Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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D.A. Ridgely
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 03 Oct 2016, 12:28

Ellie wrote:I tried to say "late" (at night) and said "dead person"

THANKS, GOOGLE TRANSLATE

:lol:
So "I'm watching Late Night" comes out as a "Sixth Sense" quote, huh?

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JD
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by JD » 19 Oct 2016, 08:38

Random observations on learning English:

The gerund appears to be a really tough concept for many people to grasp. I'm guessing that most languages don't really have something exactly like our gerund, and our usage of the gerund has a lot of subtleties.

"What's the difference between 'I like to run' and 'I like running'?"
Well, one uses the infinitive and one uses the gerund...but in practice there is not much difference between them.
"So can I say, 'I want eating'?"
No, that's wrong. You have to use the infinitive 'to eat' there.
"But you said they were the same in the case of 'I like'."
Yeah, but not everywhere...

Also, holy cow does the concept of definite article vs. indefinite article vs. zero article give people endless trouble. Part of the problem is that people try to give all kinds of "rules" for their use, and the only real rules are very subtle. People like to say "you use 'the' for something specific or already mentioned", but that's not completely correct, because you run into all kind of things like newspaper articles beginning, "The tiger is increasingly endangered..." or sentences like "Getting to the station early, I had five hours before the train arrived" and learners get all kinds of confused because those don't seem to fit that pattern.

"English: fairly simple grammar, wildly complicated usage" is my current assessment of our language.

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Kolohe » 19 Oct 2016, 08:48

It's what happens when a French that was barely no longer Latin is combined with a German that had begun to go its own way thanks to Celts and Vikings.
when you wake up as the queen of the n=1 kingdom and mount your steed non sequiturius, do you look out upon all you survey and think “damn, it feels good to be a green idea sleeping furiously?" - dhex

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Mo » 19 Oct 2016, 09:12

And don't even get started on the informal adjective order rules.
his voice is so soothing, but why do conspiracy nuts always sound like Batman and Robin solving one of Riddler's puzzles out loud? - fod

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by JD » 19 Oct 2016, 09:59

Ellie wrote:I tried to say "late" (at night) and said "dead person"

THANKS, GOOGLE TRANSLATE

:lol:
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Eric the .5b
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Eric the .5b » 19 Oct 2016, 10:55

A problem is that many of the real rules don't get taught in formal classes (like adjective order) , while the rules nobody cares about (who vs whom, if vs whether) are.
"Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer."
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jake » 19 Oct 2016, 12:38

JD wrote:"So can I say, 'I want eating'?"
No, that's wrong. You have to use the infinitive 'to eat' there.
Unless you're female, in which case it's a perfectly cromulent sentence (though perhaps rather too forward, depending on the situation). :twisted:
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by JasonL » 19 Oct 2016, 13:16

Most importantly, the car needs washed.

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Ellie » 19 Oct 2016, 14:17

You're a monster.
I should have listened to Warren. He was right again as usual.

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jadagul » 19 Oct 2016, 17:25

JD, I like that as a pithy assessment.

I've been listening to the History of the English Language podcast lately, and it's pretty cool. (I find it a bit slow and non-technical but then I would--it assumes you're not familiar with a bunch of dead languages and linguistics terminology). Some of it has been very relevant for why our language is so confused.

Also, JD, what language backgrounds are the people you're working with from? I'd expect some of those problems to be noticeably less common from Indo-European speakers than from, say, speakers of East Asian languages.

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Sandy » 19 Oct 2016, 20:08

JD wrote:The gerund appears to be a really tough concept for many people to grasp. I'm guessing that most languages don't really have something exactly like our gerund, and our usage of the gerund has a lot of subtleties.

"What's the difference between 'I like to run' and 'I like running'?"
Well, one uses the infinitive and one uses the gerund...but in practice there is not much difference between them.
"So can I say, 'I want eating'?"
No, that's wrong. You have to use the infinitive 'to eat' there.
"But you said they were the same in the case of 'I like'."
Yeah, but not everywhere...
Slavic languages have this. I forget the name, but it's basically "habitual action" versus "specific action." "I like running" is a different verb from "I am running." So "I like running" is liking the habitual act of running. "Want" is not the same as like, because you're not describing habitual motion. "I like eating" does, but "I want to eat" is referring to a specific action of eating. The Slavic habitual also means "currently doing", so you can say "I like running" or "I am running" with one verb, but "I ran" or "I will run" with a different one. It's like perfective versus imperfective, but with the addition of habituation to the imperfective. Maybe that is the imperfective in English as well.

Where it gets difficult is "I want to be eating," which makes sense from a view of "I want to be currently in the process of eating right now." But that's purely the imperfective, with no sense of habituation...unless you say "I want to be eating all the time."

Derp.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer » 20 Oct 2016, 00:43

The way I learned gerunds was much simpler: a gerund is a verb ending in "-ing" but acting as a noun in a sentence. So, while you can't say "I want eating" -- the noun you want there is "food," or you could say "I want to eat" -- you can say "I like eating" or "I like to eat." "I like running" = "I like to run." Reading is fundamental. Eating is more fun than fasting. The -ing verbs all serve as nouns in those sentences.
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Jadagul
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jadagul » 20 Oct 2016, 01:01

But the question is why is "eating" not an appropriate noun there? That's the weird part that's hard to explain.

(I think the answer is that English doesn't use gerunds to express purpose, but uses infinitives exclusively. But that answer doesn't explain, it just states).

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer » 20 Oct 2016, 01:10

Jadagul wrote:But the question is why is "eating" not an appropriate noun there? That's the weird part that's hard to explain.
The inappropriateness doesn't come from "eating," but from the word "want" -- a gerund doesn't follow that. You don't* say "I want reading," you "want to read." Same for "I want running," "I want watching TV," "I want playing video games" -- no, you want to run, to watch TV or to play games.

*Actually, you might say "I want Reading" in the context of, say, a parent demanding classes at school. But in that case, "reading" is not grammatically a gerund so much as a noun -- in this case, the name of a class. Equivalent to French, Math, Gym and History.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jadagul » 20 Oct 2016, 01:53

Jennifer wrote:
Jadagul wrote:But the question is why is "eating" not an appropriate noun there? That's the weird part that's hard to explain.
The inappropriateness doesn't come from "eating," but from the word "want" -- a gerund doesn't follow that. You don't* say "I want reading," you "want to read." Same for "I want running," "I want watching TV," "I want playing video games" -- no, you want to run, to watch TV or to play games.

*Actually, you might say "I want Reading" in the context of, say, a parent demanding classes at school. But in that case, "reading" is not grammatically a gerund so much as a noun -- in this case, the name of a class. Equivalent to French, Math, Gym and History.
Right, but this is the point. It's not obvious to a non-native-English-speaker why "want" doesn't take gerunds even though "like" does.

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 20 Oct 2016, 02:58

There is a British expression "they want hanging" that means "they" need or deserve to be or should be hanged. Not entirely on point, but interesting.

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by JD » 20 Oct 2016, 08:32

Jennifer wrote:The way I learned gerunds was much simpler: a gerund is a verb ending in "-ing" but acting as a noun in a sentence. So, while you can't say "I want eating" -- the noun you want there is "food," or you could say "I want to eat" -- you can say "I like eating" or "I like to eat." "I like running" = "I like to run." Reading is fundamental. Eating is more fun than fasting. The -ing verbs all serve as nouns in those sentences.

"Gerunds are nouns made from verbs" is not a bad way to phrase it...but then your English learner gets very confused by "the running man" or "I am running".

Jadagul: These people mostly have Indian and East Asian language backgrounds, I think, although there are certainly some Indo-European speakers in there as well. There was one Korean guy who was particularly perplexed by gerunds, although that might have just been his particular hangup.

Oh, and another thing that gets people is English tenses. I don't think we actually have more tenses than most other languages, but we are very picky and particular about exactly how they're used. To see what I mean, try explaining the exact differences between and implications of
-The dog is standing there
-The dog was standing there
-The dog has been standing there
-The dog had been standing there
-The dog will have been standing there

And we actually use all of these tenses regularly.

Oh yeah, and you can say, "My sister will arrive tomorrow. I'm meeting her at the airport when she lands." That sounds fluent enough, but try explaining that weird mix of tenses to a non-native speaker.

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by nicole » 20 Oct 2016, 09:45

JD wrote:
Jennifer wrote:The way I learned gerunds was much simpler: a gerund is a verb ending in "-ing" but acting as a noun in a sentence. So, while you can't say "I want eating" -- the noun you want there is "food," or you could say "I want to eat" -- you can say "I like eating" or "I like to eat." "I like running" = "I like to run." Reading is fundamental. Eating is more fun than fasting. The -ing verbs all serve as nouns in those sentences.

"Gerunds are nouns made from verbs" is not a bad way to phrase it...but then your English learner gets very confused by "the running man" or "I am running".

Jadagul: These people mostly have Indian and East Asian language backgrounds, I think, although there are certainly some Indo-European speakers in there as well. There was one Korean guy who was particularly perplexed by gerunds, although that might have just been his particular hangup.

Oh, and another thing that gets people is English tenses. I don't think we actually have more tenses than most other languages, but we are very picky and particular about exactly how they're used. To see what I mean, try explaining the exact differences between and implications of
-The dog is standing there
-The dog was standing there
-The dog has been standing there
-The dog had been standing there
-The dog will have been standing there

And we actually use all of these tenses regularly.

Oh yeah, and you can say, "My sister will arrive tomorrow. I'm meeting her at the airport when she lands." That sounds fluent enough, but try explaining that weird mix of tenses to a non-native speaker.

Technically those aren't all different tenses, they are different tense/aspect combos. Respectively, present progressive, imperfect progressive, present perfect progressive, past perfect progressive, future perfect progressive. And as Jennifer notes, the gerund is a verb form used as a noun, which these examples are not--the "ing" words above are not gerunds but present participles (as opposed to past participles like "stood").

Anyway, we certainly don't have more tenses than other languages of similar typology, and we're also not any more picky about how they're used. Those other languages also have these rules, and those rules also don't make logical sense. They're just different, and no one learns them systematically as part of their first language.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer » 20 Oct 2016, 11:42

JD wrote:
Jennifer wrote:The way I learned gerunds was much simpler: a gerund is a verb ending in "-ing" but acting as a noun in a sentence. So, while you can't say "I want eating" -- the noun you want there is "food," or you could say "I want to eat" -- you can say "I like eating" or "I like to eat." "I like running" = "I like to run." Reading is fundamental. Eating is more fun than fasting. The -ing verbs all serve as nouns in those sentences.

"Gerunds are nouns made from verbs" is not a bad way to phrase it...but then your English learner gets very confused by "the running man" or "I am running".
Verbs ending in -ing and serving as nouns. Don't forget the -ing! All gerunds are verbs ending in -ing, but not all verbs ending in -ing are gerunds.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by JD » 20 Oct 2016, 14:56

nicole wrote:Technically those aren't all different tenses, they are different tense/aspect combos. Respectively, present progressive, imperfect progressive, present perfect progressive, past perfect progressive, future perfect progressive. And as Jennifer notes, the gerund is a verb form used as a noun, which these examples are not--the "ing" words above are not gerunds but present participles (as opposed to past participles like "stood").
You know that, but that's because you're a native speaker. The learner encountering this for the first time doesn't, and telling people "you just know it from context" doesn't help much when their whole problem is that they don't have a lot of context...

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer » 20 Oct 2016, 15:19

JD wrote:
nicole wrote:Technically those aren't all different tenses, they are different tense/aspect combos. Respectively, present progressive, imperfect progressive, present perfect progressive, past perfect progressive, future perfect progressive. And as Jennifer notes, the gerund is a verb form used as a noun, which these examples are not--the "ing" words above are not gerunds but present participles (as opposed to past participles like "stood").
You know that, but that's because you're a native speaker. The learner encountering this for the first time doesn't, and telling people "you just know it from context" doesn't help much when their whole problem is that they don't have a lot of context...
For non-native speakers who don't have contextual knowledge (or a "feel" for the language), it might help to have some rules to memorize. Problem is, in many instances there's not one rule to memorize whether or not to use a gerund, but many rules.

Here's a single, all-purpose rule -- A gerund can be the subject of a sentence: Reading is fun. Painting is my hobby. Goldfish-eating was a college fad in the 1920s.

The part likely to be tricky from an ESL perspective is trying to figure out whether you can or cannot use a gerund directly after the main verb of a sentence -- it depends on what the main verb is, and I can't think of any way around that other than to memorize a list of verbs and the gerund rules for each one. If the main verb is "want" you can not put a gerund after it: hence "I want to eat," not "I want eating." But if the main verb is like, love or hate, then you can: I like running. I love running. I hate running.

I think it also works for synonyms of those three: I adore running. I enjoy running. I loathe running. I despise running. Can anyone here think of synonyms that don't work in this grammatical context?
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer » 20 Oct 2016, 15:29

Also gerunds can be used after prepositions: I'm against torturing people. She eats before working.

EDIT: Actually, I'm not positive if "torturing" is a gerund in that instance. It's a gerund as a stand-alone -- "I'm against torturing" -- except that doesn't sound grammatically right. Because people is definitely a noun -- "I am against torturing people" is "Subject noun, main verb, preposition, ??gerund??, object noun." What say you, Nicole?
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by nicole » 20 Oct 2016, 15:50

Jennifer wrote:Also gerunds can be used after prepositions: I'm against torturing people. She eats before working.

EDIT: Actually, I'm not positive if "torturing" is a gerund in that instance. It's a gerund as a stand-alone -- "I'm against torturing" -- except that doesn't sound grammatically right. Because people is definitely a noun -- "I am against torturing people" is "Subject noun, main verb, preposition, ??gerund??, object noun." What say you, Nicole?
Gerunds can require an object.

It's sort of hard for me to talk about this in like "normal English grammar terms" instead of generative grammar terms. Like, I don't know whether gerunds are "nouns" necessarily or whether you want to call them "verb forms" in some way because the gerund of a transitive verb might require an object, but it still adds up to a noun phrase in terms of generative grammar.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jadagul » 20 Oct 2016, 16:03

nicole wrote:
Jennifer wrote:Also gerunds can be used after prepositions: I'm against torturing people. She eats before working.

EDIT: Actually, I'm not positive if "torturing" is a gerund in that instance. It's a gerund as a stand-alone -- "I'm against torturing" -- except that doesn't sound grammatically right. Because people is definitely a noun -- "I am against torturing people" is "Subject noun, main verb, preposition, ??gerund??, object noun." What say you, Nicole?
Gerunds can require an object.

It's sort of hard for me to talk about this in like "normal English grammar terms" instead of generative grammar terms. Like, I don't know whether gerunds are "nouns" necessarily or whether you want to call them "verb forms" in some way because the gerund of a transitive verb might require an object, but it still adds up to a noun phrase in terms of generative grammar.
Yeah.

English, like most languages, has a set of grammar rules that we teach to small children, which is simple, easy, and wrong. And then people who study the grammar wind up having a lot to study and discuss. See e.g. this recent Language Log bit on when the word "the" makes its noun specific and when it does not. I can't find it now but I read an article the other day about the academic controversy over whether English has adverbs at all.

I had a bunch of other random facts to drop (the distinction between a gerund and a participle despite the fact that in English they have the same forms; the fact that properly speaking, English has extremely few tenses, many fewer than most languages) but Nicole beat me to them.

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 20 Oct 2016, 16:43

I learned a gerund was a noun form used as a subject or direct object and that some participles take a gerundive form to link to an indirect object.

My question is why this is a discussion of learning proper English without Warren being here?

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