Saturday 10 December 2011

On being thick

A correspondent writes to ask about the utterance 'She was very thick with the gardener', encountered in the Hercule Poirot episode, The Halloween Party. 'I looked it up in a dictionary and it seems it's an old-fashioned way of saying "she was very friendly with him". Then I saw another expression, thick as thieves (is it still used?) .What I can't really understand is how/why the word thick (usu. 'not thin'; 'stupid') came to be used in the sense of 'friendly'.

The original sense, in Anglo-Saxon times, is of material extension, where it's regularly opposed to thin, as in a thick wall. Then it came to be applied to density and abundance (thick hedge, thick hair, thick mist...) and size (thickset) and extended to thickness in general (where it's not opposed to thin), as in 'the cover is an inch thick'.

It then generated several figurative senses meaning 'excessive in some disagreeable way', especially in the phrase a bit thick ('indecent' or 'indelicate'). It's the sense of 'density of contact' that led to the figurative sense of being 'close in association' - in other words, being 'intimate' or 'familiar'. It seems to have been a late 18th-century development. And quite a few similes have since emerged, such as as thick as glue, as thick as peas in a shell, and as thick as thieves, some of which have become proverbial.

The idioms are still used a lot, but the use of the single word to mean 'intimate' is certainly old-fashioned now, redolent of P G Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh.

Saturday 19 November 2011

On being ignorant

A correspondent from the UK writes to say he has encountered a use of ignorant in an active sense. In this use, to say that X 'is ignorant' is to mean 'X goes around ignoring people'. He has the impression that this is a working-class usage, and wonders what I think about it.

Well, this is a new one on me, for any class level. I know that there was an overlap of meaning between the adjective/noun (14th century) and the verb, when this finally arrived (early 17th century). The present-day active sense of ignore ('intentionally disregard') is much later (18th century) and, interestingly, was dismissed as erroneous by Johnson and others. The OED has a lovely quotation from 1854 when the Earl of Carlyle apologises for using the word in this way: 'Mr. Finlay says that the modern Greeks wholly ignore (I beg pardon for the use of the word) the whole period from Alexander the Great to Lord Palmerston.'

I've not come across a correspondingly active sense for 'ignorant'. The OED makes no mention of it, nor does the Urban Dictionary. I've never heard anyone say such things as 'X is a very ignorant man' meaning 'X ignores people'. But my correspondent has friends who use it in this way. It would be good to get a sense of whether this is at all common anywhere and to find examples in writing. Are there any out there? If you've come across it, remember to give details of where and when.

Monday 14 November 2011

On reading me loud and clear

A correspondent, having encountered such usages as 'Do you read me?' and 'I'm reading you loud and clear' in radio interaction, wonders what is meant by 'read' instead of 'hear'. It's an interesting example, as these are well-used expressions used in films and television where radiotelephony is a part of the plot, but they must seem odd to learners of English. For a start, the collocation of read and loud is unusual. And if it's radio, what is being read?

The interpretation is clear enough. The question asks about the quality of the signal being received. The response affirms that the signal is of good quality. The expressions are part of the jargon of two-way radio communication: read has been used along with copy ('Do you copy?'), receive, and other conventions, such as Roger (acknowledging receipt of the message). As radio is the medium, we might have expected a different form of words: 'Do you hear me?' and 'I'm hearing you loud and clear', where the collocations are normal. So what motivated read?

I've not been able to find a source which explicates the point. The usage has been around since 1930, according to the OED. (Receive in this sense is a little older; copy in this sense is not recorded in the OED.) My suspicion is that it was the ambiguity in hear which led to the search for alternatives. 'Do you hear me?' can actually have a negative interpretation, expressing attitudes ranging from mild insistence to aggressive rudeness - 'Are you listening to me?', 'I'm not going to say this again'... - the effect being reinforced by the absence of any facial expressions which might soften the force of the language.

But why read? Presumably it was motivated by the visual display on the receiving equipment, which would show a point of origin or frequency of the signal. This would often be the name of a place or a set of letters and numerals. But even if it were simply a waveform, then there was ample precedent for applying the verb in this way. Read had already been widely used in a range of senses other than that of interpreting conventional written language, as in to study, observe, or interpret something ('reading thoughts/my mind/ my heart/ the road...'). It seems to have been a natural development. As I say, I haven't found a source in the 1920s or 1930s which explicitly discusses this use of the verb, so if any reader is aware of one, do let me know.

Loud and clear was a collocation long before radio telephony. The first recorded use of it is in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-glass: 'I said it very loud and clear; I went and shouted in his ear.' That's how it stayed, resisting prescriptive criticism (that it should be loudly and clearly). And it remains the number one choice, beating the phonetic alphabet alternative (Lima and Charlie) and the fascinating 'I read you five by five'.

This was a response (also not in the OED) where the first number indicated the strength of a signal and the second indicated its readability. Each was rated on a scale from 1 to 5: signal strength went from 'loud' through 'good', 'weak', and 'very weak' to 'fading'; readability went from 'clear' through 'readable', 'unreadable', and 'distorted' to 'having interference'. So, if you read something '5 by 5' you could hear the signal well and also understand what was being said.

The origins of the expression are unclear, though it seems likely that it's another of those expressions based on parts of the body. One commentator suggests that it began with early pilots having to communicate with a controller, before taking off, by signalling with their hands, and showing with their fingers the quality of their radio reception. Plausible - but again, it would be nice to find a written source.

Saturday 12 November 2011

On 'I asks' in Sherlock Holmes

 A correspondent writes to ask about a construction he came across in a Sherlock Holmes story, 'The Red-Headed League'. He noticed 'that on one occasion Watson adds suffix -s to the first person singular verb in the present simple tense'. Why, he asks, would an educated man use such a construction? Is he referring to himself in the third person?

This is the quotation: 'Spaulding, he came down into the office just this day eight weeks, with this very paper in his hand, and he says: "I wish to the Lord, Mr. Wilson, that I was a red-headed man." "Why that?" I asks.'

The story is being narrated by Dr Watson, but it's actually not Watson talking at this point. It's Wilson who's narrating. So the question is whether Wilson would be likely to use such a construction.

We are given the following description of him by Watson: 'Our visitor bore every mark of being an average comonplace British tradesman, obese, pompous, and slow.' We also learn that he began as a ship's carpenter and now works as a pawnbroker. So it seems quite in character that he should use such a form.

This isn't the third person, though. It's the first person with an -s ending - a widely used regional dialect feature in English, both in Victorian times and today, and common in local London speech, especially in narrative discourse. We also hear such forms as 'I goes', 'I sees', and so on. It's a dramatic use of the present tense in narrative. The rest of the time people say 'I asked', 'I observed', and suchlike.

Conan Doyle does use nonstandard speech in his writing - for example, John Rance's speech in 'A Study in Scarlet': 'I was a-strollin' down ... them two houses... won't have the drains seed to...' - though it's not his stylistic forte. I find the usages rather stilted and tokenistic. But there are only hints of demotic speech in 'The Red-Headed League'. Mr Wilson has a few colloquial turns of phrase typical of the businessman trying to rise in society, such as 'never was such a fellow for photography', 'as true as gospel', 'a pawnbroker's business is mostly done of an evening', '[he] took to coming in only once of a morning', 'he... would come cheap'. 'I asks' is a clear instance of a nonstandard usage, in this story, but it's the only example, and it does stick out like a linguistic sore thumb. Which, I suppose, is why my correspondent noticed it in the first place.

Thursday 3 November 2011

On skyfall

A correspondent from BBC Radio 4's Front Row calls to ask whether I have any views about the name of the new James Bond movie, Skyfall. Had I ever heard the word before?

I certainly had. Thanks to various children, I am aware of characters in Transformers universes with this name, and I recall an adventure fantasy from the 1980s which had a planet called Skyfall. And there was a striking use by W H Auden, in the charade (his first dramatic work) he wrote in 1928 and dedicated to Cecil Day Lewis, 'Paid on Both Sides', which has the vivid lines:

Though heart fears all heart cries for, rebuffs with mortal beat
Skyfall, the legs sucked under, adder's bite.

But apart from this, the coinage seems a somewhat predictable compound. Other words ending in fall in English are unremarkable - rainfall, snowfall, waterfall, and suchlike, alongside figurative extensions such as pitfall, landfall, and shortfall. It does lend itself to cosmic invention, though: a quick search on Google produces starfall, moonfall, planetfall, sunfall, and others. So skyfall is in good company. But we'll have to wait and see what motivates the title in this case.

I'm wondering if it's 'James Bond meets Chicken Licken'. You remember him? An acorn falls on his head, and he thinks the sky is falling down so he rushes off to tell the king? Maybe the new Bond baddy is Foxy Loxy in disguise.

Monday 31 October 2011

On snowtober

A correspondent writes from the USA about the news media’s collective decision to settle on Snowtober as their name on Twitter and in headlines for this weekend’s storm. Why, he asks, did this coinage beat the others which had been suggested, such as Snoctober and Octsnowber? Are there any linguistic reasons?

There are always linguistic reasons. We can rule out Octsnowber straight away, on two grounds. First, it is an infixing coinage - something English doesn't do very much. Most blends are combinations of the first part of word A plus the second part of word B, such as brunch, helipad, smog, motel, and so on. Inserting one word inside another is rare - absobloodylutely. Second, the result of the infixation is to produce an unpalatable 4-element consonant cluster /ktsn/.

Snoctober satisfies the blending preference, but loses out on phonological grounds. The long vowel (diphthong, actually) of snow, rhyming with low, has become a short vowel: snoc rhymes with lock, and as a result the immediacy of the semantic connection with snow is lost.

Snowtober does everything right. It blends in the usual way. It keeps the phonological connection with snow in front of our ears and eyes, and it avoids an awkward phonetic sequence of sounds. This had to be the media choice.

Thursday 22 September 2011

On being fairly much aware

A correspondent writes to ask if he can say fairly much and still be grammatically correct? If we can have pretty much and very much, he says, can we have fairly much?

A quick trawl of the Internet brings to light quite a few instances, such as:

I'm fairly much aware of that...
I'm fairly much a novice when it comes to marketing...
You can locate virtually anything online now, fairly much...
It's fairly much the same from class to class...
Australia is fairly much in the middle...
This fairly much mirrors my own experience...

What we seem to have here is a lexical issue rather than a grammatical one: we're dealing with a collocational change. Fairly traditionally collocates with well but not much. Words like pretty and very collocate with both. What's probably happening is that the collocates of pretty and very are transferring to fairly.

It's not a usage that's part of my idiolect, but I've heard it occasionally, especially in the north of England. Fairly is one of those words which has quite a wide range of usage in regional dialects in Britain, e.g. She's fairly looking (meaning 'good-looking'). I seem to recall hearing it abroad too, for example in Australia. Can readers of this post add their impressions?

Wednesday 21 September 2011

On LARSP latest

Long before I began this blog, correspondents were already writing asking how they could get hold of the three texts on clinical language profiling that were developed when I worked at the University of Reading in the 1970s. They had gone out of print, and it was proving difficult for new generations of students in speech therapy and language pathology to get hold of them. Those wanting to improve their proficiency in using the grammatical analysis known as LARSP (the 'Language Assessment Remediation and Screening Procedure') were particularly affected.

Old books have new leases of life today, thanks to Internet technology. So, my thanks goes to Tom Klee and his colleagues at the University of Canterbury at Christchurch, New Zealand, for hosting electronic versions of each of the books. Keyword searches can be made through the search facility of
 the PDF reader and the table of contents is linked to each chapter. The various profile forms in these works can be reproduced without charge.

The Grammatical Analysis of Language Disability can be downloaded from 

Working with LARSP can be downloaded from 

Profiling Language Disability can be downloaded from 

As it's a busy university server, there may be the occasional delay in accessing the material. A download takes about a minute per text.

It's great to see these books readily available once more. And this is especially timely, as a new book illustrating the way LARSP has been used in thirteen languages is about to appear: Assessing Grammar: the Languages of LARSP, edited by Martin Ball, David Crystal and Paul Fletcher, published by Multilingual Matters.

Monday 12 September 2011

On OP latest

Several correspondents have written recently asking about the latest developments in 'original pronunciation' (OP) - a recurrent theme of this blog. I've delayed a response until I had something to report - which I now have. This week sees the launch of an OP website. The idea behind the site is to provide a place where people can find out about OP, archive their events, announce plans, and share their experiences of working with it and listening to it.

Although Shakespeare was the stimulus for current interest in OP, the notion is much broader. Any period of English history can be approached in this way, and indeed there have been several projects where people have tried to reconstruct the pronunciation of earlier works in Old and Middle English, notably for Chaucer. The British Library exhibition, Evolving English, which ran from November 2010 to April 2011, had an audio dimension which included OP extracts from Beowulf, Caxton, Chaucer, and the Paston letters, as well as Shakespeare. The 2011 anniversary of the King James Bible also prompted readings in OP, some of which can now be found on the OP site. And there is an ongoing project on one of John Donne's sermons which has an OP dimension.

More than literature is involved. There are opportunities for people interested in the vocal dimension of early English music, as well as for those involved in heritage projects which present original practices, such as Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts. Examples from these perspectives include an OP rendering of vocal music by William Byrd and of the songs that appear in Shakespeare's plays.

Interest in OP has been remarkable over the past couple of years, and the Future Events section of the website already has three events and will doubtless soon have more. I very much hope so. Each time a new text is explored from an OP point of view, something fresh and interesting emerges. Only half a dozen Shakespeare plays have been OP'd so far, and (as far as I know) none from other dramatists of the period - so there's plenty of scope.

Sunday 4 September 2011

On linguistic apps

A correspondent writes to ask if there are any linguistics apps. They are certainly beginning to appear, and coincidentally I received news this week of a grammar app from the Survey of English Usage at University College London. It's called iGE, the interactive Grammar of English, and it's available for iPhone 3 and 4, iPod Touch, and the iPad.

iGE comes in two versions. iGE Lite is free. It contains a glossary and three units of course material covering word classes, nouns, and determiners. It's only a taster. A grammar is a complete system. One can't dive into it without finding oneself pulled in all sorts of different directions. So I quickly found myself wanting to check out aspects of clause and phrase structure which are only available in the complete iGE. But a complete grammar for less than a fiver (in pounds) is good value by any standards.

The interactive bit relates to various exercises and puzzles, where you can score your success rate. Whether you get 100 percent or not will depend on the extent to which you have assimilated the particular grammatical model being presented. For example, asked to find all the nouns in a passage, you won't score 100 unless you accept that attributive items (such as garden in garden wall) are also classed as nouns. But the model presented is a well-established and influential one, and there are lots of real examples of usage, taken from the ICE-GB corpus.

I'm sure it won't be long before we see many more linguistic apps, especially in areas of language which are difficult to handle in traditional ways, such as phonetics and phonology. It used to be almost impossible using a textbook to obtain a good auditory experience of nonsegmental phonlogy, for example, but multimedia technology has changed all that. I would welcome reports from readers of this blog who have experience of using other apps in our field.

Friday 26 August 2011

On being persuaded about convince

A correspondent sends in the following passage from the Times (30 July): 'In Adam Sage’s article about Dominique Strauss-Kahn (July 23) he says that Triston Banon’s mother "convinced her not to make a formal complaint". No, she didn’t: she persuaded her. You convince someone of the truth of something, but you persuade them to take a course of action. ... It is a classic example of a new construction that is acceptable or at least unexceptionable to some and repugnant to others.' And he adds, a mite confused: Can I tell my students it's OK to use convince to do something?

This is purely a grammatical issue. There's no problem when these verbs are used with a following that construction. There is a difference in meaning, but that is a different point. Compare:

(1) I persuaded John that he should go to the cinema.
(2) I convinced John that he should go to the cinema.

In (1), the focus is on the process of argument; it's a step anticipating a successful conclusion. In (2) the focus is on the result; the conclusion has been successfully achieved. In this pair of examples, the nuance is inconsequential; but in (3) and (4) a contrast is drawn:

(3) I persuaded him to go, but he wasn't convinced it was the right thing to do.
(4) I found his argument persuasive but not convincing.

The lack of synonymy is illustrated by the impossibility of reversing the verbs:

(5) I convinced him to go, but he wasn't persuaded it was the right thing to do.
(6) I found his argument convincing but not persuasive.

In some cases, the context motivates the stronger interpretation, as in (7):

(7) He convinced (?persuaded) the police that he was innocent.

However, these examples are few compared with the many contexts in which either verb could substitute for the other without anyone noticing, as in (8):

(8) I persuaded/convinced John that it would be wise to leave early.

Persuade has long (since the Middle Ages) been used with the nonfinite construction:

(9) I persuaded John to go to the cinema.

The infinitive brings a different semantic implication: the focus is on the action rather than on the mental state. And given the overlap in meaning, it was only a matter of time for this construction to be extended to convince. The surprising thing is that this didn't happen until the 1950s. First recorded usages are in the USA:

(10) I convinced John to go to the cinema.

This brought the usual complaints from the prophets of linguistic doom, but the rapid growth in popularity of the usage quickly led to it being recognized in dictionaries and grammars in both British and American English. The OED, for example, notes it without comment. The that construction is still the more frequent one, especially in British English, but the greater succinctness of the to construction - one word instead of three - has probably been a factor in its growth.

So, in short, I would certainly let students use both constructions with convince, but warn them that some people still find the to form uncomfortable. In such circumstances, when one never knows who will be reading what one writes, it is always wise to be conservative. One doesn't want one's application for a job to be rejected by a potential employer who is still living in the linguistic past, and who finds this usage - as the Times writer says - repugnant.

Monday 1 August 2011

On 'Marley and me/I'

A correspondent writes with a query about the title of the book and film Marley And Me. He notes that some people think it should be Marley and I, and wonders which is correct. Is it something to do with the fact that it is in a title, he asks?

Titles, like newspaper headlines, often have a grammar of their own - but not in this case. Both forms are used. Along with Marley and Me in the world of titles we find Monkey and Me, My Bump and Me, Stieg and Me, Ann Boleyn and Me, and more. On the other hand we find Withnail and I, The Egg and I, Gillespie and I, The Duke and I, and others. There is even a minimal pair. In 2009 there was an exhibition of Murray Close's photographs from the set of Withnail: it was called Withnail and Me.

Plainly there's a choice, and that will depend on the general feelings one has about the use of me and I in everyday use. The point has been well discussed in the English linguistics literature, so I won't go into it in detail here. But most people sense a formality difference, with I more formal than me. There's also a pragmatic issue arising out of the way I has been privileged in prescriptive teaching over the past 200 years, so that some people are scared of using me - notwithstanding the fact that the and me or me and constructions have a history of usage dating from the 14th century (see OED under me, pron.1, n. and adj., sense 5), and are found in Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens and many other authors. The linguistics literature also has some interesting observations about the way the grammar of pronouns in a coordinate construction differs from that of pronouns used in isolation (for example, see §2.2 of the Cambridge grammar).

If it had been left to itself, I'm sure me would have been the normal usage in the short texts that constitute titles. Compare them with other self-contained pieces of 'block language' (as Quirk, et al would call it) or elliptical sentences. It's interesting that me seems to be privileged in these minimalist sentences, especially those that are exclamatory in character. Consider such examples as the following, none of which allow I:

Dear me! Goodness me!

Silly me! Funny me!
Me go by train? Never!
Me and my big mouth!
Me in Blackpool. [photograph caption]
I got told off - and me only trying to be helpful.
Me? [do you mean me?)
Me too. Me neither.

But of course it wasn't left to itself.

Prescriptive grammarians have a lot to answer for. Their insistence that I usage was correct (as in It is I) and me was incorrect, introducing a Latin rule which went against the natural idiom of English, produced generation after generation of conflicting intuitions and a sensitivity to their use which is still with us. The uncertainty that people feel is a direct result of the attempt to implement that artifcial rule. They don't like to use I in everyday speech because it's felt to be too formal. On the other hand they find me uncomfortable because they've heard that it's wrong. It's not surprising, then, to see the rise of alternatives - especially myself. Usages such as Jane and myself went to the cinema and They saw John and myself in the street are on the increase - an ancient usage, which remained alive only in a few regional varieties, notably Irish English, but which is widespread in British English now. (And outside of Britain? Comments, please.) So expect to see more examples of this in the next generation of book and film titles. We've already had Oscar Wilde and Myself, My Father and Myself, and a few others. If they ever remake the cult film, and feel the need to retitle, it could be Withnail and Myself.

Monday 18 July 2011

On identifying phishermen

Correspondents (of the radio kind) have been keeping the phone hot this week in the wake of a report claiming that spelling mistakes on websites can cut online sales by half. I'm not surprised. If website writers don't take the trouble to satisfy the norms of standard English - which is defined chiefly by its spelling, punctuation, and grammar - then they must expect to encounter trouble. People are very ready to make deductions about the background of a user based on language use, and the argument 'carelessness in spelling must mean carelessness generally (and thus an unsatisfactory product)' is applied regardless of the realities. Quite clearly, firms need to employ proof-readers if they sense they have a deficiency in the spelling department. There are plenty of free-lancers out there willing to help.

Interesting research questions still need to be answered. What are the areas of internet activity that generate these expectations? Clearly there are some outputs where deviations from standard English are normal, expected, and valued. And what pragmatic effects does nonstandard usage on the internet convey? One point which didn't get a mention in the BBC report is the way nonstandard English can be an important clue to the dubious origins of a message. Here are three examples of phishing that I received recently, all from someone purporting to be a gmail service provider and wanting my personal details. The nonstandard English provides the clues (some of which I italicize below). There are pointers of spelling, punctuation, and grammar, as well as awkwardness of style and inconsistency (eg in the use of capital letters). Probably the whole of the first example should be in italics, given the blend of sentence structures!

(1) 'We make every effort to ensure that we provide the Ultimate Security required for maximum protection because we are detecting unusual activity on some user account, we have decided to protect each account with a user account control to protect user privacy and make sure each user account is not accessed unauthorised.'

(2) 'We have received several complaints from users unable to gain access to their email account, as a result of that, we are upgrading our security systems and making sure each user account is not accessed unauthorised. We do not want you to loose access to your Account since your login information are no longer valid on our database system. Now, the Gmail Account Team need to confirm your profile details below for verification purpose and to confirm that you own this Account.

NOTE: If you would like to continue using our services, please click on the reply button and email us the afore mention details immediately for confirmation and validation. We apologize for any inconveniences. Thanks for Using our Service.'

(3) 'This is an important information regarding your Google account. We have just realized that your account information on our database system is out of date, as a result of that we request that you to verify your Information by filling your account information below.'

As time passes, and people become increasingly experienced in reading and interpreting web pages, they are developing intuitions about the status of the originators. This applies as much to matters of graphic design and choice of style as to content. What we are seeing in these examples is the emerging role of nonstandard English as an index of internet illegitimacy. I expect the same sort of thing takes place in other languages? Examples welcome.

Friday 15 July 2011

On enquiring about inquiry

A correspondent reports something he was reading in The Times this week:

1356 BST: Jemima Khan has a complaint about the police investigation into phone hacking. 'Not much hope for hacking Inquiry when they can't even spell it... I received "Operation Weeting Enquiry [sic] Questionnaire" last week,' she tweets.

He notices that I often write in my blog about enquiries from correspondents. He concludes: 'What are the rules and/or usage in British English? I know that in American English it is always inquiry.'

Well, not always, actually. The Cambridge Corpus of American English shows a preference of 97% for inquire and 88% for inquiry. That's a dominant usage, certainly, but not a universal one. In Britain, the picture is extremely mixed. The British National Corpus shows almost exactly twice as many enquire as inquire, and twice as many inquiry as enquiry. The world picture, amalgamating different spelling traditions, is mixed too. Google shows inquire five times more common than enquire, and enquiry seven times more common than inquiry. But all four forms are frequent. Not surprisingly, then, most dictionaries throw in the towel and say the i- and e- forms are interchangeable. The OED, for example, simply lists them as alternatives, but adds a note under enquire:

'An alternative form of inquire v. The mod. Dicts. give inquire as the standard form, but enquire is still very frequently used, esp. in the sense "to ask a question".'

Could there be a sense difference? Prescriptive grammarians tried to find one, citing the difference between insure and ensure as justification, and their view did have some influence. The i- forms should refer to impersonal, formal investigations, it was recommended, whereas the e- forms should be used only for personal questions, and doubtless many people tried to make their usage conform to this distinction. The lists of examples in the large corpora, however, show many counter-examples, and it is difficult to resist the conclusion that, for most people, the forms are as interchangeable as judgment and judgement - in other words, influenced by such factors as region, house style, and institutional preference, but not by anything semantic.

The original forms in English were with e- (from French enquerre), but in the late 14th century we see i- spellings appearing, as people tried to reflect the Latin origin of the words (inquirere) - a common practice at the time. Dr Johnson put all his weight behind the i- forms in his dictionary, and doesn't include the e- forms at all. Modern style guides seem to be going the same way. The Cambridge Guide to English Usage (2004), for example, concludes thus:

'Given no consistent ways of differentiating the two spellings, and the fact that differentiation is unnecessary, it makes sense to consolidate the use of one or the other. Inquire and inquiry recommend themselves as the spellings made first among equals by the Oxford Dictionary, and the fact that they are strongly preferred in North America.'

That doesn't make the e- forms wrong, of course, as the quotation from my correspondent suggested. And it's nonsense to suggest there might be a correlation between this choice of spelling and the conduct of a policy enquiry.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

On mouth-filled speech

A correspondent writes with an enquiry that needs to be quoted in full:

'This morning I tried simultaneously to brush my teeth and talk.  I tried saying, 'I don’t know,' and the listener managed to understand my muffled 'words'.  Actually, they could be thought less of words and more as pulsated approximations of words, three throbs with the first one neutral, the second a bit higher, and the third ending on a lilt.  Since the words 'I don’t know' are used so often in English, it wasn’t difficult for my listener to guess what I meant.  And that got me thinking, how much does this sort of 'speech'—hummed, or pulsated approximations of real words— factor into the English language, as well as others?  I imagine that for any language, the most common words and phrases would, even if intonated in such a 'muddy' manner, still be understood because of their familiarity and frequency of use.  Is this sort of speech ever used for histrionic or comic effect?  Or have any authors ever exploited it for inventive literary purposes?'
This is an area which, in phonetics, would fall under the heading of paralinguistics - though I have to say mouth-filled speech isn't one of the categories recognized when Quirk and I first studied vocal effects back in the 60s. It just didn't turn up in the corpus - unsurprising, really, as 'Don't talk with your mouth full' is a (?universal) pragmatic prohibition that we learn from our parents at around age 3, and the recordings of relatively formal situations we were using then simply didn't present the relevant situations. The surreptitious recording of bathroom or dining-room speech wasn't a top priority at the time.

It's more than just politeness that's at stake. There is a risk of choking. And unintelligibility. But etiquette is a dominant factor. Some people, if asked a question at exactly the point where they have taken a mouthful on board, simply refuse to speak until they have swallowed, which can produce an awkward silence in the conversation (though the mouth-filled one will usually use facial expression or hand gesture to explain what's happening). Listeners understand the problem if they've been brought up in that way. (I muse over my parenthesis above. Is it etiquette in all languages? It is in all the language situations I've experienced.)

Despite the lack of examples in corpora, mouth-filled speech is really rather common. I suspect most people do it, from time to time, in informal eating situations, when they feel the urgent need to make a point. And eating is only one of the relevant situations. Other examples, in addition to speaking while brushing the teeth, are

- speaking while holding a writing implement in the mouth (while the hands are otherwise engaged), as I've often seen in business meetings
- speaking (or trying to) when the dentist, just having filled your mouth with implements, asks you if you had a nice holiday
- and relatedly, speaking after having had your gums filled with anaesthetic
- speaking with pins in the mouth, while sewing
- speaking with a pipe or cigarette in the mouth
- speaking with a hand or finger in the mouth, sucking it better after a hurt
- speaking with ill-fitting false teeth
- little (and sometimes not-so-little) children, sometimes try to speak while keeping a dummy (pacifier) in the mouth
- speaking with a decorative item in the mouth, such as a pierced tongue
- for boxers, speaking with a gum-shield
- in old-style elocution, speaking with a pebble in the mouth to improve one's pronunciation - a technique supposedly used by Demosthenes to overcome a stammer
- more dramatically, movies regularly show us someone trying to speak with a gag in the mouth
- or talking while someone else is in their mouth, as with a passionate kissing scene.

These situations are common enough to have made me role-play mouth-filled speech in listening comprehension exercises, when I used to do some EFL teaching in summer schools. Solo, I hasten to add, in view of the last example.

Linguists are well aware of the importance of avoiding situations where something interferes with natural speech production. Field linguists watch out for any physical limitations in their informants - it would be unwise, for example, to rely greatly on the phonology produced by an aged speaker who had lost all his teeth. And some of the semiotic transcriptions of body behaviour from the 1960s include symbols for such effects as 'speaking through clenched teeth', 'speaking while licking one's lips', and 'speaking with mouth pursed'. However, these are just general markers. I don't know of any phonetic descriptions at the level of the segment.

Do authors do it? I haven't come across any. They seem to leave the effect to the reader's imagination. Here's J. M. Barrie in A Widow in Thrums (Chapter 3):

' "Ye daur to speak aboot openin' the door, an' you sic a mess!" cried Jess, with pins in her mouth.'

The character has that accent throughout; no special effort is made to represent the effect of the pin-holding. Here's George Eliot, in Scenes of Clerical Life (Chapter 1):

' "So," said Mr. Pilgrim, with his mouth only half empty of muffin, "you had a row in Shepperton Church last Sunday." '

That sentence would certainly have sounded differently. And even Charles Dickens, so good at depicting the idiosyncrasies in an individual's speech, leaves this effect to the reader, as in Nicholas Nickleby (Chapter 5):

' "This is the way we inculcate strength of mind, Mr Nickleby," said the schoolmaster, turning to Nicholas, and speaking with his mouth very full of beef and toast.'

A rare example of an author trying to represent the segmental phonetics of mouth-filled speech is Anna Pickard in The Guardian (27 April 2006) which begins:

' "Fankky, i's ow-wajus. I fine i' affo-uuti owajus. Va figiss ... hangom, suwee, nee to swa-oh." Frankly, it's outrageous...'

And she goes on:

'And what, I ask, is so wrong with talking with your mouth full? In an age where multitasking is a marketable skill, surely the ability to eat and keep up your end of the conversation at the same time should be positively commended. '

She specifies three benefits:

'Time management
There simply isn't time in the day to set aside a separate amount for eating and for talking. By combining the two activities, an incredible amount of time can be saved. Also, none of your companions will ever need to ask what you had for lunch again. They will know, because they can see.

Portion control 
The process of eating while talking can do wonders for the figure. Anatomically speaking, the act of sucking in air for the talking while holding food in the oratory position should, in theory, bring more air into the food, thus inflating it, and making you feel more full (if slightly gassy). While this hasn't been scientifically proven as far as I know, speaking as a university graduate, it certainly sounds like a convincing theory. My degree is in dramaturgy.

By the simple act of talking while eating, you can easily ensure that you will be memorable to everyone you meet. While what you were saying might have been otherwise forgettable, no one will ever forget you if you gave them a good eyeful of bolognese while you were saying it.'

It's nice to have the opportunity of resurrecting this piece from the journalistic past.

If readers of this post have come across any other examples of mouth-filled speech, especially in literature and in languages other than English, I'd love to know of them, as I'm sure would my correspondent.

Monday 4 July 2011

On texted vs texed

A correspondent writes to ask about the past tense of the verb to text. He uses texted but is aware that many people say text, as in She text me yesterday. 'Why is this>' he asks. 'Is it something to do with the consonant cluster at the end being difficult to pronounce?'
The historical situation is clear in the OED. When text became a verb in English, back in the 16th century, meaning 'write, inscribe', it had the expected regular past tense form, -ed. We find an early use in Much Ado About Nothing, when Claudio says 'Yea, and text underneath, here dwells Benedick the married man'. And we find a past tense in Thomas Dekker's play Whore of Babylon, 'Vows have I writ so deep... So texted them in characters capital...' That's 1607.

Unsurprisingly, then, when text became a verb again in the 1990s, in the modern sense, it followed the normal pattern, and texted is the form given in all the dictionaries. So the interesting question is, why has an alternative form developed. It's very unusual to find a new irregular past tense form in standard English. It does happen, as we see with the preference for shorter broadcast and forecast alongside broadcasted and forecasted, but that was influenced by the basic verb cast, past tense cast. We don't have the same situation with text.

Pronunciation is probably part of the answer. There's nothing intrinsically difficult about the consonant cluster at the end of text, as we don't have a problem with other words in English which have exactly the same consonant cluster in that position in a word, such as next, vexed, faxed, boxed, sexed. Indeed, there is evidence from the history of English that the 'xt' pronunciation is actually easier than some alternatives, as when we see asked change to axed in many regional dialects. But adding an -ed ending alters the pronunciation dynamic. We now have two /t/ sounds in a rapid sequence, as we had in broadcasted, and that could motivate people to drop the ending. Speakers generally prefer shorter forms.

This then means that we have a present tense and past tense which aren't different, but that's nothing unusual in English, as we see with bet, bid, burst put, and others. Indeed, text as a past tense has something going for it: it actually sounds as if there is a past tense -ed form there already. Compare the sound of I fix, mix, fax, sex (meaning 'decide the sex of', as in The vet sexed the kittens), and so on, which in the past tense are fixed, mixed, faxed, sexed. Text sounds like them, and even though there is no verb tex, the pronunciation analogy could still operate. (Also, of course, in colloquial speech, text is often pronounced /teks/ anyway.) So maybe people are beginning to think of text as if it were texed.

Whatever the reasons, we do now find forms such as texed and tex'd being used with increasing frequency. I think it's only a matter of time before we find it being treated like broadcast in dictionaries, and given two forms.

Wednesday 29 June 2011

On bottom

A correspondent from Shakespeare's Globe writes to ask whether bottom ever meant 'posterior' in Elizabethan England. He has noted the way some modern productions make risque jokes about the character of Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and wonders if these are what Shakespeare intended. He wonders, too, whether Bum (the name of Pompey in Measure for Measure) would have had a similar connotation.

This is the kind of case where the amazing Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary comes into its own. Type bottom into the search, and up will come all the senses of that word, grouped thematically. Find the one which means 'buttocks', and there you will find a list of over 80 lexical items for this area of the anatomy, which you can see alphabetically or in chronological order of record. They contain items which are a mixture of learned, jocular, euphemistic, and slang.

1000s: arse
1200s: cule, latter end, fundament, buttock
1300s: tut, tail, toute, nage, tail-end, brawn, bum
1400s: newscher, croupon, rumple, lend, butt, luddock, rearward, croup
1500s: backside, dock, rump, hurdies, bun, sitting-place, prat, nates, crupper, posteriorums,
1600s: cheek, catastrophe, podex, posterior, seat, poop, stern, breek, flitch, bumfiddle, quarter, foundation, toby
1700s: rear, moon, derriere, fud, rass, bottom
1800s: stern-post, hinderland, hinderling, ultimatum, behind, rear end, hinder, botty, stern-works, jacksy,
1900s: sit, truck-end, tochus, BTM, sit-upon, bot, sit-me-down, fanny, beam, ass, can, keister, batty, bim, quoit, rusty-dusty, twat, zatch, booty, bun, tush

So, bum? Yes, that would have carried a rude connotation in Shakespeare's day. But bottom? No. To exploit rude connotations here would be an anachronism. Of course, it's difficult to ignore the modern meaning, when we hear the name, but we have to try, if we want to get closer to Shakespeare's usage.

Friday 10 June 2011

On being linguistically cognito

Some correspondents have been contributing to my last post incognito. It was a post about a point of usage in which, it began to emerge, there was an interesting usage divide between British and American English. The situation is probably more complex than that, with such factors as age, gender, and social context being relevant as well as regional origin. And very important is to establish the relevance, if any, of the contributors' language background. Without a sociolinguistic perspective of this kind, it is impossible to interpret what people are saying. 'I say this' or 'I never say this' is useless without knowing who 'I' is.

And this local issue reflects the main problem presented by the Internet, when it comes to interpreting language data. It's often said that the Internet is the largest linguistic corpus ever, and this is a goldmine for linguists. Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. Because it is also the largest anonymous linguistic corpus there has ever been, and this is an immense frustration for linguists. I take it as axiomatic, these days, that a linguistic analysis has to be sociolinguistically and pragmatically informed. If we want to explain linguistic patterns, as opposed to just describing them, we need to answer the question 'why'. Traditionally, linguistics had its focus on the what and when and where (descriptive, historical, and dialectological perspectives). Today we want to know why a usage occurs. What type of person uses it, in what situation? What was the intention behind using it and what was the effect? It is questions of this kind that sociolinguistics, stylistics, and pragmatics seek to answer. And they can't be answered without basic data, which is what the Internet so often does not provide. The fact that most contributions on the Internet are incognito, or pseudocognito, makes serious sociolinguistic investigation impossible. On the Internet, as the New Yorker cartoon once said, nobody knows you're a dog.

I'm well aware that there are some situations - some social networking domains, for example - where the opposite is the case. People tell the world everything about themselves. But there are still problems. Three, in particular. First, not everything we read can be trusted: false identities are all over the place, in which people adopt alternative ages, genders, roles... Second, saying too much about oneself is almost as problematic as saying too little, as nobody has got the time to trawl through a pile of (linguistically) irrelevant data about hobbies, likes and dislikes, and so on, in order to extract those values which relate to sociolinguistically relevant parameters. And third, linguists have spent a lot of time refining their investigative procedures in recent decades, so that they know the right kind of questions to ask, when approaching a usage issue, and these questions may not be addressed in the information people offer about themselves.

We do not yet have detailed linguistic accounts of the consequences of anonymity. All that is clear is that traditional theories don’t account for it. Try using Gricean maxims of conversation to the Internet: our speech acts should be truthful (maxim of quality), brief (maxim of quantity), relevant (maxim of relation), and clear (maxim of manner). Take quality: Do not say what you believe to be false; Do not say anything for which you lack evidence. Which world was Grice living in? A pre-Internet world, evidently. Analyses in pragmatics traditionally assume that human beings are nice. The Internet has shown that a lot of them are not. Is a paedophile going to be truthful, brief, relevant and clear? Are the people sending us tempting offers from Nigeria - beautifully pilloried in Neil Forsyth’s recent book, Delete This at your Peril (2010)? Are extreme-views sites (such as hate racist sites) going to follow Geoffrey Leech’s maxims of politness (tact, generosity, approbation, modesty, agreement, sympathy)? If brevity was the soul of the Internet, we would not have such coinages as bloggorhea and twitterhea.

I've just come back from a splendid corpus linguistics conference in Oslo (ICAME 32) where this was among the issues being addressed. The paper I gave will be up on my website shortly, but it raises more questions than answers. Maybe one day the Internet as a whole will provide linguistically sophisticated metadata, but I'm not holding my breath. And there may be a limit to what can be, given the collaborative nature of many Web pages, such as those we see on Wikipedia, which are often sociolinguistically heterogenous, reflecting contributions from people of diverse backgrounds. Stylistic conglomerates are emerging as a consequence. None of this helps the poor sociolinguist.

Can anything be done to improve the situation? Well, one small thing is that usage forums could start by demanding greater explicitness when usage issues are raised. And so, from now on, I will not publish contributions to my blog on points of usage that are sociolinguistically incognito. What is relevant to the debate will vary. Sometimes it will be regional background (as in the last post), sometimes it will be age, or gender, or occupation. But there needs to be something, and I hope we will see similar things happening in other usage forums, so that, gradually, a sociolinguistically more informed Internet climate evolves.

Monday 6 June 2011

On on and on at

A correspondent writes to ask if he can say both ‘Open your book on page...‘ and ‘Open your book at page...’ Is there a difference?

Prepositions can reflect personal perspective, if a situation allows it. A book is such a situation. It’s both a physical object and a collection of content. Traditionally, the ‘at’ usage offers us the physical perspective.

I left my bookmark at page 60.
How far have you read? I’m at page 60.

It’s the usual use of ‘at’ to refer to location. The ‘on’ usage reflects content:

He makes an interesting point on page 60.
You'll find the answer on page 60.

People are more likely to refer to the content of a book than to its physical character, so we would expect ‘on’ to be more common.

‘Opening a book’ is an interesting example of overlap between the two perspectives. In one way it’s a reference to location - so, ‘at’. Most people would open a book ‘at’ a particular page. But people have a semantic reason for asking someone to open a book at a particular point - so ‘on’ isn’t ruled out. In the first case, they’re thinking ‘where’; in the second, they’re thinking ‘what’.

But I say, ‘traditionally’. While I don’t sense any change of usage in ‘on’ to refer to location, I do sense a change in ‘at’ with reference to content:

The footnote is at page 60 - instead of traditional ‘on’
You’ll find this at Chapter 3 - instead of traditional ‘in’

Here are some examples from Google:

I found the answer at page 8.
The earliest written account is at page 833 of...
The section dealing with... Darwin’s views is at page ...
You’ll find the answer at section 5...

Why? I think it’s the influence of the Internet, which has foregrounded the use of ‘at’ in fresh ways thanks chiefly to the use of @ and hash. The collocation of ‘find’, ‘at’, and ‘page’ is routine there, and is now being increasingly used offline.

There are several other contexts in which prepositional usage is overlapping on the Internet. I’ve just used one. ‘On’ the Internet? Type ‘find people on the Internet’ into Google and you get some 3 million hits. Type ‘find people in the Internet; and you get 6 million. You’ll find this post ‘on my blog’? ‘in my blog’? ‘at my blog’? Usage doesn't seem to have settled down yet.

Thursday 7 April 2011

On OP latest

A correspondent writes to ask if there have been further developments in Shakespearean original pronunciation (OP) since I last posted on this topic (November 2010). Yes, in a word.

The Kansas U production of Dream was hugely successful, by all accounts, and a DVD of the event will be available later this year. In the meantime, some information about the production can be found at KU Theatre, and Paul Meier's script of the production is also available.

OP figured prominently in the British Library's 'Evolving English' exhibition, with extracts read in OP from Old English, Middle English, and Early Modern English. The opening of Richard III, read by Ben Crystal, can be heard here. Ben is just back from the University of Nevada at Reno, helping to plan an OP Hamlet later this year.

Incidentally, actors who read my blog will be interested to hear news of Ben's second Passion in Practice workshop coming up in May. The video footage of the first one I found breathtaking. Passion in OP one day, maybe.

Friday 18 March 2011

On talking to aliens

A correspondent writes to ask what my thoughts are on alien languages. So I suppose I should begin this post with Kaltxi - ‘Hello’, or ‘Greetings', in Na’vi, the language of the humanoids who live on the moon Pandora, explored in the 2009 film Avatar. Na'vi joins a family of invented languages created to add linguistic verisimilitude to science fiction films. Gone are the days when every alien, from Martians to Daleks, gave the impression of being a native speaker of English.

How do you invent an alien language? It isn't as easy as you might think. It's not enough just to take some words from a well-known modern language and twist them a bit. If these beings look really alien, and behave in an alien way, then they should sound alien too - and their writing system, if they have one, should also look alien. So their speech shouldn't remind you of a human language - and especially not a world language like English. On the other hand, one has to be practical. The language mustn't be so different that it can’t be learned or pronounced by the human characters with whom the aliens are in contact. So alien language inventors usually base their creation on existing human languages, choosing the less common sounds and combining them in novel ways. The Ewok language in Star Wars, for example, was based on Tibetan; and if you listen carefully to scenes where aliens congregate you'll hear bits of Quechua, Haya, Finnish, and other languages in the babble of conversation.

Film directors have to think about other issues, when creating an alien language. Are the aliens ‘good guys’? If so, the director will want the language to sound pleasant to human ears, which will mean using softer sounds (such as m's, l's and r's), as in Na'vi. Are they ‘bad guys’? Then a harsher sounding language will be likely, full of sharp-sounding guttural consonants, as in Klingon. That's where linguists come in. The most sophisticated alien languages have been devised by professional linguists - notably Paul Frommer for Na'vi and Marc Okrand for Klingon.

Of course, film directors are also aware that aliens may not use anything remotely like the human system of speaking and writing. Astrolinguists, as they're sometimes called, speculate about the possibilities of cosmic communication. If and when the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence receives evidence of intelligent life, the alien system of communication may be quite unlike anything used by humans on earth. It might use the infra-red scale. It might use musical tones, as in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It might use mathematical symbols, as in Contact. Or consider the range of behaviours used by animals, which include colour-change (as in chameleons), pheromones (as in ants), and dance movements (as in bees). Any of these could be the basis of an alien system. The Wookies of Star Wars sound as if they're growling. Droids such as R2-D2 use a complex system of beeps and whistles.

Alien sounds aren't the only features to be created. There has to be alien vocabulary and alien grammar too. Klingon has the word order Object + Verb + Subject, the reverse of English (though this pattern is found in a few human languages, such as Tamil). Yoda speaks English but with an unusual word order too: 'Your father he is... Strong am I with the Force.' Na’vi has singulars and plural nouns, as all human languages do, but also has special forms for expressing ‘two of’ a thing and ‘three of’ a thing, which are possible but uncommon in human languages. And humans would have trouble counting in Huttese (as spoken by Jabba the Hutt in Star Wars), as Hutts have only eight fingers, so their method of counting uses base 8.

Some alien languages have been developed by their authors well beyond the level achieved in the films. Klingon has the greatest following. So'wl' yIchu'. DoS yIbuS. yaSpu' tIHoH. That is: 'Engage the cloaking device! Concentrate on the target! Kill the officers!' These commands are taken from Marc Okrand's Klingon Dictionary (1992), a helpful guide to the official language of the Klingon Empire. The letters are close to English values, apart from the following:

capital D is a d sound with the tongue curled back (a 'retroflex' consonant)
capital S is halfway between s and sh
capital H is the ch sound in loch or Bach
the apostrophe represents a glottal stop

The author apologises for the phonetic approximation. As he rightly says, following notions of best practice in foreign language learning: 'The best way to learn to pronounce Klingon with no trace of a Terran or other accent is to become friends with a group of Klingons and spend a great deal of time socializing with them.'

There are now many works written entirely in t'hIngan Hol' (Klingon). In September 2010, an opera premiered in The Hague written entirely in Klingon: 'u'. Later that year, a Chicago theatre staged a Klingon production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It told the story of a warrior called SQuja' (Scrooge), who is visited by three ghosts to help him regain his lost honour and save Tiny Tim. As the publicity said: 'Performed in the Original Klingon with English Supertitles, and narrative analysis from The Vulcan Institute of Cultural Anthropology.'

Knowing a good thing when it sees it, and possibly anticipating an alien invasion one day, Google already has one alien interface: go to Google's Language Tools and there in the long list of languages you will find Klingon. I expect Na'vi will join it, one day, as Paul Frommer is continuing to work on the language as earthly interest grows.

Invented languages form quite a large family now. Superman (DC Comics) has Kryptonese. The giants in the Japanese Macross anime series have Zentradi. Of course, if you want to avoid the problem of creating a new language, you can simply invent a universal translation device, such as the Babel Fish of Douglas Adams’ A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or use your Tardis to do it for you. Or go in for telepathy, as the Vulcans do in Star Trek or the Ood in Dr Who. Or simply employ a being who speaks all of them, such as C3P0 in Star Wars, who can handle six million languages.

Evidently, alien languages provide linguistics with a new and expanding field of study. What should it be called? Some writers have opted for xenolinguistics, based on xeno-, meaning 'foreign' or 'strange'. Exolinguistics has been suggested too, from exo- meaning ‘outside’ or 'without'. Either way, it's probably the branch of linguistics with the greatest potential for development if, as they say, we are not alone.

Saturday 12 March 2011

On -ish

A correspondent writes to ask if there are any rules governing the use of -ish in English. He says ‘we tend to add it to short adjectives, particularly colours and physical attributes: shortish, tallish, greenish... but googling reveals that we add -ish to just about every adjective under the sun, such as beautifulish, Europeanish, freezingish, exhaustedish...

He’s right to draw attention to the monosyllabic character of the adjectives. This is an important factor when it comes to inflections in English. We see it in the comparative and superlative forms too, where the distribution of -er and -est vs more and most correlates strongly with length. We prefer bigger to more big. Adjectives with three syllables or more use the other construction (more interesting, not interestinger). There are just a few exceptions, such as unhappier. Adjectives with two syllables are more difficult to describe: some take the inflection (eg those ending in -y and w, such as happier, narrower), some don’t (eg those ending in -ed, such as more worried), and some take both (eg commonest and most common).

A similar situation applies in the case of -ish. In the sense of ‘somewhat’, we find it added to monosyllabic adjectives from Middle English times - colour words such as bluish (1398) and blackish (1486) are among the earliest. Adjectives ending in y and w attract it too: sillyish (1766), narrowish (1823). The usage then extended to other monosyllabic adjectives, such as brightish (1584), coldish (1589), and goodish (1756), and the usage has continued to extend over the centuries. In the early 20th century we find it used for hours of the day or number of years, probably motivated by earlyish and latish - ‘See you at about eightish’, ‘She’s thirty-ish’. Note elevenish, forty-five-ish, 1932-ish, and so on, where the root has three or more syllables.

This ties in with a second use of -ish, where it’s added to nouns in the sense of ‘having the character of'. Some, such as childish and churlish, and the nationhood names such as English and Scottish, go back to Old English. Among later arrivals are boyish (1542) and waggish (1600) - the latter a first recorded use in Shakespeare, as is foppish and unbookish. (Shakespeare quite liked the suffix - knavish, dwarfish, thievish, hellish, etc.) Note that most have a derogatory sense. Again, most are monosyllabic, but we do find the occasional longer form, such as babyish, womanish, and outlandish. This trend really took off in the 19th century, when novelists and journalists extended it to proper names. We find Micawberish, Queen Annish, Mark Twainish, and suchlike, as well as some colloquial phrases - ‘You look very out-of-townish’, ‘He has a how-do-you-do-ish manner’.

What we’re seeing today - and what my correspondent has noted - is the further extension of these patterns in informal contexts to longer adjectives. I can’t see any restriction here, other than the stylistic one - they are informal, colloquial, jocular, daring. There’s a youtube site called extraordinaryish. But one senses the novelty - as does Google. When I typed it in, to see if it was used (I got 193 hits), it was worried. ‘Did you mean extraordinary fish’, it asked.

Monday 28 February 2011

On talking among(st) yourselves

A correspondent writes from the USA to say he's noticed British English words and phrases increasingly entering public and written discourse. He gives as examples He was sacked instead of He was fired, gone missing, and such slang words as snarky. In particular, he says he's beginning to hear amongst rather than among, and wonders whether there's a difference between British and American English in this respect.

There certainly is. A table in the Quirk Grammar (9.21) shows amongst occurring ten times more frequently in British English, and this is confirmed by later corpus studies. In the huge COCA corpus (Corpus of Contemporary American English) we find 2405 instances of amongst compared with 144,461 instances of among - 1.7 per cent. This compares with 4449 instances in the British National Corpus compared with 22,385 of among - 20 per cent. On the other hand, those 2405 US instances spread pretty evenly over the past decade, so there's no evidence of any kind of very recent dramatic increase. I'd be interested to hear what US readers of this post think.

In the UK, my impression is that all the -st words are reducing in frequency. They began as a development of an ending attached to the base form: among + an -es genitive. We see that ending still in besides. Then in the 16th century, people evidently felt this was related to the -est superlative form, as gradually we find the -st ending used. We see it also in against, where it's the standard form, and in amidst (vs amid) and whilst (vs while), where usage varies. Fowler thought that these differences might be explained with reference to pronunciation - the -st forms would be used when the following word began with a vowel - but this isn't supported by the large corpus collections. The variation in standard English seems to be primarily stylistically conditioned: some people like the sound of whilst; others hate it. There's also a chronological factor: the -st forms tend to be found in older texts and among older people. And there's a great deal of regional dialect variation too.

The OED makes an interesting point about amongst, suggesting a semantic nuance not found in among: 'generally implying dispersion, intermixture, or shifting position'. So, I walked amongst the crowd would suggest a rather more active moving about than I walked among the crowd. If this is so, then I'd expect to see an increase in the proportion of amongst usages in contexts where these notions are dominant; and a quick dip into Google suggests that this is the case. With among(st) a group the proportion of amongst usage rises to 12.6 per cent; with among(st) the waves it is 45 per cent. With talk among(st) yourselves, the usage actually reverses, with amongst being four times as frequent. If there is a trend in US English to use amongst, semantics may well be an influential factor.

Sunday 13 February 2011

On pronouncing Purcell

A correspondent writes to ask about the pronunciation of two 17th-century names: Henry Purcell and Andrew Marvell. He says: 'In preparatory school I was taught to place the stress on the first syllable of Purcell and the second syllable of Marvell, always assuming that to be correct. However, I frequently hear the former pronounced with the stress on the second syllable and the latter with the stress placed on the first. Was my English instructor correct? And do American and British usage conform or differ? Has the stress shifted historically?'

When establishing an earlier pronunciation, as seen in earlier posts in this blog on the Shakespearean sound system, there are several kinds of evidence to look for - rhymes, puns, metre, spelling, and explicit comments by contemporaries. In the case of Purcell, we find clear evidence of the stress falling on the first syllable from contemporary spellings. Before spelling standardized, the vowel in an unstressed syllable would be spelled in different ways. So when we find such spellings as Pursal, Purcel, Persill, and Pursall in the 17th century, an initial syllable stress is clearly suggested. It is reinforced by the ode John Dryden wrote on the death of his friend, in which the metre requires the stress to be on the first syllable:

Now live secure and linger out your days,
The Gods are pleas'd alone with Purcell's Lays,

The same stress pattern is found in a rhyme in a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, who rhymes Purcell and reversal. That was 1918. So there doesn't seem to have been any historical change.

Nor is this just a British pronunciation, as American dictionaries say the same thing. W Cabell Greet's World Words, compiled in association with the Columbia Broadcasting System in 1948, gives initial-syllable stress for both Purcell and Marvell, but adds, after Purcell, 'As an American family name the last syllable is often accented'. The Random House Dictionary confirms this. It lists three Purcells: Edward Mills (the US physicist), Henry (the composer), and a town in Oklahoma. The first and third, it says, have the stress on the second syllable; for Henry, the stress is on the first. And the very next entry is for the Purcell Mountains in British Columbia and Montana, with, once again, the stress on the second syllable. American intuitions are thus split down the middle, with Henry apparently in the minority, so it's hardly surprising that people assume he is like everyone else.

However, intuitions in Britain are split too. It's never possible to anticipate the crazy ways in which the English like to pronounce their surnames or placenames, as famous cases such as Cholmondley ('chumley') and Happisburgh ('haysbruh') illustrate. So, when we encounter a surname ending in -ell, there's no way of predicting the stress pattern. There are several examples of surnames ending in -ell which have the stress on the second syllable, such as the Irish politician Charles Stewart Parnell. This end-stress is a typical feature of polysyllabic words in Irish English. But even here there are problems, because in Parnell Square the stress usually reverts to the first syllable (a similar alternation to what we find with he's sixteen and sixteen people). And Parnell himself preferred to say his name with the stress on the first syllable.

So we get the result we see in, for example, the Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary, where we find both pronunciations given, in both British and American English. And because linguistic uncertainty is always contagious, it's not surprising to find other surnames vacillating. No dictionary I've looked at gives any other pronunciation for Marvell than one with the stress on the first syllable, and similarly for the members of the famous Durrell family, but we do hear the alternatives, especially from American speakers, from time to time.

Thursday 20 January 2011

On caring about libraries

Several correspondents have been in touch this week about the library crisis that is currently attracting a great deal of attention - not least yesterday from poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy - and asked for my views. The question is timely, as last Monday I gave a paper to the Friends of Rhosneigr Library, one of the tiny jewels in the library system in the UK, which has been desperately fighting for survival. As this paper might be useful to others in the same position, I reproduce it below. The local references to Rhosneigr (in Anglesey, North Wales) and to Welsh could of course be replaced by correspondingly local references in other areas. The paper can be used in support of the library movement without further permission from me.

Why care about Libraries?

I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with ... L.

It's a library.

L proves to be an interesting letter in English, because it introduces so many words strongly associated with the venture we are launching today: Literature. Language. Living. Loving. Lending. Learning. Leisure. Legacy. And also: Loss. Liquidation. Lament. Lunacy. We can tell the story of our enterprise by exploring the letter L. (We can do it in Welsh too, if you want: Llyfrau (books), Llenyddiaeth (literature), Llythrennedd (literacy), Lloerigrwydd (lunacy).)

Long before I was asked to give this talk, in Chapter 3 of my autobiographical memoir, Just a Phrase I'm Going Through, I had written about one of the magical worlds I experienced as a child: '...the world of reading. I learned to read very quickly and, according to my mother, I was always reading. We couldn’t afford much by way of books, but the local library was only two minutes away. I got to know every inch of its children’s shelves, and steadily worked my way through them, using my allowance of two books per person per week. ... And then there was the joy of ownership. A book was my book, even if it was due back at the end of the week. The words were mine. I was their master. Years later, when I came across Jean-Paul Sartre’s Words (Les Mots), I was delighted and amazed. This was my story, too: "I never scratched the soil or searched for nests; I never looked for plants or threw stones at birds. But books were my birds and my nests, my pets, my stable and my countryside; the library was the world trapped in a mirror. ... Nothing seemed more important to me than a book. I saw the library as a temple." A temple indeed, but so much more. A library is a refuge, a second home, a leisure centre, a discovery channel, an advice bureau. It is a place where you can sit and draw the shelves around you like a warm cloak. Those who threaten any library service with cutbacks and closures are the most mindless of demons.'

There is, indeed, something that literally takes away our minds when we lose a library. Or put it the other way round: when we gain a library we gain a source of wellbeing. The inscription over the door of the library at the ancient city of Thebes read (in classical Greek): 'The medicine chest of the soul'.

How best to capture the spirit, the ethos, the value of libraries? Over the centuries, people have marvelled at them. It doesn't have to be a huge establishment, such as the National Library. Even the smallest village library captures the magic described so well by the Scots poet Alexander Smith (1830-67): 'I go into my library, and all history unrolls before me. I breathe the morning air of the world while the scent of Eden's roses yet lingered in it, while it vibrated only to the world's first brood of nightingales, and to the laugh of Eve. I see the pyramids building; I hear the shoutings of the armies of Alexander.' And the American political writer Norman Cousins (1915-90) agrees: 'A library ... should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas - a place where history comes to life.'

The lauding of libraries crosses centuries and cultures. First and foremost they are seen as repositories of knowledge, windows into history. 'A great library', said Canadian scientist George Mercer Dawson (1849-1901), 'contains the diary of the human race.' And American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82) echoes the theme: 'Consider what you have in the smallest chosen library. A company of the wisest and wittiest men that could be picked out of all civil countries, in a 1000 years, have set in best order the results of their learning and wisdom. The men themselves were hid and inaccessible, solitary, impatient of interruption, fenced by etiquette; but the thought which they did not uncover to their bosom friend is here written out in transparent words to us, the strangers of another age.' Women too, of course. Emerson's phrasing is of his age, but his sentiment is universal.

The metaphor of a library as a treasure trove is a recurrent figure. Here is British poet and journalist John Alfred Langford (1823-1903): 'The only true equalisers in the world are books; the only treasure-house open to all comers is a library.' And Malcolm Forbes (1919-90), the publisher of Forbes magazine, is in no doubt about the appropriateness of the wealth metaphor: 'The richest person in the world - in fact all the riches in the world - couldn't provide you with anything like the endless, incredible loot available at your local library.' But writers seem almost to be competing to find a metaphor that best captures the function of libraries in society. This is English clergyman William Dyer (1636-1696): 'Libraries are the wardrobes of literature, whence men, properly informed may bring forth something for ornament, much for curiosity, and more for use.' And, 400 years on, this is writer Germaine Greer (1939- ): 'libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy'. For Norman Mailer (1923-2007), a library was 'a sanctuary', for Francis Bacon (1561-1626), 'a shrine', for Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) it transcends life itself: 'I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library'.

I like the reservoir metaphor - a library as a source of knowledge, waiting for us to simply turn on a tap. Like water, libraries are essential to our wellbeing. As the American social reformer Henry Ward Beecher (1813-87) said, 'A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life.' It is a means of self-improvement, of advancement. As American historian Arthur Meier Schlesinger (1888-1965) put it: 'Our history has been greatly shaped by people who read their way to opportunity and achievements in public libraries.' Or, as poet and humorist Richard Armour (1906-89) put it in 1954: A library...

Here is where people,
One frequently finds,
Lower their voices
And raise their minds.

And it brings together people from all walks of life. As 'Lady Bird' Johnson (1912-2007), former American first lady, commented: 'Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.'

Along with these brief observations, we must not forget the longer and more thoughtful recollections. Esther Hautzig (1930-2009), deported to Siberia as a child during World War 2, wrote an account of her time there, called The Endless Steppe (1968). This is what she says:

'There was one place where I forgot the cold, indeed forgot Siberia. That was in the library. There, in that muddy village, was a great institution. Not physically, to be sure, but in every other way imaginable. It was a small log cabin, immaculately attended to with loving care; it was well lighted with oil lamps and it was warm. But best of all, it contained a small but amazing collection from the world's best literature, truly amazing considering the time, the place, and its size. From floor to ceiling it was lined with books - books, books, books. It was there that I was to become acquainted with the works of Dumas, Pasternak's translations of Shakespeare, the novels of Mark Twain, Jack London, and of course the Russians. It was in that log cabin that I escaped from Siberia - either reading there or taking the books home. It was between that library and two extraordinary teachers that I developed a lifelong passion for the great Russian novelists and poets. It was there that I learned to line up patiently for my turn to sit at a table and read, to wait - sometimes months - for a book. It was there that I learned that reading was not only a great delight, but a privilege.'

Let no one forget that. If you want to truly appreciate the value of reading, imagine it being taken away from you. Imagine a Siberia with no library. Or a Rhosneigr.

Of course, we are not the first to ponder the implications of losing a library. Listen to the claim made by American cardinal Terence Cooke (1921-83): 'America's greatness is not only recorded in books, but it is also dependent upon each and every citizen being able to utilize public libraries.' Listen to American astronomer Carl Sagan: 'The library connects us with the insight and knowledge, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from all our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective knowledge of the human species. I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries.' Listen to science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov (1920-92): 'I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.' And in Britain, listen to Victorian critic John Ruskin (1819-1900): 'What do we, as a nation, care about books? How much do you think we spend altogether on our libraries, public or private, as compared with what we spend on our horses?'

Have you noticed? I've just quoted from a Roman Catholic cardinal, an art critic, a scientist, and a science fiction novelist. All sending out the same message. There can be few subjects like libraries to unite such disparate and distinguished minds. And the reason is clear. Libraries are truly special. As American writer Lawrence Clark Powell (1906-2001) put it: 'To be in a library is one of the purest of all experiences.' The point has long been appreciated here in Wales. In 1916 the Welsh Department of the Board of Education published a booklet, A Nation and its Books. On page 11 we read: 'The future of our people depends largely on our books and on our libraries. No teacher is more helpful or more candid than a book, no friend is a better friend than a good book, no school is so inexpensive as a library. ... Every town should have ... its library... Every village ought to have a library.' And if it already has one, it ought not to lose it.

Once a library is gone, it is gone. It cannot suddenly be resuscitated. As the British politician Augustine Birrell (1850-1933) once said: 'Libraries are not made; they grow.' That takes time. Behind each library, no matter how small, is a history of growth, watered by the professionalism of the library's caretakers and the enthusiasm of its readers. It is not an enterprise that can be measured by numbers. It is quality that counts, not quantity. No political body should fall into the trap of judging the success of a library solely in terms of the number of its visitors. That lone reader in the corner: who knows what personal potential will be realized in the future because of today's library experience? As American poet Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982) said: 'What is more important in a library than anything else - than everything else - is the fact that it exists.' If it exists, it will be used. And French writer Victor Hugo (1802-85) sums it up: 'A library implies an act of faith'.

A century ago, in 1911, a king and queen symbolized that faith. They visited Aberystwyth to lay the foundation stone of the National Library of Wales. In 2011, a future king and queen will come to live nearby. In my poetic imagination, I hear Prince William looking towards Rhosneigr - down on it, even, from his helicopter - and repeating my I Spy rhyme. 'I spy, with my royal eye...' - but will he have to end it with 'nothing beginning with L'? It is a scenario that I trust our political leaders will ensure we will never see. It is time for them too to make an act of faith.

Wednesday 5 January 2011

On built and builded in the KJB

Two correspondents have written to ask about the use of the verbs built and builded in the King James Bible. Is there a difference of meaning? There's evidently a debate going on somewhere online in which this issue is part of the evidence. I haven't explored what the debate is about, so the following observations are offered simply by way of providing linguistic data that might not otherwise be available to the participants.

First, some background. When build appears as a verb in early Middle English, its past tense form was mainly regular (recorded forms include bildide, bylded, builded), though some writers used an irregular form (e.g. bult, byld, built). The past participle form was mainly irregular, with a wide range of forms (e.g. gebyld, bilde, bilt, buylt), along with the occasional use of a regular form (e.g. bylded, builded). In the Early Modern English period, the two forms, regular and irregular, are both frequent, with the built form gradually dominating during the 16th century - an unusual instance of an irregular form defeating a regular one. There are instances of builded recorded as late as 1800, and it's still heard today in some regional dialects. We see both forms in use around 1600, the choice between them being dictated by external factors. Shakespeare, for example, normally uses built (15 instances), but has three instances of builded, each one using the extra syllable to fill out a metrical line. There are many instances in the plays of this sort of thing: for example, the choice between -s and -eth in the 3rd person singular of verbs is also often conditioned by metrical demands. But the reason for choosing one form over another is not always clear, and sometimes one is left with the impression that the choice is random, or perhaps reflecting the preferences of an individual scribe or compositor.

In Modern English, there are several verbs which have two past forms (e.g. dreamed and dreamt) - a situation I discussed briefly in an earlier post (17 April 2008). In British English (American usage differs) there's usually an aspectual distinction: the -ed form is used when the duration of an action or the process of acting is being emphasized, and the -t form when something happens once, or takes up very little time, or the focus is on the result of a process rather than on the process itself (see the post for examples). However, it's unclear whether this kind of contrast was already operating in Early Modern English. And in any case, the built/builded alternation is different. It's more like the Modern alternation between highlit / highlighted, input / inputted, or wet / wetted, where the choice is governed by such factors as euphony, rhythm, and specialized usage (eg highlighted is the norm in hairdressing), as well as preferences related to a person's age and taste. Occasionally the two forms develop different regional uses (e.g. US dove, snuck, gotten) or different meanings (he was hanged/it was hung, I sped/speeded), but this is unusual.

What is the situation in the KJB? There are 271 instances of build used in the following four ways: as a past tense (Modern Standard English built and the emphatic did build); as a past participle form (Modern e.g. have built); as part of a passive construction (Modern e.g. was built by the Romans); and as an adjective (Modern e.g. a well built house). There is just one instance in KJB of an adjectival usage (4 Ezra 5.25, 'and of all builded cities thou hast hallowed Sion unto thyself'), and only six instances of did build: see below at Ruth 4.11, 1 Kings 11.7, 1 Kings 16.34, 2 Chronicles 35.3, Nehemiah 3.3, and Esdras 5.67. Leaving these six aside, we find 196 instances of built and 69 of builded - a ratio of nearly 3:1. The norm for the translators, as for everyone else at the time, was evidently built.

The situation in relation to built and builded in Early Modern English seems very similar to that presented by highlight and the others today. Looking at the list of instances at the end of this post, there are many parallel sentences which suggest that the forms are in free variation:

Genesis 8.20 Noah builded an altar
Genesis 22.9 Abraham built an altar
1 Chron 22.5 the house that is to be builded
1 Chron 22.19 the house that is to be built

There is even an example of both forms in the same verse:

Philemon 3.4 For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.

This seems to be a case where rhythm is the governing factor: builded in the first clause preserves an iambic rhythm (try replacing it with built to see the effect). And the same rhythmical plus comes from using built in the second clause.

However, there are some grammatical differences between the two constructions. Built is more likely to be used on its own, without auxiliary verbs (e.g. 'he built it'): 112 of 196 instances (57%), compared with 26 of 69 (38%) for builded. And when we look at individual auxiliaries, we find a definite preference for using them with built. The modal verbs used in the dataset are cannot, may, might, shall, shalt, should: only 4 of these are used with builded, whereas 17 are used with built. Similarly, 12 uses of auxiliary have occur with builded compared to 44 with built. On the other hand, there's no such trend with auxiliary be: 18 instances with builded and 17 with built.

Another difference relates to verb transitivity. If people wanted to use the verb intransitively (i.e. without an object, as in Luke 17.28 'they planted, they builded') there is a definite tendency to use builded: 12 out of 69 instances are intransitive (17%), compared with only 3 out of 196 instances of intransitive built (1.5%). The phrasal verb build up is found with 10 instances of built up and 2 of builded up. However, the other syntactic sequences I looked at (I haven't looked at them all!) showed few or no differences, e.g. the sequence build + not is found with 1 instance each (built not, builded not).

In all cases, we are talking about trends, not sharp distinctions. The grammar of the two forms substantially overlaps, and I've found nothing to suggest a semantic contrast.

So, why are there any differences at all? One possibility is that the different committees had a preference for one form or the other. Here are the relevant statistics (builded--built--did build--Total):

First Westminster 15 (16%)--76--3--94
First Cambridge 27 (32%)--55--2--84
First Oxford 4 (14%)--24--0--28
Second Oxford 1 (10%)--9--0--10
Second Westminster 3 (37%)--5--0--8
Second Cambridge 19 (70%)--27--1--47

There's the suggestion of a difference between Oxford and Cambridge, but the figures are small, and the overriding impression is that each committee was comfortable with both usages.

Perhaps individual books prompted one usage over the other? The following table brings to light one interesting fact: Ezra and 4 Ezra stand out in their exclusive use of builded. Together their 22 instances amount to almost a third of all cases. I have no explanation for this, so I asked Gordon Campbell, author of Bible: The Story of the King James Version 1611-2011 (OUP 2010) for his opinion, and he commented: 'An individual translator is a possibility, but so is an individual compositor. There may have been rules or agreed conventions about tense endings, but on many issues compositors took decisions. These weren't based on principles but rather on habits (when there is consistency) or the need to save or occupy space (when there is inconsistency).' Yes, space-saving strategies and compositor preferences have long been known in the case of Shakespeare. It remains to be seen whether they play an equally important role in relation to the KJB.

There are few other instances of builded predominance. Perhaps the poetic qualities of Proverbs and Song of Solomon motivated the exclusive use of the older form, but the numbers are tiny. Only in two other books (Genesis and Nehemiah) are there more instances of builded than built. Genesis is curious: until chapter 13 we find only builded, then there is a switch, with just a single exception.

Here is a complete listing, book by book (built--builded--did build

Genesis 4--7--0
Exodus 3--1--0
Numbers 5--1--0
Deuteronomy 3--1--0
Joshua 6--1--0
Judges 5--0--0
Ruth 0--0--1
1 Samuel 3--0--0
2 Samuel 3--0--0
1 Kings 35--3--2
2 Kings 9--1--0
1 Chronicles 8--1--0
2 Chronicles 36--0--1
Ezra 0--12--0
Nehemiah 5--9--1
Job 2--1--0
Psalms 2--1--0
Proverbs 0--2--0
Ecclesiasticus 1--1--0
Song of Solomon 0--1--0
Isaiah 4--0--0
Jeremiah 9--1--0
Lamentations 1--0--0
Ezekiel 4--2--0
Daniel 2--0--0
Amos 1--0--0
Micah 1--0--0
Haggai 1--0--0
Zechariah 2--0--0
Matthew 2--0--0
Mark 1--0--0
Luke 4--1--0
Acts 1--0--0
1 Corinthians 1--0--0
Ephesians 1--1--0
Colossians 1--0--0
Hebrews 0--2--0
Philemon 1--0--0
1 Peter 1--0--0
Judith 1--0--0
Esdras 8--2--1
1 Maccabees 10--4--0
2 Macc 2--1--0
4 Ezra 0--10--0
Sirach 2--1--0
Wisdom of Solomon 1--0--0
Tobit 3--1--0

And finally, here's the list of all forms, in reading sequence, so that anyone can test other hypotheses for themselves.

The builded/built dataset
First Westminster Company
Genesis 4.17 he builded a city
Genesis 8.20 Noah builded an altar
Genesis 10.11 and builded Nineveh
Genesis 11.5 which the children of men builded
Genesis 12.7 there builded he an altar
Genesis 12.8 there he builded an altar
Genesis 13.18 and built there an altar
Genesis 22.9 Abraham built an altar
Genesis 26.25 And he builded an altar
Genesis 33.17 and built him an house
Genesis 35.7 And he built there an altar
Exodus 1.12 And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities
Exodus 17.15 And Moses built an altar
Exodus 24.4 and builded an altar
Exodus 32.5 he built an altar before it
Numbers 13.22 Hebron was built seven years before Zoan
Numbers 21.27 let the city of Sihon be built
Numbers 23.14 and built seven altars
Numbers 32.34 the children of Gad built Dibon
Numbers 32.37 and the children of Reuben built Heshbon
Numbers 32.38 and gave other names unto the cities which they builded
Deuteronomy 6.10 cities, which thou buildedst not
Deuteronomy 8.12 hast built goodly houses
Deuteronomy 13.16 it shall not be built again
Deuteronomy 20.5 that hath built a new house
Joshua 8.30 Then Joshua built an altar
Joshua 19.50 he built the city
Joshua 22.10 the half tribe of Manasseh built there an altar
Joshua 22.11 the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar
Joshua 22.16 ye have builded you an altar
Joshua 22.23 we have built us an altar
Joshua 24.13 cities which ye built not
Judges 1.26 and built a city
Judges 6.24 Then Gideon built an altar there
Judges 6.28 upon the altar that was built
Judges 18.28 and they built a city
Judges 21.4 and built there an altar
Ruth 4.11 which two did build the house of Israel
1 Samuel 7.17 and there he built an altar
1 Samuel 14.35 And Saul built an altar... that he built
2 Samuel 5.9 And David built round about from Millo
2 Samuel 5.11 they built David an house
2 Samuel 24.25 And David built there an altar
1 Kings 3.2 there was no house built unto the name of the Lord
1 Kings 6.2 the house which king Solomon built for the Lord
1 Kings 6.5 he built chambers
1 Kings 6.7 And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone
1 Kings 6.9 So he built the house
1 Kings 6.10 And then he built chambers
1 Kings 6.14 So Solomon built the house, and finished it
1 Kings 6.15 And he built the walls of the house
1 Kings 6.16 And he built twenty cubits... he even built
1 Kings 6.36 And he built the inner court
1 Kings 7.2 He built also the house of the forest of Lebanon
1 Kings 8.13 I have surely built thee an house to dwell in
1 Kings 8.20 and have built an house
1 Kings 8.27 how much less this house that I have builded
1 Kings 8.43 this house, which I have builded
1 Kings 8.44 the house that I have built for thy name
1 Kings 8.48 the house which I have built for thy name
1 Kings 9.3 this house, which thou hast built
1 Kings 9.10 when Solomon had built the two houses
1 Kings 9.17 And Solomon built Gezer
1 Kings 9.24 her house which Solomon had built for her
1 Kings 9.25 the altar which he built
1 Kings 10.4 the house that he had built
1 Kings 11.7 Then did Solomon build an high place
1 Kings 11.27 Solomon built Millo
1 Kings 11.38 as I built for David
1 Kings 12.25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem ... and built Penuel
1 Kings 14.23 they also built them high places
1 Kings 15.17 and built Ramah
1 Kings 15.22 timber, wherewith Baasha had builded
1 Kings 15.22 and king Asa built with them Geba
1 Kings 15.23 and the cities which he built
1 Kings 16.24 and built on the hill ... the city which he built
1 Kings 16.32 the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria
1 Kings 16.34 In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho
1 Kings 18.32 he built an altar
1 Kings 22.39 all the cities that he built
2 Kings 14.22 He built Elath
2 Kings 15.35 He built the higher gate
2 Kings 16.11 And Urijah the priest built an altar
2 Kings 16.18 that they had built in the house
2 Kings 17.9 and they built them high places
2 Kings 21.3 For he built up again the high places
2 Kings 21.4 And he built altars
2 Kings 21.5 And he built altars
2 Kings 23.13 which Solomon the king of Israel had builded
2 Kings 25.1 they built forts around it
First Cambridge Company
1 Chronicles 6.10 the temple that Solomon built in Jerusalem
1 Chronicles 6.32 until Solomon had built the house
1 Chronicles 7.24 Sherah, who built Bethhoron
1 Chronicles 8.12 Shamed, who built Ono
1 Chronicles 11.8 And he built the city round about
1 Chronicles 17.6 Why have ye not built me an house to dwell in
1 Chronicles 21.26 And David built there an altar
1 Chronicles 22.5 and the house that is to be builded
1 Chronicles 22.19 the house that is to be built
2 Chronicles 6.2 I have built an house
2 Chronicles 6.10 and have built the house
2 Chronicles 6.18 this house which I have built
2 Chronicles 6.33 this house which I have built
2 Chronicles 6.34 the house which I have built
2 Chronicles 6.38 the house which I have built
2 Chronicles 8.1 at the end of twenty years, wherein Solomon had built the house of the Lord
2 Chronicles 8.2 That the cities which Huram had restored to Solomon, Solomon built them
2 Chronicles 8.4 And he built ... all the store cities, which he built in Hamath
2 Chronicles 8.5 Also he built Bethhoron the upper
2 Chronicles 8.11 the house that he had built for her
2 Chronicles 8.12 the altar of the LORD, which he had built before the porch
2 Chronicles 9.3 the house that he had built
2 Chronicles 11.5 And Rehoboam dwelt in Jerusalem, and built cities
2 Chronicles 11.6 He built even Bethlehem
2 Chronicles 14.6 And he built fenced cities in Judah
2 Chronicles 14.7 So they built and prospered
2 Chronicles 16.1 and built Ramah
2 Chronicles 16.6 and he built therewith Geba
2 Chronicles 17.12 and he built in Judah castles
2 Chronicles 20.8 And they dwelt therein, and have built thee a sanctuary
2 Chronicles 26.2 He built Eloth
2 Chronicles 26.6 and built cities
2 Chronicles 26.9 Uzziah built towers
2 Chronicles 26.10 Also he built towers in the desert
2 Chronicles 27.3 He built the high gate of the house of the Lord
2 Chronicles 27.4 Moreover he built cities in the mountains of Judah, and in the forests he built castles and towers
2 Chronicles 32.5 he ... built up all the wall that was broken
2 Chronicles 33.3 he built again the high places
2 Chronicles 33.4 Also he built altars in the house of the Lord
2 Chronicles 33.5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven
2 Chronicles 33.14 he built a wall without the city of David
2 Chronicles 33.15 all the altars that he had built
2 Chronicles 33.19 the places wherein he built high places,
2 Chronicles 35.3 the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build
Ezra 3.2 and builded the altar of the God of Israel
Ezra 4.1 the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple
Ezra 4.13 if this city be builded
Ezra 4.16 if this city be builded again
Ezra 4.21 Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded
Ezra 5.8 the house of the great God, which is builded with great stones
Ezra 5.11 build the house that was builded these many years ago, which a great king of Israel builded and set up
Ezra 5.15 and let the house of God be builded in his place
Ezra 6.3 Let the house be builded
Ezra 6.14 And the elders of the Jews builded... And they builded
Nehemiah 3.1 they builded the sheep gate
Nehemiah 3.2 And next unto him builded the men of Jericho. And next to them builded Zaccur the son of Imri
Nehemiah 3.3 But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build
Nehemiah 3.13 they built it
Nehemiah 3.14 he built it
Nehemiah 3.15 he built it
Nehemiah 4.1 when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall
Nehemiah 4.6 So built we the wall
Nehemiah 4.17 They which builded on the wall
Nehemiah 4.18 every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded
Nehemiah 6.1 heard that I had builded the wall
Nehemiah 7.1 when the wall was built
Nehemiah 7.4 the houses were not builded
Nehemiah 12.29 the singers had builded them villages round about Jerusalem
Job 12.14 he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again
Job 20.19 he hath violently taken away an house which he builded not
Job 22.23 If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up
Psalms 78.69 And he built his sanctuary like high palaces
Psalms 89.2 Mercy shall be built up for ever
Psalms 122.3 Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together
Proverbs 9.1 Wisdom hath builded her house
Proverbs 24.3 Through wisdom is an house builded
Ecclesiastes 2.4 I builded me houses
Ecclesiastes 9.14 there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it
Song of Solomon 4.4 Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury
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Isaiah 5.2 and built a tower in the midst of it
Isaiah 25.2 it shall never be built
Isaiah 44.26 Ye shall be built
Isaiah 44.28 Thou shalt be built
Jeremiah 7.31 they have built the high places of Tophet
Jeremiah 12.16 then shall they be built in the midst of my people
Jeremiah 19.5 They have built also the high places of Baal
Jeremiah 30.18 the city shall be builded upon her own heap
Jeremiah 31.4 Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built
Jeremiah 31.38 the city shall be built
Jeremiah 32.31 from the day that they built it even unto this day
Jeremiah 32.35 And they built the high places of Baal
Jeremiah 45.4 that which I have built will I break down
Jeremiah 52.4 and built forts against it round about
Lamentations 3.5 He hath builded against me
Ezekiel 13.10 one built up a wall
Ezekiel 16.24 thou hast also built unto thee an eminent place
Ezekiel 16.25 thou hast built thy high place
Ezekiel 26.14 thou shalt be built no more
Ezekiel 36.10 the wastes shall be builded
Ezekiel 36.33 the wastes shall be builded
Daniel 4.30 Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom
Daniel 9.25 the street shall be built again
Amos 5.11 ye have built houses of hewn stone
Micah 7.11 In the day that thy walls are to be built
Haggai 1.2 The time is not come, the time that the LORD's house should be built
Zechariah 1.16 my house shall be built in it
Zechariah 8.9 that the temple might be built
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Matthew 7.24 unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock
Matthew 7.26 a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
Matthew 21.33 and built a tower
Mark 12.1 and built a tower
Luke 4.29 whereon their city was built
Luke 6.48 a man which built an house
Luke 6.49 a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth
Luke 7.5 he hath built us a synagogue
Luke 17.28 they planted, they builded
Acts 7.47 But Solomon built him an house
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1 Corintians 3.14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon
Ephesians 2.20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets
Ephesians 2.22 In whom ye also are builded together
Colossians 2.7 Rooted and built up in him
Hebrews 3.3 he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house
Hebrews 3:4 For every house is builded by some man
Philemon 3:4 but he that built all things is God
1 Peter 2.5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house
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Judith 2 And built in Ecbatane walls
Esdras 1.3 the house that king Solomon the son of David had built
Esdras 2.24 if this city be built again
Esdras 4.51 until the time that it were built;
Esdras 4.55 them until the day that the house were finished, and Jerusalem builded up
Esdras 5.53 the temple of the Lord was not yet built
Esdras 5.58 So the workmen built the temple of the Lord
Esdras 5.67 they that were of the captivity did build the temple unto the Lord God of Israel
Esdras 6.14 it was builded many years ago
Esdras 6.19 that the temple of the Lord should be built in his place.
Esdras 6.24 the house of the Lord at Jerusalem should be built again
Esdras 6.28 I have commanded also to have it built up whole again
1 Maccabees 1.14 Whereupon they built a place of exercise at Jerusalem
1 Maccabees 1.33 Then builded they the city of David
1 Maccabees 1.54 and builded idol altars
1 Maccabees 4.47 and built a new altar
1 Maccabees 4.60 At that time also they builded up the mount Sion with high walls
1 Maccabees 5.1 the altar was built
1 Maccabees 10.12 the strangers, that were in the fortresses which Bacchides had built
1 Maccabees 13.27 Simon also built a monument
1 Maccabees 13.33 Then Simon built up the strong holds in Judea
1 Maccabees 13.38 the strong holds, which ye have builded
1 Maccabees 13.48 and built therein a dwellingplace
1 Maccabees 15.7 fortresses that thou hast built
1 Maccabees 16.9 Cedron, which Cendebeus had built
1 Maccabees 16.15 Docus, which he had built
2 Maccabees 1.18 after that he had builded the temple
2 Maccabees 4.12 For he built gladly a place of exercise
2 Maccabees 10.2 the altars which the heathen had built in the open street
4 Ezra 5.25 and of all builded cities thou hast hallowed Sion unto thyself
4 Ezra 7.6 A city is builded
4 Ezra 8.52 a city is builded
4 Ezra 9.24 where no house is builded
4 Ezra 10.27 there was a city builded
4 Ezra 10.42 there appeared unto thee a city builded
4 Ezra 10.44 even she whom thou seest as a city builded
4 Ezra 10.46 after thirty years Solomon builded the city
4 Ezra 10.51 the field where no house was builded
4 Ezra 13.36 being prepared and builded
Sirach 1.15 She hath built an everlasting foundation with men
Sirach 49.12 who in their time builded the house
Sirach 50.2 And by him was built from the foundation the double height
Wisdom of Solomon 14.2 the workman built it by his skill
Tobit 1.4 the temple of the habitation of the most High was consecrated and built for all ages
Tobit 13.10 that his tabernacle may be builded in thee again with joy
Tobit 13.16 For Jerusalem shall be built up with sapphires
Tobit 14.5 the house of God shall be built in it for ever