Tuesday, February 19, 2013

These are a few of my favorite things

As a connoisseur of linguistic delights, I have learned to appreciate the unique ways each language approaches communication, often wishing that the “trick” could be copied to other languages.

Here is a partial list of my personal language favorites:

French – The word si expressing disagreement to a negative statement:  “You don’t want another piece of cake” “Si”, i.e. yes I do.

Russian: the pronoun свой [svoi], which refers to the person in the subject: I, you, s/he, we:, they see свой face.

Spanish: the upside down question mark at the beginning of a question: ¿You understand?

Hebrew: The intense use of roots, making learning new vocabulary much easier: write, dictate, address, letter, correspond all have the same root, כתב [katav].

English: the lack of agreement in gender and number between adjectives and nouns, massively reducing the chances of error in making sentences, as large hand(s), not large(s) hand(s).

Italian: The natural sing-song rhyme of the language that leaves you no option but to smile: Io amo parlare italiano tutto il giorno.

Alas, nothing is perfect; here are a few aspects of these languages I am less fond of, namely:

French: the lack of firm rules to know whether a noun is masculine or feminine, which has caused me to spend a lot of time checking dictionaries.

Russian: the awful tendency of Russian to have one page of exceptions for every page of rules; believe me on this point.

Spanish: the subjunctive mode will quickly change your opinion that Spanish is an easy language to learn.

Hebrew: the binyanim or verb groups have always defied my understanding; call this a personal taste.

English: The spelling system, based on a wide base of extremely varied pronunciation patterns, is beyond logic.

Italian: Listening to Italian, how can you take the message seriously?

So, while I am also fond of raindrops, whiskers, kettles, and mittens, those are also a few of my favorite things.

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