Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Musings about Linguistics

Over the past few days I have had some interesting experiences that relate to the linguistic dork in me.

Yesterday in class the high schoolers were learning about phrasal verbs.  Now I of course knew what these were, but I didn´t know them by that official title.  Here are some examples of phrasal verbs:

look into
turn on
calm down

So now, consider the verb get and various phrasal verbs:

get by
get off (the bus, at the metro stop)
get in
get away
get away with

And then there are phrases that are not very school appropriate that people may not know until they are explained to them like get off, get it on with someone, get high, etc.

Maybe it is just me, but it is interesting to see how the addition of one word completely changes the meaning of a sentence or phrase.  To take it one step further, some of these phrasal verbs are separable while others are inseparable.  For example:

We looked into the possibility of hiring more English teachers.


We looked the possibility of hiring more English teachers into.

But then you can say:

Write the information down in your notebook.     OR     Write down the information in your notebook.


Write the information in your notebook down.  (The semantics of the sentence completely changes in this example.)

I also had an interesting conversation with my roommate the other day.  He is taking a class in sign language now, and apparently sign language varies from country to country.  For example, in Chile they sign as if they were waving a handkerchief over their heads for the month of September, as that is something they do to celebrate Chile´s Independence Day (which is in September).  In other countries they sign September in different ways.  He told me that they had a hearing impaired visitor from Washington DC in class a few days ago, and he signed Washington DC as a place by signing the words for White House.

As for the last linguistic point, I am going to leave you hanging for a few days becuase I am evil like that.  When talking or writing about the future, when do you use will, and when do you use going to?  What is the difference and why?  Feel free to comment with your theories and ideas.  I will write the answer in a few days.  :-)  And TeachingChile people are not allowed to answer this question.  ;-)

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