Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Your Fascinating Language Lesson for Today


When I crashed on the rocks of calculus back at Penn State many years ago and told my father I was going to change my major from Chemical Engineering to Linguistics, I think he had visions of me being permanently unemployed and living at home forever. What do you do with a degree in Linguistics, after all?

Well, if nothing else, you get to enjoy all the interesting things about language!

Courtesy of my friend and former coworker Andy comes this fascinating and informative article from The WeekA Handy Guide to Homophones, Homonyms, and Homographs.

Contrary to what you may believe, the terms homophone, homonym, and homograph do not refer to the sexual orientation of words, but to their sounds and spellings. Here is a really cool* Venn diagram** that explains the relationship among them:

Basically, homophones and homonyms sound the same but are either spelled differently or have different meanings, while homonyms and homographs are spelled the same, but have different meanings or pronunciations.

This is one reason why some people find English so difficult to learn. Of course, English speakers find other languages difficult as well ... comedian Steve Martin once said French was hard to learn because they have a different word for everything.

And as long as that's true, there will be plenty of jobs for teachers of English and other languages. Unfortunately, there will also be plenty of people who never learn to read and think properly in any language. They usually go into politics or extreme religion.

Here's a final thought: let's tell the Westboro Baptist Church about homophones, homonyms, and homographs ... they won't be able to use scores of words ever again!

Have a good day. Come back Thursday for more thoughts.

Bilbo

* If you have a degree in Linguistics, anyhow.

** Venn diagrams? I don't know ... what time is it now, ha, ha?

4 comments:

eViL pOp TaRt said...

The Venn diagram is a neat summary of the overlap and differences among homophones, homonyms, and homographs.

Maybe the Westboro Baptist Church can picket at the burial of a homograph!

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

The Venn diagram illustrates the differences perfectly. Thanks, Bilbo.

Duckbutt said...

The French do have a different word for everything. And, perversely, you have to pronunce it correctly.

Mike said...

I have an idea... for you. Make a list of everything homo and send to to WBC. Ask them to sort the list into acceptable and unacceptable homos.