miércoles, 2 de diciembre de 2020

Si te gusta el idioma inglés debes...


Si te gusta el idioma inglés debes husmear en libros de consulta que te ayuden a profundizar en tus estudios, No arañes sólo la superficie e indaga títulos y nombres que te ayudarán a cimentar tus conocimientos fuera de lo común. Así te puedes convertir en un huésped con derechos, en vez de visitante esporádico. 

Henry Watson Fowler (1858-1933), schoolmaster and lexicographer, wrote "A Dictionary of Modern English Usage" which has had many editions, and many revisions by the likes of Sir Ernest Gowers and Robert W. Burchfield. Published by Oxford University Press it has been, and still is, a success and a must for all those seriously interested in the English language and what makes it tic. 

Recomiendo su biografía: "The Warden of English: The Life of H. W. Fowler" por Jenny MacMorris. Componía sus diccionarios en máquinas de escribir de los años 20, del siglo pasado. 

martes, 1 de diciembre de 2020

Where there´s a verb, there´s a way

 Mankind and language go hand in hand. The death of a person is the death of his language. Dead languages are languages whose speakers died. When Mr. Tuone Udeina died in 1898, Dalmatian, as a language, also died, and became a dead language that very day. But pehaps I digress...

The above apropos of how speakers shape, change, rape, manhandle, and misuse this wonderful tool, to their heart´s content. Why do speakers prefer long phrases instead of verbs? Why are they fond of using two or three words instead of only one? Examples:

"To have breakfast" insted of "to breakfast"
"To take a nap" instead of "to nap"
"To take a shower" instead of "to shower"
"To stand up" instead of "to stand"
"To sit down" instead of "to sit"
"To stand up" instead of "to stand"
"To have lunch" insted of "to lunch"
Ah, the mysteries of the human brain that created language and refuses to use it right.




lunes, 30 de noviembre de 2020

The Spanish /t/ and /d/

Castile is a rough, dry and sweltering land in summer and freezing cold in winter, full of castles. Its language may be a reflection of the character of its dwellers, and yet  some of the sounds are mellow, soft and sweet. Like the /t/ and the /d/: 

Place the tip of the tongue against the upper teeth, softly, so softly that the point of the tongue will almost touch the upper teeth, but not quite, when we speak words like "DEDO", "DADO", "TODO", "DATO". Often, the /d/ is so soft that it disappears: "HABLADO", "LIBERTAD"... Listen to native speakers, and then copy them.

domingo, 29 de noviembre de 2020

El nacimiento de un idioma: el indo-europeo


Nunca sabemos cuándo apareció, o nació, un idioma. Los idiomas van evolucionando, cambiando y metamorfoseándose desde el principio de la humanidad. Pero sí sabemos el nacimiento de uno, del indo-europeo. ¿Cómo es eso? 

Sir William Jones (1746-1794), Juez británico en la India, y Gaston-Laurent Coeudeoux, SI, estudiaron el sánscrito, lengua muerta, y repararon en ciertas similitudes (¿?) con idiomas europeos, allá por 1783, más o menos. Sus comparaciones entre el sánscrito y los idiomas europeos, traídas por los pelos, dieron a pensar que había habido un idioma común, un tronco del cual provienen las lenguas europeas. Y así nació el "indoeuropeo", del cual poco se sabe, claro. Son conjeturas traídas por los pelos,  como ya he dicho.

Por cierto que, al parecer, Sir William conocía 30 lenguas. No está mal para haber vivido sólo 47 años. Tiene una biografía muy interesante.


viernes, 27 de noviembre de 2020



Let me tell you about "rhoticity" (once a pedant, always a pedant) and its meaning. It has to do with the pronunciation of the /r/, which, prior to the 19th century was pronounced by all speakers of English. After that, some started dropping the sound of the /r/, saying "harder" as "ha:da:" or something similar. 

So a rhotic speaker will pronounce the /r/ whereas a non-rhotic speaker won´t. (Of course, I refer to the English /r/, not the Spanish trilled /r/.)

In general US, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, are rhotic. England, Australia, New Zealand are non-rothic. (Notice I have remarked "in general.") If you listen hard, you will get a general idea as to where the speaker you are holding hands with hails from.  

jueves, 26 de noviembre de 2020

The Sounds of English

 English has, probably, more sounds than any other language but, how many? And how many existing sounds in world languages doesn´t it  have? It does not posses, as far as I know, the Spanish /t/ sound of "tomate." Or the /d/ sound of "cuidado." It does not have the Castillian-Spanish /j/ of "jamón." This /j/ sound has many variations in Spanish, appearing as 4 or even 6 different sounds. The fricative /g/ of "gordo" is absent in English. 

Simeon Potter says English has forty-four distinct sounds. The International Phonetic Alphabet lists fifty-two. And Bill Bryson, in his "Mother Tongue" says: "... if you listen carefully you will find there are many more than this." 

In my "Phonética Inglesa" (Anaya/Oberón) I list 47, and some sounds escaped my notice. The problem is that every speaker makes her own sounds. 

miércoles, 25 de noviembre de 2020

Correct others and make enemies


People love to correct others. There is always a chance that you will be corrected, in English or Spanish. In that case, keep mum; don't get into an argument. You will be wasting your time. Avoid a confrontation. An argument about language is a losing battle.

I get corrected in English, Spanish, French... An orgy of corrections. But I like to see the happy faces of those who assume the role of my teachers. I read in their face: "I caught you. You said “apóstrofo” for “opóstrofe.” You think you are so smart." And that makes them happy. And it makes me happy too.

If, on the other hand, you want to go through life making enemies, you have it easy: You tell your boss: "Look, Ambrosio, it's not “I speak very well English,” which shows that you know nothing about that language, but “I speak English very well.” One cannot bend syntax that way.” And your boss will hate you forever, especially if you correct him in front of other employees.