Posted by: irasandhu | March 16, 2009

Thank You

Dear PPRMT5 students,

Thank you all for your active participation in our ELE3103 course this semester. It was really a pleasant surprise as I was quite worried if you all could understand anything I was discussing on Linguistics. But your keen interest in all activities and positive responses in class have been extremely encouraging.

I do hope you all will keep on updating your blogs with your reflections during  ELE3104 next semester and do reach out to each other to help and share experiences and links to successful lesson plans. Maybe you could also get feedback from each other on strategies that worked/needed some modifications.

Keep on revising as the exams are round the corner and do complete your ELE portfolios.

All the best in your practicum and happy holidays.

Kind regards,

Mdm. Ira

Posted by: irasandhu | March 7, 2009


THESE are the top 10 most hated text and e-mail phrases. But what do they stand for? Try our quiz to test your texting knowledge. (Beware, it’s a toughie). Answers below.



3) CSThnknAU






9) 2G2B4G

10) ALOL


1 Talk to you later

2 Rolling on the floor laughing

3 Can’t stop thinking about you

4 At the end of the day

5 Ta-ta for now

6 In my humble opinion

7 Chat with you later

8 Don’t quote me on this

9 Too good to be forgotten

10 Actually laughing out loud

Posted by: irasandhu | February 18, 2009

Pronunciation of “invitatory”

I am equally puzzled by the pronunciation of  invitatory. Higgins has given his thoughts on the word.

What about you? I’d encourage all of you to take part in the poll here.

Posted by: irasandhu | February 16, 2009


Check out this link: Semantics

Can you give examples of sentences with two possible meanings?

Posted by: irasandhu | February 14, 2009

Malaysian English

Who says Malaysian English is “teruk” ?

It is simple, short, concise, straight to the point, effective etc………

For example:-
Britons: I’m sorry, Sir, but we don’t seem to have the sweater in your size but if you give me a moment, I can call the other outlets for you.
Malaysians: No Stock.
Britons: Hello, this is John Smith. Did anyone page for me a few moments ago?
Malaysians: Hello, who page?
Britons: Excuse me, I’d like to get by. Would you please make way?
Malaysians: S-kew me
Britons: Hey, put your wallet away, this drink is on me.
Malaysians: No-need, lah.
Britons: Excuse me, but do you think it would be possible for me to enter through this door?
Malaysians: (pointing the door) can ar?
Britons: Please make yourself right at home.
Malaysians: Don’t be shy, lah!
Britons: I don’t recall you giving me the money.
Malaysians: Where got?
Britons: I’d prefer not to do that, if you don’t mind.
Malaysians: Don’t want la…
Britons: Err. Tom, I have to stop you there. I understand where you’re coming from, but I really have to disagree with what you said about the issue.
Malaysians: You mad, ah?
Britons: Excuse me, but could you please lower your voice, I’m trying to concentrate over here.
Malaysians: Shut up lah!
Britons: Excuse me, but I noticed you staring at me for some time Do I know you?
Malaysians: See what, see what?
Britons: We seem to be in a bit of a predicament at the moment.
Malaysians: Die-lah!!
Britons: Will someone tell me what has just happened?
Malaysians: Wat happen Why like that….
Britons: This isn’t the way to do it here let me show you
Malaysians: Like that also don’t know how to do!!!!
Do have any other interesting examples of Malaysian English?

Posted by: irasandhu | January 31, 2009

Syntax -Basic Sentence Pattern

Read the following article and comment on it.

There are two basic parts of a sentence: the subject and the predicate. 

The subject consists of a noun phrase, which includes a noun headword, along with its modifiers; this subject, which usually appears somewhere before the verb in a sentence, generally is someone or something performing an action. 

The predicate contains a verb phrase generally referring to an action performed by the subject.  This verb phrase is made up of the predicating verb, or main verb, along with its modifiers and complements. 

Take, for example, the following sentence:
The diligent students worked on their assignment today.

Here, the noun phrase “the diligent students” is the subject, and “worked on their assignment today” is the predicate.

Posted by: irasandhu | January 31, 2009

What is Syntax?

Here is some explanation of syntax:

The word “syntax” refers to the relationships of words within a sentence. 

In English, speakers and writers generally indicate these relationships through word order. 

For example, the actor–or “subject”–in a sentence generally comes before the verb.  Recipients of actions–or “objects”–generally appear after verbs. 

English syntax actually is much more complex than these examples suggest, but they illustrate a general principle: syntax is the system that speakers and writers use when they combine words into phrases and clauses, ultimately creating meaning.

Posted by: irasandhu | January 31, 2009

Useful EL Sites

Here are some useful websites for you to explore:

Some Oxford dictionary websites with activities!! – downloadable activities, extra material and grammar tips from Oxford Learner’s Grammar. – Oxford Advanced Learners online dictionary & practice for all levels.

Aaron Martin’s TEFL/TESL Website Index :
Mark’s ESL World :
ESL Lounge :
Internet TESL Journal :
Interesting Things for ESL/EFL Students (Fun Study English) :
BBC/British Council Teaching English :
Do try and explore these sites to become a creative EL teacher!
Posted by: irasandhu | January 28, 2009

Learning More about Morphology

Reflect on the following article and suggest some examples of free and bound morphemes.



Recall that Language is a CODE for thoughts. The speaker communicates his thoughts to the listener by encoding the thoughts into sound. The listener then decodes the meaning from the sounds.



The MORPHEME is the smallest unit that relates sound and meaning. For example,

  • Meaning “dog” ⇔ Sound [dɑg] (English)
  • Meaning “dog” ⇔ Sound [kanis] (Latin)

Speakers must MEMORIZE each morpheme. The collection of morphemes is one thing that speakers KNOW about their language.

The sounds that are used to make up the morphemes are arbitrary. There is nothing about dogs that forces the word for “dog” to contain [g] or [k] or [d].

Word Classes

We can divide words into two broad types: content words versus function words.

Content Words

  • Nouns
  • Verbs
  • Adjectives
  • Adverbs

Speakers can add new Content Words to the language, and so they are also called the “open class” vocabulary, because it is open to additions.

Function Words

  • Pronouns
  • Conjunctions
  • Auxiliaries
  • etc.

In general speakers cannot add new Function Words to the language, and so this is the “closed class” vocabulary.

Word Relations

Words can be related to other words, e.g. “happy” — “unhappy”.

The rules that relate such sets of words are called Word Formation Rules. Thus, the morphology contains

  • fundamental elements — morphemes
  • rules of combination — Word Formation Rules


Words like “unhappy” which consist of more than one piece (morpheme) are called morphologically complex. In the case of “unhappy” the two pieces are

  • “happy”
  • “un-” (meaning “not”).

Likewise the word “happier” has two pieces:

  • “happy”
  • “-er” (meaning “more”).

We then can ask how even more complicated words (with more than two morphemes) are constructed. Let’s begin with “unhappier”. This word obviously has three pieces:

  • “happy”
  • “un-” (= not)
  • “-er” (= more)

What is the way that they are combined? What difference would it make?

A difference in meaning:

  • not ( more ( happy ) ) versus
  • more ( not ( happy ) )

Which is correct?

  • more ( not ( happy ) )

An unhappier person is more sad than someone else, not just not happier. This means that the “more” meaning includes the “not” meaning inside it, that is that “-er” must have scope over “un-“. We draw these relations between the morphemes (and the resulting words) as graphs or trees:

     /    \
Adjective  -er
  /   \
un-  Adjective

The relative scope of a morpheme determines what it modifies. Thus in “unhappier” the “un-” modifies “happy” and “-er” modifies “unhappy”. Different combinations can result in different meanings.

We must also know the relative position of the morphemes. Here “un-” is a prefix (it attaches to the beginning of “happy”) and “-er” is a suffix (it attaches to the end of “unhappy”).

Thus, we know three things about every morpheme:

  1. its meaning
  2. its form (the sounds that make it up)
  3. a rule of combination (put it before/after/inside the stem)
    (Stems such as “happy” do not require rules of combination by themselves. They are “free” to occur alone.)

Bound and Free Morphemes

In the word “doors” there are two morphemes: “door” and “-s”.

The morpheme “door” can be used by itself, so it is called a FREE morpheme.

But the morpheme “s” cannot be used by itself:

  • “How many doors did you shut?”
    “More than one.” OK
    “s” Not OK

Therefore, “-s” is called a BOUND morpheme.

What does “-s” mean?

What does the bound plural morpheme “-s” mean? It seems to mean “more than one”: one door, two doors; but consider:

  • There are no red doors.
  • I have zero dollars.
  • It’s negative one degrees outside.
  • The current is 0.4 amperes.

A better explanation is that “-s” means “not one”

(You may have different judgements, especially for “-1”. This simply shows again that grammars are in people’s minds, and that there is variation between individuals in their grammars, just as we say variation in the pronunciation of words.)


Morphemes added to free forms to make other free forms are called affixes. There are four principle kinds of affixes:

  1. prefixes (at beginning) — “un-” in “unable”
  2. suffixes (at end) — “-ed” in “walked”
  3. circumfixes (at both ends) — “en–en” in “enlighten”
    (These always seem to consist of otherwise attested independent prefixes and suffixes.)
  4. infixes (in the middle) — “-super-” in “in-super-credible”
    (These are not used very much in English but occur frequently in other languages).

A Rule for Forming some English Words

Consider the following pairs of English words:

Adjective Verb
dark darken
black blacken
red redden
steep steepen

What generalization (rule) can we make?

  • Form: “en”
  • Combination: At the end of Adjectives (suffix) to make Verbs
  • Meaning: “to make (more) Adjective”

We can draw a diagram to show the internal structure of one of the words:

        /   \
Adjective    -en
Meaning: "to make (more) black"

Likewise we can draw a partial structure (tree diagram) which shows the three properties of rule of combination for the affix:

        /   \
Adjective    -en
Meaning: "to make (more) Adjective"

The morpheme “black” as an adjective also has the trivial tree diagram


And the two trees are combined by joining them at the common overlapping part (Adjective).

Another Rule for Forming some English Words

Consider the following pairs of English words:

Verb Noun
sing singer
dance dancer
write writer
compute computer

What generalization (rule) can we make?

Add “-er” to the end of Verbs to make Nouns with the meaning “someone (or something) that Verbs”

   /   \
Verb    -er
Meaning: "someone (or something) that Verbs"

Using Word Formation Rules Together

Notice that when we combined “-en” with “black” the diagrams “overlap” at the Adjective node. Notice also that

  • “-er” takes Nouns and makes Verbs
  • “-en” takes Verbs and makes Adjectives

So can we “overlap” the rules at Verb? Yes!

            /    \
         Verb    -er
        /   \
Adjective   -en
Meaning: "something that makes (more) white"

Rules that don’t change category

Some affixes create the same kinds of words that they attach to, such as making nouns out of other nouns:

   /    \
Noun    -ian
Meaning: "someone from Boston"

Zero Morphemes

Some affixes consist of no sounds at all.

Consider the following words:

Adjective Verb
yellow yellow
brown brown
green green
purple purple

The relation between “yellow” (adjective) and “yellow” (verb) is exactly the same as that between “white” and “whiten”, which we just considered. But the form of “yellow” doesn’t change. So we say that we added a zero suffix:

       /    \
Adjective    -Ø
Meaning: "to make (more) yellow"

Zero morphemes are obviously hard to spot because you can’t hear them! In these cases you have to notice what ISN’T there.


But now we have two ways to make Adjectives into Verbs meaning “to make (more) Adjective”: “-en” (“black-en”) and “-Ø” (“yellow-Ø”) How do we know which rule to use? That is, why not “yellow-en”?

One possible (but uninteresting) answer is that we just have to memorize which affix to use for each stem. That is, we just memorize that “black” takes “-en” and “yellow” takes “-Ø”. But we would like a better explanation.

As with the phonology problems, the best place to look is “near” where the affix attaches. Since “-en” is a suffix, let’s look at the end of the stems. What we find is that we can divide the Adjectives into two classes based on what the last SOUND (NOT letter) of the stem is:

  • Use “-en” if the last sound is:
    • [p] “deep-en”
    • [f] “stiff-en”
    • [v] “live-en”
    • [t] “white-en”
    • [d] “redd-en”
    • [s] “less-en”
    • [ʃ] “fresh-en”
    • [k] “dark-en”
  • Use “-Ø” if the last sound is:
    • [e] “gray-Ø” (“His hair grayed (gray-&Oslash-ed) before he was twenty.”)
    • [n] “brown-Ø”
    • [m] “dim-Ø”
    • [l] “purple-Ø”
    • [r] “clear-Ø”

We can use the same type of diagrams, and indicate the conditions:

      /   \
Adjective  -en if Adjective ends in an obstruent (oral stop or fricative)
           -Ø if Adjective ends in a sonorant (nasals, approximants, vowels)
Meaning: "to make (more) Adjective"

When we did phonology problems, we had a notion of “default” or “elsewhere”. The same concept can arise in morphology, although in this case the choice is made difficult by the clean cut between obstruents and sonorants. It is true, however, that there are exceptions to this rule with certain unusual adjectives, such as “beige” or “mauve”, which (at least to me) seem to require “-Ø”, as I find *”beigen” and *”mauven” to be unacceptable (indicated by the preceding asterisk). On this basis, we might choose “-Ø” to be the default:

      /   \
Adjective  -en if Adjective ends in an obstruent (oral stop or fricative)
           -Ø Elsewhere
Meaning: "to make (more) Adjective"

Another example of allomorphy in English is the choice of the negative prefix “il-/ir-/im-/in-“. The rules are:

  • Use “il-” when the stem begins with “l”: “il-legal”
  • Use “ir-” when the stem begins with “r”: “ir-responsible”
  • Use “im-” when the stem begins with “m, b, p”: “im-mobile” “im-balanced”, “im-possible”
  • Otherwise (elsewhere) use “in-“: “in-active”, etc.

In a diagram:

                                         / \
when Adjective begins with l:          il-  Adjective
when Adjective begins with r:          ir-
when Adjective begins with a bilabial: im-
Elsewhere:                             in-
Meaning: "not Adjective"

Finally, some allomorphy is simply exceptional. There are morphemes which are used with only a limited number of words, such as plural “-en” as in “ox-en”, “child-(r)en”.

Furthermore, some words are so irregular that they have no internal analysis, for example “went” is the SUPPLETIVE form for what would otherwise be “go-ed”. Children often use words like *”go-ed” (“went”) or *”hold-ed” (“held”). These are called OVERGENERALIZATION errors because the children use a regular productive process on exceptional words.


The combination of two free forms is called a COMPOUND.

        /    \
Adjective    Noun
    |          |
  black      bird
Meaning: a particular kind of bird

In English the HEAD of a compound is usually the right-hand member (bird).

The head supplies the category (Noun) and basic meaning (bird-ness) for the whole compound.

Compounds can be used with affixation to produce larger words:

       /    \
    Verb    -er
   /    \
Verb    Verb
  |       |
sleep   walk
Meaning: Someone who walks and sleeps at the same time

     /    \
  Noun     Noun
    |     /    \
window  Verb    -er
Meaning: Someone who paints windows

Bound Roots

Both “blackberry” and “blueberry” are kinds of BERRIES, and “black” and “blue” exist as free forms too. So these look like fine compounds. But what about “cranberry”, “huckleberry”, “rasberry”? We’d like to keep the “berry” part separate, but then what are “cran”, “huckle” and “ras”?

We call these cases BOUND ROOTS.

Homophonous Morphemes

Sometimes two morphemes have the same pronunciation (form) with different meanings. One example form English is the two morphemes “un-“:

   /        \
 un-       Adjective
Meaning: "not Adjective", for example "unhappy"

   /    \
 un-    Verb
Meaning: "do the reverse of Verb", for example "undo", "untie", "unlatch"

This can lead to ambiguity in some words with “un-“, such as “un-tie-able”.

There are two possible structures for “un-tie-able”:

     /     \
   Verb    -able
   /   \
un-    Verb
Meaning: able( un (tie) ) = "can be untied"

   /        \
un-         Adjective
            /       \
         Verb       -able
Meaning: un( able (tie) ) = "can't be tied"

The relative scope of “un-” and “-able” is different in these two cases, leading to a difference in meaning. The difference in meaning also correlates with whether “un-” is modifying a verb or an adjective. When a difference in meaning correlates with a difference in structure like this we call this STRUCTURAL AMBIGUITY. Structural ambiguity is a very important concept. We will see exactly the same thing when we analyze sentences.

Other ways of Forming Words

  • Back formations
    Where one “falsely” uses a rule.
    “peddler” refers to a person
    analyze “peddler” as “peddle” + “-er”
  • Blends: “smoke” + “fog” = “smog”; “motor” + “hotel” = “motel”
  • Words from Names: “jumbo”, “sandwich”
  • Truncation (Clipping): “gym(nasium)”, “(tele)phone”
  • Acronyms: “AIDS” = “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome”

Inflectional Morphology

Morphology that interacts with syntax (sentence structure) is called INFLECTIONAL MORPHOLOGY Some examples are:

  • person
  • number
  • gender
  • noun class
  • case
  • tense

Inflectional morphemes never change the category. Inflectional morphemes do not change the “core” meaning of the word. Inflectional morphemes usually occur “outside” derivational ones: “Boston-ian-s” not *”Boston-s-ian”. But some left-headed compounds have the plural “inside”: “attorney-s-general”, “mother-s-in-law”. But there is a tendancy to re-analyze these compounds: “attorney-general-s”.

Author: William James Idsardi Email:
Posted by: irasandhu | January 16, 2009

Some Words for Pronunciation

Do check out this post by Higgins: Did You Know?

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