Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Triumph of hope over experience

Tales from the word front


A while ago I published  

Words & Music: a Taster 


with the intention of testing the water – seeing if anyone was interested in such a book and inviting comments/reviews. It was met by great waves of apathy (apart from some welcoming [and welcome] comments in social media).

I persisted mulishly (in an asinine way?) with the idea, and have now completed two chapters (including much of the Taster which may be familiar to some readers).  And this is now making its way through  the swings and roundabouts of Kindle Direct Publishing:

As with the Taster, the "published price" is to all intents and purposes nugatory ...
<aside>
(to use a word recently abused [or at least, used questionably] by Philip Hammond recently with the meaning "unnecessary" – he was talking about preparations for a no-deal Brexit. [The guilty misnomer is about 60 seconds into the clip posted on that page.]

The word means "having a negligible value"
– the value of a nut (think of nougat). I suppose it could be argued in the chancellor's defence that, in planning terms, preparations for that suicidal frenzy might prove to be pointless, but the actual expense of making the requisite preparations would certainly not be nugatory – far from it.Users of the OpenVMS operating system, who resumed business within hours of the Twin Towers being brought down know about the expense of contingency planning and disaster recovery.)
</aside>
... as I will arrange (and publicize) free downloads from time to time.

But I think I've taken the idea as far as makes sense (perhaps further, given the paucity of feedback I've had on the idea). So I'm resuming the cudgels with sonorants, at least for the combination <vowel>+r.

b

PS I wrote this last week, thinking I was about to push the Submit button. But the "final" checks are going on and on. I hope there‘ll be something to show before the weekend

Update: 2017.10.27.14:55 – PPS

The wheel of Kindle Direct Publishing are grinding away as I write:

I'm not sure why there are two of me, but in due course its pages will hit the ...er... fan.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Collections, connections, corrections, and convection: - CUM dancing

More tales from the word front

Thinking, as I have been, about sonorants, I was more than usually intrigued by a friend's question about words spelt in English either com- or con- (and, I have since realized, two other sonorants come into the same story: coll- and corr-).

Many such words derive in some way from a Latin word that uses CUM- as a prefix. But there are various ways that the M develops. In most cases the CUM- becomes con- but there are others. In this back-of-an-envelope table I give examples of the main ways:



The sort of Latin used to produce Romance vernaculars ironed out irregularities (eg "sing": cano canere cecini cantum was hard to learn for speakers of Latin for Speakers of Other Languages (LSOL – which is after all what we‘re dealing with); so those speakers preferred the regular canto cantare cantavi cantatum. Which gives  Italian, ‘cantare‘  Sp, Pg, Catalan cantar‘, Fr chanter etc etc.

As a result, generally, irregular verbs don't fare well in forming vernacular words (apart from learned/technical words like conference). The Italian for CARRY is nothing to do with ferre; it's sopportare, portare {Latin}] was easier to handle; the prefix in that case [I used Italian as an example, because that was my interlocutrix‘s  {not sure if that‘s a word; but it is now} focus] is sub).

This isn't to say that ferre has left no trace in modern Italian; but those traces are not obvious and well hidden. The effective parts of the verb (the ones people learn...
<autobiographical_note  essentiality="0"=>
The first time I met the word paradigm it was in a Greek Grammar book: if you learn the standard model (not that one, SILLY) you can work out any part of a verb on the basis of those four parts.
</autobiographical_note>
... to work out all parts of the verb) are fero, ferre, tuli, latum(Compare this with 'to love': amo, amare, amavi, amatum. Ferre is the most irregular Latin verb I know).

Here are examples of words that survive, derived from this irregular verb:
  • Fero -- apart from scholarly words like circonferenza, there's Lucífero (="Light-bearer")
  • ferre -- Iron was called in Latin (and thence Italian) ferro because it was weight-bearing or just heavy
  • tuli - can't find any; as the most irregular form of the most irregular verb, I doubt if it has any derivatives
  • latum -- lato, meaning broad/wide/extensive, and words derived from that, eg latifondo
(I‘m not sure about   this   last one. This, from Etymonline, sv flat suggests  another possible derivation for lato:

flat (adj.)c. 1300, "stretched out (on a surface), prostrate, lying the whole length on the ground;" mid-14c., "level, all in one plane; even, smooth;" of a roof, "low-pitched," from Old Norse flatr "flat," from Proto-Germanic *flata- (source also of Old Saxon flat "flat, shallow," Old High German flaz "flat, level," Old High German flezzi "floor"), from PIE root *plat- "to spread."
And this Italian source suggests yet another. I should have paid more attention in my History of Italian lectures.)

The way con|m- words works reminds me of the way im-|n- words work -
  • impossible, immoral, imbibe (combat, commemorative, compact)
    but
  • infant, invective (conference, convection)

    but
  • illegible, irreverent (collect, correct).

But whereas in- is what linguists call "a productive affix" (one used by current speakers, throwing up phonological changes on-the-fly as they form  negatives – and, incidentally, with attendant  problems for speakers of ESOL – particularly speakers of languages with different rules, such as the Spanish inmoral), the changes thrown up by Latin CUM- are lost in the etymological mists –  of current interest only for people who want to get the distribution of ms right in commemorative. (In fact, when a newer source [not Latin, as is the case with, say, condescension]  is involved in adding the prefix, these rules don't apply: co-dependant. not *condependant)

There are things to  be doing though.

b

Saturday, April 29, 2017

From millstone to milestone

Purdah has been in the (UK) news of late; it's the fig-leaf of convention that the Tories are hiding their shame with (the shame of defying the law and letting UK citizens die a slow and painful death until May is good and ready).

But a rather less heinous sort of purdah has just released this blog. Longer ago than I care to think, I wrote that I'd suspend this blog until I'd published something. Well, here it is then:

But it's very slow going, and I'm not convinced the effort's worth it; there are other things (real writing, not this square-bashing) that I'd like to be getting on with. The only creative text here is the Intro and the Notes (which are much longer here than in the first book).

This section (AL-UL) is not freely downloadable yet – Kindle Direct Publishing can't hack the idea of starting free and rising to a minimum price afterwards, so wait until after the Bank Holiday (non-UK readers may need this explaining: it's an old UK custom that involves everything in the economy grinding to a halt, except for minimum-wage retail, leisure, and entertainments workers. According to some Labour Party thinkers, the institution of new Bank Holidays is the main plank of an economic policy – well, it worked for that  Latin chappy: panem et circenses [="bread and roundabouts"] – a reference to the electoral importance of food and traffic-calming).

b





Tuesday, October 18, 2016

AL: /æ/

A bigger tranche this time, but Blogger does unhelpful things with the notes. I could probably fix this, but my time would be better spent on the book itself, so you'll have to imagine the links working. :-)

The sound /æ/ – 16%

There are two sounds here: /æl/ and /æ/. Notes indicate the much rarer /æ/.

abnormality
altimeter
calumny
hypothalamus
revalue
alabaster
alto
Calvinism
incalculable
prima ballerina
albatross
altruism
canal
infallible
salad
Albion
altruist
chalet
invaluable
salamander
album
altruistic
chalice
jalapeño
salaried
albumen
alveolar
challenge
keypal
salary
albumin
amalgam
cleft palate
low-calorie
salaryman
alchemist
amalgamate
contralto
maladjustment 13 sallow
alchemy
amalgamation
corps de ballet
malfeasance 14 salmon 23
alcohol
analogy
counterbalance 6 malapropism 15 salmonella 23
alcoholic
analysis
cruising altitude
malcontent 16 salon
alcoholism
animalcule
Dalai Lama 7 mall 17 salsa
alcopop
asphalt
Dalit
mallam
salutary
alfalfa
balaclava
dalliances
mallard
salutation
alfresco
balalaika 4 dally
malleable
salvage
algae
balance
Dalmatian
mallet
salvation
algal 1 ballad
decal
mallow
salve
algebra
ballast
evaluate
mallrat 18 salver
algebraic
ballerina
fallacy
malodorous 19 salvo
alibi
ballet
fallible
malware 20 salwar
alimony
ballot
fallopian tubes
marshmallow
shall 24
alkali 1 ballyhoo
fallow
medallion
shallow
alkaline
balustrade
fallow deer
metallic
shallows 25
alkaloid
batallion
formaldehyde
metallurgist
shalom 26
allegation
beauty salon
gal
mineralogy
shalt 27
allegory
bi-metallic strip
gallant 8 miscalculate
shilly-shally
Allen key
bivalve
gallantry
neuralgia
stalactite
alleluia
cabal
galleon
neuralgic
stalagmite
allergen
calabrese
gallery
non-alcoholic
stallion
allergenic
calamine lotion
Gallic
nostalgia
tala 28
allergy
calcify
gallivant
nostalgic
talc
alley
calcium
gallon
ophthalmic
talent
allied 2 calculable
gallop
ophthalmologist
talented
alligator
calculate
gallops
overvalue
tallow
ally
calculator
galloping
palace
talon
allocate
calculus
gallows
Palestinian
unbalanced
allomorph
Caledonian
galvanic
pallet
unchallengeable
allomorphic
calendar
galvani[s|z]e
pallette
unchallenged
allophone
calib[er|re]
galvani[s|z]ed
palliate
undervalue
allophonic
calibrate
genealogist 9 palliative
unpalatable
alloy 3 calico
genealogy 9 pallid
valance
aloe
caliphate
Gestalt
pallor
valediction
alopecia
callipers
halberd
palomino
valedictory
alpaca
callisthenics
halcyon
palpable
valentine
alphabet
callous
hallelujah
palpate
valet
alphabetic
calloused
hallo
palpitate
valo[u]r
alphabeti[s|z]e
callow
hallowed 10 palpitations 21 valuable
alphanumeric
Calor Gas
Halloween
phalanx 22 valuables 25
alpine
calorie
hallucinogen 11 phallic
valuation
Alsatian
calorific
halogen
phallus
value
altimeter
calorimeter
halogenic
rally
valuer
altitude
calque 5 heraldic 12 recalcitrant
valve

/æ/ Notes

  1. algal, and alkali
    The stressed (first) syllable has this vowel. See also under AL: /ə/.
  2. allied
    This is the adjective (as in, for example, "allied troops"). When used as a past participle this word has the same stress (and the same unstressed vowel) as the verb "ally" – see under AL: /ə/.
  3. alloy
    This is the noun. The same letters appear in words such as "unalloyed", which has an unstressed second syllable – see AL: /ə/.
  4. balalaika
    . The first syllable has this vowel; the "al" in the second syllable is unstressed – /ə/.
  5. calqueThis is not in the Macmillan English Dictionary, but it is in the Macmillan Dictionary Online. It is unlikely that an ESOL student would meet it, but it could arise in discussions of language
  6. counterbalance
    This is the sole representative of compound words formed with "balance". There are no separate entries either for idiomatic phrases (such as "balance of power" and "checks and balances").
  7. Dalai Lama
    Transcribed thus in the Macmillan English Dictionary but in the audio sample the sound is /ɑ:/.
  8. gallant
    This is the adjective, with stress on the first syllable. In the noun, the first syllable is unstressed – see AL: /ə/.
  9. genealogy
    Perhaps because of the popularity of genealogy on the Internet, the American English pronunciation (which Cambridge Dictionary of American English gives as having either /æl/ or /ɑl/) is often misheard, misreported, and then mistakenly learnt as /ɒ/ and misspelt as "geneology". As this is the only "-alogy" in English, it is possible that the erosion will continue , and that in 22nd-century English the a spelling will seem as old-fashioned as – for example – "shew" does today.
  10. hallowed
    The noun and the verb have limited (largely literary and/or poetic) use, but the past participle formed from the verb is still used in idioms such as ‘hallowed ground" or the hyperbolic – mock-reverential – "hallowed turf" in certain sports venues.
  11. hallucinogen
    The Macmillan English Dictionary gives this word the vowel sound /æ/, but the audio sample has /ə/ (like "hallucinate" and other derivatives, which are transcribed that way.
  12. heraldic
    It is not clear why the Macmillan English Dictionary does not include this word. Many others (for example, the Collins English Dictionary) do.
  13. maladjustment
    This is the sole representative of the many words that use the prefix "mal-" – with certain exceptions. These exceptions are generally cases where the remaining word, after the "mal-" is removed, is not a recognizable word in its own right.
  14. malfeasance
    This is included because the word "feasance", while it exists, is archaic and used chiefly in a legal context.
  15. malapropism
    This is included because the word "apropism" doesn‘t exist (except, perhaps, in a jocular context).
  16. malcontent
    This is included because, although the word "content" is recognizably etymologically relevant, the word is normally not a noun – not, that is, when stress is on the second syllable – (except in the British House of Lords, where it refers metonymically to the votes of people in favour of a motion, or to the voters themselves).
  17. mall
    The Macmillan English Dictionary gives a total of four transcriptions, two marked as "British English" and two marked as "American English". The two "British English" ones are /æ/ and /ɔ:/, but they both have the audio example /æ/. However, the one marked /ɔ:/ uses /æ/ in the context "shopping mall" – a context that tends to attract one of the American pronunciations (/ɔ/ – typically realized by speakers of British English as /ɔ:/).
  18. mallrat
    The Macmillan English Dictionary gives a "British English" pronunciation with /æ/. But as the word is American slang this pronunciation seems to be questionable. Certainly I have never heard it.
  19. malodorous
    The word "odorous" is not simply "giving off a smell", with a prefix indicating whether that smell is good or bad. (Similarly, "smelly" has an automatically negative connotation.)
  20. malware
    The "mal-" refers to the effect of the "-ware" rather than to its quality.
  21. palpitations
    Note the plural. The singular also exists, but the plural refers to a specific (though often ill- defined) physical condition.
  22. phalanx
    The Macmillan English Dictionary transcription is thus for British English, and gives /eɪ/ as American English – although the /eɪ/ pronunciation is common in the UK. In fact, the /æ/ seems to be common enough in the US for the /eɪ/ transcription to be linked to an American voice using /æ/.
  23. salmon and salmonella
    Note that in "salmon" the l is silent, whereas in "salmonella" it is not.
  24. shall
    In most other cases of words that end "-all" - "ball", "call", "fall", "gall", "hall" ... –  the pronunciation is /ɔ:/. Philologists are generally not surprised to find exceptional pronunciations in words that are dying out: the frequency graph at the Collins Dictionary entry for evidence of this decline. (The usage graph may take a few seconds to load, and by default it shows usage in the ten years to 2008; Use the drop-down menu to select 100 years [or 300 years for the whole story – with an explosion in the late 18th century followed by a steady decline in the 19th and 20th centuries].)
  25. shallows and valuables
    This is a noun. Note the plural ending.
  26. shalom
    The Macmillan English Dictionary gives this transcription, but the audio clip has /ə/. Moreover, especially when sung, the vowel is commonly heard with the long vowel /ɑ:/.
  27. shalt
    This is archaic; it is the second person singular of the verb "shall", but is still used in Biblical (and pseudo-Biblical) quotations – particularly in the form "Thou shalt not...".
  28. tala
    Indian English musical term, used also by Westerners in the UK referring to Indian music.

That's all for now. I'll be keeping my head down until I can put something out on Kindle.

b

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

sonorants - further RefLectioN

This is some introductory stuff you may already have seen, expanded.

The UCL's SAMPA page (SAMPA being a typewriter-friendly* form of phonetic transcription, in  which "N" – for example – represents the IPA symbol /ŋ/ [the nasal consonant at the end of sing] ) defines sonorant consonants like this:

The sonorants are three nasals m n N, two liquids r l, and two sonorant glides w j
[BK: note that j is the glide often represented in English as "y", as in you].

UCL's SAMPA page 

*The web-site says 'computer-friendly' rather than typewriter-friendly, but surely in the 21st century there is not a computer – outside a museum, that is – that can't handle Unicode.

This grouping (of the sonorants) may at first sight seem rather arbitrary, but a quirk of English demonstrates their inter-relatedness. Consider words that can be given a negative spin by attaching the prefix in- – elegant/inelegant, for example. Students of ESOL know that there are several exceptions – for words with an initial l or m or r illicit, immoral, irrespective..onn the oy jer jand. These exception-creating letters are nearly always sonorants (though admittedly the im- one applies also to bilabials, as in imprecise and imbecile.... But those non-sonorant exceptions don't behave in the same way.  The sonorants simply double themselves, with the  first  of the pair replacing the n of the prefix;  in the case of words with an initial p or b, on the other hand, the n of the prefix assimilates to the bilabial that follows it – it would be hard not to [just try saying "inprecise"!] That n is not replaced, it is simply modified.)

An example from another language relates to Japanese speakers' problem with the English phonemes /r/ and /l/ . Both [r] and [l] sounds do exist in Japanese, but as context-dependent variants (allophones) of a single phoneme. (If the idea of allophones is new to you, consider the English words leek and keel. In the first, the [l] sound is formed toward the front of the mouth [the so-called "clear l"] and the [k] is formed at the back of the hard palate. In the second, the [k] sound is formed toward the front of the mouth,  and the [l] is formed at the back [the so-called "dark l"]. In both cases the distinct [l]s and [k]s are allophones of the /l/ and /k/ phonemes.)

Returning to English, consider what sort of letter can go in these contexts:
  • "<vowel>__<affricate>" (an affricate being – in English [other languages have many more] – /tʃ/ or /ʤ/); for example filch, bilge, lunch, lunge, perch, purge [in these cases, in non-rhotic accents, the r disappears but changes the preceding vowel, as some other sonorants do]....
  • "<vowel>__<fricative>" (fricatives including – in English [other languages have many more] – /s/, /z/, /f/, /v/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /θ/, and /ð/); for example else, bells, shelf, shelves, welsh, [belge – native English words don't have this pattern], tilth, ....
  • "<stop>__<vowel>" (where the English stops are /p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /k/, /g/); for example plead, bleed, pre, Brie. lunch, lunge. (The nasals don't work in this pattern.)
  • "<unvoiced_fricative>__<vowel>"; for example slow, snow, flee, free, athlete, three. (The voiced fricatives don't work in this pattern – except in borrowings [such as zloty] and proper names [Hazlitt, Oslo, Wesley...]. And n works only before s; while even s can't be followed by r – except in colloquial contractions such as "s'right" and the borrowed "Sri".)
All these examples demonstrate, how there is something special about sonorants. This book sets out to show how that something special affects the way vowels behave in conjunction with them.

Update: 2016.10.06.12:45 Added afterthought in red (prompted by this morning's In Our Time – coincidence?)

Update: 2016.10.06.22:45 – Added a further  afterthought in blue.