Showing category "Linguistics" (Show all posts)

Putting a Name to a Face

Posted by K. S. Dearsley on Sunday, February 1, 2015, In : Linguistics 
A recent BBC documentary about the artist Hans Holbein, who painted so many of Henry VIII's court, was fascinating, and not only for the insights his work provided into the sitters' personalities. He had written Anne Boleyn's name as 'Anne Bollein'. Spellings in Tudor times were not as standardized as they are now, and Holbein probably wrote the name as he heard it pronounced. As the artist's surname also ends in 'ein' this could mean that it was pronounced the same way. So Anne Boleyn was ei...
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Bilingual

Posted by K. S. Dearsley on Tuesday, June 3, 2014, In : Linguistics 
Struggling to write a letter in German this weekend made me think of Joseph Conrad. The Polish author wrote masterpeices such as Heart of Darkness in English. How wonderful to be able to write so stylishly in a language other than your native one. He is not the only author with extraordinary linguistic ability. Samuel Beckett originally wrote many of his works in French, including the incredible short story, 'Ping'. Viggo Mortensen, probably best known as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, is ...
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Simply Complicated

Posted by K. S. Dearsley on Sunday, April 20, 2014, In : Linguistics 
With regard to writing sentences, Mark Twain said: "At times he [the author] may indulge himself with a long one, but he will make sure there are no folds in it, no vaguenesses, no parenthetical interruptions in its view as a whole; when he has done with it, it won't be a sea-serpent with half its arches under the water; it will be a torchlight procession."
    As soon as I read that I felt an urge to check my sentences. Have I indulged in parenthetical loops? Do I use lots of subordinate clau...
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Irritating Adjectives

Posted by K. S. Dearsley on Sunday, March 9, 2014, In : Linguistics 
Let me be transparent about this, I have a robust dislike of two adjectives that it seems no spokesperson can be interviewed without using in almost every sentence. It doesn't matter whether it's the police, a local councillor, a representative of the National Health Service or a head teacher, they all insist that they'll be introducing robust measures to ensure greater transparency in future, or demanding the same from someone else.
I suggest they look these words up in the dictionary. Not o...
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Following on

Posted by K. S. Dearsley on Sunday, July 28, 2013, In : Linguistics 
One more piece about apostrophes and then I'm done with it, honest. There's another use for them that I didn't mention last week, and this one's bucking the who-needs-punctuation trend. This is where apostrophes are placed around words or phrases to indicate that they aren't necessarily factual or true e.g. writing that someone was the 'driver' of a car probably means they were sitting on the back seat. This use is so handy, that some people now draw apostrophes on the air when they speak. I ...
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Don't Get Your Apostrophes in a Twist

Posted by K. S. Dearsley on Monday, July 22, 2013, In : Linguistics 
At the risk of being told where to stick my ;!?"s, I'd like to make a case for punctuation, and apostrophes in particular. The whole point of punctuation is to avoid ambiguity. Most apostrophes are used to show a contraction where letters have been left out of a word or two words are joined, or to indicate possession. 'I'd' is a contraction of 'I would'. 
"That's obvious," I hear someone say, but without the apostrophe, it would read 'id', which is a pyschological term referring to the instin...
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In Other Words

Posted by K. S. Dearsley on Sunday, April 14, 2013, In : Linguistics 
I intended this blog to be about cohesion and coherence, but what I wrote didn't have much of either. Then I tried to make it about writing about subjects that don't interest you (again) and, frankly, it was boring. While searching for a solution, I found myself doing the linguistic equivalent of doodling, and coming up with alternative definitions for linguistic terms. 'Oxymoron' could be 'stupid air', if that wouldn't be a contradiction in terms. 'Tautology' might be what a science teacher ...
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Sounds Like...

Posted by K. S. Dearsley on Sunday, March 31, 2013, In : Linguistics 
Pif! Paf! Which is the elephant and which is the mouse? There's no real link between the sound of most words and what they mean (with the exception of onomatopoeias such as 'buzz'), but that doesn't prevent people from making sound associations. Writers can use this tendency to advantage, especially in poetry. You can use sound association to create a mood, or to subvert it. If you've used 'm' to create associations with 'mother', 'milk' and 'mild', subsequently using 'murder', 'mayhem' or 'm...
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Oh, No It Isn't!

Posted by K. S. Dearsley on Monday, March 18, 2013, In : Linguistics 
Do you grind your teeth when you hear someone say they were 'sat' or they were 'stood' somewhere? Me too! I always want to ask who sat or stood them there, or did they really mean they were sitting or standing? The increasing tendency to use a passive instead of the past imperfect or a gerund is the result of dialect creep. I have no objection to dialects being used instead of standard English when appropriate, but this construction is not only replacing standard English, it's taking over oth...
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About Me


My writing career began as a freelance feature writer for the local press, businesses and organisations. Now a prize-winning playwright and short story writer, my work has appeared in numerous publications on both sides of the Atlantic. I write as K. S. Dearsley because it saves having to keep repeating my forename, and specialise in fantasy and other speculative genres.

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