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Showing posts from May, 2018

The Hidden Grammars We Live By

The following is the gist of the sermon I delivered yesterday, in St. Michael's Church, Anderson's Bay, at the baptism of my grandson, Theo.  We have rules in English about how we use adjectives. Most of us know that adjectives come before the noun, well, most of the time, anyway. We say The large mountain but other languages do it differently. In Maori, for example, we have the word maunga meaning mountain and nui meaning large and these combine, with the adjective last, to form maunganui . I'm not sure why the word order varies from language to language. It seems to be an arbitrary accident of history. But the rules about adjectives don't finish with whether or not they precede the noun. Consider the following two sentences: Look at those two, beautiful, little, red, French, sports cars.  Look at those sports, French, red, little, beautiful, two cars. The second one sounds odd, huh? That's because  because it breaks a fundamental rule of English gramma