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2016-01-05 16:04:28 -0400 received badge  Nice Answer (source)
2015-12-10 15:03:12 -0400 answered a question what is the meaning of elision
2015-12-03 16:33:45 -0400 answered a question About the word 'landslide'

What we're dealing with is a case of metaphor, i.e. figurative language. In this case, the literal meaning has to do with the geological phenomenon. Without any surrounding context, the example you quote from actually sounds like it's a case of this. (Note that, there, fault is also used in the geological sense.)

You ask whether "a person [...] can use the word", which sounds like you're asking for a judgment about what is correct. Academic linguists are more interested in describing what people out there in the real world actually do. I'll be doing the latter. (For further background, see this article.)

From this perspective, the question really becomes - what is the range of possible metaphorical extensions of the word 'landslide'? If you poke around online, you can find a continuum of definitions:

  1. "lopsided electoral victory"
  2. "any overwhelming victory"
  3. "a large amount of something that happens quickly and forcefully"

People often cite the Oxford English Dictionary as authoritative. It gives only #1 ("a sweeping electoral victory"), with examples like the following:

  • a veritable landslide in Mr. Hewitt's favor
  • a great landslide of votes for McClellan.
  • the Conservative landslide in 1906

But that doesn't mean that that's the limit of the possible metaphorical extension of the word. If you search for 'landslide' on the Corpus of Contemporary American English, you can see it used in a wide range of ways, many of which would fall under #2 above. One example is: The President's trade representative went so far as to predict a Clinton landslide in the vote on Wednesday. This is the closest one I can find to your example, "Landslide in social attitudes".

So, the bottom line - yes, saying 'landslide In social attitudes' is a somewhat atypical use of the word 'landslide', but it's perfectly within the envelope of natural variation in how the word is used. Metaphors are of course conventionalized, but they are to a large extent flexible, and the quick/forceful/overwhelming nature of a change in social attitudes makes a landslide an apt metaphor to use.

2015-12-03 11:48:34 -0400 edited question About the word 'landslide'

Gentlemen: I don't know if I may be so bold as to ask you the following question: It is hotly debated here at college level whether a person (an American speaker) can use the word "landslide" in the following context (e.g. as a headline or so): "Landslide In Social Attitudes (Etc.)," meaning that - acc. to some survey or so - there was a major shift in people's opinions about certain matters (e.g. 90 % thought that the government should do this-or-that 5 or 10 years ago, now only 20 % think the same way). E.g. I found the following usage example: " It was occurring to me that this man might be able to save me a lot of reading with a nice quick lesson on faults and the landslides they can trigger. - See more at: [from:]," which seems to indicate that one can indeed use the word "landslide" in other contexts different from just 'landslip' and 'big victory.' What would you say? Any relevant information would be much appreciated! Or could you perhaps refer me to someone who could help me out here? Maybe you could help me out? Thanks for your trouble! Best, Tom

2015-12-02 23:11:37 -0400 answered a question Do you pronounce the "L" in yolk?

This is referred to as "L-vocalization". Check out the Wikipedia article on the topic.

In my own speech, I pronounce both words without any /l/, i.e. I say folk as if it were "foke" and yolk for me has the same pronunciation as yoke. At the time of writing, the last person to edit Wiktionary had the same intuition for folk but allowed the pronunciation with /l/ for yolk. However, this is not definitive. This the kind of alternation in pronunciation that may vary:

  1. from one region of the US to another
  2. within a given region, from one individual to another
  3. within a given individual, from one situation/conversation to another

You might find it interesting to flip through these slides from a presentation on the topic at a linguistics conference: Hall-Lew & Fix (2010) "Multiple Measures of L‐Vocalization". In particular, on slide/page 28 you can see that, the BOAT vowel ([oʊ] in the International Phonetic Alphabet) - in other words, the same vowel as in folk and yolk - is the vowel where people rated the /l/ sound as 'vocalized' (i.e. with no /l/) the most often. So it's no coincidence that these are the ones where you noticed the /l/ was 'missing'.

More generally, it seems that the vocalization ('deletion') of the /l/ is a gradient process that is affected by a whole host of linguistic and social factors.

2015-11-20 14:48:34 -0400 answered a question "Mere Men"

Some Googling turns up that it may be a biblical reference. See, for example, the last paragraph here:

I'm not sure exactly what book/chapter/verse it refers to, though. You could try swimming through these results:

2015-09-15 21:56:35 -0400 answered a question Czech-Uzbek Dictionary

If you can, you might consider purchasing (or ordering through a library) a copy of Landau (2001). It's a standard reference on lexicography, and so you might find some guidance from somewhere in the discussion therein.

2015-09-15 21:54:22 -0400 commented question Czech-Uzbek Dictionary

Could you clarify what specific question you are asking for feedback about? Perhaps that last part - "which forms are essential to include and which not"?

2015-09-15 21:50:36 -0400 edited question Define and describe grammar

English grammar is prescriptive or descriptive?

2015-09-02 23:30:18 -0400 commented answer is this a minimal pair?

You raise the good point that minimal pairs are usually talked about at the level of the (traditional generative phonology) underlying representation, not at the surface phonetic level.Thus, yes, if [i] vs. [ɨ] is allophonically conditioned by the [k] vs [kʲ] distinction, they may be minimal pairs.

2015-09-02 23:26:33 -0400 answered a question What does learner language mean? Is it the L1 of any speaker?

' Learner language' simply refers to language produced by L2 learners, as the name implies. Indeed, it is a term that can be applied regardless of L1 (or L2 for that matter). Thus, for example, a German learner of L2 Spanish, a Spanish learner of L2 French, and a French learner of L2 German all could be said to produce 'learner language'. The term emphasizes the fact that that set of language was not produced by a native speaker, hence it will generally be non-targetlike in some way.

2015-09-02 20:50:20 -0400 received badge  Supporter (source)
2015-08-30 00:09:21 -0400 answered a question Ranking of London universities for MA in linguistics

Try checking out,, and It will require you to do a little digging as far as where in the UK each is located and whether they offer linguistics MAs, but that could set you in the right direction.

Linguist List also maintains a list of Linguistics programs in the United Kingdom.

2015-08-29 11:31:50 -0400 answered a question what is the difference between late in the evening and later in the evening?

late in the evening refers to a specific time of day - one that is very late within the range of time referred to as 'evening'.

(1) "I work in the afternoon and late in the evening"

There are certainly cases where the meaning of the two overlap. For example, you can also say:

(2) "I work in the afternoon and later in the evening"

But later is comparative in nature, so this implies the time is relatively late (compared to what is typical). The comparative nature can manifest itself in other ways. For example, you can use it like this when telling a story:

(3) "After work, I went to the store. Later in the evening, I visited my friend."

You couldn't say this with late in the evening since it doesn't have the necessary comparative component (establishing the time the speaker went to the store as a point of reference).

2015-08-29 00:03:18 -0400 answered a question My question is about SLA theories. Is transfer theory included in contrastive analysis or error analysis or is it a theory alone?

First, 'transfer theory' wasn't a paradigm or historical stage in the development of the field of Second Language Acquisition like Contrastive Analysis or Error Analysis was. Transfer is a phenomenon that occurs in the process of L2 acquisition, and that's something that any theory has to account for.

Contrastive Analysis takes the L1 and L2 grammars, scrutinizes them to make detailed comparisons, and generates predictions about transfer. That's how transfer fits into Contrastive Analysis. One of the reasons it fell out of favor is because those predictions often turned out to be wrong.

Error Analysis takes non-targetlike aspects of learners' production as the starting point of analysis. We now know that non-targetlikeness can come from a variety of sources - not only transfer but also various universal/developmental factors (such as processing/fluency issues). Thus, transfer fits into error analysis by being one source of the so-called 'errors'.

2015-08-27 21:24:57 -0400 answered a question is this a minimal pair?

So long as there is one difference distinguishing the two words, it qualifies as a minimal pair, regardless of whether it is transcribed in superscript / as a diacritic. (The distinction between a transcription of, say, [pʲa] and [pja] is generally at the level of phonological theory, not the surface phonetic facts.)

However, I notice your two words differ in two ways: not just [k] vs [kʲ] but also [i] vs. [ɨ]. As such, no, your words would be merely "near" minimal pairs and not true minimal pairs per se.

2015-08-27 09:44:57 -0400 received badge  Teacher (source)
2015-08-24 12:57:06 -0400 answered a question Tomlin's Fish Film

One solution would be to contact him and ask him directly for a copy:

I suppose you could even ask whether he would be OK with you uploading it to YouTube, etc., to help out future people in your position.

2015-08-21 23:49:00 -0400 received badge  Enthusiast
2015-08-20 16:20:48 -0400 answered a question Mac software comparing 2 texts?

If you know how to program in R, Python, etc., this would also be fairly easy to do that way, and this would give you maximal control of how the overall analysis would flow. Otherwise, there's probably an all-in-one solution somewhere online, but one easy way to pipeline this would be to first run a text through Wordlist Maker and then Diffchecker. The former would generate an alphabetized list of all of the unique words in each text, and the latter compares these two lists and highlights the differences.

2015-07-11 00:27:20 -0400 answered a question I want to know the meaning of “today's morphology is yesterday's syntax

I guess yesterday’s syntactical of “all be it” and “on to” changed “albeit” and “onto” of today’s morpheme .

That's right. The insight behind the quote is that, over time, what used to be a normal construction created through productive syntactic rules eventually can become 'crystallized' into a single word or morpheme.

A good example is gonna. I quote the following from its Wikipedia page:

The going-to future originated by the extension of the spatial sense of the verb go to a temporal sense (a common change – the same phenomenon can be seen in the preposition before). The original construction involved physical movement with an intention, such as "I am going [outside] to harvest the crop." The location later became unnecessary, and the expression was reinterpreted to represent a near future.

This shows how gonna was originally a normal syntactic construction (be + VERB-ing + to). In contrast, in modern colloquial English, gonna patterns (in certain ways) as if it were a single word.

2015-07-11 00:12:23 -0400 edited question I want to know the meaning of “today's morphology is yesterday's syntax

I want to ask Thomas Givon's aphorism “today's morphology is yesterday's syntax.

In my country, there is a little information about his aphorism.

I suppose this aphorism relates to historical linguistics.

For example, English phrase “all be it” and “on to” changed “albeit” and “onto” according to Wikipedia.

I guess yesterday’s syntactical of “all be it” and “on to” changed “albeit” and “onto” of today’s morpheme .

Is that right? If my answer is wrong, would you please correct it

2015-07-10 11:05:59 -0400 answered a question Can someone tell me how to pronounce Quinny and Kwini?

(For help with the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbols, see Wikipedia's IPA for English page.)

For me, the Quinny pretty clearly suggests [ 'kʷɪ . ni ]. The spelling of the word is very highly conventional (e.g., the qu sequence and the double n are both found in many English words).

Kwini, on the other hand, is very non-conventional. The spelling makes it seem like a loanword from another language. With that spelling, it is certainly possible to be pronounced the same as Quinny. English spelling is rather flexible, so that can't be ruled out. However, it's also possible to pronounce it as [ 'kʷi . ˌni ] (i.e. something like quee-knee), with the first vowel as [i] (rather than [ɪ]) and a secondary stress on [ni].

I hope this helps!

2015-07-10 10:54:48 -0400 edited question Devanagari - a script without a language?

The Indic branch of IE Family of languages consists of 3 dead languages (Sanskrit, Prakrit, Pali) and more than a dozen living languages. It is believed that all these languages use a script called "Devanagari" script. This script is a fully developed script with vowels and consonants structured in a perfect manner.

Linguists are aware that in a natural language speech develops first, followed by development of script, perhaps, after sufficient period of cultural and intellectual progress. Many languages do not have a script at all. While 'script' is not a must for a language, a sufficient phase of 'spoken language' is a condition precedent for formation of script based on phonology. This is so because the 'script letters' represent the sounds of the spoken words, in phonetic languages. (However in non-phonetic languages, the chances of 'pictographic script' developing prior to 'speech' cannot be ruled out.)

Indian History or World History does not have any evidence to prove that there was a language called 'Devanagari' and it was spoken by any people, for a significantly long period. Then, the question that arises is 'How did this script develop?'

I proceeded to solve this problem on the following lines. I examined all the possibilities and my findings are:

  1. Possibility: The script could have been borrowed from any IE language.

  2. Findings: Ruled out as no basic similarity is evidenced. Even the construction of vowels and consonants are unquestionably different. The number of vowels and consonants do not agree, after allowing a margin of, say, five for possible additions.

  3. Possibility: The script could have been borrowed from an established language spoken in the geographical area where Indic languages were spoken.

  4. Findings: The only other language family with established presence in India, is the Dravidian family of languages. The lead language of the family, Tamil has a history of at least 2000 years and evidence of having been spoken widely in major parts of Indian sub-continent. As Tamil literary works dating circa 500 BC are available, the 'speech' should have been pretty old. Tamil has a perfect script which could not have been borrowed, considering its history of independent development and the geographical insulation of its command area. Considering these factors, Tamil appears to be the prima-facie possible source of the 'Devanagari script'.

I sat down to confirm the position. Here is my comparative analysis, taking Hindi script as a representative for the purpose.

  • Vowels: Tamil has 12 vowels. Hindi has 13. Certain Tamil vowels are absent in Hindi. Additional vowels in Hindi are 'ru' and 'am'. It may be observed that the additional vowels in Hindi are not pure vowels but a combination of vowel and consonant sounds. As such it could have been additions, necessitated by certain sounds prevalent in Sanskrit but not prevalent in Tamil.

  • Consonants: Tamil has 18 consonants whereas Hindi has more than 30 in number. It may be observed that the additional consonants in Hindi are nothing but sound variants of the 18 consonants of Tamil only. For ...

2015-07-10 10:30:52 -0400 answered a question how can you tell if the following statement is truthful "I love you and will be with you once my mission here is over . Roy"

Unfortunately, there's really nothing inherent in the linguistic message itself that tells you one way or the other. Imagine if this were a line in a movie. It could be uttered by a villain who was lying, or it could also just as easily be uttered by a hero/protagonist who sincerely felt that way.

Sorry linguistics can't be of much more help here... It looks like you might have to just ask them directly yourself!

2015-07-05 00:04:31 -0400 received badge  Associate Editor (source)
2015-07-05 00:04:04 -0400 answered a question Which is a safer play in golf -- the option with the lesser margin of error or the one with the greater margin of error?

It seems, in the usage in question, 'margin' refers more or less to 'probability'. So if we define 'safe' as 'least likelihood of error', then lesser margin/probability of error = safer. Put simply (and abstracting away from the details), less error = more safe, right?

Regarding the of vs. for question, there is a good discussion of the topic on the forum at I agree with two responses there (by entangledbank and JulianStuart). The bottom line is that both are possible expressions, just with different meanings. In your case involving golf, I don't think you intend to refer to margin of error, since that is a statistical term often used to describe political polling results. Rather, it seems 'margin for error' would be more appropriate.


Upon further reflection, I realized where the confusion was coming from.

If the phrase in question is margin of error, then my first paragraph above is right. However, if the phrase in question is margin for error, which my second paragraph suggests is probably more technically correct, then it's the opposite. In that case, 'margin' doesn't mean 'probability' - it means something like 'leeway' or 'wiggle-room'. So if that's the case, then more 'margin for error' would be better.

To summarize, the better choice in golf would be the one with...

  • Less margin (=probability) of error [Probably technically incorrect, since it's a non-standard use of a statistical term]
  • More margin (=leeway) for error

Sorry for the confusion!

2015-07-03 23:37:30 -0400 commented question Sanskrit bhūḥ as 3rd person
2015-07-03 23:17:14 -0400 answered a question What is the delay between the time your brain takes to understand a word you read and when you speak the word aloud?

What is the delay between the time your brain takes to understand a word you read and when you speak the word aloud?

This isn't my area of expertise, but I'm pretty sure there is no magic number. The extent of this delay will likely vary based on numerous factors, most notably the word's frequency-of-occurrence but also things like the location of the word within the syntactic and/or prosodic structure of the sentence.

we display the text for the subject to read on a scrolling display at a defined rate and have them read the text aloud.

Have you tried eyetracking? That strikes me as a more natural choice of method. Rather than create an artificial environment trying to force people to read at a certain pace, with eyetracking you could simply print the words on the screen and have them read it normally. The location and timing of their saccades would give you a direct measure of exactly what they were reading and when, which it sounds might be lacking with the present method.

If we know the time delay between reading and speaking, maybe we can isolate and remove the activity associated with reading and focus on the brain activity responsible for speech generation alone.

I can think of two potential solutions. First, you could collect parallel data from the subjects reading the exact same sentences but not producing them. Depending on the kinds of analyses you have planned, you might be able to treat the reading-only condition as the baseline and 'subtract it out' from the reading+speaking condition. Of course, this would involve several strong assumptions (e.g. that the same thing is happening in the brain at each time-point across the utterance in the two conditions), which are most likely false.

A second (perhaps more preferable) option would be to have speakers put the sentences they should be producing into short term memory. If the sentences are short enough (like your example The quick brown fox jumps), then this shouldn't be a problem. Just display the sentence on the screen, have them read it, go back to a blank screen for 500 ms or something, and then display a red circle on the screen to indicate that the audio-recording has started. Since the reading will be long since finished by the time they start speaking, this method would remove the brain activity associated with reading from the data, which would be conducive to the goal you described of "locating the regions associated with speech generation". Of course, there may be some additional brain activity added in from storing things in memory, but I'd imagine that should have a well-documented signature in the signal that could be factored out.

Just a few thoughts I had. I hope this helps!

2015-07-03 21:59:21 -0400 answered a question help me? (syntax and morphology)

First of all, in the use of the term that I'm used to, predicate would refer to everything after the subject. Thus, an object, complement, or subordinate clause would also be included in the predicate. It seems you are using the term 'predicate' to refer more or less to just a verb.

Now to the question. I'm not sure I understand what this means: "I need to choose certain aspects of the following extract to answer the following questions." Do you perhaps mean to say that you need to classify each sentence as an instance of one of the 'structures' you listed?

Since this sounds like a homework problem, I don't want to give the full answer. Some of these are pretty easy, e.g. sentence 3 belongs to class [A], with a single-verb predicate. Could you be more specific about which sentences are confusing you and why?


All right - that makes sense. I'll go through each of the six categories and show how the text fits into them.

[A] Subject + Simple predicate

  • she knocked.
  • no one answered
  • she arrived {at a house}
  • Goldilocks was walking {in the forest}

None of these have direct objects or complements. (In the last two, the bracketed portions are optional (i.e. can be safely omitted) and therefore could be treated as adjuncts.)

[B] Subject + Predicate with object

The bracketed portions are the direct objects:

  • she opened {the door}
  • she tasted {the porridge from the first bowl}
  • Goldilocks looked at {the next bowl}

The last one here is tricky. I'm analyzing it here as a single phrasal verb, but you should check your class notes for how you're expected to analyze such constructions.

[C] Subject + Predicate with complement

As you can tell from the Wikipedia page, the term complement can be used in multiple different ways.

  • Existence construction (there is/are __)
    • there were three bowls of porridge
  • copula + adjective construction
    • Goldilocks was hungry
    • This porridge is too hot
    • it looked tasty

In the last one, 'looked' is treated as a linking verb in traditional grammar but may be classified as a pseudo-copula in linguistics.

[D] Coordination of clauses

The only canonical instance of coordination in the text is "she opened the door and entered." However, this is at the level of the verb phrase, not the clause: {opened the door} and {entered}.

I suppose "This porridge is too hot!" she exclaimed" could be analyzed this way (with, rather than "and"/"or", instead a null/empty coordinator), but the quote is technically the complement of the verb 'exclaimed' (representing what was exclaimed), so I'd classify it as [C]. But there could be multiple possible analyses of this, so double-check your class notes about what class [D] is intended to refer to.

[E] Subordinate clause

Two different kinds:

  • Functioning as an adverbial
    • {When no one answered}, she opened the door and entered.
  • Complement of a verb:
    • She thought {that it looked tasty}.

[F] Relative clause

This one ...

2015-07-03 11:36:05 -0400 answered a question what is the difference between "minute by minute" and "minute after minute"

If you search the Corpus of Contemporary American English for these two expressions, you will see that minute by minute can be used as an adverb:

  • cover these campaigns minute by minute
  • planned out minute by minute well as an adjective:

  • a minute by minute narrative of the events
  • a minute by minute account of his last critical hours

In both cases, minute by minute describes the pacing of some kind of progress (usually a flow of information).

Minute after minute is substantially less frequent, and its usage is slightly different. It can also be used as an adverb:

  • listened to this guy minute after minute
  • stood there dazed minute after minute

But it also has two uses where it functions as a noun:

  • In the construction "minute after minute of _"

    • recounting minute after minute of what he remembered
    • put minute after minute of science information on the screen
  • In the construction "for minute after minute"

    • bounded ahead for minute after minute
    • fired and reloaded, often for minute after minute

As you can probably gather from these examples, the emphasis here is not on the pace but rather the duration: minute after minute emphasizes how something continues without stopping.

2015-07-03 00:40:52 -0400 answered a question Why does a same word may have different meanings?

In linguistics, the phenomenon you're referring to is called polysemy. The question of why polysemy exists is quite a philosophical one.

A classical view is to think of a word as a linguistic sign, and its meaning is the thing that it signifies. The meaning between the sign and the signified is something that is established through convention at the level of a speech community. For example, I could call the pencil on my desk a "krarsk", but we wouldn't really call that a 'word' in the normal sense unless it spreads to multiple people and becomes used more widely by convention across some broader community.

The existence of polysemy takes on a special light when looked at from this viewpoint. Each member of the community can attach a slightly different interpretation of the sign-signified relation. For example, one speaker might think that "krarsk" refers to all pencils, whereas another might think it refers more specifically to purple pencils (e.g., because the word frequently co-occurs with the word "purple" in actual usage). Such mismatches between different individuals' linguistic systems are often so subtle that they go unnoticed in day-to-day life. This creates variation across the community in terms of the exact range of meaning associated with that word. Over time, as generation after generation of children learn the word in question, the meanings of the word can evolve and proliferate. As an end result, words naturally acquire additional meanings over time.

2015-07-02 17:32:42 -0400 answered a question Is there a special term for certain figures of speech that only make sense in a certain order? For instance, "sick and tired" is never said "tired and sick," at least not if the same meaning is to get across. Thanks!

I'm not familiar with a term specific to this phenomenon. It seems to be simply a fixed expression that happens to have coordination (here, linking with and) in it. While you normally can switch the order of the coordinated items, since this is a fixed expression, doing so is impossible in this case.

Semantically, since the meaning is non-compositional (more than the sum of its parts), it can also be considered an idiom. Indeed, many idioms are also fixed expressions.

It is also of note that you could also think of it as a large adjective. (This is how it is treated in Wiktionary.) While historically it derives from three separate words, in the modern language it could just as well be treated as a single word and, e.g., written sickintired by an illiterate adult. Phonologically, you could think of this 'word' having a secondary stress on sick and a primary stress on tired.

2015-06-27 02:22:39 -0400 answered a question what is Interactionist Theory?

There are constructs of interactionism in Sociology and in Philosophy of Mind, but considering that you're posting on this site I'm assuming you're curious about the theory of language acquisition (sometimes also called Social Interaction Theory). Quoting from the Wikipedia page:

Social interactionist theory is an explanation of language development emphasizing the role of social interaction between the developing child and linguistically knowledgeable adults. It is based largely on the socio-cultural theories of Soviet psychologist, Lev Vygotsky.

Perhaps the best place to start would be to place it in a broader context. See for a description of three different theoretical approaches to language acquisition, including Interactionist Theory.

For further reading online, see this page page on the theory for a Language Acquisition & Development course at Colgate University. If you are interested in ESL, there is also an article on the theory at's blog ESL Teaching Tips.

Hopefully that's enough to get you started!

2015-06-23 22:57:29 -0400 answered a question Please explain semotactics

Wiktionary defines it as the modification of the meaning of a word by interaction with the surrounding words.

For further reading, there is some good discussion of the term in Gaskin (2013) under the section The tactics of meaning as well as in Bennett's (2006) article The development of stratificational grammar. In both, use the 'search' field on the left to and type in the word 'semotactics'. This will highlight in yellow every use of the term.

2015-06-16 09:11:13 -0400 answered a question Am I correct in saying that the meanings of the following two phrases are indeed the same? "The sky is the limit. The limit is the sky"?

If we abstract away from how these phrases are actually used and focus in on just the literal ("referential") meaning, then the meaning of these could be represented as the formal expressions X = Y and Y = X, where 'X' is 'the sky' and 'Y' is 'the limit'. Just like saying 2+2=4 is equivalent to saying 4=2+2, the same thing is true for the two phrases you're asking about. That is, focusing just on literal meaning, "The sky is the limit" describes the same scenario as "The limit is the sky".

However, there's much more to the linguistic meaning than literal meaning. The biggest difference between the two expressions is that one has clearly become an idiom (and developed its own special meaning). The meaning of "the sky is the limit" is more than the sum of its parts. We say the meaning is "non-compositional": it's not true that "the sky" + "the limit" = "you can do whatever you set your heart to". The same is not true for "The limit is the sky". There is no special idiomatic meaning attached to it, and so it's just a plain vanilla statement (with a compositional meaning).

Even if we ignore the difference in idiomatic meaning, the two would still differ is in terms of something called information structure. In "The limit is the sky", the subject is "the limit", hence that is what the sentence is about (referred to as a "topic"). In contrast, in "The sky is the limit", the topic is "the sky". This makes a difference if the sentence is placed in a larger context (a "discourse"). For example, we can say:

1) When you fly your plane, there is a limit you must always watch out for. The limit is the sky.

It's a little more awkward to say it this way.

2) * When you fly your plane, there is a limit you must always watch out for. The sky is the limit.

Generally speaking, if you examine them closely enough, two different linguistic expressions (be they words, phrases, or sentences) will always have some tiny difference in meaning. You just have to look beyond the literal/referential meaning to find it.

2015-06-11 12:14:50 -0400 answered a question Considering the word "videography", which of the following is correct: "video-friggin`-graphy" or "vide-friggin'-ography" ?

This phenomenon is referred to as expletive infixation: (

There is some debate about the details, but the standard account is that the expletive is inserted before the primary stressed syllable. If you pronounce to yourself the word in question, you'll see that it's the syllable "-o-":


Thus, any expletives would be inserted before that syllable, i.e.:


2015-06-11 12:05:06 -0400 commented answer what does HYEAEYH stand for?

Well, since we're talking about Mandarin syllables, the word (or syllable) itself is probably not Western. It's just written in a Western way (the Romanized spelling rather than the character). As for why to do *that*, perhaps to make that house "special" and stand out from its neighbors?

2015-06-11 12:01:01 -0400 commented answer Biphone/Phone Frequency for Russian?

Aha, my apologies. You're correct. I don't know Russian, but if what you're looking at is encoded in the orthography is a straightforward way, then my suggestion still applies - you could search for sequences of s + p (using Cyrillic). Maybe start here:

2015-06-11 11:52:55 -0400 answered a question Is there a comprehensive glossary, dictionary, or what have you, either online or in print, for linguistic notation?

If, by "linguistic notation", you mean interlinear glosses, the first place you should check out is the The Leipzig Glossing Rules. Other potentially useful resources can be found under External Links on the Wikipedia page.

If you mean syntactic annotation (in computational linguistics), you could check out the Universal Part of Speech Tags and Universal Dependencies projects.

I hope this helps!

2015-06-08 13:56:42 -0400 answered a question Making word trees - 'unelectability'

Here are the relevant words you need to consider for drawing the tree structure:

  • elect (verb)
  • electable (adjective)
  • unelectable (adjective)
  • unelectability (noun)

So the overall derivation is verb→adjective→adjective→noun. At no stage in the derivation is a noun derived directly from a verb, so you weren't mistaken!