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panjomin [userpic]

Hello linguaphiles!

OK, so “I’m comfortable doing that” is right, but *”I’m comfortable to do that” is wrong.  Conversely, “I’m ready to do that” is right, but *”I’m ready doing that” is wrong. 

Then, “It started raining” and “It started to rain” are both right, while “We stopped to talk” and “We stopped talking” are both right but mean different things. 

The various ESL sites I’ve looked at give lots of examples but say there is no rule for these things.

But how can there not be a rule—that is, an underlying linguistic rule (or interacting rules)?  Without a rule, how do I (a native speaker) produce the right one every time?  And how did all the non-native speakers who do it right manage to learn?   Someone—linguists, ESL teachers, successful ESL learners—must know what’s going on here, but I’m stumped. 

panjomin [userpic]

Hello again!

I recently heard the name “Avanell” for the first time.  It is apparently popular in Trinidad and Tobago, but according to WhitePages only 414 Americans currently have the name.  What I can’t find is a proper etymology.  A site called “Think Baby Names” says it’s Old French and means “oat pasture.”  Are there any Romance philologists out there who can confirm or correct this explanation?

panjomin [userpic]

And again!

Mental_floss, whose URL I don’t think I can post here, has a very nice article by Arika Okrent explaining “why sign language interpreters look so animated”—a response to some of the clueless comments made about Lydia Callis, who went viral after interpreting for the mayor of New York during Hurricane Sandy.

There you can see (with photo examples) that “movements of the head and eyebrows indicate sentence-level syntactic functions” like topicalization, conditionality, etc.  Linguaphile awesomeness!

panjomin [userpic]

Last one!

I know it’s the lowest form of linguaphile entertainment, but I can’t resist.  What is the oddest entry you’ve seen in a bilingual dictionary?  I just came across the following in Aquilina’s Maltese-English:

sardan, 2.  also bencel, to carry children making much fuss about the inconvenience of having to do so.  issardan [the passive]:  To have its clothes untidy and disordered (said of a baby handled by different persons).

It seems that every language should have a word like this, but sadly not even the Maltese use this one (or its synonym) any more. 

Another way to play this game is with words you’ve actually heard someone use.  There my candidate would be either raffāṣah, the Egyptian Arabic word for “wet scrap of newspaper used as a temporary cover for the smoke-hole of a homemade water pipe”; or Abendrot, the German for “reddish color of the sky at sunset.” 

And yes, I realize this is just a translation problem, not a matter of intrinsic oddness.  To reverse it, I imagine that an English word like “fungo” (a baseball tossed into the air and hit by the same player to let other players practice catching fly balls) sounds pretty funny too.

Your turn!

nyzoe [userpic]

In British English, you can (have to?) use plural agreement with singular groups if the group consists of humans (or at least of animate individuals). So, "The group/team/committee/board of directors/class are smiling / in a meeting / have discussed this issue at length", etc.

I get a lot of different stories about this from BrE speakers, though. Some say they were taught at school that the plural verb is ungrammatical here and you have to use the singular; others (maybe from a different area) tell me that it is the singular that would be ungrammatical; others can do both without a difference in interpretation; some can do both, but they get slightly different interpretations (for example: "The committee is old" is a statement about the age of the committee, while "The committee are old" is a statement about the age of the committee members).

What about you? Do you prefer singular or plural agreement with group nouns, or can you do both? If you can do both, does that lead to a difference in interpretation? If you prefer plural agreement, can you do it with non-human animate groups (like "the flock" or "the herd") or is it really only for human groups? Are there any regional differences?

Please feel free to share any other interesting observations you might have :).

kamomil [userpic]

I live in Canada, and I watch Coronation Street.

They use the word "rotor" on the show to refer to work schedules (which to me is part of a car)

Is this word related to "roster"? If so, how did "roster" become "rotor"?


ETA: Sometimes I turn on the closed captioning, but I think it wouldn't have helped in this case with spelling; I am pretty sure Canadians are doing the closed captioning based on what I have seen in the past.

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