The High German Consonant Shift and How to Use It

If you already know English and are in the process of learning German, you may be struck by how similar words in the two languages can be. It can surprise novices that English sentences like ‘I have two cats and six books‘ or ‘it drinks water‘ are so close to their German counterparts ‘ich habeContinue reading “The High German Consonant Shift and How to Use It”

From English to Greek in Two Rules

English and Ancient Greek are distantly related languages that descend from a common ancestor – this is the only theory capable of explaining their many similarities. Consequently, if you’re trying to learn one and already know the other, you can use these similarities to your advantage. In this piece, I’d like to tell you aboutContinue reading “From English to Greek in Two Rules”

The Un-mouthing of Sounds

This post is a brief introduction to the process of debuccalization, a sound change with the power to dispel confusion in various languages of Europe and beyond. With the help of some concrete examples taken from three languages, this is a concept that I believe might come in rather handy for language learners. As isContinue reading “The Un-mouthing of Sounds”

Re-Reduplication in La-Latin

* In previous posts, I’ve written about the idea of stems and its importance for Latin. Simply put, the stem of a Latin noun, adjective or verb is an intermediate stage between the root (the meaningful part of the word) and the grammatical endings that make the word complete. In the second of the twoContinue reading “Re-Reduplication in La-Latin”

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”