Phonemes—the topic of my last two posts—are the smallest bits of language that make a difference. A phoneme doesn’t mean anything, it just allows us to tell one word (or morpheme) from another. So the phonemes /p/ and /b/ allow us to tell the word “pat” from the word “bat”. Phonemes are more or less … Continue reading Phonemes, Morphemes, and People
A phoneme is the smallest bit of language that makes a difference. Making a difference is just what phonemes do. They make one word different from another. In English, for example, the difference between the phonemes /p/ and /b/ makes “pin” different from “bin”, “pat” different from “bat”, “tap” different from “tab”, and so on … Continue reading What’s the Difference?
The letter ‘p’ changed my life. I was a junior in high school, and I was attending a science fair at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. Like most science fairs, this one was dominated by exhibits and presentations about physics and chemistry and biology, but I saw that a professor from the department of linguistics … Continue reading The Letter “p”
I first saw the word “vote-a-rama” a week ago Wednesday, when it appeared in a CNN headline, after the covid relief bill passed in the Senate: “Bill Passes After All-Night Vote-a-rama”. I knew that the process of voting had been delayed and took many hours, and I supposed that the word “vote-a-rama” must refer somehow … Continue reading Vote-a-rama
After I posted “Things and Actions” I had a couple of afterthoughts. First, I mentioned that one way to turn a noun into a verb or a verb into a noun is just to do it. Then I came across the following passage from another of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels, “Too Many Clients” (p. … Continue reading Second Thoughts on Things and Actions
Just by chance I was looking through a popular science book about quantum physics (don’t ask me anything, I don’t understand it), and I came across this passage: “Here’s one way to describe what physics is all about. It’s about what is (things) and what happens (actions).” [Kenneth W. Ford. The Quantum World: Quantum Physics … Continue reading Things and Actions
At the end of my last post I left E. M. Forster somewhat defensively trying to find a definition of the category “novel”. But novels don’t really fit the kind of classic definition he was looking for. A classic definition of a category has a firm boundary; everything inside the boundary belongs to the category … Continue reading How Many Roads?
In my last post (“Verbish Nouns and Nounish Verbs”) I began to talk about what a noun is and what a verb is, and I started with a couple of definitions: a verb is “a word expressing an action or a state of being”, while nouns are “used to name persons, places, things, animals, qualities, … Continue reading “Girl Twenty, define a horse.”
In my last post I discussed English words that can be used either as nouns or verbs. There are lots—farm, hammer, nail, spoon, dog, silence, light, cost, and so on and so on and so on. (I will call these bivalent words, just to have a term for them.) And that got me to thinking … Continue reading Verbish Nouns and Nounish Verbs
In this post I am pleased to present a guest column, “Trauma and Reading Homer”, by Joel Christensen. Joel is Associate Professor and Chair of Classical Studies at Brandeis University. He is the author/editor of one of my favorite blogs, sententiae antiquae (see the blogroll on the side for a link). He has recently published … Continue reading Guest Column: Trauma and Reading Homer, by Joel Christensen.