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jayles the unwoven

Joined: June 3, 2014
Comments posted: 201
Votes received: 106

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Questions Submitted

Salutations in letters

November 20, 2016

Are proverbs dying?

June 30, 2014


June 24, 2014

Recent Comments

@HS You see, I keep my posts undetailed and uninteresting, just so that WW may shine

jayles the unwoven February 26, 2015, 2:21pm

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@WW agreed, "fossilized" was the wrong word.
You're absolutely spot on in saying that "when we took 'de' from French, we took on a lot more than possession and partitives", and this is the root of the question: which usages are not mirrored by the English inflected genitive.
So the short list of exceptions would now be: partitives, nouns of thinking or feeling, and the CaGEL fossils.

jayles the unwoven February 26, 2015, 9:06am

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"a body of evidence",, "a can of beer", "a mass of documents" = partitives; hence we cannot use a genitive (not "a document's mass).

This leaves us with expressions like "a man of culture and sensitivity", "a part of speech", "the axis of rotation" ,, where we are faced with a faintly dated use of "of" to denote a quality or characteristic in a phrase which in modern English might equally be expressed either adjectivally or as a compound noun: "a cultured and sensitive man"; "a word class"; "the rotational axis", (but seldom, "the rotation's axis")

"a sense of pride", "a feeling of despair" seem hard to explain as other than fossilized expressions

jayles the unwoven February 25, 2015, 4:07pm

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errata: "the lions' slaughter" -> not clear whether the lions died or they killed a lot of anmals

jayles the unwoven February 25, 2015, 3:34pm

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A few more idiomatic items:
"the sweet smell of success" vs "success's sweet smell"
"the stench of failure" vs "failure's stench" (but: "failure's foul stench")
"the state of the nation" vs "the nation's state"
"a sense of pride", "a feeling of despair" .....

jayles the unwoven February 24, 2015, 5:14pm

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Re 4) objective/subjective genitives: this really only comes into play if the verb-from-the-noun is possibly transitive; thus:
"Tom's death" -> die is intransitive therefore Tom is the do-er and he is dead.
"his sister's murder" -> did she die or was she murdered? Should be clear from the context, unless of course she killed someone and was then herself killed.
"the lions' slaughter" -> not clear whether the lions died or someone slaughtered them.
"the slaughter of the lions" -> prima facie suggests it is the lions who died
"the shaft's rotation" -> no distinction with ergative verbs
Thus as the genitive simply denotes some relationship, we have to pick up the meaning from the context.

jayles the unwoven February 24, 2015, 4:42pm

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No hard and fast rule here, but as general guidelines I would suggest:
1) be wary of genitives to indicate composition, : "a book of leather" not "leather's book";

2) attributes seem to be more idiomatic: "a man of honour" not "honour's man", but "a woman's scent", "at death's door"; but again "he was awarded the title of President" not "the President's title"

3) use the adjective or compound noun where appropriate eg the presidential title, engine oil

4) be wary of objective genititves: "the love of music" not "music's love"; generally 'a woman's love" refers to a woman doing the loving, whereas 'the love of a woman' is more ambiguous.

jayles the unwoven February 24, 2015, 12:32am

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@WW Thanks: I never realized that "Magna Carta" was a Southener thing; and I always thought of "Swing" as a music genre.
"He was sat" is hard to explain grammatically; just idiomatic.

One of the little hurdles with a descriptive approach to grammar is we can end up talking about usage without providing a good explanation of how it got to be like it is.

For example we know "may" can be about possiblity or permission/prohibition and one just has to pick up the relevant meaning from the context. The possibility meaning exists in the equivalent German verb (es mag sein); but I would love to know how we came to permission/prohibition.

Similarly, I am not entirely convinced that "could" in the following sentence MUST be replaced by "were able to" (cf Hewins ) , although it is doubtless less common or less clear:
"..... then it started snowing heaviliy; but despite the blizzard we could drive home safely". Again what is missing for me here is some explanation; I cannot believe it was so complicated in OE or even ME

jayles the unwoven February 10, 2015, 2:57pm

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1393, 1489, 1936, the North beyond Edgware was ever non-conformist

jayles the unwoven February 9, 2015, 2:50pm

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From a grammatical standpoint one can use any noun as a verb if the meaning is clear in context; whether it is good style is another matter.

Thus one can "pen" a letter and so on. The exception to this is where a separate verb form exists already: I can inform you, but not information you.

Leverage as a verb is widely used in financial circles when referring to gearing or the debt/equity ratio. Outside of financial circles the meaning is metaphorical and perhaps just a fashionable buzz word

jayles the unwoven January 30, 2015, 9:08am

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I would have written: She's nervous about performing...
or (with a different meaning) : She's too nervous to perform

jayles the unwoven January 22, 2015, 1:18pm

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Another example of where phrase/context/meaning may be at odds is "How are you?". This is often more politeness rather than a real enquiry. Answering with anything other than "fine" or "good" may not be what is sought.

Likewise, the waitress, the receptionist, the yoga teacher may greet you with a "friendly" intonation, and a smile. It does not mean they would welcome a date. In fact their real attitude beneath the "professional" overly may be hard to determine.

Intonation conveys attitude, part of the meta-data of speech; but it is more difficult to research; and hard to teach to English learners whose native intontion patterns may be quite different. Try watching Vladimir Putin, or Ban Ki Moon; the smile/non-smile and intonations convey perhaps the wrong message to native English speakers

jayles the unwoven December 30, 2014, 9:29am

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One way of looking at English is to view it as a collection of patterns, collocations, phrases and idioms, from which if needed we may identify some 'rules'. However there is also the matter of register, date, context, genre, intonation, background culture and which dialect of English we are addressing. All these things influence the actual meaning conveyed, and undermine the idea that there are all-time all-encompassing rules, or 'right' or 'wrong' English.

Teaching English as a second (or third) language is a somewhat special case, which is dominated by the required end-use: English for business purposes focuses on business phrases, situations and vocabulary, and pays scant attention to slang, general idioms, and informal items which are not important. One cannot hope to cover everything. It is enough to be clear, use appropriate intonation, register and style, and know enough about the culture not to put your foot in it.

That said, the real message contained in an utterance may be quite at odds with the actual word forms: consider for instance how many ways one can say "Really" in various contexts. It may convey surprise, indicate interest, or (with a flat or falling intonation) suggest disinterest. In the same way "Give me a call sometime" might indicate real interest or almost quite the opposite, depending on context. So focussing entirely on the words is by no means the whole story, although in teaching English one must start somewhere.

jayles the unwoven December 30, 2014, 8:52am

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Ah I meant before 1840.

jayles the unwoven December 22, 2014, 4:03pm

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I thought using present simple when referrring to the future was a hang-over from OE; but here it looks as though it only began with the coming of railways and timetables. One needs however to be mindful that "tomorrow" was more oft spelt "to-morrow" before 1930.

So the question is how did they say "She/He/They is/are coming tomorrow" before 1850?
Or did they never say it?
I get no results

jayles the unwoven December 22, 2014, 3:55pm

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@WW thank you; most interesting.

I am not sure how representative the verb "come" is. Here are some others that show contrary patterns of usage:

I can't quite believe that the growht in the incidence of present continuous was due to some spin-off from teaching English in Welsh schools after 1847. Would be nice to pin it all on the evil influence of Latinate grammarians, but that doubtless wouldn't stack up either.

It does seem though that modern English usage of present continuous (a la Murphy) is very much a 20th century thing, and that in the Victorian Era usage was either less consistent or just slightly different

jayles the unwoven December 21, 2014, 8:40am

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Just trying to get a handle on when present continuous became so widespread in English and began to be used instead of will/shall

Taking "comes" vs "is coming" as an example, and beginning with Chaucer, I have not so far found instances of present continuous. Looking at another source:

the present continuous is again not used.

Again looking at the KJV (which sometimes reflects older usage from Tyndall's), we find present simple: ()not the night is coming)
John 9:4:
I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Similarly Revelation 1:7
OTOH "is coming" is found in Pilgrims's Progress and later in Pride and Prejudice

So the question remains: was present continuous somehow not as common at the beginning of the Victorian Era as toward the end? Or was the changeover complete before Vikki got on the throne?

jayles the unwoven December 20, 2014, 9:30pm

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OOPS meant to post:

@DN Do you have some kind of an issue with that??

jayles the unwoven December 19, 2014, 12:28pm

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@DN Do you have some kind of an issue with that??

jayles the unwoven December 19, 2014, 12:26pm

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Short though she was, Victoria ascented the throne in 1837; so at the start of the Vicotorian Era "shall" may have been used as oft as will.

Present continuous seems to have grown during her long regnum.

You are right about 'here comes' ; what I meant to imply was that putting the adverb of place first will allow the use of a simple verb instead of continuous without breaking modern verb patterns : eg Into the station pulled the train. Whether this is a good idea or not hinges on the context of course.

You might wish to review my late ramblngs on the Anglish thread; I was much surprised at how seldom future continuous crops up, and the fact that "have been wanting" was relatively common a few hundred years ago. Not quite sure that Headway etc get the right emphasis on what matters.

jayles the unwoven December 18, 2014, 1:55pm

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