24 September 2012

First Day at School

Last week, I was briefly in the UK, and by good fortune, it was the first day at school for my grandson, Oliver. Here he is coming out from school at the end of the day, carrying a book to be read at home.

When he got home, we asked him all about his day. It is quite stunning for me to hear him speaking long, complex sentences, at the age of 4 years and 8 months, when it seems just a short while ago that he was uttering his first isolated words. One of the things he said was:

I don't know the other teachers' names. Maybe they'll tell me tomorrow.

03 September 2012

More on blends

In my previous post, I discussed blends in Malay such as cerpen ('short story') and tadika ('kindergarten'), and I raised the question why Malay tends to take the first part of each word while English prefers to use the start of one word and the end of another (e.g. smog = smoke+fog).

My UBD colleague Adrian Clynes suggests this is because the penultimate syllable is most prominent in Malay, especially when the words are spoken in isolation. (Whether there is lexical stress or not in Malay is debatable ‑ see the section on Stress in The Pronunciation of Malay.)

This suggestion seems to make sense, and it explains why TAman + DIdik + KAnak (with the most prominent syllable shown in upper case) gives rise to tadika. It does not work so well for ceRIta + PENdek giving rise toe cerpen; but it is basically true that most Malay root words are bisyllabic, so it is usual for the first syllable to be most prominent.

Another question is whether this extends to English blends that are used in this region. And, indeed, we find Mindef (Ministry of Defence) and TelBru (Telecom of Brunei).

What about in other varieties of English? Do we find any examples of the use of the first part of successive words in new words created in the UK or USA? I am not sure ‑ I can't think of any at the moment.

01 September 2012


In my introductory linguistics course this week, I mentioned blends such as smog (= smoke + fog) and motel (= motor + hotel), where a new word is created by adding the first part of one word to the second part of another; and I suggested that a Malay equivalent is cerpen ('short story'), which is a blend of cerita ('story') + pendek ('short').

My students suggested two more: tadika ('kindergarten') from taman ('garden') + didik ('education') + kanak ('child'); and pawagam from panggung ('theatre') + wayang gambar ('film').

It looks like Malay blends are formed by taking the first half of successive words, rathen than the first half and the second half. I'm not sure why this pattern is different from that of English.