I’ve been up to a lot lately. In addition to finishing up a course on linguistics, I’ve been working on a project with my friend, Nick. Our public speaking consulting idea has been in the works for several years now, but we’re ready to get it rolling with a new YouTube channel. Click on the link below to find out more:
In this video blog post, I explain how and why French influenced the English language. To understand this, we take a trip back in time to the days of the Vikings and William I. Check out my video, click on the image below:
or this link: https://youtu.be/0BWpp0mcSF0
Have you ever noticed that certain words in English, while they may mean the same thing, sound fancier or more formal? Why is an animal a “cow” or “bull” in the farmyard, but “beef” cooked and on the table? Think about the following word synonym pairs:
Can you tell that the first word is Anglo-Saxon (English) based, while the second is French based? Now you know why fancier or more formal sounding words have French roots, and more common, plain or everyday words are Anglo-Saxon based. It’s all about the rich history of the English language. (Note: Rolo should be Rollo. Sorry for the error in editing!)
Editors Note: Sorry for the delay in publishing new information. Here at Aaron’s English we’ve been working on updating our video format to make it more fun and interesting. After all, that’s what we are all about, real-world fun and interesting English learning. In addition, Aaron is expanding his own skills with college courses on the subject of linguistics .
I thought I would share with you my favorite three things about the English language. While it may be easy to guess that I love talking about English, I really do believe there is so much value in learning English and expanding your fluency in it. So here are my favorite fun facts about English (Don’t forget to watch the YouTube video link too):
1. Although English is categorized as a Germanic language, the language that we tend to borrow the least from is German. We borrow much more from other languages. Some have the mistaken idea that German is somehow the parent language or root of English. However, English and German both developed and evolved independently from one another from one common language.
2. English is probably the most important language of practical use to learn. I know many people will be quick to point out that Chinese is spoken by more people than any other language. They’d be correct in saying that but that doesn’t mean that everyone needs to go out and start learning Chinese (unless you’re planning on moving to a Chinese speaking country). The simple fact of the matter is that English is a global language. Most scientific papers are published in English, almost half of the business deals done in Europe are done in English, it’s the official language of air traffic controllers, and there are currently over a billion people currently learning English. It’s the official language of 4 countries, 64 sovereign states, and 27 non-sovereign entities. (See the illustration below) That’s certainly some incentive to learn English! Which by the way, there are more English-language-learners than there are actual native English speakers.
Countries in which English is the first language of the majority of the population. (shown in dark blue); other countries present possess substantial English knowledge dating back to the British Empire (shown in light blue) Source: Wikipedia “English Speaking World”
3. English is one of the only languages that has a thesaurus. Japanese makes use of one as well, but this is a rare exception. The reason English needs a thesaurus is that English borrows so much from other languages that it necessitates a thesaurus. English borrows from Anglo-Saxon, Norse, Latin, French, Greek, etc. so we’ve adopted and adapted these to English. Interestingly, when using a thesaurus you’ll, more often than not, find words with different shades of meaning. Some are more technical, archaic, slangy, scholarly, or literary. It’s important that you use the word most commonly used to the audience you’re writing for or talking to.
Video link: YouTube Aaron’s English Page
What are portmanteau words? A portmanteau is a word from French that means a large leather suitcase with two large compartments. But how can a suitcase relate to words? Why don’t you find out! (Click on the link below to watch the video)
Some examples (including the ones from the video and some additional ones too) of portmanteau words and definitions:
biopic- a biographic movie (biography/picture)
dramedy- a movie that is both comedic and dramatic (drama/comedy)
mockumentary- a satirical movie that is filmed in the way a documentary film would be made (mock/documentary)
newscast- a radio or television program that reports the news (news/broadcast)
soundscape- a melange of musical and sometimes non-musical sounds (sound/landscape)
brunch- a meal that combines breakfast and lunch and that is usually eaten in late morning (breakfast/lunch)
brainiac- a very intelligent person (brain/maniac)
blog- a website on which someone writes about personal opinions, activities, and experiences (web/log)
bodacious- very good or impressive (bold/audacious)
meld- blend or mix (melt/weld)
bit- a unit of computer information equivalent to the result of a choice between two alternatives(binary/digit)
Can you think of any others? (Look at the picture for a hint)
Each word makes up half of the whole new word, just like the two compartments of a portmanteau fold up to make one suitcase.
Recently, I have been on vacation to see some of the popular places in California. My wife and I went on a two week long road trip to see the Eastern Sierras, Yosemite National Park, San Francisco, Napa Valley and the Pacific Coast Highway. We kept a blog about our adventures at www.aaronandjocelyn.wordpress.com.
While on my trip, I decided to take the opportunity to film a blog video. I had a last minute change of topic, when we encountered a bear family on our hike. I decided that talking about the use of interjections, or exclamatory remarks, would be appropriate. My fellow hikers and I all used various interjections to express our surprise and even fear at seeing the bears. Bears can be dangerous to hikers, especially if a mother bear has cubs. Fortunately we were able to give the bears enough space, and they didn’t mind us sharing the trail with them. Check out my blog video to find out more about using interjections in everyday speech and writing.
Have you ever been confused by a gerund? Don’t be! Gerunds are a simple English grammar concept. Let’s answer some questions about gerunds.
What is a gerund?
A gerund is formed from a verb but acts as a noun. A gerund always ends in –ing. Running, walking, driving. Gerunds are actions.
What is the difference between a gerund and a noun?
Although gerunds act as nouns, they are not people, places or things. Gerunds are actions. They name activities, behaviors, or states of mind and being.
What is the difference between a gerund and a present participle?
The –ing form of a verb can be used either as a gerund or a present participle. A present participle is the form of a verb that is used in continuous tenses, I’m thinking; alone in nonfinite clauses, thinking about it, I’m not sure what to do; as a noun, that’s good thinking; or as an adjective, running water. This can be tricky, and in most cases, unless you are studying for a grammar exam, it isn’t really important to know the difference. Native English speakers don’t usually know (or care) whether they are using a gerund or a present participle, they just know the –ing form of the word sounds right.
What is the difference between a gerund and an infinitive?
Infinitives are “to” plus a verb. to run, to walk, to drive.
Both gerunds and infinitives can be subjects in a sentence or be the object of a verb. Running is enjoyable. To run is enjoyable. I like walking. I like to walk. However a gerund can be the object of a preposition, while an infinitive cannot. He is enjoying running in the park.
When should I use a gerund, and when do I use an infinitive?
Use a gerund in sentences about concrete (or real) actions, and ones that happened and are over. I like running. Running is a real and concrete action. We went walking in the park. Walking is an action, it happened and is now over. While infinitives are sometimes used as objects of a preposition, most speakers generally prefer to use gerunds. She bought new shoes for running on the track.
Infinitives are better suited for describing actions that are abstract, unreal, or will occur in the future. I asked him to walk with me. “to walk” is an action planned in the future. I told him to refuse to come. “to refuse” is an abstract action. While an infinitive can appear at the beginning of a sentence as the subject, it is more common for speakers to use an infinitive as a subject complement instead. His favorite activity is to walk in the park.
The best way to learn to use gerunds is by listening to how they are used by native English speakers. Pay attention to when speakers and writers use the –ing form of verbs.
My last post was about that tricky vowel ‘Y’. This topic leads to the question about the consonant ‘C’. Sometimes ‘C’ is pronounced as a ‘K’ and sometimes as an ‘S’. Do you know why? Do you know how to tell the pronunciation of the ‘C’ when reading an unfamiliar word? Watch my latest video to find out the answer! You will also find out why the word ‘circle’ is pronounced the way it is.
In the video I talked about assibilation. This is a linguist term that has to do with the way a sound can change. It means the sound is changed to sibilant sound. A sibilant sound is made with air flowing over the tongue and across the edge of the teeth, like the hissing sound of the letter ‘s’. ‘C’ when it is pronounced as an ‘s’ is a good example of this process. You don’t have to understand the complicated terminology or components of linguistics to understand the concepts! You can improve your pronunciation and reading skills simply by learning to recognize a few linguistic basics, like how the vowel sound can affect a letter like ‘C’.