Monday, 29 July 2013

Pedants of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your PEDAI

I recently came across this question in the Using English Ask a Teacher forum:
Are those three sentences correct? all the same? Thanks!
This is the room in which we stayed.

This is the room which we stayed in.

This is the room where we stayed.
After a helpful and correct answer from a fellow teacher, I added:

And some pedants would prefer a fourth option:

This is the room that we stayed in.

The trouble for these people is that they are forced to apply one of two groundless prescriptive rules that are mutually exclusive "(that for a defining subordinate clause" and "not ending a sentence with a preposition")

b
PS People interested in etymology may like to imagine chains attached to each arm of the person choosing between the two 'rules'. The Greek for chains is πεδαι (pedai).

Not wanting to be one of those teachers with bees in their bonnets, which they sick onto unsuspecting students, I didn't add my further thoughts on this issue. You've guessed it – here they are.

I wrote here about phrasal verbs and what happens to them when they get used in subordinate clauses; the 'preposition' part, more commonly called the 'particle', gets moved to the end of the  clause (more often than not, to the end of the sentence).

Users of Microsoft Word will have (perhaps unwittingly) crossed swords with the little Hitler that is Word's built-in 'grammar checker' – a sort of 'Strunk and White incarnate'. For example, section II.14 of that book has the title 'Use the active voice'; Word's 'grammar checker' duly objects whenever it catches the merest whiff of a passive. It wields a green underline rather as Mrs Thistlebottom† wielded a ruler in the English classroom, and helpfully suggests 'Consider rewriting' (code for 'Unless you rewrite, I'll keep nagging you as long as I have breath.')

One of the grammar checker's shibboleths is 'that in defining relative clauses' (and now the gloves are off – the underline is RED.)
<grammar_point importance="negligible" skip="yes, if you value your sanity" status="shibboleth">
Suppose I have two lawn mowers. The green one is in the shed and the red one (a 'ride-on' job), is in the garage. Woe betide you if you refer to the green one as 'the mower which is in the shed'. However, you will have Mrs Thistlebottom's blessing if you say 'The red mower, which is newer, is in the garage.'
</grammar_point>
Now which  has a full complement of inflexions: which for the subject, whose (borrowed from who) for the possessive, and the same form can be used in all sorts of object positions – by which, to which, from which ... and so on. Who is similar: who (subject) whose (possessive), whom for all kinds of object. That doesn't enjoy any of this flexibility:
The mower that is in the garage is red
The mower thats power source is petrol...
The mower on that you can sit while mowing...
There is the obviously/(apparently?)  related word what [I am doing this,/What are you doing/Don't do that.], but it couldn't be pressed into service to bolster that.
The mower whats power source is petrol...
The mower on what you can sit while mowing...
No improvement on the that versions.

Personally – though not for reasons of 'correctness' – I try to use that (or nothing) for defining subordinate clauses: 'the mower I'm sitting on' rather than 'the mower on which I'm sitting'. I am cursed by a premonition of what Word's 'grammar checker' would say; all around me I see red underlines that I have to ignore. [For some reason  – just contrary, I suppose – a vision came to me just then of Lulu singing The boat which I row.] But because of the grammatical inflexibility of that I find myself from time to time having to fall back on which. I know the rule is hooey, but...

And speaking of hooey, the other thing about using that in subordinate clauses is that it forces you to 'break' another 'rule', by relegating a phrasal verb's particle to the end. (I have mentioned this before, in the red excursus in the middle of this post).

And that is the point on which I shall end.

b
† Mrs T is not my invention; I have mentioned her before. She haunted Dave Barry's Mister Language Person columns, which have gone the (sorely lamented) way of the songs of Tom Lehrer.


PS #WVGTbook update. I've finished OA, OE, and OI as far as the raw data is concerned. Now for the HTML bit! The scheduled 3.1 release is looking good for next month.
Update 2013.09.27.13:50
HeadFooter updated

Update 2014.01.20.16:50 – And again.

Update 2014.03.02.16:00 – And again:



 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: about 38,000  views  and over 5,300 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with over 1900 views and nearly 900 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.





Thursday, 25 July 2013

Du côté de chez Knowles

For years as a student of French (among other things) I thought that Proust's Du côté de chez Swann meant 'from Swann's point of view'. Chez can mean either 'at the home of' or, in the academic world, 'in the thoughts or writings of'; "chez moi" can mean either 'at my home' or 'in my view'. German bei mir is ambiguous in the same way.
<etymological_note need_to_know="nugatory">
It's probable that the use of 'by me' as meaning 'in my opinion' was first popularized by German immigrants to the USA, who found it easily memorable because of its simil- arity to their own bei mir.
</etymological_note>
 I (think) I was wrong (there's no knowing what puns are lurking in the Proustian undergrowth). There's a more mundane explanation*; but my title means "From Knowles's point of view".

WCS Tour to the West Country

The tour was a great success in many ways – musical, social, personal.... About half of us met at the Café Rouge on the first night, and began to get to know each other. The evening ended at about 10.30, when student life was just starting. The rooms were well-appointed (some better than others), but the ones overlooking the road, or adjoining the neighbouring pub weren't very restful. There was about an hour of peace between 3.00 AM (when the carousing stopped) and 4.00 AM (when the gulls started). Cooked breakfasts, when we found the cafeteria, were lavish and varied.

The first concert was at Buckfast Abbey. The choir vastly outnumbered the audience – I'd guess there was one unattached punter for each of our camp-followers (perhaps a dozen of each). But one of them thought we did well enough to merit an email to Linda (which we didn't know about until after the Truro concert).

The concert at Lostwithiel was more of a family affair. The Vicar, and father of the treble who sang Pie Jesu, was a college friend of Alex's. And because of the local interest there was a bigger audience (not as many as I expected though, with a three-line whip from the Vicar,  say 30-40).

The Truro concert was our best performance. Even Bobby Shaftoe worked. By that stage I think Alex had given up on the basses, who got the syncopations right in the first two lines but went back to singing on the beat in the third and fourth. Still, it was rhythmical! The voice parts were reinforced by Philip (Vicar of Lostwithiel) in the basses (with the occasional alto phrase when he liked their tune), his daughter Beth (?)  in the sopranos, and Nick – the organist – in the tenors.

That's the bare bones of the tour. But the best part was the chance to get to know people who were nodding acquaintances until the tour. For example, I found that my son and Anne Iles's were at Reading School together, and that we had sung the Fauré Requiem (mentioned, incidentally, here [just look for the red text about halfway down]) in the same parents and boys choir in the early/mid '90s.

Ho hum. Many thanks to everyone, especially Rhoda (for some reason many of my photos feature Rhoda peering confusedly at her mobile!), Alex, Nick, and Josh. Here's to the next. Now I must return to The Book which needs another few months' work. (And if you want to know what that is you should have been in the Seymour Arms on Sunday night when Helen was reading my blurb and asking some pertinent questions! Bless her – she feared she might have offended me; but all's fair in self-publishing. )

b


*Some readers may have noted in yesterday's post that a circumflex in French is often a sign of a missing s. Côté is related to our 'coast'. Proust's Du côté de chez Swann refers to a lake with paths on each side. Swann was the owner of a neighbouring property, bounded by one of the paths.
Update 2013.09.27.13:50
HeadFOOTer updated:

Update 2015.01.20.10:30 – Updated footer



Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

I'm thinking about doing a native iBook version in due course, but for now Mac users can use Kindle's own (free) simulator.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this

Freebies (Teaching resources:  
nearly 48,200 views  and over 6,500 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with over 2,400 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.







Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Unos 20 personas simpáticas, así como Usted

'Probably the finest Gothic building in Spain', the cathedral in León  'the House of Light' passed me by.  I didn't rejoice in the 125 medieval stained glass windows, 1,800 square metres of glass catching and mediating the sunlight in different ways as the Sun moves (or as the Earth moves, if you must); it was the last church that I went into as a (vestigial) believer,  in March 1971, and my mind was on other things. The Guardia Civil were not among the '20 personas simpáticas' who, according to my sales spiel, I was to talk to each day ('diáramente y en cada lugar donde vamos visitando...').

I had just been arrested at gunpoint, and my one colleague (I had previously been in a group of about a dozen 'students' – well, young people, mostly students – but we two were to be the nucleus of a new group) was still being held. I had no return ticket, precious little money, and I was working  with a man whom I didn't know from Adam – or rather Adán, he being Spanish – who, the police had tried to convince me, was probably a spiv. So I turned to religion; or just  wanted to sit down somewhere cool (a need which I think may explain the popularity of Catholicism in the Mediterranean).

I was reminded of that magnificent Gothic pile yesterday, at Truro Cathedral (and cognoscenti of the money-changers story may be interested to note that, by the magic of predictive text, 'Truro' is only a finger-slip away from 'usury'). As the cathedral's website says:
Since at least 1259, and probably before, there has been a Parish Church of St Mary located on this site. When Truro was chosen it was assumed that the Parish Church would be completely demolished to make way for the Cathedral. However, the architect John Loughborough Pearson, argued and eventually gained permission to keep at least part of the old Parish Church. He cleverly incorporated the South Aisle of the church into his design for the new Cathedral, so that symbolically and physically the Mother Church of the Diocese has a protective arm around one of her daughter churches.
 There had been a bishopric of León since the ninth century AD, their website says:
A Christian community is first recorded in León in 254, but no bishop is recorded in Visigothic times. The bishropic of León was established in 860, after King Ordono conquered the city from the Moors. It was subordinate to the diocese of Toledo until 1105.
But it was not until the middle of the thirteenth century AD – about the same time as the building of Truro's Parish Church of St Mary – that work on  the cathedral at León was started with money from Alfonso the Wise. [Cardinal Wiseman school? No, that would be a digression too far, even for me.] Both cathedrals, also, were built mainly over two periods: León's in the thirteenth and then in the nineteenth; Truro's in the nineteenth century (the foundation stone was laid in 1880) and not completed until the twentieth (with refurbishment extending into the twentyfirst).

They are both Gothic – although Truro's is an example of the Victorian Gothic Revival. And although Truro's stained glass bears no comparison with León's, it is still spectacular (a word with a pleasingly optical double-entendre). And, presumably for lack of funds, much of its glass above ground-floor level is clear. The rose window at the front of the building, though, is magnificent; and there is much other notable stained glass (just not 1,800 square metres!)

I was in Truro at the end of my choir's short tour of the West Country, of which more anon. But before I go I can't resist an etymological reflection induced by my visit to the Mayflower Exhibition.
Plymouth was noted for being a Roundhead stronghold during the English Civil War – and that name for the Puritans' soldiers, was coined with reference to their headgear (I prefer the soldiers' helmet theory to the pudding-basin haircut theory expounded – very briefly – here).

The Roundhead soldiers were by no means the first fighting force to be given a nickname based on what their heads looked like. When Roman soldiers occupied Gaul the locals thought that their helmets looked like cooking pots (Vulgar Latin TESTA(M)). Among all the Romance-language names for head (capo, cabo, cabeza, cabeça ...) where does the French tête come from? Well, here's a hint; the circumflex in French is often a vestige of an s.

I'll leave that with you. After 5 days away I have mail to delete; and then I must get on with V3.1 of #WVGTbook.PPS

b
PS Another headgear-based term of abuse and/or contempt was one that I was exposed to in common with other wearers of the uniform of St Gregory's RC Primary School – which included a cap that sported the papal arms (a mitre, that looked a bit like a bee-hive). Hence the unbelievers' cry of  'Look out, here come the bee-hives', a term of derision that I classed with the "dungeon, fire and sword" that, according to the hymn, the Faith of our Fathers [was] living still in spite of.
 With any luck it'd be worth a good few Hail Marys in the Hereafter Stakes.

Update 2017.06.02.13:50  – Deleted old footer and added PPS.

PPS –This link no longer works, as at the time I wrote this post the book was half finished. The finished book is here, and its (incomplete) sequel is here.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Local colour

A radio programme last night that mentioned Bert Jansch reminded me of the song Strollin' down the highway, which Jansch wrote with hitch-hiking in France in mind. One of the verses is about reasons that drivers have for not stopping (or indeed for speeding up):
The cars won't stop for no-one
They don't think you're just a rollin' bum
They think you're an OAS spy
Gonna shoot them as they go by
No the cars won't stop, won't stop for no-one

Jansch wrote it in the mid-late fifties (one could check in a discography, but I'm on a short fuse  – preparing for the WCS tour starting tomorrow); the reference to the OAS suggests it was some time between 1954 and 1962.

But that 'OAS' has gone the way of much local colour. Do a Google search for They think you're an OAS spy, Jansch  and you get 'about 4,650' results; search for They think that you're a spy, Jansch  and you get 'about 50,800' – almost 11 times as manyʄ.

I enjoy such quirkiness. The Guys and Dolls score is peppered with bits of local colour: 'Take back your mink,' sings Adelaide, 'And go Hollanderize it for somebody else.' A guy in the Fugue for Tin Horns 'reeks of Vitalis and Barbasol'.

But references to context-specific things like this seldom survive for long. Though I have heard Bert Jansch more than once, I never heard him sing Strollin' down the highway but it wouldn't surprise me at all if he himself suppressed the 'OAS' reference in later covers. And sometimes it's the fault of the censors. Anita's

He'll come home hot and tired
So what?
No matter if he's tired
So long as he's hot
Tonight

in the Broadway show became the rather wimpish '...Poor dear/..../So long as he's here' for the film (or maybe before that, for the original cast recording).

OK, that's not a trade name. but it's similar in that it's Bowdlerized. This often happens with film musicals. In Easter Parade,
On the Avenue, Fifth Avenue
The photographers will snap us
And you'll find that you're in Rotogravure
 becomes the rather insipid '...And then you'll be seen in the smart magazines', because some spineless backer wondered whether people would need an explanation of Rotogravure without a footnote. DUH!  Long live footnotes – life's full of the things.

<afterthought>
And while we're on the subject of musicals, and changes made by spineless backers, In the early 1940s Lorenz Hart wrote
We'll have Manhattan
the Bronx and Staten Island too...

And South Pacific
Is a terrific show they say...
with that brilliant internal rhyme. Cue the spineless backer about ten years later: 'But that's so Last Decade. We need to mention some more recent show.'

So was born the insipid
And My Fair Lady
They say is a terrific show
 (in which the word 'terrific' is a sad fossil, giving a clue to the original rhyme-scheme.)
</afterthought>


But there's packing to be done. I'll be writing again next week. And in the meantime you can – if you get a wiggle on – download the freeby (and get reviewing, perhaps...?)

b
Update 2013.07.19.10:30
PS 'spineless backers' – I wonder if the oxymoron was entirely accidental or whether a subconscious jester was at work.

Update 2013.09.13.11:15
PPS I've just thought of another example, from the António Carlos Jobim song Desafinado. [I don't know what happens to it in the 'translation', but as even the title is wrong (off-key doesn't mean out of tune) I doubt it]‡:
Fotografei você na minha Rolleiflex
Revelou-se a sua enorme ingratidão
‡PPS  Oh Lor'. The good news is that it has kept the Rolleiflex. The bad news is that it has introduced an irrelevant bit of cleverness:

I took your picture with my trusty Rolleiflex
And now all I have developed is a complex
Why can't translators just GET OUT OF THE FRIGGING WAY ?
<afterthought>
The original, after that 'Rolleiflex' line, has Revelou-se a sua enorme ingratidão. I wonder if in Jobim's mind there was the idea of developing a photograph – in a tray of whatever chemicals they use – with the image in the photograph slowly revelando-se. I'm not sure if the Portuguese would accommodate this nuance. If so – accidentally, I'm sure – the translator stumbled on a deeper truth. The enorme ingratidão became apparent slowly but surely, like a developing photograph.
</afterthought>
Update 2013.09.15.17:50 – added this PPPS:

ʄ PPPS
I don't have an intimate knowledge of Google's search algorithms, but I suspect the larger number includes all the hits noted for the smaller number. But even allowing for this, the version without OAS is about 10 times as common.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Asperges me

Yesterday morning I caught a fascinating programme about Satie by Alistair McGowan. Towards the end, he stumbled over a reference to the ritual brush† used at a  funeral (and other ceremonies) to scatter holy water. I've never had any dealings with such an implement, though I know what to do with a thurible. ['This thing is loaded and I know where to wave it.' 'Do your worst kid. It'll never get past the censer' (sic)]
<autobiographical_note date_range="1971-1972">
And when my college choir had to sing at a service in the Round Church, a very High Anglican Church at the time, my background as an RC altar-boy caught up with me – and there was I thinking I'd left it behind at the age of 10, when the cassocks got too short (like most 10-year-old schoolboys' of the time my calves were bare, and an overshort cassock made me look like something out of the Bash Street Kids) – and I wielded the umbrellino.
</autobiographical_note>

So my only Asperges-related reflex is that after I have washed a  paintbrush, and am shaking it dry, this tune comes to mind.

Notes from the word face 

But today's business is more  weighty than papist earworms and wet paintbrushes. After a last-minute check, I've just pushed the Publish button for V3 of #WVGTbook. This has appeared:
And I can't make it free until it's live; so I expect it will be available for free download some time tomorrow. I'll let you know when it is.

Onwards and upwards – after a bit of R&R.

b
†PS re the price of that one. Hyssop I said, not brass-handled genuine horsehair lovingly plucked by hand, no doubt, from a pure white unicorn, '£83.83 inc. VAT' (and after P&P you'll be lucky to get much change from a ton!) Just hyssop FFS.
Update 2013.09.27.13:50
Headfooter updated


Update 2014.08.12.12:50
And again:



 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources:  over 44,640 views  and well over 6,000 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with over 2,250 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.


Tuesday, 9 July 2013

What's he been up to? (take 2)

 As for When Vowels Get Together V2.1, discussed here, I'm releasing an excerpt from the new release (coming Real Soon Now). It is the notes from the IO chapter, which occasionally suffer from a lack of context but are generally quite readable (I'd say).

  1. Angioplasty
    The  Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes this with the sound  /iə/, but the audio sample has a clear /iəʊ/. The variation is largely dependent on register.
  2. bullion and medallion
    These two words are alone, according to Macmillan English Dictionary, among all other '-llion' words (billion, million, mullion, pillion, stallion... etc. – which have the sound  /jə/). Either sound is acceptable for any of these words.
  3. mitochondrion
    The  Macmillan English Dictionary has no transcription of this word. It is listed here among /iə/ words following  the audio sample. Many speakers, however, would pronounce it with the sound /iɒ/.
  4. reunion versus unionThe  Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes the first of these as /iə/ and the second as /jə/. This is not a systematic or meaning-bearing distinction. A student may use either with perfect clarity.
  5. minion
    The  Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes this with the sound  /jə/, but the audio sample has a clear /iə/. Either is acceptable.
  6. Million, mullion, and scallion etc.  See note 2 with regard to the  Macmillan English Dictionary's distinctive treatment of bullion and scallion.
  7. audioconferencing, labiodental, physiotherapy, radioactive etc.
    Each of these is the sole representative of words that can be formed with its prefix. The  Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes idiosyncrasy  with the sound  /iəʊ/, but the audio sample has a clear /iə/. The variation is largely dependent on register. (The transcription of idiosyncratic matches the audio sample – /iəʊ/.)
  8. oriole
    The  Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes this with the sound  /iəʊ/, but the audio sample has a clear /iə/. The reader presumably misread it, assuming that it was a sort of window. This would not be surprising; both words are fairly rare. But while the British National Corpus notes 69 instances of oriel (the window, pronounced with the sound /iə/), it has a mere  five instances of oriole, and two of them point to the same text. One of the remaining four refers to '1926'. The word, like the bird, is nearing extinction – in the UK, at least. (Understandably the balance is reversed in Corpus of Contemporary American, a corpus well over four times as extensive as BNC, as America has both different architecture and a different bird population: oriel  – 20, oriole 187.)
  9. patio
    Other '-atio' words (fellatio and ratio) have the diphthong /eɪ/ in the stressed syllable, followed by /ʃ/. In patio it is /æ/ in the stressed syllable, followed by /t/.
  10. physiotherapy
    The  Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes this with the sound  /iəʊ/, but the audio sample has a clear /iə/. The variation is largely dependent on register.
  11. radicchio
    The  Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes the first syllable as /ɪ/, but the audio sample has a clear /i:/. With recently-borrowed foreign words there is much variation. The second syllable varies from /k/, through /ʧ/ to  /ʃ/ (reflecting the English radish), followed by choices of /i/ and /ɪ/, /ɒ/ and /əʊ/  – even, very occasionally [o].
  12. adagio
    The  
    Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes this with the sound /ʤəʊ/, but the audio sample has some kind of vocalic glide between the  /ʤ/ and the /əʊ/.
  13. Number of members
    There is another similar sound (/aɪɔ:/) that is in the Other Sounds section, as there is only one representative of it and the three family members  that are included often cluster around related words, such as biochemical/biology/biological  in which the /aɪ/ is followed by /əʊ/, /ɒ/, and /ə/ respectively.
  14. anion
    The  Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes this with the sound  /aɪɒ/, but the audio sample has a clear /ə/. This is probably a mistake, possibly by mistaken analogy with  ioni[s/z]e (though the relative rarity of the verb might throw this explanation into question).
  15. diocesan
    The  Macmillan English Dictionary does not list this word; the link is to the Collins English Dictionary.
  16. prion 
    The  Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes this with the sound /ɒ/, but the audio sample has a clear /iə/.
  17. biopic
    The  Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes this with the sound  /aɪʊ/, but the audio sample has a clear /ɒ/, possibly by analogy with biography . With newly-constructed portmanteau words like this, supposed etymologies are common. In this case, the possible 'donors' are  bio-, biography or biographical – biography won out in this case because of the stress /baɪ'ɒpɪk/ as opposed to the transcription – which is stressed on the first syllable).
  18. brioche and kiosk
    These two, alone amongst the  Macmillan English Dictionary's transcriptions  of  /iɒ/, has a long /i:/ (as the stress is on the /i:/). The  Macmillan English Dictionary's American examples of brioche have stress that is more sympathetic to the French original, and the shorter vowel (in the first syllable) that goes with the lack of stress.
That's all folks, which – it occurred to me earlier this week, with no particular relevance to anything very much – which, in the mid '60s, when a translation of the Latin mass was being produced, would have nade a pretty cool translation (anathema sim ) for Ite, missa est (which is the last thing the celebrant says, at the end of the mass).

b
Update 2013.09.27.13:50
Header updated:


 Mammon (When Vowels Get Together V4.0: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs – AA-AU, EA-EU, and  IA-IU, and – new for V4.0 – OA-OU.  If you buy it, contact  @WVGTbook on Twitter and I'll alert you to free downloads of the forthcoming volumes; or click the Following button at the foot of this page.)
And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: nearly 32,400 views**,  and  4,400 downloads to date. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with 1570 views/700 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.





Sunday, 7 July 2013

Gove, Gwynne, Churchill ...?

One of may favourite toys at the moment is the Text Analyser provided by usingenglish.com. As Gove's Golden Rules have been so much in the news of late, and as he is such an espoused fan of Winston Churchill, it occurred to me that it might be fun to put Gove's Rules into the analyser, in comparison with a text that Churchill sent to his War Cabinet. The texts are of different lengths, so the comparison is not as balanced as I might have hoped, but the circumstances (a politician briefing his underlings) are quite similar.

Here is Churchill's score:
And here is Gove's:

One number jumps out: the one for Hard Words, defined in the Using English help as
words with three or more syllables. This definition is used in calculating the readability and difficulty of a text, including the Gunning Fog Index
Nearly 12% of Gove's text includes such words, whereas Churchill's text has a score of less than 9%. For words of up to 5 letters, honours are pretty even, but from 6 letters and more Gove (with a few exceptions) stretches his sesquipedalian legs. He beats Churchill on 6 letter words, 7 letters, 8 (by a factor of more than 2), 9 (by a factor of more than 3), 12 and 13 (Churchill has none). Churchill leads in his percentage of 10 and 11 letter words, and is alone in using a single 15 letter word.

This word, 'conversational', is not so Hard. In fact the very concept of Hard Words is a subjective one that the writer of the Text Analyser has tried to render objective by tying it to syllable count. But hardness is a much more complex thing than that, including familiarity (e.g. 'family', with three syllables, is much less hard than 'ilk', with only one), abstractness (e.g. 'motor-bike', with three syllables, is – I would say – less hard than 'traffic', with only two)... and many other factors. For more information on the full text, see this TES resource, which I made with an earlier version of the Text Analyser, comparing Churchill's text with an Aunt Sally parody I wrote – breaking all Churchill's rules and then some).

But Gove does not come off too badly in the comparison. His and Churchill's Fog Index scores are pretty much the same; and Gove's sentences aren't as long (sentence length is one of the factors considered in calculating the Gunning Fog Index.) This (shorter sentences) is what lets Gove use longer words but still have a slightly lower Fog Index. And his Lexical Density is considerably lower than Churchill's.

So, my report:
Satisfactory, but could do better. He seems to have come under the dubious influence of an older boy (Gwynne Major).  We can only hope he snaps out of it soon.

And while we're on that subject, I heartily recommend Oliver Kamm's piece in this Saturday's copy of The Times, in which he calls Gove's guidance 'well-intentioned and largely either futile or destructive' and says of Gwynne's Grammar
It is a work of titanic silliness, and it's alarming that the Education Secretary doesn't see this.
(That's got quite a ring to it. Gwynne's marketers – probably himself [among his shortcomings, self-effacement isn't one] – should snap that one up. I can see the cover sticker now: '... Work of Titanic Silliness').

b


† One tweeter even proposed this bingo game:
 
He appended to this a link, but in this capture it wouldn't have been live. It is the same as the one I used above for Winston Churchill.

‡ Lexical Density = (Number of different words / Total number of words) x 100
Update 2013.09.27.13:50
HeadFooter updated

Update 2014.07.04.14:50
And again:



 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: over 43,900 views  and nearly 6,000 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with nearly 2,200 views/1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.







Friday, 5 July 2013

Ici en Angleterre nous avons un 'spot' de trouble

While I was working in a bookshop (as mentioned here), I took advantage of the staff discount to buy a leather-bound Aguilar edition of El Ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha . This would be my Desert Island Discs book; I know I'm unlikely to make the time to read it before then.

I thought of this when I read a piece on the impossibility of translation, Don Quixote against the Windmills:

Why is it that from one original language text, nine individual translators come up with nine different translations? Can they be trusted? Are they presenting true versions of the one-and-only, genuine original?

Read more: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/opinion/2013/06/25/don-quixote-against-windmills-translations/#ixzz2YA4SDT7p

The piece was generally on the money, though it made a mistake common to academics of a certain provenance (see here for my less measured response to another example): he assumes that everything shares his culture (and is therefore contemporary). He inveighs against arcane words – 'obscure words, convoluted syntax [and] complex phraseology' – and one of those words that attract his ire is 'whereof'. One translator, the seventeenth century Englishman Thomas Shelton, translated Cervantes' de cuyo nombre as 'the name whereof'. In seventeenth-century England I  imagine this was an obvious, uncomplicated, and faithful translation. Even today, I am happy to use 'whereof', though I grant that I am not an exemplar of the commonest users. The British National Corpus, in its 100 million word corpus, records 'whereof' only 41 times; the Corpus of Contemporary American English,  four and a half times the size, has a bit over twice as many hits (98). This suggests that the word is a good deal rarer in American English than it is in British English. But I don't see how anyone could object to its use before the USA was even formed.

Be that as it may, the translations examined don't (can't – being translations) do justice to the original; which is why if I ever read about El ingenioso hidalgo... – if I ever get marooned on that fabulous island [and with scary inconsequentiality, the cover of my book is – dun-dun-dah – MAROON] I'll be reading it in Spanish. That article ends:

Alas, we are all at the mercy of translators and must approach great works of literature in second-hand versions. There is no other way. Or is there?

Read more: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/opinion/2013/06/25/don-quixote-against-windmills-translations/#ixzz2YAMuFw4K
Well, yes: learn the other language. And on the subject of learning languages, the #eltchat on 26 June 2013 took as its starting point a thought-provoking  article in Science Now, on prerequisites (and, particularly, obstacles) to learning language. During the chat one contributor recommended reading the comments following the article. One of them asked:
Does this [the need to avoid culturally familiar objects] go any way to explaining why native English speakers reportedly find it harder to learn foreign languages – because there's so much English around these days that they are constantly getting thrown back to their mother tongue?
 Well  I thought the article was thought-provoking. Another reader commented:

"If one wants to acculturate rapidly, don't move to an ethnic enclave neighborhood where you'll be surrounded by people like yourself" – so, what else is new? How much did they spend on the study? They could have asked me and saved a bunch.
(In fairness I should add that the writer did go on to make a serious point.)

But, returning to the question about the English, and the issue of 'constantly getting thrown back to their mother tongue', my thoughts turn to another translation, enjoying a mere one available version: the Astérix books. I first met the little Gaul when a sibling (not sure which – we all visited [and received members of] the same family) brought a French version home. I didn't get many of the jokes at the time (with the names Idéfix and Assurancetourix the penny didn't drop until years later, and it didn't occur to me to wonder whether Obélix was so called because of his relationship with obelisks – it didn't help that they were called menhirs).

So when the translations came out I turned my nose up at them. The humour seemed to me crude. Abraracourcix, the chieftain, was called 'Zebigbos' [geddit? – the Big Boss, what a caution!], and Panoramix, the druid, was called 'Getafix' [Laugh, my socks are still on the radiator!]. And gone were the jokes about language the English characters in Astérix chez les Bretons all peppering their speech with 'bonté gracieuse' and 'je dis', the newspaper called 'Le Temps', Britons speaking schoolboy French with the adjectives coming before the noun (magique potion).... Gone too were the jokes about culture, with everyone stopping at 4.00pm for tea avec un  nuage de lait....

But a tweet I saw yesterday alerted me to 'an exegesis of the Latin jokes in the English versions of Asterix', which makes me think I may have been missing something. (But people who read only the translations are missing something too.)

Report from the word-face

I now have a nearly-working version of V3, which takes the book up to the end of the Is. (In fact, in an attempt to accelerate progress, I have started gathering the raw data for V4.)

And here's the latest themed crossword clue. Well, not themed exactly, but influenced by the fact that I've been working on words that incorporate the digraph *IO*:

 Paean to the huntress? One way only in this. (5)
 And while you're thinking about that, I'll be getting on.

b

PS Oh, and I should explain today's title.  It's a quote from one of the satirical shows of the late-'60s/early-'70s, which portrayed Ted Heath speaking in French – which he did on at least one occasion, his complexion justifying the term for Englishmen in France (les rozbifs). Je dis!
Update 2013.07.25.17:10
PPS All right, put down your pens; time's up. It's DIODE. 
Update 25.07.2013.09.30/10:50
HeaderFooter updated:


Mammon (When Vowels Get Together V4.0: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs – AA-AU, EA-EU, and  IA-IU, and – new for V4.0 – OA-OU.  If you buy it, contact  @WVGTbook on Twitter and I'll alert you to free downloads of the forthcoming volumes; or click the Following button at the foot of this page.)
And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: nearly 32,400 views**,  and  4,400 downloads to date. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with 1570 views/700 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.





Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A little something?

At the end of last year I blogged about 'crepuscular' and said:

Latin had the diminutive suffix -ulus/a, which we still see in quite a few words we use in English: 'cumulus', 'homunculus', 'tumulus' [that's one for the map-readers in the audience - 'a little swelling' - think of the word 'tumor'], 'Ursula' (which means 'little bear' - don't mess with an ursa protecting her ursulam!), 'formula'... We can also see it in a word like 'regular' (regula 'little stick', cf our 'yardstick'). Another adjective - one of my favourite derivations and demonstrating again Guy Deutcher's 'reef of dead metaphors' idea (mentioned in another post) - is 'muscular', from mus ('mouse')/musculus ('little mouse'), which is the way muscles looked to Early Romans - at least the ones who didn't get within gawping distance of auspice-reading: a little metaphorical mouse scampering about under a carpet.
The OED's word of the day a few weeks ago (no pointer, because after 24 hours the paywall goes up again; somehow WOTD engineers a page-specific suspension of the force field that protects the OED) was jentacular; we already know, from that other post

'*acul*' → something to do with smallness
 
Now in French we have  déjeuner, which is a meal at some time other than morning (which itself is a bit of a problem for people like me, since jeûner, to fast – so why isn't déjeuner 'break-fast'? Maybe the circumflex means the similarity is only skin-deep...). As meal names are a moveable f... (oops, wrong metaphor) (look at our 'dinner'; or 'wedding breakfast' come to that – presumably everyone is too excited to break their overnight fast before the ceremony) this problem is more imagined than real.

In French (still) we have petit déjeuner, which many peope would say has a 1:1 semantic relationship with our 'breakfast' (although I bet you wouldn't get kedgeree or kippers (or bacon, come to that) on a French 'breakfast' menu).  Meanwhile, in Portuguese – while we're on the subject of skin-deep similarities – we have o jantar which I saw made diminutive in a Brasilian tweet the other day: jantarinho (or was it -inha? – @Daniela_JG would know; judging from the time of the post it wasn't JENTACULAR aha – got there in the end [ 'jentacular' meaning 'of or pertaining to breakfast']).

So, with a following etymological wind, which I hope may eventuate (though my tentative steps may well not survive the merciless scrutiny of RESEARCH) a 'little jantar' (like a petit déjeuner) is 'jentacular' .

Hope springs eternal in the – what makes the word tit come to mind? Oh well...

b ['I am going to a bookshelf, and may be some time.']

Update, 2013.07.3.16:45

The research hasn't got very far. There is a 'post-Classical' Latin word that refers to 'a breakfast taken immediately on getting up', ientaculum, it says here. But that source does not inspire confidence: 'pre-jentacular, applied to what is done early in the morning, as taking a breakfast before getting up' feels very iffy to me – I'd imagine that that word applies to things done before eating (as in the case of something like an early-morning run). Their definition makes it sound no more bracing than breakfast in bed. 

What I want is the derivation of the Latin ientaculum and the Portuguese jantar; and for that I need the Romance philologist's bible,  Romanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch von W. Meyer-Lübke, which is in the Reading University library; it's also available online, but in a version that's incredibly slow to navigate, so I'm taking the Luddite's way out and going to browse in the real thing. I still want to get to the bottom of this, so stay tuned; but don't hold your breath.


Update 25.07.2013.09.30/10:50
HeadFooter updated:
Update 2013.10.14/10:50
PS – A note about the title, for readers not conversant with Winnie the Pooh
 (and note also that in that link I've avoided what calls itself  'the official site'. Since oficinalis was used to designate plants used in cookery, perhaps that rehashed concoction – something cooked-up by the bean-counters of Disney Inc. [or whatever the hell it's called] – perhaps 'official' is appropriate)

'A little something' is a tactful way of saying 'an insignificant (that is, not counting as a meal) amount to eat'. 

(and header updated) 

Update 2014.05.27.16.55  – Added this note:
<autobiographical_note>
Followers of my Twitterstream may have noted that I went to a lunchtime concert on the Whiteknights campus (featuring, as it happens my daughter's erstwhile swain on trombone) and while I was there I hoped to  visit the university library. But during the exam period (that is from  April to June) they impose the unusual rule of silence being observed... as if it were a LIBRARY OR SOMETHING FFS So we noisy riff-raff are excluded, and the promised research must be deferred again.
</autobiographical_note>

PPS And while I'm here I'm updating the footer.

 
Update 2014.09.25.12.25  – Added this note:

At long last I've been able to consult the extraordinary Romanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch von W. Meyer-Lübke. And the answer to the jantar question I asked over a year ago: we can forget ientaculum (which is no doubt related to the shorter answer: jentare:
See quote in situ here, on page 331
Presumably his aspan is Old Spanish, but modern Spanish has (and has had for centuries) desayuno, which – given  the French jeûner [='to fast'] – means the same as BREAK-FAST (geddit?). So the nearest neighbour (to Portuguese) is Asturian.

Next on the research agenda is this: which way was the loan-borrowing, or to give it the $10 word 'calque' : breakfast to desayuno or desayuno to breakfast? Another time, maybe.

 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

I'm thinking about doing a native iBook version in due course, but for now Mac users can use Kindle's own (free) simulator.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this

Freebies (Teaching resources:  nover 46,000 views  and nearly 6,200 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with over 2,300 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.











Sleep faster, we need the beds!

I'm told that this is a Yiddish saying, and my informant had ethnic authority, so I have no reason to doubt him – except that  we were compiling copy for a CU Footlights programme at the time; so invention was in the air. (I'd better not say what he called this section of the programme; it might start a race riot. )

Anyway, the subject of the first #eltchat on 26 June 2013 recalled this [apocryphal?] note:
There are some things that can't be done quickly, and maybe learning a language is one of these. Teachers can certainly help to make the process quicker, chiefly by facilitating students in taking charge of their own learning – becoming autonomous to use the #eltchat buzzword!


There were. as usual, many strands to the #eltchat, sometimes diverging sometimes converging, sometimes getting hopelessly tangled. One of the more notable breakdowns in communication was this exchange:

It turned out to be '5K-20K'.

But these were the main strands:
  • The articles
  • Fostering  Learner Autonomy. (All roads lead here!)
  • Speed of learning. Whether it was possible and what were the drivers of that need.
  • How long language learning takes and what are its prerequisites.
  • Teaching and learning methods

The Articles

 The grist for the mill of our discussion was two articles:
  1. an American Physical Society article about learning a language quickly – here
  2. a Science NOW article about the conditions for learning a foreign language – here
(Not much was said about the 2nd of these; I've started a blogpost about it, but it may be a week or two before I get round to finishing it. Keep an eye on this blog; I'll also tweet a pointer.)

Here are a few signposts along the way:
 This was probably a typo for '1 word'.

These last two show how learner autonomy and cultural awareness kept turning up during the #eltchat.

Learner Autonomy

These next two show two themes crossing back:

 Everyone agreed with this last point; LA not only helped them in the classroom, but also equipped  students who had 'finished' with the skills to continue to improve. LA was felt to be a key to motivation:
And last but by no means least, food:

On the question of food and culture, I didn't say this at the time – and in any case the example involved teaching another language – but my students (of Portuguese) really enjoyed a festa  I  arranged at the end of one term. There was Portuguese music, food, and conversation.

Speed of learning

There was much discussion of the speed of learning. Here are some pointers to the discussion:
 

That last one shows another recurrent theme; people were always looking to find lessons they could derive from the observations. Sometimes there were what seemed fromt the record like dead ends, but they were really things that would take more effort/reflection before bearing fruit. Phil Bird was a lone voice asking if anyone (else?) had thought about 'Hattie's effect sizes'. Nothing came of this question at the time, but in due course I suspect many of us will be thinking about this:

How long it takes

A lot of numbers were batted about, ranging from 5 (a mistake already mentioned) to 20,000. Leslie had to admit to the Australian government's figure:

But don't shoot the messenger, folks; Lesley'd be the first to admit that this was a gross under-estimate (the words 'not', same', and 'ballpark' come to mind).

Methods

There were few actual classroom-based ideas, except a general feeling in favour of immersion and surrounding – if not in the culture (the ideal) – then by cultural tokens. Watching TV – preferably undubbed – was mentioned. And Roya mentioned this:


L'Envoi (French for 'send-off' – quite appropiate I think)

Shaun closed by telling us that there would be an #eltchat break over the (Northern Hemisphere!) summer, but reminded us that the tag itself wasn't going away.

Update 25.07.2013.09.30/10:50
Header updated:


 Mammon (When Vowels Get Together V4.0: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs – AA-AU, EA-EU, and  IA-IU, and – new for V4.0 – OA-OU.  If you buy it, contact  @WVGTbook on Twitter and I'll alert you to free downloads of the forthcoming volumes; or click the Following button at the foot of this page.)
And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: nearly 32,400 views**,  and  4,400 downloads to date. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with 1570 views/700 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.