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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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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On geographic determinism and nasal vowels in French

Dec 30, 2011 by

In a recent post, I discussed one example of geographic determinism applied to linguistic typology. The thinking behind geographic determinism is as follows: certain kinds of terrain or weather favor certain structural features in...

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Making my case

Dec 26, 2011 by

In the last couple of posts, I’ve discussed the issue of grammatical complexity and have shown that even if an objective measure of such complexity is absent, languages clearly differ as to which grammatical distinctions they...

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I love you!

Dec 24, 2011 by

As linguists, we often tell our students — without giving it a second thought — that all languages are equally grammatically complex. As Guy Deutcher puts it in his Through the Language Glass, “equal complexity is...

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