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Questions tagged [english]

A Germanic language, which originated from England, and is considered the leading language in international communication.

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12answers
17k views

What characteristics are unique to English (or at least rare among language as a whole)?

After wondering about this today at work, I turned to the Internet. A short piece that focuses on pronunciation points toward "none". I've scoured ELU and Google (perhaps not as thoroughly or ...
35
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4answers
2k views

Why are certain there-sentences infelicitous in English?

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language states that the first three of the following four excerpts are semantically or pragmatically anomalous (to give that term some context, it cites We ...
31
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8answers
17k views

Why do Japanese people have difficulties in pronouncing English?

When I watch Anime, I notice that Japanese English pronunciation is really bad, they twist all the sounds, and they can't pronounce sounds like "L". I think English is the easiest language when it ...
29
votes
3answers
717 views

Why the prevalence of “ph” in transliteration?

Why is "ph" used so often (as opposed to "f") to transliterate the Hebrew "fei" sound into English? Examples: Alef - 1.3 million Google hits (MGh) Aleph - 3.7 MGh Seraf - 0.2 MGh Seraph - 2.2 MGh
28
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5answers
6k views

Why does English not have a cognate of words like heter, in Swedish, or llama, in Spanish, etc?

This is something that I think is present in most languages. If I were to present my self in English, I might say: My name is DisplayName. Where as in other languages I can both say: Mitt namn ...
21
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8answers
9k views

Why did English lose declensions while German retained them?

Why (or more specifically what caused) did English lose cdeclensions whilst they were retained in German? I ask as I have recently been reading into the various Germanic languages and it struck me ...
21
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2answers
35k views

English text corpus for download

I need a free English language corpus with at least 15 million words. The corpus should contain one or more plain text files. There should be no tagging, just raw text. The corpus should be free. I ...
20
votes
1answer
11k views

When does copula absence occur in African-American Vernacular English?

In what contexts can the zero copula occur in African-American Vernacular English? What rules govern its use—for example, what makes she runnin' more likely to be acceptable than ?she a runner? Some ...
19
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4answers
2k views

Is the schwa sound consistent?

The first syllable in "about" (ə'baʊt) is schwa, so is the second one in the "salad" ('sæləd), but iv'e never heard them pronounced the same way. in salad it sounds more like the i in "trick". ...
18
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10answers
8k views

What makes a non-native English speaker sound foreign?

I'm not a native speaker. However, I have tried a lot during last 10 years to learn English at a high level of proficiency and to become fluent in conversation. However, when I talk to some of my ...
18
votes
7answers
4k views

Is spoken English more efficient than other languages?

Oftentimes while watching a subtitled foreign film, I find that reading the subtitles aloud (usually in my head) at the same1 pace as the speaker takes less time than what's spoken in the native ...
16
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2answers
46k views

The Origin of the Word 'God'

I originally posted this a while ago on my blog, but someone recently suggested that I pose it as a question here. A brief Wikipedia search on the origin of the word ‘god’ reveals the following: ...
16
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6answers
11k views

Do absolute synonyms exist?

By absolute synonyms, I mean words (in the same language) that are interchangeable in all situations. There can't be differences in register, meaning, or emotional value. Is there material that ...
15
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5answers
1k views

Are Written and Spoken English distinct languages?

First of all, I am not a linguist, but I was thinking the other night that being literate was almost the same as being bilingual. My reasoning is that sign language is distinct from written and ...
15
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2answers
673 views

Are American English and British English growing closer together or drifting further apart?

I'm mostly wondering about vocabulary (e.g. truck vs. lorry; apartment vs. flat) but I suppose I'd be interested to learn about pronunciation too. Intuitively I feel like this could go either way. ...
14
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6answers
36k views

Why did England not maintain French as a spoken language?

In many countries around the world, especially in Africa, the people natively speak both an indigenous language and French due to French colonization. The Norman conquest of England left us with many,...
13
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1answer
2k views

Do the words “angst” and “anxiety” share a common root?

The English word angst, taken from German Angst, seems to ultimately originate from Proto-Germanic *angustiz. This word has descendants in many Germanic languages, including, but not limited to, ...
12
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1answer
268 views

The current status of Irish Gaelic in Ireland

In addition to all the usual phonology, grammar, and vocabulary one has to learn for a new language there is the social situation, among many things when is it appropriate to speak in one register or ...
11
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9answers
2k views

Why are there inflections?

I'm from a Chinese background. I wonder why there are inflections in many languages, as compared with no inflections in Chinese. I personally suppose that a language should originate simple and easy ...
11
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6answers
3k views

What languages are the most similar to English?

I speak English and Bengali with similar proficiency, at least in the 'lower' registers of the languages. Since I was a small child in a bilingual home I've been struck by how, despite having ...
11
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4answers
922 views

Why does ISO 639-3 have many language codes for Arabic but only one for English?

ISO 639-3 has many language codes for Arabic, but only one for English. I'm an Arab who is familiar with multiple Arabic dialects. We do not call it anything but "لهجات" which is translated to "...
11
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4answers
2k views

Can prepositional phrases with “of” ever be adjuncts to nouns, or only complements in English? If they can't be adjuncts, why?

This question came up while doing syntax homework. It seems to me that prepositional phrases with "of" can only ever be complements to nouns, not adjuncts. The basis for my conclusion was that, while ...
11
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1answer
623 views

Diachronic devoicing of initial lenis plosives in English

I get the impression that in the "classical Received Pronunciation" of English during phonetician Jones's era, the lenis plosives /b/, /d/, /g/ (and probably the affricate /dʒ/ as well) in initial ...
10
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2answers
2k views

Why can “autarchy” be spelled with an “k” while other words not? [closed]

English has a set of words with "ch", coming — more or less directly — from the Greek language. They all have a /k/ sound. character charisma psychology choreography archive Just to name a few. All ...
10
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2answers
2k views

Why IPA does not indicate “soft” consonants in English?

I am a native Russian speaker. Sometimes I encounter English speakers who are trying to learn Russian and wonder how to pronounce "soft" consonants. At the same time while learning English I noticed ...
10
votes
1answer
1k views

What is this feature of British English called?

In British English you'll often hear them post-fixing expressions that American English tends to keep up front. For example, I've heard British English speakers (golf commentators in particular) say ...
10
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1answer
207 views

Analysis of 'fuck off has he', 'bollocks do they', and the like

Is anybody aware of published analysis of this interesting construction, which seems to require what I will loosely term swear words to work? I believe I've only heard it in British English: A1 - ...
10
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3answers
27k views

Why is “Aurora Borealis” from Greek, but “Aurora Australis” from Latin?

In astronomy we have the Aurora Australis in the south and the Aurora Borealis in the north. According to Wikipedia, auster is in fact the Latin equivalent of the Greek νότος, or southern wind. ...
10
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2answers
950 views

Distinguishing between epistemic and circumstantial readings (without recourse to temporality)?

How can you/should you empirically distinguish between epistemic and circumstantial readings of modals? I (at least think I) understand how the two readings are supposed to be distinguished ...
10
votes
1answer
501 views

Why exactly is *“I Am America (And So Can You!)” ungrammatical?

Stephen Colbert wrote a book entitled “I Am America (And So Can You!)”. As discussed in a question on English Language and Usage, the title is an intentionally strange way of saying "I am America, and ...
10
votes
1answer
450 views

Universals and emphatic pronouns

In (spoken) English, the object pronouns "me/you/her/him/us/them" are, in some sense, the "unmarked" pronouns. (I only claim native knowledge of English as it is spoken in parts of the US). By this I ...
10
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1answer
531 views

Feminisation of men's language?

I was wondering whether there has been (generally) a feminisation of "men's language". Lakoff's claims in "women's and men's language" are almost half a century old and there have been contradictory ...
10
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2answers
545 views

Do dialects without the meet-meat merger neutralize the distinction in some contexts?

For many dialects of English (including my own) multiple historical lexical sets are merged into one "FLEECE" set (this diaphoneme can be represented with IPA /iː/). I've read about the basics of the ...
9
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3answers
2k views

Why was apostrophe so vaguely used in Early Modern English?

So I have noticed in many of Shakespeare's poems that he used apostrophes in places where we don't usually see them now. For Example: In the poem 'Fear No More' the first line is "Fear no more the ...
9
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7answers
5k views

Is there a reason behind the phenomenon of English becoming more vulgar with time?

In the last few years I have noticed both with colleagues and from online discussions a tendency for English language writing and speech to become more and more vulgar. That is, I see explicatives ...
9
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4answers
1k views

Why in English words is [o] followed by [ʊ]?

The close-mid back rounded vowel is, according to Wikipedia, "usually diphthongized to [oʊ]". Examples: row, also. In fact, in the Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary I didn't see o ...
9
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2answers
557 views

How did the present continuous in English get to be such a dominant present tense?

In French if I write the sentence Je mange le déjeuner it would/could be the same as if I am saying I am eating lunch. What is going on in French goes on in a number of the other Romance ...
9
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3answers
891 views

Why can't these English sentences passivize?

The active sentences (1a) and (2a) below can be passivized just like most English active clauses, resulting in (1b) and (2b): 1a. His candor struck me. 1b. I was struck by his candor. 2a. Her ideas ...
9
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1answer
311 views

How come I cannot get my “oral” English to a native speaker level after 25 years of trying?

I was born in Russia and moved to the US at the adolescent and prepubescent age of 12. Before my relocation to the US I had never really been exposed to the English language at large, and after my ...
9
votes
2answers
5k views

Why “Kampuchea” → “Cambodia”?

Many place names in English are anglicizations/transliterations of their native names. Of those, many place names in Asia seem to have undergone a change over the past few decades: they've gone from a ...
9
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4answers
2k views

Why are only yes/no questions asked with a rising tone?

There is a rule used almost subconsciously by almost all English speakers (and I'm sure it applies to many other languages too) which is that yes/no questions are asked ending with a rising tone, and ...
9
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2answers
8k views

Status of “Mmm” or “Hmm”

I would like to know whether nasally produced sounds like "Mmmm" or "Hmmm" constitute verbal or non-verbal language. Essentially I am a language testing professional, operating within very narrowly ...
9
votes
2answers
1k views

Is the word “here” a preposition?

In a related question, I got entangled in a debate whether the word "here" (which I would classify readily as an adverb) is in reality a preposition. I am curious which modern analyses find ...
9
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3answers
640 views

What motivates / allows preposition stranding in English, but disallows it in other languages, like Mandarin?

If someone could direct me to papers/sites that describe this, and a summary or something, that would be great. It is just a parameter for languages? What do linguists think so far? Example: "Which ...
9
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1answer
221 views

Is there an automatic way of identifying transitive verbs in Computational Linguistics?

Is there any straightforward way of identifying transitive verbs (or sentences containing transitive constructions) in an BrE English text? I've looked into semantic shallow parsers, such as Semafor, ...
9
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1answer
122 views

Is there a word-list for child English?

Are there any publications which list words of English that one might reasonably expect a child to know? I assume that "father" would be on the list, and "allophone; metallurgy" would not be. As for ...
9
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1answer
511 views

Etymology of the word “sport”

I wonder what is the etymology of the word sport. Vasmer says that it is from disport "amusement", a contraction from Middle English disporten from Old French desporter "to take away", "to distract ...
8
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4answers
416 views

What is the name of the phoneme produced in an upper-class Briton's pronunciation of the word “Duke”? What's different in the articulation?

This question has been copied directly from English Language & Usage where it received plenty of interest but the answers had lots of flaws and no resolutions was reached. It was originally asked ...
8
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4answers
4k views

Why did English stop using thou?

In Shakespearean English, thou/thee/thy/thine were used for second person singular, and you/your/yours were used for second person plural. In modern English, you is used for both singular and plural. ...
8
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4answers
4k views

Correct syllabification in (American) English

I need to figure out what the proper syllabification of words in American English is and why. PLEASE NOTE: I am interested in syllabification from a phonetic point of view, not in terms of hyphenation/...