Walloons, Wales and Cornish Walnuts

The Wonderful World of *Walhaz (This article is an adaptation of one I wrote for the brilliant interdisciplinary magazine Porridge, which you can find out more about at porridgemagazine.com) * I would like to tell you the tale of a headlong tumble down a rabbit hole of etymology and European history, that has at itsContinue reading “Walloons, Wales and Cornish Walnuts”

The Wonderful World of the Verb Second Rule, Part I: German

So, we all love German grammar, right? Infinitives, auxiliaries and participles, putting verbs at the end of the sentence, inversion of the subject and the verb – these are the concepts you have to get to grips with if you want to learn the language. To most outsiders, German grammar seems very new and strange.Continue reading “The Wonderful World of the Verb Second Rule, Part I: German”

Learning Czech – My Top Ten Terrors

It is a truth widely acknowledged that the Czech language is a bit tricky to learn. Naturally, ‘difficulty’ and ‘ease’ in second-language acquisition are inexact and unscientific concepts – a native Slovak speaker, for example, will have a far better time picking up Czech than someone like me, doomed to speak English, its very distantContinue reading “Learning Czech – My Top Ten Terrors”

La Joie de Joret

What is the Joret line? And why should I care about it? To begin, a definition: isogloss noun /ˈaɪsəɡlɒs/ /ˈaɪsəɡlɑːs/ (linguistics)​a line on a map that separates places where a particular feature of a language is different. (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary) Named after Charles Joret, the Joret line is an isogloss that runs through northern France andContinue reading “La Joie de Joret”

Rhotacism, and how it can help your Latin

If you have studied a little Latin, you may have come across an important, yet rather annoying group of nouns. They belong to the third declension, are neuter in gender and end in -us in the nominative singular. They include words like tempus ‘time’, corpus ‘body’ and pectus ‘chest’. They look like nice second-declension nouns,Continue reading “Rhotacism, and how it can help your Latin”

The Economic Sandwiches of York

The Adventures of Proto-Indo-European *weiḱ- What links sandwiches to Vikings, and York to Czech villages? Why, etymology of course! One reconstructed Proto-Indo-European word has enjoyed enormous success in its subsequent, post-PIE life, in part thanks to its useful meaning, in part to the prestige of the languages that inherited it. This word is *weiḱ– andContinue reading “The Economic Sandwiches of York”

The Neuter Gender – A Very Useful Rule!

A Bit of Background The Indo-European family is a big group of languages that are spoken all over the world. There’s a good chance that, if you are learning a foreign language at the moment, it belongs to this family. Indo-European languages are united in their descent from a single, prehistoric language, which we callContinue reading “The Neuter Gender – A Very Useful Rule!”