Minimal Pairs (redux)

Jan 28, 2014

ESL Teachers:  What are your favorite minimal pairs for helping students overcome issues with pronunciation?

For Arabic-speaking students, I like to use “My dog likes to bark in the park.”

For Japanese speakers, I like “I think I see a sink.”

Please comment belong and share your favorites.  Feel free to share any stories that go along with them!

Borborygmus

Aug 18, 2013

borborygmus (pl. borborygmi) – /ˌbɔrbəˈrɪɡməs/ – the sound of a gurgling stomach.  From the Ancient Greek onomatopoeia βορβορυγμός.

 

Endo and Exo

Aug 14, 2013

As you might already know, I loves me some endonyms and exonyms.  Go ahead… refresh yourself.  I’ll wait.

Many countries call themselves something different from what we (in the English-speaking world, from my perspective) call them.  The same can apply to cities, natural landmarks, etc.  Well, someone built a cool new tool to give you a bird’s-eye glance at endonyms and exonyms all over the globe.

Check out: EndonymMap!

 

Hello

Jul 1, 2013

phone-callAn interesting topic came up in one of my classes last week.  Many languages have a special word they use for “hello” only when answering the phone.  Some examples are wei (Chinese), moshi moshi (Japanese), yoboseyo (Korean), and alo (many languages, including Arabic, French, Russian, Persian, Turkish, and Vietnamese).  In these languages, there is a different “hello” that is generally used when greeting someone face-to-face.

In English, however, we say “hello” for both situations.  But did you know that this was almost not the case?  Alexander Graham Bell, a Scotsman who is credited with inventing the first practical telephone, wanted us to say “ahoy-hoy.”  Ultimately, Thomas Edison’s preferred “hello” won out.

But apparently not if you’re as old as Montgomery Burns

 

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In my own ESL teaching adventures, I find that likening pronunciation to a physical activity (e.g. sports) can be useful.  For example, I will ask if any students play basketball or soccer.  I then ask students if they think they can use the same muscles and skills to win a swimming match.  Of course, they say “no.”  I then explain that they can’t necessarily use their L1 “muscles” to speak their target language (i.e. English), and that they need to develop what I call “English Muscles” in order to play this “sport” well.  The analogy seems to work pretty well.

Today’s online edition of The Telegraph has an article specifically addressing learning to pronounce foreign languages.  What do you think of it?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationadvice/10012325/How-to-pronounce-foreign-languages.html

Snoring

Jan 20, 2013

Here are a few ways to express “snore” (v.) in various languages:

  • Russian: храпеть [khrapet']
  • French: ronfler
  • German: schnarchen
  • Italian: russare
  • Spanish: roncar
  • Korean: 코를골다 [koleulgolda]
  • Chinese: 鼾声 [hānshēng]
  • Japanese: いびきをかく [ibiki wo kaku]

Drop Them Ts!

Dec 31, 2012

Any interesting study on T-Drop from BYU:

http://news.byu.edu/archive12-dec-tdropping.aspx

 

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Almost there…

May 3, 2012

Just a quick update:

I’m scheduled to defend my thesis–”Explaining Fukushima to Children: Cross-Cultural Study of Bodily Functions as Metaphor in Japanese”–next week.  I’ll let y’all know how it goes.

Exonym / Endonym

Dec 6, 2011

Just a quick bit of lexicon this morning:

Exonym [Greek – ἔξω, éxō, “out” + ὄνομα, ónoma, “name”]

An exonym is a name referring to an ethnic group (ethnonym), language (glossonym), place (toponym), or person that is used by people outside said group.  The United Nations defines exonym as the name used in a specific language for a geographical feature situated outside the area where that language is spoken, and differing in its form from the name used in an official or well-established language of that area where the geographical feature is located.

Endonym [Greek – ἔνδον, éndon, “within” + ὄνομα, ónoma, “name”]

An endonym is a name referring to an ethnic group (ethnonym), language (glossonym), place (toponym), or person that is used by people inside of said group.  The United Nations defines endonym as the name of a geographical feature in an official or well-established language occurring in that area where the feature is located.

Here are some examples of exonyms with their endonymic counterparts in English and their native languages:

China/Zhōngguó (中国), Dutch/Nederlands [ˈneːdərlɑnts], Greece/Hellas (Ελλάς), Germany/Deutschland, Gypsy/Romani, Moscow/Moskva (Москва), Japan/Nihon/Nippon (日本).

This phenomenon is not, unique to English:

Korea is referred to differently, depending on which Korea is doing the talking.  North Korea refers to “Korea” as Chosŏn (조선), but South Korea refers to it as Hanguk (한국) or Namhan (남한, 南韓 – “South Han”).  The official Korean name for the Republic of Korea is “Dae Han Minguk” (대한민국 – “The Republic of Korea”).  (There are other variations, but you get the picture.)

America is called beikoku (米国) in Japanese and the English language is called eigo (英語).  In China, America is called měiguó (美国) and the English language is yīngyǔ (英语).

Many exonyms were born as a result of the namer not understanding the namee’s language.  In Russian and other languages, for example, the word for “Germans” is Немцы (Nemtsy), which is derived from the word немой which means “mute.”  The accepted folk etymology is that the German language appeared so unintelligible to the Slavs that they dubbed them “mutes.”

In addition to Russian, this word is also used in the Arabic, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Hungarian, Slovak, Slovenian, Serbian, Polish, Romanian, Turkish, and Ukranian languages.  (Interestingly, a theory regarding the word “Slavic” suggests that it comes from slovo, meaning “word.”  This, again, differentiates between those with words and those without.)

Sioux is likely a shortened form of Nadouessioux, a proto-Algonquian word meaning “foreign-speaking.”  Berber comes from a Greek representation of gibberish (“bar-bar-bar”).  The list goes on and on.

Do you know any exonym/endonym combinations?  Please leave a comment and share them with us.

 

 

Contranym

Nov 20, 2011

You’ve probably heard of synonyms (words that share the same meaning) and antonyms (words that mean the opposite of each other), but have you heard of contranyms?

A contranym is a word that has seemingly contradictory meanings.  Because of their two-faced nature, they are also sometimes referred to as “Janus words” after the two-faced Roman god.  In a nutshell1, we’re talking about a word that is its own antonym.  Contranyms do not necessarily need to be spelled the same way; those that sound alike, but are spelled differently, are called homophonic contranyms.

Some examples in English are:

  • 1shell (hard outer covering/remove hard outer covering)
    • Peanuts come in shells.
    • These peanuts have been shelled (i.e., the shells have been removed).
  • oral/aural2 (speech/hearing)
    • I have an oral (speaking) exam today.
    • I have an aural (hearing) exam today.
  • fast (speedy/not moving)
    • This car is fast.
    • Stand fast!
  • oversight (to miss/scrutiny)
    • That was an oversight on my part.
    • This program is under strict Congressional oversight.
  • strike (to hit/to miss)
    • Strike one!
    • He strikes the ball with the bat.

Another word that, through misuse, has become somewhat of a contranym is literal.  Some have (confusingly) come use the word to mean “figuratively” (e.g. “I literally died laughing”).  However, the original meaning also remains (e.g. “I am literally typing this on a MacBook Pro”).  Confusion ensues.  To mitigate this, I’ll sometimes write “literal-literal” and “figurative-literal” in blog posts.

While working on a translation today, I happened upon a contranym that appears to cross over linguistic lines:  yama.

Яма (yama): pit (Russian)

山 (yama): mountain (Japanese)

(Of course, because they are spelled differently, they are technically homophonic contranyms, but you already knew that.)

Do you know of any bilingual contranyms?  Please share them in the comments section and I’ll post them in a future article!

 

2Depending upon your regional dialect, you may pronounce these words differently.