(L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Aevas »

Swedish is full of such high/front-back/low pairs as well. Some off the top of my head:

ditt och datt 'this and that, odds and ends (with the back vowel first!)'
krimskrams 'rubbish, novelties, knick-knacks'
hipp som happ 'haphazardly, at random, willy-nilly'

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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Ser »

Salmoneus wrote:
28 Apr 2020 21:33
Regarding proximity: it continually trips me up that Irish sin means 'there', while 'here' is seo. It should be the other way around, damn it!
/ʃɪnʲ/ and /ʃɔ/. Yeah, I can see that...

Mandarin would score pretty badly: 這 [ʈʂɤ:˥˨] 'this' (also the root of 'here'), 那 [na:˥˨] 'that' (id. for 'that'), 我 [wɔ˨˩] '1SG'.

Classical Chinese has a wealth of demonstratives, but the most unmarked ones are (with Middle Chinese pronunciations): 此 [tsʰje] 'this', 彼 [pje] 'that', 是 [dʑe] '(anaphoric); this'. And then there's 吾 [ŋu] and 我 [ŋɑ] for the 1SG pronoun.

Standard Arabic isn't exactly inspiring either: [ˈhʊnæ(:)] 'here', [hʊˈnæ:kæ] 'there', [ˈʔænæ] '1SG'.


Maybe Pinker was only talking about English and French (ici, là-bas). Even Spanish fails with aquí 'here' and ahí/allí 'there'.
Last edited by Ser on 29 Apr 2020 03:56, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Ser »

By the way, I was once told about a pattern in German where "k + n/l + mid rounded vowel" appears in word roots for small rounded things. It may possibly be true of all of West Germanic or even Germanic, but I wouldn't know. Middle English solidly qualifies with "knob/knot/knoll/knuckle/knee/clod/clot/cloud/clump" at least, the first few still with [kn] at the time... Apparently, "cleat" could also still mean clump, and "clue" a yarn ball. There is also "clay", which could count since soft balls seem to be the most obvious shape...

der Knauf (pl Knäufe) 'door knob'
der Knopf (pl Knöpfe) 'button'
der Kloß (pl Klöße) 'thick lump'
die Knolle (pl Knollen) 'tuber bulb (of garlic, potatoes, etc.)'
die Knospe (pl Knospen) 'bud (of a plant)'
das Knie [ˈkni:] (pl Knie [ˈkni:ə]) 'knee'
das Knäuel (identical pl) 'yarn ball'
der Knoten (identical pl) 'knot'
der Klumpen (identical pl) 'lump in one's skin/muscle'
der Knöchel (identical pl) 'ankle; knuckle'
pl die Klöten '(vulgar) balls, testicles'

Interestingly, the northern half of the German-speaking world seems to use der Kloß for 'dumpling of food', but the southern half use der Knödel (identical plural), from some high German dialect. At a stretch, maybe we could also include der Kuchen (identical plural) 'pie, cake' and die Quaddel (type plural Quaddeln) 'allergic rash, hives'.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Vlürch »

Does anyone know what the etymology of :irn: لال (lâl, "red") is? Wiktionary doesn't list it and I couldn't find an Old Persian term that could be its etymon, but maybe I just suck. Proto-Turkic *āl is similar but lacks the initial consonant, so I'm not sure if it makes sense to even consider since there's probably a simpler explanation than partial reduplication from a Turkic loan...
All4Ɇn wrote:
28 Apr 2020 19:33
Big Bad Wolf (which even goes against the typical English rules for adjective order).
I thought it's because it's a bad wolf that's big, not a big wolf that's bad... Image But reading Sal's post about it, I question whether that's even something I thought or just something I now assumed must be what I thought until now. I mean, "a big wooden boat" or whatever does sound more sensical than "a wooden big boat" and... my head is confused now, over something I had never even consciously thought about AFAIK.🤔

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Post by sangi39 »

Vlürch wrote:
02 May 2020 11:44
Does anyone know what the etymology of :irn: لال (lâl, "red") is? Wiktionary doesn't list it and I couldn't find an Old Persian term that could be its etymon, but maybe I just suck. Proto-Turkic *āl is similar but lacks the initial consonant, so I'm not sure if it makes sense to even consider since there's probably a simpler explanation than partial reduplication from a Turkic loan...
I honestly can't find anything either, but I wouldn't be surprised if that's down to not being able to read and understand Persian, and so far it doesn't look like anyone else, employing English online anyway, is certain on this.

The closest I've found so far is in the word Persian word lâle (tulip), which the Wikipedia article seems to suggest as coming from the word lâl (mute, speechless), apparently related to the shape of the flower as "closed lips". How true that is though, I have no idea.

The wiktionary article on the Albanian word lule (flower), however, gives suggests that it, and lâle, are from a "Balkan" word from some substrate language, ultimately from Ancient Egyptian (Middle) /ħaˈɾuːɾaʔ/ (which might be the origin of the word "lily" in English, through Latin, Greek, and Coptic). Then once it got into Persian, a derivative came to mean "red".

That's about the best I've managed, but I'm really not sure about any of it.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by qwed117 »

sangi39 wrote:
04 May 2020 19:15
Vlürch wrote:
02 May 2020 11:44
Does anyone know what the etymology of :irn: لال (lâl, "red") is? Wiktionary doesn't list it and I couldn't find an Old Persian term that could be its etymon, but maybe I just suck. Proto-Turkic *āl is similar but lacks the initial consonant, so I'm not sure if it makes sense to even consider since there's probably a simpler explanation than partial reduplication from a Turkic loan...
I honestly can't find anything either, but I wouldn't be surprised if that's down to not being able to read and understand Persian, and so far it doesn't look like anyone else, employing English online anyway, is certain on this.

The closest I've found so far is in the word Persian word lâle (tulip), which the Wikipedia article seems to suggest as coming from the word lâl (mute, speechless), apparently related to the shape of the flower as "closed lips". How true that is though, I have no idea.

The wiktionary article on the Albanian word lule (flower), however, gives suggests that it, and lâle, are from a "Balkan" word from some substrate language, ultimately from Ancient Egyptian (Middle) /ħaˈɾuːɾaʔ/ (which might be the origin of the word "lily" in English, through Latin, Greek, and Coptic). Then once it got into Persian, a derivative came to mean "red".

That's about the best I've managed, but I'm really not sure about any of it.
This wordreference thread appears to indicate that it came from an Middle Eastern wanderwort that came into Arabic and was borrowed into Persian
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by KaiTheHomoSapien »

Okay, fun question relating to English grammar: is "than" a conjunction or a preposition or both?

It seems weird to me to describe "than" as a preposition, but that seems to be the case in a sentence like "she is taller than me". Grammarians will just say this is wrong and it should be "she is taller than I" because there's an implied clause "I am" and thus it's still a conjunction. Should note that as a native speaker, I would never say "she is taller than I". It sounds pedantic and awkward. I would say "I am" or "me". If "me" is used, is "than" really being used as a preposition?

(Even "as" has this issue. In the phrase "as a preposition", isn't "as" being used as a preposition?)

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KaiTheHomoSapien wrote:
05 May 2020 17:40
Okay, fun question relating to English grammar: is "than" a conjunction or a preposition or both?
Both! Yaaay!!

Someone was just talking about this on another forum I belong to. "Than" started as a conjunction, but there was a tendency to drop the verb in the clause after "than" (He is taller than I [am]). Because of that, some reanalyzed it as a preposition; accordingly, the objective forms of pronouns started to be used, as is normal after prepositions (He is taller than me).

To me, all three possible constructions (He is taller than I am. / He is taller than I. / He is taller than me.) sound valid. I probably default to the third one. The first two feel more formal/useful for disambiguation. What part of speech "than" is for a given person probably depends on their personal language experience.

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Post by Khemehekis »

Compare:

My boyfriend likes anime better than I.

with:

My boyfriend likes anime better than me.
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Post by KaiTheHomoSapien »

Thanks for explaining. I guess I hadn't thought about what the definition of "preposition" actually is, but looking at it, "than" and "as" fit when used in these ways. It was also a discussion on another site that inspired me to ask this, although prescriptivists saying that "than me" is always 100% wrong were involved too. >:(

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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Salmoneus »

Dormouse559 wrote:
05 May 2020 20:41
KaiTheHomoSapien wrote:
05 May 2020 17:40
Okay, fun question relating to English grammar: is "than" a conjunction or a preposition or both?
Both! Yaaay!!

Someone was just talking about this on another forum I belong to. "Than" started as a conjunction, but there was a tendency to drop the verb in the clause after "than" (He is taller than I [am]). Because of that, some reanalyzed it as a preposition; accordingly, the objective forms of pronouns started to be used, as is normal after prepositions (He is taller than me).
I'm a little skeptical of this idea.

"Than" actually started as an adverb, back in Old English. But I suspect it very quickly merged with "tha", which was used in comparisons exactly as "than" is now, and perhaps with "thone", the accusative form of 'the', which came to be used as a relative pronoun.


However, while I know I've read something on this, I must admit I can't remember what its conclusions were, so maybe if we had the historical data to hand it'd prove me wrong...

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KaiTheHomoSapien wrote:
06 May 2020 00:12
Thanks for explaining. I guess I hadn't thought about what the definition of "preposition" actually is, but looking at it, "than" and "as" fit when used in these ways. It was also a discussion on another site that inspired me to ask this, although prescriptivists saying that "than me" is always 100% wrong were involved too. >:(
To be clear, anyone who says that "than me" is always wrong is an idiot who doesn't understand their own rule. Sentences like "she likes him more than me", meaning "she likes him more than [she likes] me" have always been considered valid. Well, for a very long time, at least. And there's no principled reason to prohibit them.

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Post by Dormouse559 »

Salmoneus wrote:
06 May 2020 01:34
"Than" actually started as an adverb, back in Old English. But I suspect it very quickly merged with "tha", which was used in comparisons exactly as "than" is now, and perhaps with "thone", the accusative form of 'the', which came to be used as a relative pronoun.
I left this out, but as I understand it, "than" comes from Old English þonne, which is the etymon of both "than" and "then". "Þonne" had both adverb and conjunction meanings, and the two senses were eventually split off onto different variants.

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Post by Salmoneus »

Dormouse559 wrote:
06 May 2020 04:02
Salmoneus wrote:
06 May 2020 01:34
"Than" actually started as an adverb, back in Old English. But I suspect it very quickly merged with "tha", which was used in comparisons exactly as "than" is now, and perhaps with "thone", the accusative form of 'the', which came to be used as a relative pronoun.
I left this out, but as I understand it, "than" comes from Old English þonne, which is the etymon of both "than" and "then". "Þonne" had both adverb and conjunction meanings, and the two senses were eventually split off onto different variants.
Yes, but the adverbial meaning is older, hence the adverbial form of the word (the -ne ending).

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Post by Omzinesý »

I have heard that in Chinese clause like: [man] [eat] [fish] can be interpreted either 'The man ate a fish.' or 'The man was eaten by a fish.'
Is it so?

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Post by Ser »

Omzinesý wrote:
08 May 2020 12:37
I have heard that in Chinese clause like: [man] [eat] [fish] can be interpreted either 'The man ate a fish.' or 'The man was eaten by a fish.'
Is it so?
No. "Man eat fish" can only mean "the man/men eat fish" (or "are eating", "were eating"... could also be either multiple fish or one fish).

What you were told is a badly mangled form of a classic example in Chinese linguistics of the topic-comment construction, and how it creates ambiguities in interpretation, namely:

魚還沒吃啊。
yú hái méi chī a
fish still not.PAST eat SFP
'The fish haven't eaten yet.'
'The fish haven't been eaten yet.'

In the first interpretation, 魚 yú is syntactically either a topic or subject, and either way it is also the subject of 吃 chī 'to eat', so the fish haven't eaten any of their food. Meanwhile, in the second interpretation, 魚 yú is a topic, and also the object of 吃 chī, so it says that the unstated subject of the verb (Mandarin is a pro-drop language) has not eaten the fish yet.

(SFP here is "sentence final particle". 啊 can add many kinds of meanings depending on context, softening the statement, or expressing agreement with a similar previous statement, or adding a good mood to the statement, or a surprised tone, or depending on how it is said maybe a lazy tone... You see why I simply gloss it as "SFP"?)
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Vlürch »

sangi39 wrote:
04 May 2020 19:15
That's about the best I've managed, but I'm really not sure about any of it.
qwed117 wrote:
04 May 2020 21:21
This wordreference thread appears to indicate that it came from an Middle Eastern wanderwort that came into Arabic and was borrowed into Persian
Thanks, good to know that it's actually uncertain haha! It's always interesting to learn when words have uncertain etymologies with more than one possibility.

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Post by Omzinesý »

Ser wrote:
08 May 2020 19:50
Omzinesý wrote:
08 May 2020 12:37
I have heard that in Chinese clause like: [man] [eat] [fish] can be interpreted either 'The man ate a fish.' or 'The man was eaten by a fish.'
Is it so?
No. "Man eat fish" can only mean "the man/men eat fish" (or "are eating", "were eating"... could also be either multiple fish or one fish).

What you were told is a badly mangled form of a classic example in Chinese linguistics of the topic-comment construction, and how it creates ambiguities in interpretation, namely:

魚還沒吃啊。
yú hái méi chī a
fish still not.PAST eat SFP
'The fish haven't eaten yet.'
'The fish haven't been eaten yet.'

In the first interpretation, 魚 yú is syntactically either a topic or subject, and either way it is also the subject of 吃 chī 'to eat', so the fish haven't eaten any of their food. Meanwhile, in the second interpretation, 魚 yú is a topic, and also the object of 吃 chī, so it says that the unstated subject of the verb (Mandarin is a pro-drop language) has not eaten the fish yet.

(SFP here is "sentence final particle". 啊 can add many kinds of meanings depending on context, softening the statement, or expressing agreement with a similar previous statement, or adding a good mood to the statement, or a surprised tone, or depending on how it is said maybe a lazy tone... You see why I simply gloss it as "SFP"?)
Thank you!

I cannot question the understanding of the one who said that. Maybe I just remember wrong. Or maybe they spoke about some "dialect".

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Post by Ser »

Omzinesý wrote:
12 May 2020 13:22
I cannot question the understanding of the one who said that. Maybe I just remember wrong. Or maybe they spoke about some "dialect".
By "classic example" I meant that it's a common example when the topic of topicalization comes up. Like how in English linguistics "the man that I saw yesterday's (hat)" is a common example about 's scope, or in French linguistics, "une tasse de/à thé" for purpose à, or in Arabic linguistics "Muhammad's house" when talking about the various strategies for possession... I don't think there's any Chinese dialect that allows OVS sentences so I think someone here is misremembering something. Image
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Ser »

Salmoneus wrote:
28 Apr 2020 21:31
All4Ɇn wrote:
28 Apr 2020 19:33
KaiTheHomoSapien wrote:
28 Apr 2020 18:44
There are a lot of instances of reduplication in English where the first element contains /ɪ/ and the second contains some other vowel (often /æ/ or /ɑ/), so-called "ablaut reduplication".

For example: wishy-washy, mish-mash, bric-a-brac, pitter-patter, flip-flop, chit-chat, hip-hop, etc.

Is there any "explanation" for why the pattern is high vowel first/low vowel second?
Not only does this distinction involve high vowel/low vowel but also front-central-back. There are several terms in English where instead of it being 2 words with the pattern /ɪ~i æ~ɑ/, it's 3 words with the pattern /ɪ~i æ~ɑ u~ʌ~o/ such as tic-tac-toe or Big Bad Wolf (which even goes against the typical English rules for adjective order).
I don't see the relevance of the second one - 'big bad wolf' is just some ordinary words in a story. If you pick any three words from a fairy time, eventually you'll get the pattern you want. ("Once upon a time" and "happily ever after" don't follow any obvious pattern!). And how does it go against the typical rules? Size adjectives typically precede other adjectives - hence the opening song of Reservoir Dogs has someone singing about a "little green bag", not a "green little bag". Cf little red riding hood. It's true that adjectives of estimation can come first ("nice little place you have here!"), but often not ("There's a small bad apple in the barrel", not *bad small apple). And 'big bad' has the same order as similar phrases like 'big horrible...', 'big scary...', 'big ugly...', etc Come to think of it, is it just 'little' that can violate this rule?
Well, the way this rule is usually taught to learners, "opinion/evaluative" adjectives like "bad" go first. See this page from dictionary.cambridge.org, for example. So that makes "big bad wolf" slightly surprising, although I agree that size often sounds alright in first place anyway, including before an opinion adjective.

Regardless of the validity of that ESL rule, I think ee-ah-oh is a real phonaesthetic pattern though. I think the metaphor is a high/strident beginning (ee), crescendo (ah) and conclusion (oh/oo). There may be some childish connotation to it too. Further examples beyond Big Bad Wolf and Tic-Tac-Toe would be:

Eeeny-meeny miny moe.

I am the Great Mighty Poo,
And I'm going to throw my sh*t at you.
(From the song of a silly boss battle in the Nintendo 64 videogame Conker's Bad Fur Day, by Rareware)

Somewhere out there,
If love can see us through,
Then we'll be together
Somewhere out there,
Out where dreams come true.
(Somewhere Out There, from the soundtrack of the Universal children's animated movie An American Tail)

You may reasonably argue I've just looked for examples here, and that tons of other songs may much more easily found that don't have this, but subjectively, psychologically the pattern feels so right and sensical to me...
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