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June 15

How many grammar rules are needed for speaking a language?

Every now and then I see lists of essential vocabulary for learners of (English as) a foreign language. They range from 1,000+ to 3,000 something. I wonder whether a list of essential grammar rules for nonnative learners would make sense too, and how long would this list be. It would for example include frequent structures like conditionals, relative clauses, but could exclude structures that can be circumvented like "He would have preferred to have been ..." or "Having been working for the government for a long time, my experience ..." --Hofhof (talk) 13:03, 15 June 2018 (UTC) Grammatical construction

It seems that you're asking about constructions, more than about "rules" in the ordinary sense. Our Grammatical construction article is unfortunately quite brief... AnonMoos (talk) 13:37, 15 June 2018 (UTC)
However, it links to Construction grammar, which has a lot more content. Loraof (talk) 15:19, 15 June 2018 (UTC)
These are quite good references. Are there works regarding concrete "inventory of constructions" (as they call them), that is, actual elements, not just describing the theoretical grammatical scaffold? --Hofhof (talk) 16:08, 15 June 2018 (UTC)
You could try looking at a descriptive grammar of English. Maybe you can even find one that numbers the constructions in English. Be aware, though, that authors may disagree on how many "rules" there are. Moreover, nesting and recursion can produce quite complex constructions. Linguists often study rules for constructing sentences, rather than specifying constructions. And, of course, speakers bend and break rules all the time. There is basically an unbounded realm of intelligible constructions. - Donald Albury 17:05, 15 June 2018 (UTC)
Ain't it the truth! Bearing in mind that the most important rule is to be understood by your audience. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 18:32, 15 June 2018 (UTC)
Tell that to James Joyce (the author of Finnegans Wake). -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 20:42, 15 June 2018 (UTC)
Hofhof -- "Construction grammar" is one particular type of linguistic theory. If you want a summary of English constructions without a heavy dose of abstract theory, then you could look at A Communicative Grammar of English by Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik, or The Syntactic Phenomena of English by James D. McCawley. If you're not afraid to go to an older source, there's always Otto Jespersen's A Modern English Grammar (in seven volumes)... AnonMoos (talk) 15:54, 16 June 2018 (UTC)

June 16

Pound sign as letter

The Chiricahua article contains the statement £igá' means "it is white". There's no mention of the currency symbol being used as a character in the £ article. Should it be the Ł L with stroke or L with middle tilde instead?

Our article Ł says “Ł or ł, described in English as L with stroke, is a letter of the West Slavic (Polish, Kashubian, and Sorbian), Łacinka (Latin Belarusian), Łatynka (Latin Ukrainian), Wymysorys, Navajo, Dene Suline, Inupiaq, Zuni, Hupa, and Dogrib alphabets”. Since this mentions several Indian languages, this is probably what was intended. Loraof (talk) 14:23, 16 June 2018 (UTC)
I've tried to find a source, and [1] gives "it is white" as łì-gài. I'm now going to fix the article, adding this citation. -- (talk) 15:14, 16 June 2018 (UTC)
It might be an old variant of Americanist phonetic notation, though I'm not familiar with it, and it's not listed in Pullum and Ladusaw's Phonetic Symbol Guide... AnonMoos (talk) 15:59, 16 June 2018 (UTC)
Note the pound sign was used for (!) [ʒ] in the Turkmen Latin alphabet shortly during the early 1990s. --Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 20:14, 16 June 2018 (UTC)
Chiricahua łigáí is cognate with Navajo łigai. —Stephen (talk) 02:13, 19 June 2018 (UTC)

Name that rhetorical technique

Here's an easy one for ya. What do you call it when people talk like this?

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians)

Whether pagan or Christian, whether man or woman, whether boy or girl, whether slave or free whoever has stolen from me, Annianus [son of] Matutina (?), six silver coins from my purse, you, Lady Goddess, are to exact [them] from him. If through some deceit he has given me...and do not give thus to him but reckon as (?) the blood of him who has invoked his upon me. (Bath curse tablets) Temerarius (talk) 17:52, 16 June 2018 (UTC)

Archaism? —2606:A000:1126:4CA:0:98F2:CFF6:1782 (talk) 05:48, 17 June 2018 (UTC)
"Archaism" is a literary style, not really a rhetorical strategy. Antithesis is much closer... AnonMoos (talk) 07:30, 17 June 2018 (UTC)
Even so, it's an old-fashioned way of writing. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 15:20, 17 June 2018 (UTC)
If you're referring to the pairing of contrasting terms, such as Jew/Gentile and slave/free, I think AnonMoos's suggestion of antithesis is correct. If you're referring to the parallelism of the neither ... neither ... nor and whether constructions, I think the term is isocolon, though our article isn't too clear. Deor (talk) 16:49, 17 June 2018 (UTC)
Vocabulary word of the day: "isocolon" —2606:A000:1126:4CA:0:98F2:CFF6:1782 (talk) 20:40, 17 June 2018 (UTC)

June 17


I'm not sure what "twist" means in the following context: "Rappers have also emerged from Indonesia and Vietnam, not to mention Taiwan, which has been a focal point since MC HotDog’s streak of regional success throughout the 2000s. Whether or not the East Asian twist on hip-hop and R&B will turn into a global phenomenon remains to be seen. This week, music fans at SXSW can catch some of the artists trying to make it happen." Thank you. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:35, 17 June 2018 (UTC)

"Variation" would be one synonym in this context. {The poster formerly known as} (talk) 09:21, 17 June 2018 (UTC)
In my culture I think it would equate to "slant", i.e. "...the East Asian slant on hip-hop and R&B". HiLo48 (talk) 10:06, 17 June 2018 (UTC)
"East Asian slant..." seems a particularly insensitive usage of language by whatever culture. --Cookatoo.ergo.ZooM (talk) 14:02, 17 June 2018 (UTC)
Nonsense. Take your PC male cow manure somewhere else. HiLo48 (talk) 21:15, 18 June 2018 (UTC)
No, you're the one talking nonsense. What you derisively call PC is simply the polite avoidance of words that might give offence. If there are other, un-loaded words available that mean the same thing – in this case twist, take or whatever – there's really no excuse for picking the culturally problematic term. --Viennese Waltz 15:46, 20 June 2018 (UTC)
The better term, as noted by 2.125, is "variation". ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 15:17, 17 June 2018 (UTC)
Yes, "variation" or "version of". Akld guy (talk) 20:18, 17 June 2018 (UTC)
Or, just "twist", which is widely understood by native speakers. In Wiktionary, it's the 19th sense, with a likely intentional nod to the 10th sense, given the musical subject matter. Matt Deres (talk) 00:42, 18 June 2018 (UTC)
Widely understood? Not among the native speakers I know. HiLo48 (talk) 21:16, 18 June 2018 (UTC)
Being a native speaker of English is not a requirement for reading the English Wikipedia. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 02:10, 18 June 2018 (UTC)
Says the person who argued for the exclusion of non-English language sources because it "restricts the checking that can be done". --Viennese Waltz 07:35, 18 June 2018 (UTC)
Different debate. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 14:03, 18 June 2018 (UTC)

I'm even wondering if twist is a play on words involving the dance The Twist ? Because that was the first thing I thought.Hotclaws (talk) 13:11, 20 June 2018 (UTC)

That would be a stretch. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:34, 20 June 2018 (UTC)
In music, it is very common to use the word "take" as in The Black Crowes take on Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle." That crosses the pond. I've seen plenty of "takes" on music in England as well as in America. (talk) 15:34, 20 June 2018 (UTC)

Kun readings for Korean place names

In our article about Japanese exonyms, it says that Japanese can refer to Korean place names using kun readings of their hanja. I wasn't aware of such a thing as I've invariably encountered on readings only. Am I wrong? Can someone point to some examples (I wasn't able to find any real occurrence of Incheon - Nigawa, the example reported in the article)? Thanks! -- (talk) 08:43, 17 June 2018 (UTC)

June 18

"The first since..."

I started to feel that "the first since..." and "for the first time since" became sort of sensationalist buzzwords. Obviously if something is "the first since...", then it's actually second, not first, making such wordings potentially confusing, if not misleading. But can't see any previous discussion of it elsewhere in the internet. Brandmeistertalk 18:52, 18 June 2018 (UTC)

It certainly gets a lot of use in the sports world, and any other endeavor that goes nuts over numbers. Passage of time is what it's about. Sometimes it's more significant than other times. In 2016, when the Cubs won the World Series, it was their first since 1908. That's significant. In 2018, they could have said the Warriors won their first NBA title since... well, 2017. I don't think anyone said that, though. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:43, 18 June 2018 (UTC)
I rank that expression alongside "fastest growing". With a sample of one, an addition of one gives a growth rate of 100%, whereas if I start with a million, an increase of two gives a growth rate of 0.00000002%. Which one is fastest growing? Both expressions are overused, confusing, and fairly meaningless. HiLo48 (talk) 20:55, 18 June 2018 (UTC)
All look like journalese, not sure how common it's in the everyday speech. Brandmeistertalk 21:19, 18 June 2018 (UTC)

Folks, this is not supposed to be a forum for discussion of opinions. Can we end this topic now, please? -- (talk) 21:49, 18 June 2018 (UTC)

  • User:Brandmeister, your premise - Obviously if something is "the first since...", then it's actually second, not first ... - is incorrect. Say a certain volcano has erupted many times throughout history, but it hasn't done so for the past 235 years. If it happens again today, it would be "the first since 1783". It would not be its second occurrence. The use of the expression in a context like this is unremarkable. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 21:58, 18 June 2018 (UTC)
    • That's a clearly valid use, but I too often hear unthinking folk in the media (think commercial TV current affairs) misuse it. HiLo48 (talk) 06:40, 19 June 2018 (UTC)

June 19


I'm trying to understand the following German sentences:

   Jede Kündigung bedarf zu ihrer Wirksamkeit der Schriftform. Die elektronische Form ist ausgeschlossen.

Google Translate puts it as:

   Each termination requires the written form to be effective. The electronic form is excluded.

Which is kinda confusing to me. I'm not sure whether it means:

1. Each termination needs to be submitted in physical paper form to be valid. That means all electronics forms are excluded from being valid.

2. Each termination needs to be submitted in physical paper form to be valid. The exception to this is electronic forms, which are also considered valid. Mũeller (talk) 12:23, 19 June 2018 (UTC)

The first is correct. What's meant is that you can't have a termination by e-mail. Fut.Perf. 12:27, 19 June 2018 (UTC)
Thanks. Is fax considered "Die elektronische Form" as well or not? Mũeller (talk) 13:11, 19 June 2018 (UTC)
This might verge into the domain of "legal advice" rather than linguistic information, but according to some online refs [2] fax might be considered to fall under the "electronic" category here. But IANAL and this isn't really a matter of how to correctly read that sentence grammatically. Fut.Perf. 13:19, 19 June 2018 (UTC)
Thank you very much! Mũeller (talk) 02:56, 20 June 2018 (UTC)

June 20

Kyrgyz or Kirghiz ?

After a discussion at here and there, I am thinking to change the name of my file.--Jeromi Mikhael (talk) 04:07, 20 June 2018 (UTC)

In the Kyrgyz language: кыргыз (kırgız). I use Kyrgyz. —Stephen (talk) 05:10, 20 June 2018 (UTC)
This is not strictly a language issue, but a nomenclature issue: Kirghiz SSR, while it existed, was primarily known as such in English, even though the spelling in Kyrgyz language was different. For another example, see how Kiev was primarily known as such in Soviet times, and as Kyiv thereafter. -- (talk) 06:04, 20 June 2018 (UTC)
The predominant spelling in English is still "Kiev", and on English Wikipedia, "Kyiv" redirects to "Kiev"... AnonMoos (talk) 03:18, 21 June 2018 (UTC)
With no intent of bringing the decade-old debate to the RD, may I withdraw my previous example, and point instead that Kishinev currently redirects to Chișinău, with the change in English spelling matching the political changes. -- (talk) 11:26, 21 June 2018 (UTC)

"Feature" as a verb

Is the following grammatically correct? (or, should that be "Are the following grammatically correct?")

  • Each X features Y
  • Each of the Xs feature Y.
  • X and Y feature Z.
  • Every X features Y.

What is the rule of grammar that governs this? —2606:A000:1126:4CA:0:98F2:CFF6:1782 (talk) 06:27, 20 June 2018 (UTC)

Sentence 2 is considered incorrect by traditional normative grammar, since "each" is considered singular no matter what post-modifiers follow it. It seems to be quite common in practice though. You could call it a kind of "proximity concord", where agreement is not dictated by what is the syntactic head of the subject phrase, but by the plural noun ("Xs") that stands nearest to the verb. This blog post [3] seems to have some useful pointers. Fut.Perf. 06:34, 20 June 2018 (UTC)
Future_Perfect_at_Sunrise -- the traditional terminology for proximity concord is "agreement by attraction" or (slightly more opaque) "agreement attraction". Wikipedia article is Attraction (grammar)... AnonMoos (talk) 03:14, 21 June 2018 (UTC)
Thanks for that link -- its new to me. (Same OP, new IP = (talk) 22:20, 21 June 2018 (UTC))

June 21

Etymology of the Persian word peri

Is the etymology of the Persian word peri (پری‎) known? Thanks. Basemetal 21:57, 21 June 2018 (UTC)

Persian Wikipedia has an article on پری → ... (weird things happen when attempting to create a wikiink) -- no idea if this helps, however. — (talk) 22:14, 21 June 2018 (UTC)
No etymological information there, but thanks. They do give one bit of information the other WPs do not, namely that the word is already present in Avestan (the other WPs only go back to Ferdowsi's Shahnameh) but, unfortunately, without source or reference to any Avestan text using it. Basemetal 22:32, 21 June 2018 (UTC)
Four etymologies given at wikt:پری‎. —Stephen (talk) 22:35, 21 June 2018 (UTC)
In addition to the Avestan derivation, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary adds that it's cognate with Latin paelex, 'concubine'. Deor (talk) 00:27, 22 June 2018 (UTC)
Moving past Iranian! Thanks Deor. Thanks to your paelex we get παλλακίς at Παλλάς, and ultimately PIE *parikeh₂ (“concubine, wanton woman”). Can that PIE form be right? (No source given). There should be no 'a' in PIE forms (unless as a combination of PIE *e and a laryngeal)? If it is correct, then it seems to be analyzable. Is there a PIE root *keh₂? Basemetal 10:32, 22 June 2018 (UTC)
To avoid weird effects when linking between languages, put an extra colon before the prefix: fa:پری. (It becomes invisible so look at the source.) —Tamfang (talk) 07:15, 22 June 2018 (UTC)

Continuity between the speakers of PIE of the 5th-4th millenium BC and the Scythians of the 1st millenium BC?

According to the Kurgan hypothesis speakers of PIE originated in the "Kurgan" cultures of the 5th-4th millenium BC (such as the Yamnaya culture) in the region north of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. In the 1st millenium BC one finds in the same region the people known as the Scythians, considered by most people to be speakers of an Iranian language, whose culture also included the practice of the Kurgan burial. Assuming of course the Kurgan hypothesis is valid, is there continuity between the speakers of PIE and the Scythians. In other words are the Scythians (resp. the Scythian language) the descendents in situ of the PIE speakers (resp. PIE), those IE speakers who never moved out of the PIE Urheimat? Basemetal 22:17, 21 June 2018 (UTC)

Almost certainly not, as a linguistic community. The origin of the Indo-Iranian languages seems to go through or near Sintashta, the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex etc. Also, the Scyths in southern European Russia had close affinities to the Sakas in Central Asia, and to the Sarmatians between them.
Some have speculated that the most "stay-at-home" Indo-European branch was actually the Balts, although the non-coastal Balts were eventually overrun by Slavic speakers... AnonMoos (talk) 01:01, 22 June 2018 (UTC)
Was it on linguistic grounds? Where did Proto-Balto-Slavic develop and how did it split into Proto-Baltic and Proto-Slavic? By Proto-Slavic speakers moving away? And then did Slavic speakers later come back and overrun the larger part of the Baltic area? Basemetal 10:50, 22 June 2018 (UTC)

I tend not to get too invested in speculation about homelands of proto-languages. I recall an item published in some linguistics newsletter (I seem to have discarded my copy) speculating that the Indo-European, Afro-Asiatic and Dravidian languages had a common origin, presumably in the fertile crescent. These are fun to read, but the further back you go, the harder it is to pin down the details. - Donald Albury 14:22, 22 June 2018 (UTC)

Those three together sounds like Nostratic. Ian.thomson (talk) 18:36, 22 June 2018 (UTC)

June 23


"Potable" means "Good for drinking without fear of poisoning or disease". I know of no other meaning, and neither does Wiktionary.

In Lytton Strachey's Eminent Victorians in the section on Thomas Arnold I came across this:

  • To be rebuked, however mildly, by Dr Arnold was a Potable experience.

The P is capitalised in my edition (Readaclassic), but I have to say it looks like the whole text has been scanned from some older edition, as there are a few obvious glitches that Strachey would never have intended. So, assuming "Potable" is not such a glitch, what could Strachey have meant here? -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 12:42, 23 June 2018 (UTC)

  • Stop the presses. I've checked the text online here, and I see it was a typo for "notable". You may resume your appointed tasks. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 13:01, 23 June 2018 (UTC)
Or it was an experience that did not cause gastrointestinal distress. Bus stop (talk) 13:20, 23 June 2018 (UTC)
From my experience with Project Gutenberg, scanned text, particularly of older works, has glitches, and even two or three rounds of proofreading by different readers will not necessarily catch them all. - Donald Albury 13:31, 23 June 2018 (UTC)
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