Saturday, March 18, 2006

English prepositions in Kenya

From a back issue of English Today:

Prepositions vanishing in Kenya
English Today,  Volume 20, Issue 01, January 2004, pp 27-32
ACCORDING to Schmied (1991a:52), ‘there is some evidence that language learners in general use simplification strategies at an early stage and try to reproduce memorized phrases from the target language later, irrespective of the linguistic and pragmatic context.’ The English prepositional system is well known for its complexity and language learners might well be inclined to simplify in order to reduce such complexities. Indeed, there is evidence from the East African component of the International Corpus of English (ICE-EA) of such a process of simplification in the use of prepositions in the English of Kenya. As a result, some prepositions might well disappear from use in this second-language variety of English.



Posted by Nathan Bierma on 03/18 at 05:03 PM
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Friday, March 17, 2006

‘property’ as a verb in Shakespeare

I got grumpy the other day when I heard the word “transitioning” and another verbed noun within the span of two sentences. But Shakespeare probably wouldn’t have been so grumpy. From the OED:

property, v
Obs. or rare. 

[f. prec. n.]

  1. trans. To make a ‘property’ or tool of, to use for one’s own ends, to exploit. Obs.

1595 SHAKES. John V. ii. 79, I am too high-borne to be propertied To be a..seruing-man, and Instrument To any Soueraigne State throughout the world. 1758 Herald I. Ded. 5 There a vast fund of stupidity amongst mankind, to make continually property’d away for the interests of a few crafty leaders.

  2. To make one’s own property, to appropriate, to take or hold possession of.

1607 SHAKES Timon I. i. 57 His large Fortune..Subdues and properties to his loue and tendance All sorts of hearts. 1833 T. HOOK Parson’s Dau. I. x, A being like Emmawhose sentiments, whose character, are propertied by the one, one engrossing passion.

  3. To imbue with a property or quality: see PROPERTIED 1.

Posted by Nathan Bierma on 03/17 at 11:30 AM
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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Auixiliary drop in Early Modern German

From Leiden Working Papers in Linguistics:

Anne Breitbarth (Tilburg University): Pragmatic aspects of Early Modern German auxiliary drop. Leiden Papers in Linguistics 3.1, 1-15.

Abstract: In this paper I argue that the ellipsis of finite auxiliaries, one of the more curious properties of Early Modern German, developed as a formal and pragmatic mark of the dependency of clauses. text


Posted by Nathan Bierma on 03/12 at 02:09 PM
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In a TV clip of an interview with a Mardis-Gras-goer, he used the word “dewatered” to describe the better parts of the city. I’d never heard that word, but M-W recognizes it: “to remove water from” It also shows up on a site called (I haven’t checked Lexis-Nexis.)

Gas service is available to approximately 83 percent of customers but is not available in the Ninth Ward.  Gas servicemen continue to re-supply gas customers in areas where the gas system has been dewatered and service has been restored. link

Posted by Nathan Bierma on 03/12 at 02:04 PM
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Friday, March 03, 2006

‘On Language’ 3/1: Is e-English ‘evolving grammar’?

The vocabulary of e-English doesn’t bust grammar mold
On Language
Chicago Tribune
March 1, 2006
By Nathan Bierma

Computer-speak is not just a dialect or vocabulary—it has grammatical principles all its own. That’s the claim in the current issue of English Today made by Angela P. Cheater, who teaches sociology and English at Macao Polytechnic Institute on the peninsula of Macao, a special administrative region of China.

“When teaching the course `English for Information Technology,’” Cheater writes, “I have been asked grammatical questions about e-applications to which there are, at best, only speculative answers.” So Cheater started looking into the grammar of what she calls “e-English,” especially the ways words change their part of speech in technological language.

But Cheater’s suggestion that the grammar of e-English is new or different doesn’t hold up. In fact, for each of her categories of the ways words are formed in e-English, I found an example from regular English.

- Making nouns out of prepositions: Cheater says she had never heard a preposition used to make a noun until she came across the words “aboutness” and “non-aboutness,” which refer to the relevance of a document to a search query.

This is unusual but not restricted to e-English. As Cheater notes, the word “aboutness” originated in philosophy. Meanwhile, a report at the website of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) refers to “a customary economy with complete ‘belowness’ and a command economy with complete ‘aboveness.’”


Posted by Nathan Bierma on 03/03 at 10:24 AM
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