Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

English grammar question?

  1. Apr 12, 2006 #1
    Oh well its not about grammar but I just don't know how to call it
    you can tell me what is most needed to mean a word, can't you ?
    For example, if i say "a turtle", 'a' is an article in english, turtle is a countable noun. before any countable noun there must always be an article indicating 'defined' or 'undefined'. In that case, the turtle is undefined but after this example, you begin to understand the turtle, so it is from now the turtle not a turle is to be said. So, 'a' as what i say is a word ?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 12, 2006 #2

    selfAdjoint

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    The usage "a turtle" does mean some indefinite one of a countable set (here the term "countable set" has nothing much to do with its meaning in set theory).

    The term "the turtle" has two meanings in English: It can mean "this turtle here that I've been talking about". Or it can mean "A typical instance of the class of turtles, meant to be a holder for properties they all share". As in "The turtle is a shelled reptile", which is completely equivalennt to "Turtles are shelled reptiles.".
     
  4. Apr 13, 2006 #3
    Thank you thank you, :grin:

    I wonder why all of English words contain consonants and wowels, why not only wowels ?

    By the way do you know any languages that have words composed of only wowels or consonants ?
     
  5. Apr 13, 2006 #4

    selfAdjoint

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    English speakers just like it that way, I guess. The ancestral indo-european languages featured consonant clusters like ghwh (I don't know how to propnounce that),

    If you count "liquid" n and r as vowels, I believe Hawaiian comes close to all vowels.
     
  6. Apr 13, 2006 #5

    arildno

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    I like our Norwegian word "angstskrik" (scream of terror)..

    We also have the amusing saueøyeeiendommeligheter (peculiarities of a sheep's eye)
     
  7. Apr 13, 2006 #6

    honestrosewater

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Well, if you take a few concepts, layer them together, do that a dozen more times, twist those into one long yarn, and tangle that up into a ball, you'd have something like our intuitive concept of 'word'. If you want to start making sense of language, untangling 'word' should, in my opinion, be among the very first steps.

    That said, I think English has some vowel-only words. What about I, you, and we? You just mentioned a.

    Your questioning shines light on the illusion that the usual concepts of 'vowel' and 'consonant' have definite boundaries, i.e., that any given (continuous) sound signal can be mechanistically classed as either a vowel or a consonant. A consonant is a sound produced with complete or significant restriction in the vocal tract, as with /p, n, k, s, ʃ/ (pan, kiss, she). Vowels are produced with little or no restriction, as with /ɪ, ɛ, æ/ (pit, pet, pat). But what exactly counts as 'significant' -- is the restriction created when making /w, j, r/ (we, your) sounds 'significant'?

    Natural languages appear to have rules and constraints for building words out of sounds. If you run through English's vowel sounds, you'll notice that several are used as interjections and such. Try to string several vowel sounds together, and say that string several times fast. Not surprisingly,, the physical process of producing sounds has effects on what sounds are produced. If you're interested, you can start out with this Wikipedia entry on phonotactics. If you're still interested, I can try to find some other good resources.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2006
  8. Apr 13, 2006 #7

    honestrosewater

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I think Drimar was referring to the count/mass distinction, which I think might have a lot to do with the formalized notion of countability. The distinction involves the notion of cumulative reference. Imagine this conversation between speakers 1 and 2.

    1: What is in the room?

    2: Nothing. The room is empty.

    1: Put [fog]i in the room.

    2: Okay, I did.

    1: Put [fog]i in the room again.

    2: Okay, I did.

    1: Now what is in the room?

    2: [Fog]j.

    [EXPRESSION]i equals [EXPRESSION]j, so we say that [EXPRESSION] refers cumulatively and is functioning as a mass noun. Compare that with the following conversation.

    1: What is in the room?

    2: Nothing. The room is empty.

    1: Put [a dog]i in the room.

    2: Okay, I did.

    1: Put [a dog]i in the room again.

    2: Okay, I did.

    1: Now what is in the room?

    2: [Dogs]j.

    [EXPRESSION]i does not equal [EXPRESSION]j, so we say [EXPRESSION] does not refer cumulatively and is functioning as a count noun. Well, that is at least my understanding of things. Note that plural nouns function as mass nouns.

    1: What is in the room?

    2: Nothing. The room is empty.

    1: Put [dogs]i in the room.

    2: Okay, I did.

    1: Put [dogs]i in the room again.

    2: Okay, I did.

    1: Now what is in the room?

    2: [Dogs]j.

    The idea is that some referents are thought of as coming in minimal units, or as being quantized. The inverse of cumulative reference, distributuive reference (taking things out of the room, or perhaps more clearly, putting things into two rooms), doesn't hold in the same way. Well, it's a bit off-topic, so I'll just leave it at that, but I think there are some pretty obvious similarities. :smile:
     
  9. May 15, 2006 #8
    I think the Hebrew language doesnt have vowels, i could be wrong though..
     
  10. May 15, 2006 #9

    honestrosewater

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    The Hebrew language has vowels; the writing system just customarily accounts for them differently than it does the consonants.

    Of course, just as a reminder, any definite distinction that we draw between vowels and consonants is necessarily arbitrary to some degree when the properties that we use to make the distinction, such as vocal tract constriction or sonority, vary continuously.
     
  11. May 17, 2006 #10
    Word with only consonants
    -tsk and other onomatopoeia
    if not counting "w" or "y" as vowels, then
    -why
    -fly
    -dry, etc.

    only vowels (if you count "y" as a vowel)
    -eye
    -aye
    if you count the aspirant "h" as not a consonant (like in Greek), then
    -ah
    -ha
    -hi
    -he
    -ho
    -hoe
    -hew (treating "w" as non-consonant)
    -ha
    -how
    -aha
    -yeah/yay
    -ya
    -ye
    -eh
    -oh
    -oi
    -ahoy
    -whey
    -who
    -woo
    -why (techinically, all consonants)
    -wee
    -whee
    -we
    -wow
    -ow
    -owe
    -ew
    -ewe
    ...not many 2 syllable words that are composed of vowels only, that I know of.
     
  12. May 18, 2006 #11

    arildno

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    You've forgotten yaw.
     
  13. May 18, 2006 #12
    a lot of others too, those were just some I thought of off the top of my head.

    here's some more yahoo, yohoo, whoa, yehaw (spelling?)
     
  14. May 19, 2006 #13

    selfAdjoint

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    Usually that's spelled yeeehaw ior even yeeeeeeee-haw!

    On that line consider ayyuh (New England dialect for yeah). Notice that yeah and its variants are very old in the language. Yea verily!:biggrin: Aye indeed!
     
  15. May 19, 2006 #14

    J77

    User Avatar

    rhythm, myth, hymn...
     
  16. May 19, 2006 #15

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I found common(ish) English word that is not an onomatopoeia and contains no vowels.

    nth

    as in 'to the nth degree'.
     
  17. May 20, 2006 #16
    Scrabble players know a few two-letter words made up only of vowels...

    aa -- basaltic lava

    ae -- one

    ai -- a sloth with three long claws on each forefoot

    oe -- the centimeter-gram-second electromagnetic unit of magnetic intensity, equal to the magnetic intensity one centimeter from a unit magnetic pole
     
  18. May 20, 2006 #17

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Some Native American languages use inflection (pitch change up or down) in a "consonantal" way.

    If you wrote a Keres word like this: uuh-eh, then you have the dash for the inflection point. Anyway, this one spelling is really two different words. Inflected up it means "I am listening", or, "I heard what you said", inflected down it is the end of a two-person interaction, like "see you later" does in English.

    The point is that some Native American languages have a lot of words with all vowel sounds. The pitch change marks the boundary between the vowels, not a consonant. Different pitch change also makes different words out of the same set of sounds. There must be a proper term to cover this idea, but I don't know it. It's possible the inflection is considered a consonant.

    And I sure can't think of anything like this in English.
     
  19. May 20, 2006 #18

    honestrosewater

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Languages that use pitch to specify word meaning or mark grammatical features are called tone languages or tonal languages. Many of the world's languages, perhaps most of them, are tone languages. From your description, I suspect that Keres is a contour tone language, but I couldn't confirm this. English is not a tone language. English uses pitch in other ways.

    I wouldn't call this a consonantal use though. Vowels, consonants, and tones are just different things. For one thing, you can (and do) change the pitch of a vowel or consonant without changing the identity of the vowel or consonant. If you change the pitch of a tone, you've changed the tone. That's exactly what the tone is: a pitch specification. You apply tones to vowels and consonants, which are classified according to other properties, as I mentioned earlier (those properties are properties of sounds, by the bye, not of written symbols. Every English word that I see listed here contains vowels, with the exception of 'tsk', which, as I pronounce it, is a click and contains none of the consonants /t, s, k/).
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2006
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: English grammar question?
  1. English grammar question (Replies: 21)

  2. English grammar question (Replies: 28)

Loading...