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I've had a tiny bit of success. A lot of the time a word like "tititi" refers to something small, and "bububu" refers to something big. Also "pa" or something like that often means "no" and "yeeee" means "yes". Usually I have to rely on knowing "Oh, that's from Arabic". And for the record, I don't know of any language where dogs are called "woof". "Bu", certainly.

A nifty test (which can be performed if you have a captive audience of undergraduates in an intro linguistics class) is to present them with random words in languages that they almost certainly don't know, and see how good they are at guessing the meaning. Don't use Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Hindi... go for a mix of X!oo, Kurmanji, Mien, Kartvelian, Navaho.
The funny thing is that aside from this not being possible*, those who think it is possible have very different interpretations.

There have been various phonosemantic theories proposed on this forum. Feel free to look through them to see if you find the "real answer".

[*For real languages. It isn't hard for me to imagine some non-arbitrary associations of sounds, though not with specific meanings, for new unknown words, but that is obviously, unquestionably overridden by our conventional knowledge of a given language. Otherwise dogs in every language would be named "woof" or something like that-- it wouldn't vary.]
I'm looking for someone else who had deduced the meaning, value, of each phoneme and letter, and who is also able to guess the meaning of an unknown word, of an unknown language, only by merging the meanings of the phonemes or letters composing it.

I want to exchange knowledge on the subject in order to refine our capability.

I'm not here to discuss whether or not this is possible.
Morphosyntax / Re: Code-Mixing Constraints English-French
« Last post by Daniel on March 01, 2018, 09:28:43 PM »
It sounds quite odd to me. But that doesn't seem to surprising if there is a mismatch between the languages and this is something of an amalgam rather than a systematic version of code-switching. I know that there is quite a bit of research that shows code-switching is structured grammatically and even that the switches tend to occur at phrase boundaries (and sometimes predictably in certain domains), but I don't know to whether (or to what extent) there is freer, less systematic code-switching, or if not how common speech errors are.

The idea of blending the two surface structures in an amalgam is interesting to me. I've been doing some research about that sort of mixed surface structure that doesn't really fit more general grammatical properties of a language, but only from a monolingual perspective, not about borrowed constructions which adds a whole new layer to it. If you do end up finding some way along those lines to explain this or especially if you find that this happens often and results in new mixed expression types (as opposed to one-time errors), please post back with more information. (If you happen to be interested in the research I mentioned you can see some slides here: -- I'll also have a proceedings paper for that available soon, let me know if you want it. But of course that has nothing to do with code-switching, so it would only relate if you think something similar is going on.)


On the other hand, maybe it's not the structure but the semantics that doesn't really make sense to me. If I'm parsing that correctly it says "my terribly most beautiful baby", and I don't understand how a superlative (or comparative?) can be "terribly". "My very most beautiful baby" sounds odd, unless the comparison is to the speaker's other children! But I guess it's just a way to be extremely emphatic. So in that sense, if interpreted as if it makes semantic sense, maybe the grammatical structure works. But my initial reaction (as in my comment above) was to assume a different parse because I didn't really understand that meaning. So we'd have to check with the speaker about what they really mean there...
Morphosyntax / Code-Mixing Constraints English-French
« Last post by AleSer31 on March 01, 2018, 02:18:33 AM »
Hello everyone,
I´m writing my essay about code-switching and code-mixing in Pop-music. I came across this song (; lyrics:, and this line caught my attention:

Mon terribly plus bel enfant

As far as I´m concerned (Neither French nor English are my mother tongues), I find such a sentence both in English and in French unusual (I´ve never seen such a sentence with such a long NP).

Now, the sentence in English could be grammatically correct, as adjectives must precede the noun they are referring to.

For French, however, I read in a reference grammar that short adjectives can be put before or after a noun (with difference in meaning and register); long adjectives after a noun. Nonetheless it seems that there is a tendency to put long adjectives before a noun, which emphasises the meaning of the former and elevates the register level.

What do you think? Is this utterance grammatically uncorrect? If yes, why? Otherwise, why not?
Is an unusual utterance necessarily ungrammatical?
Linguist's Lounge / Re: Introduction Thread
« Last post by AleSer31 on March 01, 2018, 01:49:46 AM »
Hello everyone, my name is Alessandra.
I´m Italian and live in Germany, where I´m currently studying Musicology and Indoeuropean linguistics.
As soon as I started studying IE-Linguistic I was fascinated by the linguistic bound which keeps these languages together, and it was so much fun to reconstruct the words phonetically and to reflect upon the morphological changes across the PIE-derived languages. Moreover I find so interesting to get to know how some expressions have come to be used, how some words changed their meaning.
Another topic which interests me is language contact.

Something more about me: I´m currently learning Dutch, I enjoy playing Sudoku and I love listening to music (I would like to be as eclectic as possible).

I´m glad to be here and I´ll surely enjoy my stay here. I can´t wait to participate :)
Semantics and Pragmatics / Re: Modality and Negation
« Last post by Daniel on February 26, 2018, 01:58:38 PM »
OK, that's fine. (We get a lot of homework questions here, and it's important for the teachers, and for the students, that we not do homework for anyone. Background information for research papers is a different issue.)

So, yes, I would find both acceptable, with the epistemic sense along the lines of "I have observed your general ignorance, so I believe that you must not read a lot of books" (or whatever similar context would lead to an epistemic generalization of that sort). Again, with the caveat that the "mustn't" form isn't natural for me. (And that really may change the available readings for those who would use that form.)
Semantics and Pragmatics / Re: Modality and Negation
« Last post by student1204 on February 26, 2018, 09:14:30 AM »
Thank you for your kind reply. I was only referring to my lecturer because me and him decided that I will include his examples in my research, and based on literature it is my task to say which one is the right interpretation.
Semantics and Pragmatics / Re: Modality and Negation
« Last post by Daniel on February 26, 2018, 07:48:07 AM »
We don't answer homework questions on this forum. The way you introduced this question, I'm not clear on the format. It sounds like this is not an individual topic research paper, but a paper topic/project assigned by the instructor. I would consider that homework. If this is your own original research, then that might be different, but in that case maybe you could pick clearer examples.

Regardless, I'll share my judgments: I'd accept either of the second readings in each pair, deontic or epistemic. However, that would be for the form "must not", which is more natural in (my) American English. "Mustn't" sounds either British or archaic/formal to me, and it's something I would never say. So I don't know if my interpretation of that contracted form is reliable. Still, I can imagine interpreting it that way.

But again, if this is an assigned topic from your teacher including that data, then there may be a "right" answer based on what your teacher said, and my comments/judgments here may be irrelevant. (Another reason that real-world data from the internet doesn't always help with homework problems.)
Semantics and Pragmatics / Modality and Negation
« Last post by student1204 on February 26, 2018, 06:56:00 AM »
Hey there,

i am currently writing my final termpaper for my masters degree on interaction of modality and negation. However, I seem to be stuck at one point now where I could really need your help.

You mustnt read a lot of books

the task my lecturer set was: logically there are these possible negations:
It is not obligatory that you read a lot of books.
It is obligatory that you do not read a lot of books.

It is not necessarily true that you read a lot of books.
It is necessarily true that you do not read a lot of books.

I know that must takes internal negation and therefore only the two examples below in each pargraph can be right. But then I read in Palmer and Coates that there is no negative epistemic form of must and that epistemic necessity negation would rather be build with suppletive CAN.
So is it true that there is only one right interpretation or are there two possible ways, ? I need to analyse this problem in my termpaper and would be more than happy to get some help
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