Category: Morphology


29 Dec 2008 In: Morphology, Sociolinguistics


It shouldn’t be any different in other metropolises, but in Hong Kong, one of the major activities people have during the Christmas holiday is shopping in big, grand and sometimes grandiose shopping malls. Certainly these malls have been getting more or more thoughtfully designed and decorated, but at the same time, another trend seems to have emerged in recent years.
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What’s in a verb?

23 Dec 2008 In: Morphology, Syntax

In Tense and Tensibility, we discussed the need and implication of having tense. In essence, tense gives us information on when an event or action takes place. However, the meaning of what we commonly call ‘tense’ in English is actually quite fluid.  A ‘tense’, or a tense form, oftens gives much more information than merely the temporal location of an action. We are going to look into this matter, dissect the structure of the verbal phrase and discuss these other dimensions of verbal information.

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Tense and Tensibility

5 Dec 2008 In: Contrastive Analysis, Morphology, Syntax

Anyone who has tried to learn a foreign language in school can tell that in a typical language course, much of the time is actually spent on learning how to use verbs. In the case of English, learning how to use the different tenses is a particularly important task, and a unique challenge to speakers of Chinese, which is a practically tenseless language.

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Babylon is fallen

15 Nov 2008 In: Morphology, Semantics, Syntax, Typology
Tower of Babel in Babylon

Tower of Babel

♪♩♫ Joy to the world 
The Lord is come… ♫♩♪

Wait, wait. The Lord is come? Isn’t there something wrong? First, we know that come cannot be in the passive voice here, as come is an intransitive verb, it does not have an object, which basically means it cannot have a passive form. On the other hand, if it was in the present perfect tense, then the auxiliary used should have been “have” (has) instead of “be” (is). What is happening?

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So many nationality suffixes

22 Oct 2008 In: Etymology, Morphology, Typology

After posting my other article So many negative prefixes, I received very positive feedback and many readers apparently found the article interesting and useful. Indeed, these little affixes (prefixes and suffixes) can be puzzling when they are similar in meaning but nevertheless non-interchangeable. That makes people ask why they are what they are: is there a subtle rule beneath all the messy superficial distribution, or things just happen by chance?

Not long ago, a friend asked me whether there are rules governing the usage of those suffixes of nationality, such as -ese, -ian and -ish. I thought about it for a while, then I remembered that years ago I read a post on the Internet, saying that -ese is a derogatory ending used only on those countries that the western world thought to be inferior, so we have adjectives like Chinese, Vietnamese and Burmese. After all, many of the Asian countries do form their adjectives in -ese. But I had doubts, don’t the westerners just love Japanese stuff? And why Korean, Indian, Malaysian and Indonesian then? So I decided to look for the answer myself.

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