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Posts tagged ‘English’

The Evolution of Canadian, Australian and NZ Englishes

On Quora, I once answered a question about why Australian and NZ English sound more like “British English” (really, the questioner meant the accents of southeast England) than Canadian English does. At the time I answered, a lot of the other answers were along the lines of “Canada is sooooo diverse and Australia isn’t so that’s why”, even though in reality the …

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Why aren't words pronounced the way they're spelt?

Some time ago on Q&A website Quora, I answered a question about why English words aren’t pronounced the way they’re spelt. The original question made particular reference to the name Greenwich, which as you may know is pronounced in modern times as /ɡɹɛnɪtʃ/ (“grenitch”, if you’re not familiar with IPA). But if the first part is “green” and …

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My honest opinion that I absolutely will not stand by if challenged by someone with coercive power over me is that English needs more flexibility to spell how you feel. I write “centre”, as is standard in Australian English, but “centring” looks so wrong compared to “centering”…

Mental Models of Languages

So as we know, children acquire their native language by being exposed to lots and lots of input in that language, internalising it, and not only memorising vocabulary but also developing mental rules (the grammar) of how that language is spoken. As such, when we come to be adults, we have a very sophisticated mental model for what’s grammatical and what’s not in our native language. …

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A linguistic pet peeve of mine: people saying “all X are not Y” when what they mean is “not all X are Y”. I’m usually easygoing about language differences, but this one completely changes the meaning of what you’re saying in a way where it isn’t always obvious what you meant. It’s clearly a mistake semantically, and one that’s been getting more and more frequent in recent years, at least online. You can’t (honestly) say things like “all kids don’t like sports” or “all Americans don’t live in urban areas with good service”… (the likes of which I see on Reddit all the time)

Double Object Pronouns in English

When I was studying linguistics at uni, one constant refrain was that native speakers (not grammarians) are the arbiters of what is and is not grammatical in a given language. None of this “you can’t put prepositions at the end of a sentence!” or “no split infinitives!” nonsense; those sound totally fine to English native speakers, so they’re grammatical.

This …

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I feel like this is an underappreciated fact: the American South is not the only place where people say y’all. My partner’s Indian South African relatives use it just as extensively (although they usually spell it your’ll!). Apparently it evolved separately in the two dialects.

photo of Jessica Smith is a left-wing feminist who loves animals, books, gaming, and cooking; she’s also very interested in linguistics, history, technology and society.