. You who has (or: have) extinguished fire efficiently and effectively deserve a medal.

This construction is characteristic of the direct speech. The use of the verb (with or without -s) follows the same rule as verbs in the relative clauses discussed above. In fact, this is a type of a relative clause: you … deserve a medal [main clause] and who has/have extinguished fire [relative clause]. Since the word “deserve” is a part of the main clause and refers to “you” (2nd pers. pl.), it should be only used without “-s” in this case.

In brief, this post has addressed the question of conjugating verbs after the relative pronoun “who”. Specifically, it has been pointed out that in simple interrogative questions, “who” requires the verb in the third person singular (with -s), whereas in relative clauses, the verb can be used either with or without -s depending on the number of the noun in the main clause (but not on its grammatical person).

Setup – set-up – set up

Dear All,
How do you spell the word “setup”? The answer is: it depends: if “setup” is a noun or used in the attributive function, as an adjective (before another noun), then it is spelled as one word with or without a hyphen:

The setup (or set-up) of my phone is easy to use.
I see only three setup (or set-up) options here.

It is worth mentioning that British English (BrE) tends to use the hyphenated version more often than American English (AmE).

Another interesting point is that some English words which used to be spelled with a hyphen in the past are now spelled as one word without a hyphen in Modern English. For instance, if you browse King James Version of the translation of the Bible, you can find such words as “to-day”, “to-morrow” and others there; however, no one spells these words that way anymore. These  examples show a tendency of Modern English to spell certain words as one word (without a hyphen) although they used to be hyphenated in the past.

Let’s get back to our sheep*: when the word “set up” is used as a verb, then it should be spelled as two separate words:

I managed to set up my phone not to track my location.

To sum up, this post has addressed the question of spelling the word “setup” correctly. Depending on how this word is used, it can be spelled either as one word/hyphenated (when it is a noun) or as two separate words (when it is a verb).

*This is an old Romance proverb meaning “let’s get back to our business”.

Brain consumes 20% of energy

Question mark

Did you know that our brain consumes about 20% of our energy intake?

So, if the brain consumes 20% of all our energy (Scientific American, 2016), what are some of the implications of this fact? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is the fuel: how do we fuel the brain? You may have heard about diesel and gasoline types of engines: if you drive a car you do not want to add diesel to your gasoline engine and vice versa. Moreover, to ensure that your car engine works well, it requires only a certain type of engine oil. Similar with brain: to ensure that it works and copes with all the tasks (both intellectual and physical) you want to fuel it with proper nourishment. This includes fresh air, sufficient water, and vitamins which come from fresh fruits and vegetables. Another thing is that, as any engine, our brain needs rest to maintain its high performance. That includes sleeping besides other relaxing activities.

In short, take care of your brain and it will reward you with high performance in studies and other activities.

Scienttific American (2016). Retrieved January 10, 2016 from,

Opposite – opposite from – accross from


Dear All,
The use of the word “opposite” can be quite confusing particularly for learners of English; therefore, in order to help out those who may questions concerning its use, this post discusses how this word can be used in standard English.

To begin with, it is worth mentioning that the word “opposite” can be a preposition, a noun, an adjective, and an adverb.

Let’s start with the word “opposite” as a preposition. The meaning of the preposition “opposite” is on ‘the other side of’. When “opposite” is a preposition, it is incorrect to use “from” after it:

I live opposite the University (not “opposite from the University“).

In this meaning, the word “opposite” is synonymous to the phrase “across from” (see more about using the word “across” in the video below):
The library is across from (=opposite) the bank.
( not “The library is across the bank“. – this sentence would mean that one must go through the bank to get to the library).

The preposition “opposite” can also mean ‘together with/ along with’ when used in the context of playing a role in a movie or performing in the theatre (“across from” is not used in this meaning):

Jonathan Jackson played opposite Milla Jovovich in this movie.

“Opposite” can be a noun. In this function, the word means ‘the contrary’. “Opposite” as a noun is typically preceded by the definite article “the” and can stand alone or be followed by the preposition “of”:

Sorry, I meant just the opposite.
White is the opposite of black.

“Opposite” can also be an adjective meaning ‘on the other side, facing’. In this function, the word “opposite” can stand alone (without any other prepositions) or be followed by “from” or “to”:

The children were moving in opposite directions when they bumped.
Her house is in the same street, but on the opposite side from/to ours.
(=Her house is in the same street, but on the side opposite ours.)

Finally, “opposite” can be an adverb. In this function, the word means ‘in a ​position ​facing someone or something but on the other ​side’ (CDO, 2016). When “opposite” is an adverb, it should be used without “of” or “to”:

She asked the man sitting opposite if they served fresh fruit that morning.
The new houses are going to be built opposite (not opposite of/to) the institute.

Video credit: LearnAmericanEnglishOnline, “across vs across from” September 13, 2015, via YouTube.

Cambridge Dictionaries Online (CDO) (2016). Retrieved January 2, 2016 from,


St. Nicholas – Sinterklaas – Santa Claus

Question mark
Did you know that Santa Claus and Sinterklaas are one and the same person – St. Nicholas?

St. Nicholas_iconDear All,
Children all over the world wait for the Wonderworker who comes each year, around the same period, and brings something for them and sometimes even plays with them. In North America this person is known as Santa Claus; in the Netherlands he may be known as Sinterklaas, but in both cases this is the same person – St. Nicholas.

How did St. Nicholas become “Santa Claus”? The name “Santa Claus” was borrowed from the Dutch “Sinterklaas”which, in turn, was derived from the Greek St. “Nikolaos” (Νικόλαος) and have undergone a series of phonetic elisions and corruptions.

Who is St. Nicholas? St. Nicholas or to be more precise, St. Nicholas of Myra (also known as St. Nicholas the Wonderworker) was a boy born to the rich parents who were pious and helped the poor. They died when Nicholas was a little boy. He was raised by his uncle, a bishop, (also named Nicholas) who tonsured his nephew as a Reader and then consecrated him as a priest. Eventually St. Nicholas became a bishop in Asia Minor in the city of Myra – modern-day Demre, Turkey (hence, St. Nicholas of Myra). Following his parents’ example, when St. Nicholas reached the age to be able to manage his own inheritance left by his parents, he gave it to help the poor.

Why presents and a chimney? According to what we know about the life of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, he performed a lot of miracles (hence, St. Nicholas the Wonderworker) through his faith and did a lot of good deeds. One of them was saving three virgins from prostitution. This is how this happened: one man became so poor that he could not afford dowry for his three daughters. In those times, this meant that the girls would be left with no means to maintain themselves and having no proper employment would have to be reduced to prostitution; and even if they would be very lucky to find a job, most likely people would consider them prostitutes anyway.

St. Nicholas, knowing this man’s situation, and not wanting to become known (because he was humble) and also desiring to save him humiliation of accepting the charity, brought enough money for dowry for all the three maidens and threw it through the chimney of this poor man’s house. According to some accounts, the money got into stockings which were hung to dry at that time.

How is St. Nicholas the Wonderworker feast day observed today? St. Nicholas the Wonderworker feast day is celebrated on the 19th of December in Eastern Christianity or on the 6th of December in Western Christianity (see the post on calendar differences:

According to the Ukrainian tradition, for example, St. Nicholas is believed to bring presents for obedient children and putting them under their pillow. Concerts are celebrated at Churches in which children preform. St. Nicholas is a part of these celebrations. He typically wears his bishop’s sticharion (a long, sleeved garment) and omophorion (“scarf” worn on the shoulders which symbolizes a lost sheep) and has a white beard. Around this Saint’s feast day, he can be seen in orphanages giving out presents to the most needy.

In brief, Santa Claus is a real person – St. Nicholas. However, many legends surround this person now. Unlike Santa Claus as many know him, St. Nicholas the Wonderworker lived not at the North Pole, but in warm Myra and was not necessarily plump. What is similar, however, and remains unchanged is that this person loves children, helps the poor, works miracles, and does a great many of good deeds through his faith and love.

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

CELPIP: Canadian English Language Test


Dear All,
Besides TOEFL and IELTS, learners of English can take CELPIP test to prove their language proficiency. Today I would like to discuss some of the characteristic features of CELPIP and how it compares to TOEFL and IELTS.

Definition. To begin with, what is CELPIP? CELPIP or Canadian English Language Test is a type of English language test which asses learners’ language skills within four or two categories: listening, reading, writing, and speaking (CELPIP-General) or just listening and speaking (CELPIP-General LS).

Purpose. Unlike TOEFL (iBT) and IELTS (Academic version), CELPIP results are not accepted as a proof of language proficiency for academic purposes such as applying to a university or college where English is the major language of instruction; however, other purposes such as work are covered by CELPIP. Depending on the person’s purposes and type of work, either CELPIP-General or CELPIP-General LS may be required. It is a good practice to get in touch with the institution you are applying to in order to to find out whether they accept CELPIP and if so, what type of the test this institution requires.


  • Format and time: CELPIP lasts 180 minutes (CELPIP-General) or 67 minutes (CELPIP-General LS); it is 100% computer-based. Unlike IELTS, test-takers fulfill all the parts at one sitting (the speaking part of IELTS can take place the next day).
  • Locations and signing up for the test: multiple locations across Canada are available for the test. It is relatively easy to sign up for an exam for any upcoming date within a short period of time (some IELTS test centers may be booked up one month in advance). The registration process can be accomplished online. Unlike IELTS, no finger prints are requested from test takers at any time.
  • Results: Express Results feature allows getting the results within three business day of the date on which the exam is taken.
  • Canadian English: the language variety used in the test is Canadian English. This includes the listening part and the reading part where a test taker hears/reads this particular variety of English with some of the frequently used phrases and spelling in Canada. The learners who plan to work in Canada may find it more practical to prepare for Canadian English language variety.
  • Price: it may be somewhat cheaper to take CELPIP than other tests.
  • Preparation materials: all the required preparation materials such as online practice tests (one free practice test is included) and/or electronic books can be purchased directly through the test website.

Possible points for improvement.

  • Speaking:  it may be challenging to speak to a computer as compared to a real person for the speaking part. In order to facilitate the speaking part, it is best to practise answering speaking part questions provided in the online CELPIP practice test on the official website.
  • Locations: currently CELPIP is available only in Canada. It might benefit some test takers if the test were available at other locations across the world.
  • Academic version: presently only the general version of the test is available; however, the general version is not accepted by universities and colleges as a proof of language skills for people who apply to a university or a college. It might be beneficial for test takers who prefer CELPIP to have the possibility to take the academic version of this test.

How CELPIP compares to TOEFL and IELTS.

Similar to TOEFL and IELTS,  CELPIP asses four key language skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking (for CELPIP-General). The format of the test is similar to TOEFL iBT since both tests are computer-based. Unlike IELTS, CELPIP listening part does not usually include maps or graphics which may facilitate the test somewhat. CELPIP does not require to come to the testing office twice for the speaking section (as IELTS may do); this feature of CELPIP saves time and may prevent from anxiety.

To sum up, CELPIP is a rigorous English language testing system. It has a number of features which position this test on par with any other testing system world-wide. It also offers certain features which can make it a test of choice for some people.

More information about CELPIP can be found on its official website:

See also post on IELTS fingerprints.