The semantics thread

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Re: The semantics thread

#61  Postby don't get me started » Jul 12, 2016 3:05 pm

I'm glad you found it interesting.
Yes, the difference between 'there isn't a..." and "there's not a..." is elusive. I'm not sure either...
I liked your example conversation. The contextual cues provided by sequences of turns can, in many cases, reveal meanings and intentions behind utterances that would be invisible if one took the sentences as stand-alone and monologic in nature. The example you give seems to indicate that there is a contrastive element brought to bear on the choice of terms used.

something similar happens with 'some' and 'any' in offers and questions. 'Do you want some cake?' signals to the hearer that a positive answer is expected. 'Do you have any idea how much that costs?' signals to the hearer that the expected answer is 'no'.

I wouldn't be too concerned by lack of formal grammar training. Intuition can serve as a good guide and some grammarians get so far into the subject that they speak in absolute terms and take a prescriptive view.
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Re: The semantics thread

#62  Postby don't get me started » Jul 12, 2016 3:39 pm

So, onto the ways different languages deal with the business of counting. Again, what seems straightforward in one language can start to look pretty quirky when viewed from the outside in.
First, lets look at a contrast between English and some European languages. French and German resemble English in their counting systems in many ways but there are some differences.
In English one proceeds through the teens and reach twenty and then proceed through the twenties as follows:

Eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty one, twenty two, twenty three...etc.
In German you reverse the order of elements once you get beyond twenty (and all the numbers up to one hundred):

Achtzehn, Neunzehn, Zwanzig, Ein und zwanzig, zwie und zwanzig, drei und zwanzig...
(Eighteen, nineteen, twenty, one and twenty, two and twenty, three and twenty....
(A memory of this is preserved in the children' rhyme 'Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie..."

French used to use a base 20 system and this manifests itself in the way of counting some numbers.
Soixante huit, soixante neuf, soixante-dix, soixante et onze, soixante douze... quatre-vingts, quatre-vingt un
Sixty eight, sixty nine, sixty ten, sixty eleven , sixty and twelve...four twenties, four twenties and one

English has separate words for ten ones (ten), ten tens (hundred), ten hundreds (thousand) and a thousand thousands (million).
Japanese diverges from this pattern. (Or, perhaps, we can say, English diverges from the Japanese pattern.)
Ten ones is is 'Jyu',(10) ten tens is hyaku,(100), ten hundreds is 'Sen' (1,000) but here it starts to differ.

In English, nine thousand plus one thousand is 'ten thousand' but in Japanese 'kyu sen' (9,000) plus i-sen (1,000) is not 'jyu sen' 'ten and thousand ' but 'ichi man' = one MAN.
Man (万 )is the counter for one ten thousand. Thus the number 25,000 is not 'twenty five thousand' in Japanese, but 'two man, five thousand.' (Ni man go sen)
The number 250,000 is not 'two hundred and fifty thousand' but 'twenty five man'. (Nijyu go man)
The number 1,000,000 is not 'one million' but 'one hundred man', that is, one hundred ten thousands.
There are some other words for even larger numbers that differ in Japanese and English, but we'll leave it at that for now.

To finish with, lets look at the ways different languages count years.
The second world war finished in 1945.
In English it finished in nineteen forty five. (No 'u' in forty...don't ask me...)
In German the second world war finished in nineteen hundred five and forty. (Nuenzehn hundert funf und vierzig)
In Japanese the second world war finished in thousand ninehundred four tens five year. (Sen kyu hyaku yonjyu gon nen)
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