Social stratification of English

The-Social-Stratification-of-English-in-New-York-City

Dear All,
This blog post has to do with the social stratification of English. In other words, it deals with how a language use can depend on the social class of speakers. The most well-known classic research in this area was conducted by linguist William Labov (originally industrial chemist) and published in his book entitled “The Social Stratification of English in New York City” (1966, 2006).

In this book, Labov describes the following research study (for the purpose of brevity and clarity, the study is summarized in the form of a table):

Objective To find out how language use varies among different social classes.
Subject Presence/absence of [r] in postvocalic position.
Method Anonymous interviewing.
Variables Independent: the store (Saks Fifth Avenue [highest-ranking], Macy’s [mid-ranking], S. Klein [lowest-ranking]), floor within the store, sex, age, occupation, accent.

Dependent: casual pronunciation of “Fourth floor”, emphatic pronunciation of “Fourth floor.”.

Result 62% of Saks Fifth Avenue employees, 51% of Macy’s employees, and only 20% of S. Klein’s employees used all or some [r].
Significance of the study The study revealed that social class of speakers influences the way they use the language.

In order to conduct his study, Labov dressed up as a middle class shopper and went to the above mentioned stores. He then asked individually store employees where he could find the women’s shoes department (which was located on the 4th floor). When an employee replied, the researcher asked “Excuse me, where?”. The employee then repeated again (with an emphasis) “Fourth floor.” Then the researcher went away to take notes and after that approached a different employee with the same questions. This procedure was repeated the maximum possible number of times at different stores.

The results revealed that, indeed, the social class is an important factor which influences directly how language is used by speakers. Importantly, this study has also shown language as a system: the lowest (phonetic) level is dependent on the highest (social) level.

Many studies have been published after Labov’s research discussed in this post. However, the above mentioned study remains the classics of social linguistics due to its simplicity and efficiency.

References
Labov, W. (2006). The Social Stratification of English in New York City (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Iaroslav

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Some features of vernacular English

Dear All,
One of the things that I have been recently noticing in modern English is the vernacular usage of certain forms. This post briefly discusses some of these forms.

I would like to focus on seven vernacular forms which seem to be used often:
1) she don’t;
2) he ain’t;
3) I just said it;
4) they don’t know nothing;
5) givin’;
6) gonna/gon’;
7) I’m lovin’ it.

Before starting this discussion it is necessary to point out that for some English speakers these forms (or some of these forms) may seem completely incorrect and totally unacceptable; while for others they are quite correct and acceptable; while still for others these forms may seem to be correct, but of “lower” usage (i.e. inappropriate for using them in a book or an article).

From the point of view of the standard English grammar, the negative form of a verb in the 3rd pers. sing. requires the form “does not/ doesn’t” in the Present Simple (Present Indefinite) tense. However, the vernacular English admits the usage of the “don’t” form in this case. An excellent example is the recent song by Eric Paslay. The song is entitled “She don’t love you”.

The vernacular form “ain’t” can substitute one of the following standard (dictionary) English forms: am not, is not, are not; have not; or has not. Here is an example: He ain’t hungry ’cause he just finished his lunch.

The next vernacular form has to do with the usage of tenses. It has been partially discussed in the post entitled “British English – American English verbs (grammar)“. This form has to do with the tendency of using the Past Simple (the Past Indefinite) tense instead of the Present Perfect tense: e.g. I just said it. This form of language usage seems to be occasionally found in British English (although, probably, less often than in American English). Moreover, besides the vernacular usage this form can be found in newspapers and research articles or reports.

Using a double negation within one simple sentence is a standard in other languages (e.g. Ukrainian); however, standard English admits only one negation within a simple sentence. The vernacular double negative form can be found in the emotional speech to underline complete absence or rejection of something, e.g. The don’t know nothing (he knows absolutely nothing).

In a fluid speech, the “-ing” suffix can be reduced to “-in'”. For example, Givin’ is better than taking.

The vernacular form “gonna/gon'” is the substitute for the standard English am/is/are going to. A good example of this usage is the song entitled “Stand by me” which is performed by Playing For Change. The song has the following lyrics: “You gon’ need somebody to stand by you”.

Finally, the vernacular form admits the usage of verbs of emotional perception in the Present Progressive (Present Continuous) tense, e.g. I‘m lovin’ it.

Grammar is the slowest layer of language to change (the vocabulary is the fastest layer). It is interesting to observe the vernacular forms discussed above. Presently, they deviate from standard English. However, some vernacular forms in English and other languages become the standard over time. The question is therefore, will these vernacular forms make their way into standard English?

Iaroslav

The language of new media design

Language-of-new-media-designDear All,
Today I would like to discuss a book which may be of interest to scholars and students who work within the framework of systemic functional linguistics (SFL) and multimodal critical discourse analysis (MCDA). This book presents researchers with SFL analytical tools for studying such complex modern media products as websites, photographs, and mixed (multimodal) discourse.

One of the central ideas of the book is that linear (plain/verbal) texts can be converted into multimodal texts and vice versa. According to Martinec and Van Leeuwen (2009), this can be done with the help of a two-stage analysis which they refer to as “1st translation” and “2nd translation”:

1st translation – from linear texts into non-linear models; and
2nd translation – the translation of these non-linear models into actual new media products such as websites.

Martinec and Van Leeuwen (2009) distinguish six non-linear models which are represented schematically as follows:

Non-linear-models

Star (=Nucleus-Satellites =Centre-Periphery) – the key idea is central in the text and other information serves as attributes to the core.

Matrix (=Table) – 1, 2, 3 (rows) are compared according to a, b, c, d (columns); therefore, the elements should be of the same category (not apples and oranges). Tables are best for comparison.

Given-New – “Given” is structurally on the left, it is something that a reader/listener is familiar with (and thereby, safe). “New” is structurally on the right, it is something that needs to be explained.

Tree (=Taxonomy) – can be classificatory (a semantic unit is related to another semantic unit as a class to a subclass) or componential (a semantic unit is related to another semantic unit as a part to the whole).

Network (=Web) – information is not hierarchical (unlike trees); information is distributed rather than centralized (unlike stars).

Ideal-Real – “Ideal” is structurally on top, it is most important semantically; such information often appears in bigger fonts/bold type/italics. “Real” is structurally on the bottom, it is less important; such information often appears in small letters; it is more utilitarian or subsidiary information.

The underlying principle of these non-linear models is the semantic organization of information: coherent structures (new media products) are more efficient and effective communication-wise.

The strong point of the given theory is its semantic basis and its reliance on the SFL framework. The point which needs to be improved is the relatively inaccurate fixation of elements within new media products which may lead to inaccuracies in the analysis.

In brief, the book in question presents a coherent system of tools for analyzing new media design products (multimodal texts). The theory put forward in the book can be used as the theoretical foundation (or one of them) for a dissertation, a thesis, a final paper in a related course, or a research article. The book can be used as one of the resources in teaching a course in new media.

References
Martinec, R., & Leeuwen, van T. (2009). The language of new media design: Theory and practice. NY: Routledge.
Iaroslav

Rhyming dictionary, multilingual

Rhyming-dictionary-multilingualDear All,
In “Rhyming dictionary” post, an online rhyming dictionary has already been discussed. That rhyming dictionary is for English. However, I have recently come across a multilingual rhyming dictionary. Why do we need a multilingual dictionary? The answer is simple: a multilingual rhyming dictionary allows finding rhymes in several languages and if you speak one of those languages, this multilingual dictionary may be of help for finding a suitable rhyme for a poem or a communication project you are working on. Here is the link to the multilingual dictionary in question:

http://www.alcor.com.au/rhyming_dictionary.asp

At the moment of writing this post, the following languages are available in the dictionary:
Afrikaans
Croatian
Czech
Dutch
English
Esperanto
French
German
Hungarian
Italian
Japanese
Latin
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Romanian
Spanish
Swahili
Turkish
Yiddish

Stay creative!
Iaroslav

Love language


Video credit: Vanessa Van Edwards, “What’s Your Love Language?” October 16, 2014, via YouTube.

Dear All,
In this video, Vanessa Van Edwards speaks about “love language”. “Love language” is defined as how we express our love and affection; and how we feel most loved and respected. According to the presenter, there exist five “love languages”:

  • quality time – these people like to spend time together (also applicable to business);
  • physical touch – these people like hugs, linking arms, massaging, etc.;
  • gifts – these people like attention, including in the form of gifts (usually small gifts, but they like your sign of attention);
  • acts of service – these people love being helped with a project, house work (ladies often appreciate this and feel loved and cared for if they are assisted with this work), and love being accompanied by a person when they are doing the work (men often need a companion even if the person is not helping, but is just there with them);
  • words of affirmation – these people like and need to hear that they are loved – if your spouse is like that, remember to share a word of love and appreciation (yes, you may adore your spouse, but it is important to tell him/her about this and more than once).

Different people tend to communicate differently – using preferably one of these “languages”. For example, some people prefer “quality time” while others favour “physical touch”.

Indeed, all these five “languages” or rather five [non]verbal modes of affectionate communication make sense in the wider context of nonverbal communication. According to Albert Mehrabian, 93% of information we communicate (receive and transmit) in affectionate communication is nonverbal (including the paraverbal element) and only 7% percent depends on words. This means that in terms of feelings, and particularly, in terms of close family relations and friendship or even professional communication, it is necessary to pay attention to nonverbal clues also.

How to respond to the nonverbal clues we are receiving? First of all, it is necessary to recognize them. Paradoxically, it is the verbal language that may help us to recognize these nonverbal clues. For instance, if our husband/wife/friend is asking us to hold him/her by the hand, it means that this may be exactly what s/he is missing (how they will feel loved, their “love language”). Therefore, in this case, it is an excellent idea to hold our beloved one by the hand. There is no necessity to be a “touch” person for this, but if we love this “touch” person, holding him/her by the hand or giving a hug is the least thing we can do for him/her. Just as sometimes “seeing is believing” and “it is better to see once than to hear one hundred times”, so is enriching our communication with simple, caring nonverbal clues especially with the people we love, respect, and care for.

The last thing that I would like to add to this video is that some people require more signs of attention in one of these [non]verbal modes, while others are equally in need of all of these clues or in need of different clues at different times.

Briefly, in terms of affectionate communication, it is necessary to enrich our verbal language with nonverbal clues to communicate effectively. Our verbal language is a great helper to find the appropriate nonverbal “love language/s” for efficient and effective communication.
Iaroslav

Oxymoron – enantiosemy

Flammable cabinetImage credit: Vkil, “Flammablecabinet” October 17, 2013, CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Dear All,
Today I would like to discuss briefly two linguistic phenomena which can be easily confused: oxymoron and enantiosemy.

Oxymoron (from Gr. “pointedly foolish”: ὀξύς [oxus] “sharp, keen” and μωρός [mōros] “dull, stupid”) (plural oxymora or oxymorons) is a “paradoxical connection of two opposite terms within a word or within a phrase” (Bussmann, 1998, p. 848).

In other words, an oxymoron is a figure of speech that juxtaposes words or phrases which are contradictory. Below are several examples of oxymoron:
deafening silence
dry ice
hot ice-cream
irregular pattern
a meatless hamburger
terribly nice

Enantiosemy = contronym = contranym = auto-antonym = self-antonym (Gr. ἐνάντιος [enantíos] “opposite” and σημασία [semasia] “meaning”) – is a word which means opposite things.

In other words enantiosemy is a linguistic phenomenon of antonymy within the same word.

The origin of this phenomenon is three-fold:
1) some cases of enantiosemy are homographs, that is two words which used to be quite different in the past, but developed the same form in modern English. For instance, the word cleave is an example of enantiosemy which means “to separate” and “to adhere”. The meaning “separate” comes from Old English clēofan. The meaning “adhere” comes from Old English clifian;

2) some cases of enantiosemy are a form of polysemy, a word that developed several meanings some of which are opposite. For instance, quite (“clear” or “free” in Middle English) means “slightly” (quite nice) or “completely” (quite right). A considerable number of English words in this category are the nouns which became verbs, e.g. to dust (“to remove dust” and “to add dust”); to seed (“to produce seeds” and “to remove seeds”);

3) finally, some cases of enantiosemy are words which come from different languages (or language varieties) and have the opposite meanings in these languages. One such instance is in the picture above. In this picture, there are three lines in English, Spanish, and French correspondingly. The English word flammable means “catching fire easily” while inflammable would mean “not susceptible to fire”. Another such example is BrE to table a deal “to present a deal for discussion” vs AmE to table a deal “to withdraw a deal from a discussion”. These examples may qualify for translator’s false friends. However, not all translator’s false friends are enantiosemy, but only those which are opposite in meaning.

Some other examples of enantiosemy include:
custom = “standard” and “tailored”
fast = “immovable” and “moving quickly”
presently = “now” and “not now, but shortly in the future”
to rent = “to borrow from” and “to lend to”
to sanction = “to allow” and “to forbid”
to trim = “to add edging” and “to cut away at the edges”

As can be seen from the discussion above – the major difference between oxymoron and enantiosemy is that oxymoron requires two or more words, while enantiosemy is found within one word. Furthermore, in terms of meaning, oxymoron is always based on a paradox (e.g. something that by definition should have a thing, does not have it), while enantiosemy is simply two opposite meanings.

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

Knowledge, hardworking, sincerity, and humility

Knowledge,-hardworking,-sincerity,-and-humility
Dear All,
The picture above was posted by S. Stallard on one of professional networks. Although originally, it was in the job context, in my opinion, it is also applicable to education.

The basis of education is certainly knowledge, but knowledge is by far not the only thing one needs to succeed in academia.

In addition to knowledge, it is necessary to employ hardworking. Hardworking is the thing which keeps getting us forward when we are on a plateau of learning. Knowledge is also something which comes with hard work.

Sincerity is another ingredient which is required to succeed. When there is a temptation to cheat, it is necessary to remember that cheating may get one expelled from a university. At the same time after spending some period at the university and even before this, you acquire critical thinking skills. This means that even without having enough knowledge to answer a question at an exam, you may still be able to give the right answer. Moreover, even if you provide a wrong answer, but show critical thinking on the question, your Professor may still mark your answer highly precisely because you are thinking critically and this is one of the major objectives of education – to teach people to think critically.

Finally, humility is a key to success in academia. While studying, one may find him/herself in a situation, where a topic in a course is extremely hard. Does it mean that we are supposed to keep silence “humbly” and to hope that we will pass the exam somehow? No, it means that we should humbly acknowledge that the topic is hard and (humbly) ask questions to the Professor and his Teaching Assistants, to go and see the Professor/TA during their office hours (best with questions prepared in advance), and to work with our fellow students taking the same class (or who have already taken the class) and are knowledgeable in the topic. Another or rather an additional option is to find a good tutor. Yes, this will cost additional money, but it is worth it.

I remember once, I had a similar experience. I was learning a new language and grammar was not coming along very well. So, I invited a friend of mine to work a couple of hours together. The result was more than I could expect. Eventually, I became one of the brightest students in the class with regards to the language. I also worked with a tutor and was never sorry about it. Moreover, the methods I learned from my tutor, I then employed working as a tutor myself.

Finally, when you are working hard, you are sincere and humble and if somebody does not believe in your success, they are wrong. Continue in the same spirit and good luck!!!
Iaroslav

The Canadian Encyclopedia

“If culture is in fact the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves,
The Canadian Encyclopedia will strive to be the most comprehensive
collection of Canadian Stories online” (TCE, 2015).

Canadian-Encylopedia

Dear All,
Today I would like to share with you a unique Web resource for people who are interested in Canadian culture. This is a free online encyclopedia which is located at:

http://thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/

The advantages of this encyclopedia are that it is:
a) free and available online – any Web user can access the information;
b) bilingual (English and French) – both English and French speakers can use it;
c) updated monthly – recent information is added regularly;
d) reviewed by specialists – unlike Wikipedia which can be edited by anyone, the Canadian Encyclopedia has a special review process; thus, unlike Wikipedia this resource can be used in a research article, university projects, theses, etc.;
e) concise with articles on Canadian science, history, music, etc. – a brief article may suffice to explain a notion or an event in history;
f) supplemented with 30,000 multimedia items including images, maps, games, audio and video – this makes the learning process easier and more efficient.

The major disadvantage of the encyclopedia is that it is brief (as most encyclopedias are) which means that certain information is inevitably omitted. Therefore, it may be insufficient to rely on this resource as a sole source of information to study a question in detail.

Overall, The Canadian Encyclopedia is a good resource on Canadian culture in its broad meaning. The encyclopedia can be used as a quick reference or an initial point of study.

References
The Canadian Encyclopedia [TCE] (2015). About The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 18, 2015 from http://thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/about/

Iaroslav

Thanksgiving in North America

“A day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God…”


Video credit: Pratiks, “3 minutes pour comprendre Thanksgiving” November 15, 2013, via YouTube.

Dear All,
The video above discusses the history of Thanksgiving and its traditions in North America. Did you know that Thanksgiving is celebrated on different dates in Canada and in the US? This post discusses this and some other questions. The discussion about Thanksgiving in Canada and in the US is provided in the form of a table for the convenience of comparison:

Canada United States
Date 2nd Monday in October. 4th Thursday in November.
Proclamation

Officially proclaimed by the Canadian Parliament as “a day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.”

President Abraham Lincoln, “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” President George Washington, “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.”
History Canadian Thanksgiving incorporates at least four traditions: 1) harvest celebrations in European societies the symbol of which was the cornucopia (horn of plenty); 2) the formal observance celebrated by the explorer Martin Frobisher (ministered by the preacher Robert Wolfall) – this celebration (1587, modern Nunavut) is the first North American Thanksgiving and included giving thanks by Frobisher and his crew for their well-being and Holy Communion; 3) Thanksgiving of the French settlers who came to New France with explorer Samuel de Champlain (the early 17th century) – they celebrated their successful harvests at the end of the harvest season and shared food with the indigenous peoples of the area; and 4) the Pilgrims’ celebration of their first harvest (modern United States) – this involved the traditional turkey, squash, and pumpkin and was brought to Canada by settlers from the United States. Thanksgiving is associated with 1621 celebration at Plymouth. This thanksgiving at Plymouth was prompted by a good harvest. Pilgrims and Puritans carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them to New England.
Modernity Thanksgiving is a statuary holiday (except for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) which means that people have a day off. This holiday is both religious and civil. In Churches, special prayers are read to thank God for His Mercies. Civilly, families and friends gather together for a meal (preceded by a prayer). Some of the common dishes on a Thanksgiving table are turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, marshmallow, and pumpkin pie. Pecan and apple pies are also popular. On this day in Canada, families also visit parks, attractions (such as museums), and play games together (e.g. twister, chess, monopoly, etc.). Students have a day off too, but they often use this day to catch up with their assignments; if they have time, they spend it with family and friends.

Did you know that the word Eucharist (=Communion) comes from the Gr. word εὐχαριστία (eucharistia) which means “thanksgiving”?

Thanksgiving is a public holiday in the United States. Similarly, people can enjoy their time with families and friends. Many people participate in Church services. Interestingly, in some countries of the world, Thanksgiving is not a traditional holiday and there is no separate, special tradition to mark it in the Church calendar; however, people that form a community in the United States tend to celebrate Thanksgiving with a prayer and a special meal. Meals which are commonly served for this holiday in the United States are identical to those in Canada. In addition to going for a walk, playing games together, people may also choose to watch TV together (particularly football and a family movie). Specifically American is the tradition of “pardoning” a turkey when the President “pardons” a bird which ensures that it will spend the duration of its life roaming freely on a farm.

How is Thanksgiving celebrated in your country/community?
Iaroslav

By working faithfully

By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day (Robert Frost).

Dear All,
The saying above by the famous American poet is, certainly, a joke. However, there is a share of truth in every joke. Specifically, this joke underlines that with the growth of one’s position the time that one has to spend on his/her job is also increasing. Practically any management position involves a lot of responsibilities and considerable time expenditure, but who said one cannot enjoy it? A student who wishes to become a Professor may expect solid investment of time in the profession. If the student enjoys his/her work, why not? Moreover, every job has days off and holidays which one can spend as s/he pleases. Therefore, it is not necessarily a bad idea to become a boss. If one approaches his/her work responsibly and enjoys it, it can be a very rewarding experience. It is particularly so with professorship or any other teaching position. Yes, it does take time to plan and prepare each class, but how rewarding it is to see a spark of interest in the aspiring eyes of your students!
Iaroslav

The handshake across cultures

Dear All,
This post discusses one of the most common nonverbal communication means, the handshake.  According to the Cambridge Dictionary online, handshake [ˈhændˌʃeɪk] is defined as

a greeting or expression of agreement in which two people who are facing each other take hold of each other’s right hands and move them up and down” (CDO, 2014).

In fact, the definition above is somewhat outdated since a handshake in the modern world has gone far beyond the strict norms prescribing “facing each other”, “right hands” and “mov[ing] them up and down”. For example, the Scout handshake involves using the hand which is nearest to the heart (i.e. the left hand) as a sign of friendship. Other modern “handshakes” may range from a simple “high five” to a complex greeting which includes a combination of a type of a handshake and a hug.

The exact history of a handshake is unknown. One of the first documented handshakes goes back to the XIX c. BC. Probably, the origin of a handshake is linked to the tradition of showing empty hands, without arms, and in this way confirming a friendly attitude towards the other person. In the past, it was much more common to carry weapon than it is nowadays. Therefore, the display of empty hands was an important sign of good intentions. The fact that it used to be (and still is in some cultures) much more common to shake hands for two men than two women may support this theory of the origin of a handshake since a weapon was typically carried by men.

In different cultures across the world, there are different traditions associated with a handshake (Kirsch, 2002). I would like to discuss some of these traditions below:

In Canada, a handshake is optional in an informal or semi-formal setting. However, if a hand is offered, a handshake is obligatory. Notably, it is not uncommon for men to shake hands with ladies including the cases in which the two people have a considerable difference in age.

In Ukraine, a handshake is mandatory between men starting from about age 7. A person must shake hands with every man in that place. For example, it is necessary to shake hands with each classmate at school because it is considered to be impolite and rude not to shake hands with somebody. Importantly, hands must be shaking with no gloves. Alternatively, men (or one of them) can leave their gloves on, but then hands are not shaken, but only fists are bumped as a greeting. Women shake hands only in a formal setting in Ukraine.

Belgians are said to shake hands more often than any other European nation.

A French handshake is crisp and brief.

An Arab handshake may be slow and long.

In South Africa a strong handshake is a norm and is expected.

In Saudi Arabia and Thailand shaking hands with women may be considered as bad manners. A nod is acceptable where a handshake is impossible.

In South America an informal greeting may involve a kiss.

In Japan, a bow is expected as a form of greeting. The lower is a bow, the more respect and humility is communicated. In most informal or semi-formal situations a 15-degree bow is acceptable. More formal greeting involves a 30-degree bow with the hands together and the palms on the knees.

An energetic handshake in China expresses that the person is sincerely glad to see the other person.

As can be seen from the examples, the definition of the handshake by the Cambridge Dictionary is somewhat limiting since it does not necessarily include modern forms of handshake and may be missing some intercultural peculiarities. Therefore, it may be more cautious to define the handshake as

a form of greeting which usually includes a hand contact between two people and which is used to express respect and/or agreement“.

This definition may be less specific than the one above, but at the same time it is more accurate since it does not exclude modern forms of shaking hands as a kind of greeting or agreement.

Below is a short video. It shows in a funny way some common mistakes/issues in a classical handshake:

Video credit: BusinessGovAu, “The Top 10 Bad Business Handshakes” June 4, 2013, via YouTube.

This post has briefly discussed the nature of the handshake and suggested a definition of the handshake which allows to include different modern forms of the handshake. This post has also information about certain traditions/practices associated with the handshake in across cultures. If you would like to add any relevant information, you can do so by posting a comment to this post.

References
Cambridge Dictionaries Online (CDO) (2014). Retrieved August 9, 2014 from, http://dictionary.cambridge.org/
Kirsch, V. (2002, January). Shaking hands around the world. Presentation posted on the official Wisc-Online website (https://www.wisc-online.com/).

Iaroslav

Context and Appropriateness

Context-and-AppropriatenessDear All,
One of the key concepts in pragmatics and discourse studies is the context. The importance of context for the analysis of texts is explicated by the fact that context serves the background against which a text unfolds and is read/understood by listeners or readers. Therefore, the meaning of any text depends fully on the context. In order to conduct accurate analysis of a text, an analyst  needs to study its context. There are two types of context: micro context and macro context.

Micro context is the linguistic (grammatical, phonological, lexical, syntactic, etc.) environment of a text.

Macro context is the sociolinguistic (the social ranks of the interlocutors, the epoch in which the interaction occurs or the text is written, etc.) environment of a text.

Due to the importance of the concepts a lot of monographs and articles are published on the topic. In this post I would like to share information about one such publication which may be useful for studying this concept. The editor of the book is Dr. Anita Fetzer (2007), a Professor at the University of Augsburg. The book can be of use to graduate students preparing for candidacy exams or doing research in the related area. It is worth mentioning that the book presupposes a certain level of knowledge of the reader in the area of pragmatics and, therefore, not all the basic terms are defined. Overall, however, the book is a good source to expand knowledge on the important topic of context.

The complete bibliographical information on the book can be found below, in the “references” section.

References
Fetzer, A. (2007). Context and appropriateness: Micro meets macro. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Iaroslav

Similar flags

Dear All,
This post looks into some similar flags of the world. Some of the flags are less similar than others. At the same time it may be interesting to compare them and in this way to avoid confusion. The flags below are posted in the alphabetical order.

Australian – New Zealand:

Australia New_Zealand

Bangladeshi – Japanese – Palauan:

Bangladesh Japan Palau

Belgian – German:

Belgium Germany

Bolivian – Ghanaian – Lithuanian:

Bolivia Ghana Lithuania

Bulgarian – Hungarian – Iranian – Kuwaiti:

Bulgaria Hungary Iran Kuwait

Cameroonian – Guinean – Malian – Senegalese:

Cameroon Guinea Mali Senegal

Colombian – Ecuadorian:

Colombia Ecuador

Costa Rican – Thai:

Costa_Rica Thailand

Ivorian – Irish – Italian – Mexican:

Côte_d'Ivoire Ireland Italy Mexico

Egyptian – Iraqi – Yemeni:

Egypt Iraq Yemen

Finish – Swedish:

Finland Sweden

French – Luxembourg – Dutch – Paraguayan – Russian – Serbian and Montenegrin:

France Luxembourg Netherlands

Paraguay Russian_Federation Serbia_and_Montenegro

Icelandic – Norwegian:

Iceland  Norway

Indonesian – Polish – Singaporean:

Indonesia Poland Singapore

Liberian – Malaysian – American:

Liberia Malaysia United_States_of_America

Slovak – Slovenian:

Slovakia Slovenia

Somali – Vietnamese:

Somalia Vietnam

Iaroslav

Original coinages

Dear All,
Are you fond of words which are coined in an original way? If so, this post may be of interest – all of the originally coined words and phrases below have been collected from real-life linguistic sources (street advertisements, websites, company names, etc.):

# Coinages Basis for the coinages Explanations
1 treesponsible
(Fr.: responarbre)
tree + responsible
(Fr.: responsible + arbre)
this word was on a box with facial tissues. In order to underline that the product is made from tree-friendly materials the word above was coined
2 aristocat aristocrat + cat a cartoon about cats
3 Addition Elle (Fr.) literally “Edition She”, the pronunciation of this word combination is identical to the French word “addtionnel” (additional) fashionable clothes
4 supperb supper + superb food industry
5 xcell similar to a) XL, b) excel c) X sel (the French word for “salt”) this words comes from a big grinder filled with coarse (XL?) salt
6 Response Ability responsibility this is a part of the name of an organization that provides training (response ability) for parents with children who face challenges in their life
7 Tail Blazers TAIL as trail blazers this is the name of a health food store for pets
8 berrilicious
(Fr. baielicieuses)
berry + delicious
(Fr. baie + délicieuses)
fruit nuggets
9 Ladies and gentlefish! gentlemen + fish a funny address to audience in a cartoon about fish
10 Centsibles cent + sensible (goods) sensible to cents, i.e. economical
11 PetSmart pet + smart
pet’s + mart
a store (market) for animals
12 Taleblazer TALE as trail blazers a book society
13 approvedutly approved + absolutely a credit society ad in which easy approvals are advertised
14 approvederful approved + wonderful a credit society ad in which easy approvals are advertised
15 crabing
carbohydrate + craving a comment to a video about healthy eating
16 fooducate
food + educate the name of a blog on food education
17 lightitude
light + altitude the name of a lighting company
18 sandwish
sandwich + wish advertising from a sandwich retailer
19 voluntold
volunteered + told a joke hinting at the fact that sometimes volunteering is required
20 ahhhmazing
ah + amazing advertisement about bulk foods
21 springtastic
spring + fantastic personal hygiene product advertisement
22 Guns N Hoses
Guns N Roses inscription on a car performing roofing services
23 staycation
staying (at home/ in town) + vacation from a conversation between coworkers
24 automagically
automatically+magically from social media
25 café diem
carpe diem (Lat. ‘catch the day on a coffee shop website
26 Metropawlitan
metropolitan + paw animal services
27 guesstimate
guess + estimate an approximate estimation (on a construction forum)
28 funderful
fun + wonderful wonderful fun – a free event for Family Day

Here are some phrases for curious and creative linguistic minds:

# Coinages Basis for the coinages Explanations
1 have an ice day have a nice day this phrase was on a car of an ice company
2 raise the steaks raise the stakes on the menu in a restaurant
3 IT’S NO BIG DILL(and an image of pickled cucumbers) It’s no big deal on the website of a grocery store when a page is not found
4 YOU BUTTER TRY ANOTHER URL (and an image of butter) You’d better try on the website of a grocery store when a page is not found
5 I DON’T WANT TO TACO ‘BOUT IT! (and an image of a taco) You’d better try on the website of a grocery store when a page is not found
6 You’re the jam You’re the gem on a gift card of a grocery store
7 Have an egg-cellent day Have an excellent day on a gift card of a grocery store
8 Because you dessert it Because you deserve it on a gift card of a grocery store
9 Lettuce help you
Let us help you in a grocery store flyer

I am going to add more originally coined words and phrases as I come across them. So, please, check again later. In turn, if you have come across such coinages and would like to share, feel free to post in the comments blow. Thanks!
Iaroslav

As the tongue speaketh to the ear

As the tongue speaketh* to the ear, so the gesture speaketh to the eye (Bacon, 1605/2001, Book II, IX, p. 2).

Dear All,
We are so used to words that sometimes we may overlook nonverbal means of communication. The quote above by famous naturalist Sir Francis Bacon point at the importance of gestures. Indeed, the number of neurons leading from the ear to the brain is seventeen times less that the number of neurons leading from the eye to the brain. This may result in the way we process information and the intensity of our experience.

There exists an old proverb, “Seeing is believing”. As with many other old truths, modern science proves the validity of this fact. According to recent studies in nonverbal communication, if there is a mismatch between what a speaker says and what he shows, we are more likely to believe what he shows. For example, if a speaker is saying that a gas station is located to the south and is pointing to the north, we are more likely to believe that it is, in reality, located to the north (the direction in which the speaker is pointing). Of course, in this situation we may ask the speaker to confirm the direction, however, this is not always possible. If it is impossible or if we are in doubt concerning the validity of a verbal statement it may be worth paying attention to the nonverbal message. Nonverbal means of communication can help us to understand if a speaker is confident, whether he is worried or not, and to comprehend better what he desires to inform us about.

Thus, gestures and other nonverbal means may reveal something about what is being communicated and the communicator (e.g. if a person needs support). At the same time it is necessary to note that even with nonverbal means of communication we may make a mistake and, therefore, one should be cautious about making any judgements.

References
Bacon, F. (2001). The advancement of learning. New York: Modern Library. [Original published in 1605].

* “Speakth” is the archaic form of “speaks”.

Iaroslav

Flags: Canada

Canadian-flag

Dear All,
July 1 is Canada Day. It is a national holiday in Canada which is celebrated by Canadians in Canada and abroad as well as tourists in Canada. One of the main attributes of this holiday is the Canadian flag. Its official name is “The National Flag of Canada”.

The central part of the flag depicts a maple leaf, “Well before the coming of the first European settlers, Canada’s aboriginal peoples had discovered the food properties of maple sap, which they gathered every spring. According to many historians, the maple leaf began to serve as a Canadian symbol as early as 1700” (Canadian Heritage, 2014). The eleven points of the leaf do not have a particular symbolic meaning (a real leaf usually has 26 points). The two red bars on the flag represent two coasts of Canada. The bar on the right stands for the east (Atlantic) coast of Canada and the bar on the left stands for the west (Pacific) coast. The Canadian flag has two colours: red and white. These colours were the colours of both France and England, the first two European nations to explore and settle Canada. The National Flag of Canada is known in many countries for its original design.

References
Canadian Heritage (2014). Retrieved June 30, 2014, from http://www.pch.gc.ca/eng/1363610923802/1363610971862
Iaroslav

Flags: Ukraine

Ukrainian-flag

Sky-and-wheatDear All,

When we travel to different countries it is sometimes difficult to find something to speak about with the local people. One of the things that attracts my attention and seems to be an interesting to discuss is the meaning behind the national flag. On BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS, I am going to start with two flags and their meanings. This post concentrates on the national flag of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian official flag consists of two horizontal equal stripes, blue (top) and yellow (bottom). The blue stands for the sky and the yellow for wheat. Ukraine is one of the biggest producers of wheat in the world. Wheat is one of the most important grains in the country. It is used mostly for cooking different varieties of pasta and baking bread or pastries. Bread is a very important attribute of any meal. It is eaten with soups, salads, cheese, and meat.

Different varieties of blue and yellow are used for the Ukrainian flag. Although the constitution prescribes that the colours should be “blue” and “yellow”, light/dark blue and yellow are used sometimes. This variation in colour does not affect the meaning of the flag. Some flags are said to consist of “gold” colour. However, Ukrainians simply call it “yellow” when they speak about their flag.

I hope that this post has may be of use to those who travel to Ukraine or anybody wishing to learn more about world flags and what they can tell about a culture. The next post discusses the meaning of the Canadian flag.

Iaroslav

Ukrainian Easter eggs

PysankaImage credit: hobvias sudoneighm, “vegreville egg ~ world’s largest pysanka” May 9, 2007, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

Dear All,
Easter eggs (EEs) are an integral part of Easter celebration, however, traditions associated with EEs are different in different cultures. This post discusses Ukrainian traditions related to EEs.

PysankyMany people know that Ukrainians decorate EEs with beautiful patterns (like the ones on the eggs in the picture above), but not many people know that there is also another type of Ukrainian EEs which are painted in one colour. Let’s look at differences between these two types of eggs. So, the first, patterned, type is called “pysanka” (plural: “pysankas, pysanky”) which comes from the Ukrainian word “писати” meaning “to write”. The reason why this type of eggs is called “pysanka” is because the patterns that are used to decorate eggs are very symbolic and it is almost like writing a letter on an egg. These patterned eggs are usually not eaten; their white and yolk are blown away (to prevent them from spoiling). Pysankas are stored or presented as souvenirs to relative and friends. Each year numerous master classes take place in Ukraine and all over the world to teach this art to all the people who want to learn how to create their own pysankas. Sometimes pysankas are made from unusual materials like precious stones or wood, although most often they are made from real “blown” eggs. The biggest pysanka in the world is located in Vegreville, AB, Canada (see first image in this post).

KrashankyImage credit: made-in-ukraine, “Krashanky (…)” March 29, 2012.

The second type of EEs in Ukrainian culture is called “krashanka” (plural: “krashankas, krashanky”) which comes from the Ukrainian word “красити” meaning “to paint, to dye”. These eggs are dyed in one colour. An example of krashankas is in the picture above. The most popular colour for krashankas is orange because of the technology that is used to dye krashankas. In order to dye these eggs, Ukrainians collect onion husks and boil eggs together with the husks. The recipe for this type of eggs is the same as used for regular hard-boiled eggs, the only exception are the onion husks which are boiled together with the eggs. The amount of husks influences the saturation of the colour of krashankas (the more husks, the darker is the colour). Unlike pysankas (which are used as souvenirs), krashankas are blessed. shared, and eaten with family members, relatives, and friends.

There is a strong tradition associated with krashankas. On Easter Day, Ukrainian families (or families that share Ukrainian culture) go to Churches and bring their Easter baskets with them. Two key ingredients in their baskets are Easter bread and krashankas. After Easter baskets are blessed by a priest, they are taken home. The first things that is eaten is a krashanka. It is divided by the head of the family among the family members. Then, Easter bread is eaten followed by all other products, without any specific order. It should be mentioned that Easter is preceded by fasting and many Ukrainians observe it by praying more zealously, giving charity, and refraining from meat and other animal products. Therefore, Easter is also time when people finally break their fast.

Interestingly, the tradition of eating chocolate eggs is limited in Ukraine. Instead real hard boiled eggs are traditionally eaten. There are also no game that involve hiding EEs. Easter bread and eggs (in addition to anything else that people want to bring) are usually presented by guests to the hosting family during Easter celebration.

Easter is always celebrated on the same day of the week, Sunday. However, the date changes from year to year depending on the lunar calendar. Easter in Ukraine and in some other western countries does not usually coincide because Ukrainians observe the Julian calendar.

Iaroslav

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

Pascha – Easter – Passover

Pacha - EasterDear all,
Easter is coming! This year it is on Sunday April 20, 2014. Interestingly, this year Catholic, Orthodox, and other people are going to celebrate Easter on the same day. This does not happen each year because of different ways in which the day for the celebration of this holiday is selected. But instead of focusing on how the day is selected, let us look at the term itself.

Have you ever wondered, why Easter is called “Easter” in English? In order to find out, I checked two etymological dictionaries. Here is what I have found:

1) “ Old English ēastre; of Germanic origin and related to German Ostern and east; perhaps from Ēastre, the name of a goddess associated with spring” (OD, 2014);

2) “Old English Easterdæg, from Eastre (Northumbrian Eostre), from Proto-Germanic *Austron, a goddess of fertility and spring, probably originally of sunrise whose feast was celebrated at the spring equinox, from *austra, from PIE *aus “to shine” (especially of the dawn)” (OED, 2014).

Unlike English, many other Indo-European languages use a variant of the word “Paskha” to name this holiday: e.g. Lat. Pascha, Gr. Πάσχα [‘pasha], Ukr. Пасха [‘pasha]). This word is derived from the Heb. פֶּסַח‎ [‘pesah] meaning “passover”, that is passing from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. In Christianity, Pascha is the holiday which is celebrated in commemoration of Jesus Christ resurrection and hope that those who follow Him in good deeds, faith, and love to God and the neighbour will also arise for eternal life in Heaven. Pascha in Christianity, thus, can be seen as passing from temporary life to life eternal and therefore, the word “Pascha” is more appropriate in relation to the Feast.

Happy Pascha!

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

References
Online Etymology Dictionary (OED) (2014). Retrieved April 18, 2014, from http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=easter&searchmode=none
Oxford Dictionaries (OD) (2014). Retrieved April 18, 2014, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/Easter?q=Easter

Iaroslav

British English – American English: Prepositions (grammar)

Prepositions

Image credit: Mode de Vie Software, “Prepositions” December 6, 2010, via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Dear All,
This post compares BrE and AmE use of prepositions and discusses some other relevant differences between these two language varieties.

I would like to start with prepositions. Prepositions are short words which serve to indicate relations between words in a sentence including relationships of a part to the whole (e.g. the antenna of the TV-set, a page of a book), location (e.g. in/under/on/above the table), a manner of doing something (e.g. with a hammer, without oil, by bus, on foot), time (e.g. at 5, in the morning, till nigh, from Monday to Friday).

Below is the table that compares some of the key differences between the use of prepositions in BrE and AmE:

BrE

AmE*

to cater for smb** to cater smb
to write to smb to write smb
to play in a team to play on a team
to enrol on a course to enroll in a course
at the weekend on/during/over the weekend
to chat/speak/talk to to chat/speak/talk with/to
different from/to different from/than
opportunity to do/of doing smth opportunity to do smth
to call/ring on (123)-123-1234 to call at (123)-123-1234
to fill in a form to fill out a form (BUT: to fill in a blank)
rained off (cancelled due to rain) rained out
from Sunday/Monday/etc. starting on Sunday/Monday/etc.

Here are a few examples of these prepositions in within a sentence:

BrE: I will write to her when I come back, God willing.
Am: I will write her when I come back, God willing.

BrE: You can call me on (123)-123-1234.
AmE: You can call me at (123)-123-1234.

BrE: The exhibition is open from Tuesday.
AmE: The exhibition is open starting on Tuesday.

Another interesting peculiarity which is not mentioned in the table above is the use of the preposition “with” after the verb “to meet”. In BrE, “to meet smb” can mean at least two things: 1) ‘to run into smb’ and 2) ‘to see somebody for the purpose of discussing smth’. In AmE, “to meet smb” means ‘to run into smb’, whereas “to meet with smb” means ‘to see somebody for the purpose of discussion’. For example:

BrE: The President met the Prime Minister yesterday evening.
AmE: The President met with the Prime Minister yesterday evening.

There are also some other grammatical differences between BrE and AmE besides the use of prepositions discussed above. In BrE, it is common to use “as well” or “too” at the end of a sentence to indicate likeness. In AmE, it is common to use “also” for the same purpose and in the same position; “as well” is considered to be rather formal in AmE. For instance:

BrE: I love this kind of apples as well.
AmE: I love this kind of apples also.

BrE prefers the full form of the suffix “-wards”, while AmE prefers its abridged form: “-ward“: afterwards – afterward, forwards – forward, towards – toward, etc.

Finally, there is a difference in the singular/plural use of nouns in the attributive function: what is used in the singular in BrE can be used in the plural in AmE and vice versa. For instance:

BrE: Daniel tries to attend all the maths classes in order to get better at it.
AmE: Daniel tries to attend all the math classes in order to get better at it.

BrE: Have you already read the sport section of the newspaper?
AmE: Have you already read the sports section of the newspaper?

In summary, this post has discussed some of the key grammatical differences between BrE and AmE. Specifically, it has focused on the use of prepositions and some other differences. This post concludes the series of articles devoted to the exploration of peculiar features of BrE and AmE which have been explored in relation to such linguistic aspects as: pronunciation, spelling, vocabulary, and grammar. However, these language varieties continue to live and evolve. Therefore, if you come across any interesting features pertinent to any of the aspects discussed above, please do not hesitate to share them on BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS.

See similar posts:

  1. British English – American English: Pronunciation
  2. British English – American English: Spelling
  3. British English – American English: Education (vocabulary)
  4. British English – American English: Transportation (vocabulary)
  5. British English – American English: Clothes (vocabulary)
  6. British English – American English: Food (vocabulary)
  7. British English – American English: Miscellaneous (vocabulary)
  8. British English – American English: Units of measurement (vocabulary)
  9. British English – American English: Idioms (vocabulary)
  10. British English – American English: Verbs (grammar)
  11. British English – American English: Nouns (grammar)

References
ABBYY Lingvo (2014). Retrieved April 10, 2014 from, http://www.lingvo-online.ru/en
Cambridge Dictionaries Online (CDO) (2014). Retrieved April 10, 2014 from, http://dictionary.cambridge.org/
Creamer, R.W., Dahmen, G.D., Davidson, M.B., Davies, R., Debakey, L., Deloria, V., Jr. et al.(Eds.)  (1996). The American Heritage Book of English Usage: A Practical and Authoritative Guide to Contemporary English. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Merriam-Webster (MW) (2014). Retrieved April 10, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/
Oxford Dictionaries (OD) (2014). Retrieved April 10, 2014, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/

* Bold type is used for AmE words.
** The following sources have been consulted here and further in this post: Creamer et al., 1996; ABBY Lingvo, 2014; CDO, 2014; MW, 2014; OD, 2014. Please note that “smb” stands for ‘somebody’ and “smth” stands for ‘something’.

Iaroslav

British English – American English: Nouns (grammar)

Nouns

Image credit: Mode de Vie Software, “Nouns” December 6, 2010, via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Dear All,
This post continues exploring grammatical differences between BrE and AmE. Specifically, I would like to focus on nouns. There are two major points of interest in this respect: collective nouns and the use of articles.

First of all, let us deal with collective nouns. In English in general, collective nouns can take a verb in its singular or plural forms. For instance, we can say:

My family is out of town. – the emphasis is on the family as one body (it is possible to say “my whole family … “).
My family are all at table. – the emphasis is on the individual members (it is possible to say “my family members … “).

The difference between BrE and AmE lies in that BrE uses both singular and plural coordination on a frequent basis, whereas AmE is much likelier to use the singular form of a verb:

BrE: The committee were able to cope with the task very efficiently.
or The committee was able to cope with the task very efficiently.
AmE: The committee was* able to cope with the task very efficiently.

Interestingly, in the official setting, BrE always uses the term “the Government” with the plural form of a verb. This use helps to reflect the principle of collective responsibility of the cabinet.

BrE usually chooses the plural form of a verb for nouns of multitude expressed by proper names while AmE usually chooses the singular form of a verb:

BrE: Skryabin are a famous Ukrainian band.
AmE: Skryabin is a famous Ukrainian band.

BrE: Spain (soccer team) are the champions this year.
AmE: Spain is the champions this year.

So far, we have discussed the grammatical differences between BrE and AmE pertinent to collective nouns. Another important group of differences is related to the use of articles before certain nouns. Such institutional nouns as hospital and university do not take any article in BrE (Creamer et al., 1996; ABBY Lingvo, 2014; CDO, 2014; MW, 2014; OD, 2014),** but take the definite article in AmE (although AmE uses “in college” and “in school” which is similar to BrE):

BrE: Ann is a student now and she is at university all the time.
AmE: Ann is a student now and she is at the university all the time.

Furthermore, dates usually have “the” in BrE in the oral speech, while dates in AmE are pronounced without any article:

BrE: the twenty-second of January = January the twenty-second
AmE: January twenty-second = January twenty-two

BrE distinguishes between “in future” (from this time on) and “in the future” (at some time later), whereas AmE has the same form for both meanings: “in the future“. At the same time, AmE distinguishes between “in back of” (behind) and “in the back of” (in the rear part), but BrE does not recognize the former form and meaning. Notably, BrE requires the definite article in the following phrases, but AmE does not:

BrE: Could you tell me the time please?
AmE: Could you tell me time please?

BrE: Does Mary play the piano?
AmE: Does Mary play piano?

As it has been mentioned above, BrE and AmE nouns differ in two major ways: 1) the form of the verb required by collective nouns and 2) the articles taken by some nouns. However, there are two more features which distinguish these two language varieties: the way they form compound nouns and the suffixes they take. BrE frequently forms compound nouns with the help of the gerund (-ing) and AmE favours the bare infinitive:

Compound nouns:
BrE: dialing tone, racing car, rowing boat, skipping rope, etc.
AmE: dial tone, racecar, rowboat, jump rope, etc.

Suffixes:
BrE: barber‘s shop, cookery book, skimmed milk
AmE: barbershop, cook book, skim milk (AmE tends to use clipped forms)

In summary, this post has focused on grammatical differences related to nouns in BrE and AmE. Collective nouns and the choice of articles as well as formation of compound nouns and suffix use have been shown to be the major grammatical differences. The following post is going to concentrate on grammatical differences between BrE and AmE in connection with prepositions.

See similar posts:

  1. British English – American English: Pronunciation
  2. British English – American English: Spelling
  3. British English – American English: Education (vocabulary)
  4. British English – American English: Transportation (vocabulary)
  5. British English – American English: Clothes (vocabulary)
  6. British English – American English: Food (vocabulary)
  7. British English – American English: Miscellaneous (vocabulary)
  8. British English – American English: Units of measurement (vocabulary)
  9. British English – American English: Idioms (vocabulary)
  10. British English – American English: Verbs (grammar)
  11. British English – American English: Prepositions (grammar)

References
ABBYY Lingvo (2014). Retrieved April 3, 2014 from, http://www.lingvo-online.ru/en
Cambridge Dictionaries Online (CDO) (2014). Retrieved April 3, 2014 from, http://dictionary.cambridge.org/
Creamer, R.W., Dahmen, G.D., Davidson, M.B., Davies, R., Debakey, L., Deloria, V., Jr. et al.(Eds.)  (1996). The American Heritage Book of English Usage: A Practical and Authoritative Guide to Contemporary English. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Merriam-Webster (MW) (2014). Retrieved April 3, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/
Oxford Dictionaries (OD) (2014). Retrieved April 3, 2014, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/

*Bold type is used for AmE forms.
**These sources have been consulted here and further in this post.

Iaroslav

British English – American English: Verbs (grammar)

Conjunctions

Image credit: Mode de Vie Software, “Conjunctions” August 12, 2009, via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Dear All,
The previous several posts have been examining differences between BrE and AmE and have covered such aspects as pronunciation, spelling, and vocabulary. The next three posts are going to deal with another important aspect – grammar. Grammar is the most static aspect of any language. If in vocabulary changes happen every day, in grammar changes happen over centuries. When we speak about grammar it is important to understand that it is not merely a set of rules that linguists come up with in order to facilitate language acquisition, but rather a system, a “skeleton” which supports all other aspects of a particular language. As such, there is no language without grammar, even artificial languages, such as Esperanto, have their own grammar. Thus, grammar is the most stable aspect of a language. This property helps to insure that parents understand their children, grandchildren and they, in turn, understand their parents and grandparents. Despite the stability of grammar, this aspect of language does change.

In English, for instance, there used to be such grammatical categories as gender and case which are no more in modern English. For example, in the King James version of the Bible translation, there is the following passage in which St. Paul says that love “seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil” (1Cor. 13:5) (does not seek its own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil). In this old translation of the Bible, “her own” is used instead of “its own” in reference to love. Thus, love is referred to as “she”and not “it” as it is acceptable in modern English. The category of gender is preserved in many modern languages, including Ukrainian, French, and German, but not in modern English (this category was found in the Proto-Indo-European language and in Old English). In present-day English gender is only preserved in reference to battleships and countries:

HMS (note Her Majesty Ship) Victory is one of the most famous British ships. She was Admiral Lord Nelson’s flagship.
Canada is the biggest country in the world. She is situated in North America.

Similarly, modern English does not have the category of case as has already been mentioned before. The category of case usually shows itself in endings of nouns, adjectives, and numerals and is used to show relationships among words in a sentence. For example, the Ukrainian word for peace is “myr“, but when Ukrainians say “I want peace”, the word acquires an ending: “myru“. Grammatical cases are also found in other languages, such as: German, Latin, etc.  The category of case was also present in English in the past; however, in modern English it has declined. Grammatical cases in English today are only preserved in pronouns:

This is Helen. I see Helen (note that the word “Helen” has no ending).
BUT: I see her* (not I see she).

This is Mike. Give the book to Mike (no ending in the word “Mike”).
BUT: Give the book to him (not to he).

Because grammatical changes do not happen fast, BrE and AmE have not yet acquired many distinctive features since the time of their divergence. The changes that are found between BrE and AmE are usually related to verbs, nouns or prepositions. In this post, I would like to focus on verbs. One of the most notable differences is the use of tenses. BrE uses the Present Tense when an action happened in the past and the results of the action are obvious in the present. This tense is often accompanied by such markers as: already, just, and yet. AmE tends to use the Past Indefinite Tense (= Past Simple) in the same situation:

BrE: I have phoned.
AmE: I phoned.

BrE: We have just returned from our trip.
AmE: We just returned from our trip.

BrE: Has he come yet?
AmE: Did he come yet?

It is worth mentioning that the auxiliary words “have” and “has” are often substituted for ” ‘ve” and ” ‘s” in the oral speech which can make it more difficult to hear the difference in the fluent speech. For example, if a BrE speaker says “I’ve collected the stamps”, it makes it similar to what an AmE speaker would typically say: “I collected the stamps”. Therefore, this difference may be quite subtle and usually does not create any difficulties in understanding BrE speakers by AmE speakers and vice versa. Moreover, AmE uses the Present Perfect tense too, although less frequently than BrE. Similarly, AmE tends to use the Past Indefinite Tense instead of the Past Perfect Tense.

BrE and AmE have several differences with respect to the conjugation of certain verbs. Such verbs as learn, smell, spoil, spell, and spill can be either regular or irregular (Creamer et al., 1996; ABBY Lingvo, 2014; CDO, 2014; MW, 2014; OD, 2014).** BrE is more likely to choose the following forms: “learnt”, “smelt”, etc. while AmE is more likely to use them as regular verbs, i.e. “learned“, “smelled“, etc. There are several other conjugation differences between BrE and AmE. The Past Indefinite form of the verb dive is “dived” in BrE and “dove” in AmE. The past participle (third form) of the verb g” is “got” in BrE and “gotten” in AmE. The past participle of the verb prove is “proved” in BrE and “proven” (or “proved”) in AmE. Furthermore, “lit” as the past tense of the verb light is more common than “lighted” in BrE. In AmE, “lit” means “set on fire” or “made to emit light”, whereas “lighted” means “directed light at”. The past participle of “saw” is “sawn” in BrE and “sawed” in AmE.

In BrE, the phrase “have/has got” denotes possession or obligation and is often used in an informal context. In AmE, a single word (“have/has”) is typically used:

BrE: I have got a good friend.
AmE: I have a good friend.

BrE: Bill has got to go.
AmE: Bill has to go.

It may seem that BrE prefers old grammatical forms while AmE prefers new ones. However, it is not quite so. For example, the subjunctive mood in mandative clauses has declined in BrE in the 20th century, but is still common in AmE:

BrE: Ann suggested that John should depart at once. = Ann suggested that John departed at once.
AmE: Ann suggested that John depart at once.

BrE uses the auxiliary verb “shall” to indicate a future action for the 1st person singular and plural. In AmE, the auxiliary verb “will” or the construction “to be going to” are more common.

If a verb is omitted in a sentence in order to avoid repetition, BrE preserves “do” in its place, whereas, in AmE, “do” can sometimes be omitted:

BrE: Has Jane closed the door? She must have done.
AmE: Did Jane close the door? She must have.

When the verbs go and come are followed by another verb, BrE uses the conjunction “and” whereas AmE uses a bare infinitive:

BrE: Come and see what I have brought!
AmE: Come see what I have brought!

In summary, this post has focused on the grammatical differences in relation to verbs in BrE and AmE. One of the major differences is tense use: BrE uses the Present Perfect Tense more frequently, and AmE use it less frequently substituting the Present Perfect Tense and the Past Perfect Tense with the Past Indefinite Tense. The following post is going to concentrate on nouns.

See similar posts:

  1. British English – American English: Pronunciation
  2. British English – American English: Spelling
  3. British English – American English: Education (vocabulary)
  4. British English – American English: Transportation (vocabulary)
  5. British English – American English: Clothes (vocabulary)
  6. British English – American English: Food (vocabulary)
  7. British English – American English: Miscellaneous (vocabulary)
  8. British English – American English: Units of measurement (vocabulary)
  9. British English – American English: Idioms (vocabulary)
  10. British English – American English: Nouns (grammar)
  11. British English – American English: Prepositions (grammar)

References
ABBYY Lingvo (2014). Retrieved April 3, 2014 from, http://www.lingvo-online.ru/en
Cambridge Dictionaries Online (CDO) (2014). Retrieved April 3, 2014 from, http://dictionary.cambridge.org/
Creamer, R.W., Dahmen, G.D., Davidson, M.B., Davies, R., Debakey, L., Deloria, V., Jr. et al.(Eds.)  (1996). The American Heritage Book of English Usage: A Practical and Authoritative Guide to Contemporary English. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Merriam-Webster (MW) (2014). Retrieved April 3, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/
Oxford Dictionaries (OD) (2014). Retrieved April 3, 2014, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/

*Bold type is used for AmE words.
**These sources have been consulted here and further in this post.

Iaroslav

British English – American English: Idioms (vocabulary)


Video credit: GrammarSongs by Melissa, “Idioms Song (Idioms by Melissa)” August 12, 2013, via YouTube.

Dear All,
This post finishes the series of posts comparing vocabularies of BrE and AmE. Today I would like to discuss one of my favourite topics, phraseology. One of my course papers at the University was devoted to this doubtlessly unique subject. Phraseology (=idiomatics) is “the compilation, description, and classification of the total corpus of idioms in a language” (Bussmann, 1998, p. 534). This definition requires also explanation of what an idiom is. In fact, there is no consensus among scholars concerning the term. In Ukrainian linguistics*, for example, an idiom is understood narrowly as a type of phraseologisms the meaning of which is not obvious from the analysis of meaning of individual words forming this unit (e.g. it is not clear why “to pull someone’s leg” means to trick somebody by telling [untrue] stories). In Canadian linguistics, in turn, an idiom is often understood widely as any set phrase (= set expression = phraseological unit = idiomatic expression = colloquialism = colloquial expression) including: proverbs, sayings, and famous quotes by celebrities (e.g. No bees, no honey; no work no money). In order to avoid confusion, in my post, I am going to use the word “idiom” in its narrow (Ukrainian) meaning and the word combination “a phraseological unit” to refer to any kind of set expressions, including: proverbs, sayings, quotes by celebrities, and an idiom in its narrow meaning.

The video above provides several interesting phraseological units in English and also jokingly raises the following question: “Why must we use idioms at all?”. In spite of the humorous nature of the question I would like to try to answer it. The reason why we use idioms and other phraseological units is because they help to make  our speech more expressive and more concise. For example, in the video, we hear “this cake is out of this world”. Instead of saying that the cake is good/tasty/delicious, we use the phraseological unit to underline that it is very good. Similarly, instead of saying that it is raining heavily, the wind is strong, the sky is dark, etc., we can simply say “it is raining cats and dogs” which includes all the above; in the latter case, the set expression not only moakes speech more expressive, but also helps to achieve brevity.

Phraseological units can also tell us something about the speaker. For instance, when we hear “idem per idem” (Lat. the same for the same), “errare humanum est” (Lat. to err is human), “dum spiro spero” (Lat. while I breathe, I hope) etc., we may assume that the speaker is knowledgeable in Latin and/or highly educated. Phraseology helps to make our speech “spicier”; however, as any spice, it should be used cautiously and in moderation because it may confound our interlocutors or create an impression that the speaker wants to show off. Therefore, it is necessary to use phraseological units in the appropriate context and, perhaps, to rephrase them to make sure that interlocutors can easily understand all that is being said.

Interestingly, one of the characteristic features of phraseological units is stability. For example, we cannot say “it is raining cats and frogs”, the unit has to be reproduced exactly in its original form, i.e. “it is raining cats and dogs”. Despite this characteristic feature, there is certain variation between languages and even language varieties such as BrE and AmE. The table below compares some of the popular phraseological units which are different in BrE and AmE:

BrE

AmE

as red as beetroot (Pinnavaia, 2010; ABBY Lingvo, 2014; CDO, 2014; MW, 2014; OD, 2014)** as red as beet
to blow one’s own trumpet to blow one’s horn
a drop in the ocean a spit in the ocean = a drop in the bucket
easy game/meat easy mark
flogging a dead horse beating a dead horse
hard cheese stiff cheese
a home from home a home away from home
lie of the land lay of the land
a new lease of life a new lease on life
not to touch something with a bargepole not to touch something with a ten-foot pole
to put a spanner in the works to throw a [monkey] wrench into
to put your tuppence worth in to put your two cents in
to see the wood for the trees to see the forest for the trees
to slip on a banana skin to slip on a banana peel
a storm in a teacup a tempest in a teapot
to sweep under the carpet to sweep under the rug
to take it with a pinch of salt to take it with a grain of salt
to take the biscuit to take the cake
too many cooks spoil the broth too many cooks spoil the soup
to touch wood to knock on wood

The table above shows that despite differences in their composition most phraseological units can still be recognized easily by both BrE and AmE speakers. These differences do not set the two language varieties apart, but rather enrich them both by making them enlarging the inventory of forms for the same or similar meaning.

In conclusion, this post has provided definitions for “phraseology” and “an idiom”. It has been pointed out that phraseological units help to make our speech more expressive and concise and can help to identify a well-educated speaker. Some of the differences between popular phraseological units in BrE and AmE have been identified. Despite the available differences it should be mentioned that they do not “split” English, but rather enrich it in a unique and beautiful way. The next post is going to examine grammatical differences between BrE and AmE.

See similar posts:

  1. British English – American English: Pronunciation
  2. British English – American English: Spelling
  3. British English – American English: Education (vocabulary)
  4. British English – American English: Transportation (vocabulary)
  5. British English – American English: Clothes (vocabulary)
  6. British English – American English: Food (vocabulary)
  7. British English – American English: Miscellaneous (vocabulary)
  8. British English – American English: Units of measurement (vocabulary)
  9. British English – American English: Verbs (grammar)
  10. British English – American English: Nouns (grammar)
  11. British English – American English: Prepositions (grammar)

References
ABBYY Lingvo (2014). Retrieved March 24, 2014 from, http://www.lingvo-online.ru/en
Bussmann, H. (Ed.). (1998). Routledge dictionary of language and linguistics; translated and edited by Gregory Trauth and Kerstin Kazzazi. London: Routledge.
Cambridge Dictionaries Online (CDO) (2014). Retrieved March 21, 2014 from, http://dictionary.cambridge.org/
Merriam-Webster (MW) (2014). Retrieved March 24, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/
Oxford Dictionaries (OD) (2014). Retrieved March 24, 2014, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/
Pinnavaia, L. (2010). Sugar and spice. Exploring food and drink idioms in English. Monza, Italy:Polimetrica.

* The Ukrainian school of linguistics as well as some other European schools of linguistics were influenced to a certain extent by Viktor Vinogradov’s works in phraseology.
**These sources have been consulted here and further in this post.

Iaroslav

British English – American English: Units of measurement (vocabulary)

Scales

Dear All,
One more interesting aspect of the vocabularies of BrE and AmE is units of measurements. As it is known, numbers require precision; otherwise, one can find him/herself in a situation where s/he is late for an important meeting, underpaid or overpays his/her bill. In order to avoid these or similar situations, it is worth exploring the differences in units of measurement between BrE and AmE. These differences are addressed in this post.

Unlike AmE, in BrE, “and” is inserted before tens when a three(or more)-digit number is pronounced:
123 – one hundred and twenty-three – one hundred twenty-three*
1023 – one thousand one hundred and twenty-three – one thousand one hundred twenty-three

In BrE, numbers are often counted in hundreds up to 1,900; whereas in AmE, it is a common practice to do so even for much higher numbers:
1,200 – twelve hundred – twelve hundred (the same)
2,200 – two thousand two hundred – twenty-two hundred

When British people need a bus or look for a street number, for example, 124, they ask for bus/street “one-two-four”, while in North America, it is more common to say “one twenty-four” in this case.

If they deal with a phone number, BrE speakers usually use the word double when the same figure is repeated twice side by side, whereas AmE speakers just say it twice: 001 – double oh one – oh-oh-one. It should be noted that the numeral “0” is referred to as nought, nil (sport), oh, zero in BrE and oh or zero in AmE.

The “#” sign is known as “a hash symbol” in BrE and “a pound sign” in AmE. If a BrE speaker says “a pound symbol”, s/he usually means the currency sign “£”. “#” is also known as “a gate” in the British context.

Interestingly, a radio ad announcing an item on sale for “one ninety-nine” means that the item costs 1.99 if this is in the British context and 1.99 or 199 if the announcement is made in the American context. In BrE, an item on sale for 199 is pronounced as “one-nine-nine”. Notably, BrE speakers can drop either denominations altogether or just the word “pence”:
£1.22 – one twenty-two = one pound twenty-two,
whereas AmE speakers either drop denominations altogether or say both words:
$1.22 – one twenty-two = one dollar twenty-two cents.
The AmE equivalent for the BrE colloquialism “quid” is “buck/s“. The word “quid” does not typically take the ending -s, while the AmE term “buck” does. However, when BrE speakers refer to more than €1.00, they may say “euros” (as in two euros etc.), although the norm is “euro” for the plural form. There are also certain differences in how BrE and AmE speakers hand-write numbers in connection with currencies:
BrE: £1.22
AmE: $1.22 = $122 = $122

Dates and time have their peculiarities in BrE and AmE too. The typical way of writing, for instance, March 8, 2014 is
08/03/14 = 08.03.14 in BrE and
03/08/14 = 03.08.14 = 08/03/14 = 08.03.14  in AmE.
A date where the whole word is used to write the month has different formats in BrE and AmE as well:
8 March (pronounced as “the eighth of March”) in BrE and
March 8 (pronounced as “March eighth“) in AmE.
The BrE constructions “a week today”, “a week tomorrow”, “a week Monday”, etc. correspond to the following AmE constructions: “a week from today“, “a week from tomorrow“, “a week from Monday“, etc.

BrE speakers use the 24-hour clock not only in the context of an air travel, but also in their everyday speech. The hours and minutes are usually separated with a full stop (“.”), e.g. 13.15  = 1:15 pm. AmE speakers, in contrast, use the 12-hour clock in their everyday speech. The hours and minutes are usually separated with a colon (“:”), e.g. 1:15 PM = 13:15 (the latter format is less common). 1:15 is usually pronounced as “quarter past …” in BrE and “quarter after … ” in AmE. Remarkably, in BrE the word “past” is sometimes omitted in informal speech as in 1:30 (“half one”).

Finally, mass measurements are also different in BrE and AmE. It shows itself mainly in body mass which is measured in stones (equal to 14 pounds) and pounds in BrE and kilograms in AmE. For instance, in BrE, it is common to say that a person weighs “10 stone 5” (the plural form is “stone”); whereas in AmE, it is common to say “65.7 kilograms“.

In conclusion, this post has focused on the units of measurement and has addressed some of the major differences in vocabulary between BrE and AmE. The key differences have been shown to be in connection with currency, time, date, and weight measurements. The following post is going to continue comparing BrE and AmE and is going to examine one of the most interesting aspects of the language, phraseology (idioms, sayings, proverbs).

*Bold type is used for AmE words.

See similar posts:

  1. British English – American English: Pronunciation
  2. British English – American English: Spelling
  3. British English – American English: Education (vocabulary)
  4. British English – American English: Transportation (vocabulary)
  5. British English – American English: Clothes (vocabulary)
  6. British English – American English: Food (vocabulary)
  7. British English – American English: Miscellaneous (vocabulary)
  8. British English – American English: Idioms (vocabulary)
  9. British English – American English: Verbs (grammar)
  10. British English – American English: Nouns (grammar)
  11. British English – American English: Prepositions (grammar)

Iaroslav

British English – American English: Miscellaneous (vocabulary)

Dear All,
In the previous post, the topic of food has been discussed and some major differences between BrE and AmE have been pointed out. The present post continues exploring the vocabulary of the two language varieties and focuses on such topics as: people and home/buildings as well as some other words in common use.

I would like to start with the topic of people. This topic includes the words used to name different age, professions (e.g. postman, cashier) or otherwise describe people (e.g. lad, chap):
Peopleboy, lad – boy*(BP, 2014; OD, 2014; CDO, 2014; MW, 2014; ABBY Lingvo, 2014)**
caretaker – janitor
cashier – teller
chap – guy
girl, lass – girl
dustman – garbage man
lollypop man/woman – crossing guard
mum, mummy – mom, mommy, ma
pal – buddy
sideboards – sideburns
spot – pimple
policeman – police officer
postman – mailman
solicitor – lawyer, attorney
There are only a few words in this group because most of them had already existed before the AmE variety developed and consequently AmE preserved most of these words.

The next groups has to do with the topic of home and buildings:
Buildingsbath – bath tub
to bath – to bathe
bin/dust bin – trash can
block of flats – apartment building, apartment house
bungalow – one story house, ranch house
bureau de change – currency exchange
café – diner
chemist’s shop – drugstore, pharmacy
the cinema – the movies
cooker – stove, range
corner shop – grocery store
crèche – daycare
curtains – curtains, drapes
drawing room – living room
first floor – second floor
fishmonger’s – fish store
fruiterer’s – fruit store
garden – [back]yard
ground floor, 0 – ground floor, first floor, lobby
to hoover – to vacuum
flat – apartment
floor – stor[e]y
ironmonger – hardware store
to let – to rent, to lease
lift – elevator
lounge – living room
pushchair – stroller
radio, wireless – radio
reception – front desk, lobby
to run a bath – to fill a tub
semi-detached house – duplex
shopping centre – [shopping] mall
sink, washbasin – sink
sitting room – living room
sweet shop – candy store
terrace – town house
tap – faucet
toilet, loo, WC – washroom, bathroom, restroom
torch – flashlight
town centre – downtown
trolley – cart
wardrobe – closet
The words above are objects found around a house (e.g. sink, wardrobe), building parts and places (e.g. living room), types of buildings according to their structure or use (e.g. terrace, chemist’s shop).

In addition to this, there are other words which people use in everyday speech. These words belong to different semantic groups:
LadybugAmerican football – football
anti-clockwise – counter-clockwise
autumn – fall
bank holiday – national holiday
brackets – parentheses
car boot sale – garage sale
dear – expensive
draughts – checkers
film – movie
fire brigade – fire department
football – soccer
full stop – period
to hire a car – to rent a car
holiday – vacation
jumble sale – yard sale
ladybird – ladybug
nil (sport) – nothing, zero
noughts and crosses – tic tac toe
parcel – package
phone box – telephone booth
plaster – Band-Aid
post – mail
postcode – zip code
queue – line
rucksack – backpack
self-catering – no meals included
sellotape – sticky tape, scotch tape
tippex – white out
Some of the words in this group are pertinent to sport and games (e.g. football, nil), however, many other words belong to other topics. I have included these words because they are used quite frequently and the person who familiarize with the differences above before going to a place where BrE or AmE is used or before communicating with people speaking one of these language varieties should be able to avoid misunderstandings.

In summary, this post has focused on two major topics: people and home/buildings. Some words which belong to various other topics have also been discussed. The following post is going to concentrate on the differences in vocabulary pertinent to units of measurement.

See similar posts:

  1. British English – American English: Pronunciation
  2. British English – American English: Spelling
  3. British English – American English: Education (vocabulary)
  4. British English – American English: Transportation (vocabulary)
  5. British English – American English: Clothes (vocabulary)
  6. British English – American English: Food (vocabulary)
  7. British English – American English: Units of measurement (vocabulary)
  8. British English – American English: Idioms (vocabulary)
  9. British English – American English: Verbs (grammar)
  10. British English – American English: Nouns (grammar)
  11. British English – American English: Prepositions (grammar)

References
ABBYY Lingvo (2014). Retrieved March 14, 2014 from, http://www.lingvo-online.ru/en
Cambridge Dictionaries Online (CDO) (2014). Retrieved March 14, 2014 from, http://dictionary.cambridge.org/
Merriam-Webster (MW) (2014). Retrieved March 14, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/
Oxford Dictionaries (OD) (2014). Retrieved March 14, 2014, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/
Project Britain (BP) (2014). Retrieved February 21, 2014, from http://projectbritain.com/americanbritish.html

*Bold type is used for AmE words.
**These sources have been consulted here and further in this post.

Iaroslav