On conservativity

May 4, 2012 by

Some words, like fashion fads, appear in the language and disappear without a trace soon thereafter. Other words (and morphemes) are much more conservative. In this brief post, I will cite just two examples of highly conservative...

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Syntactic feature or scribal convention?

Apr 18, 2012 by

In an earlier post, discussing the birch bark document 607/562 (see image on the left), I mentioned a peculiarity of word order in this brief crime report: the appositive phrase (=extra description) NOVGORODSKE SMЬRDE appears not...

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Jerusalem artichokes and Jordan almonds: are they from the Middle East...

Feb 13, 2012 by

  Despite what their names suggest neither Jerusalem artichokes nor Jordan almonds are from the Middle East. Both expressions are examples of folk etymology, a process by which the form (and sometimes the meaning) of a word is...

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Atkinson’s theory of language origins

Feb 10, 2012 by

In a number of earlier posts, I’ve discussed the recent work by Quentin D. Atkinson from the University of Auckland on the origin and spread of language. In an article published in Science, Atkinson shows that by applying...

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On H-dropping again

Feb 6, 2012 by

In an earlier post, I mentioned H-dropping as one of the characteristic features of Cockney, the lower class variety of English from the streets of London’s East End. Recall Professor Higgins’ complaints: “Hear them down in...

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Loanwords in Armenian

Jan 30, 2012 by

A close scrutiny of loanwords in the Armenian language – or in any language, for that matter – is essentially a demonstration of the close contacts between the speakers of the language and their neighbors.  In other words, the...

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