Motivation for learning a language

Did you know that in Japan English is a compulsory subject from Junior high school, from around the age of twelve. And soon this will be lowered to from ten years of age, starting at elementary fifth grade. And they continue until high school. Plus they do two years at university, giving students a total…More


Just remember this: the agent of a sentence is the one doing the action of the verb. Consider the following sentences: (1) The car struck the fence. (2) The fence was struck by the car. In both (1) and (2) it is the car that is doing striking, even though in (2) it is NOT the subject.…More

The linguistic sign

Saussure pointed to that language is mistakenly thought of as a matching of a thing to a name. To him the link is between a concept (signified) and a sound pattern (signifier). The signified is its meaning and the signifier is the “container”. The two together makes the linguistic sign. The linguistic sign has two characteristics.…More

The origin of English words

About 85% of words in the English language are from three languages – Germanic, French and Latin. 12% are from Greek and other minor languages like Chinese and Japanese. About 4% are proper names. Different languages had influence on English at different periods in history. Latin was the language of the Church. French came with…More

Active vs. passive sentence structures

One of the reasons (there are many reason but this is just one) why we would like to change an active sentence into a passive one is because we would like to bring the object of the sentence into focus. Consider these sentences: My brother was hit by a car. A car hit my brother.…More


In any English sentence there are either zero, one, two or three actants. Actants are the “participants” of the sentence. They are either people or things. In (1) below the action of “to rain” itself is the “zero” actant. (1) It is raining. “It” is the dummy subject. In (2) and (3) the subjects “Peter” and…More

Clipboard hack for R in MAC

When I first started using the statistical software R for statistics I had started on a Windows computer. For here the copying and pasting function is read.table(“clipboard”, header=T) The exact same function on a MAC computer is read.table(pipe(“pbpaste”), header=T) Simple as that. I’d someone had told me this much earlier.More

In praise of lexicogrammar

Lexicogrammar is not a word you hear much but those of a certain following – cognitive linguists, functional grammarians, etc – use this word to describe what is traditionally call vocabulary and grammar as one system rather than being two separate systems. As a researcher in prepositions this is a big deal. It means I…More