Why is the symbol for paragraph a reverse P?

The Pilcrow, as it is known, originated in the Middle Ages, when scribes did not use space to separate paragraphs from each other. (Space was at a premium, and spacing paragraphs had not occurred to anyone anyway.) Instead, scribes started using a Latin abbreviation to indicate a change of paragraph.

Only it wasn’t P for Paragraph. It was C for chapter (capitulum), with some lines through it.


Why is ‘pronounciation’ spelled as ‘pronunciation’ in English?

Brian Collins’ answer is impeccably correct for why pronunciation was not spelled pronounciation after the combination of the Great English Vowel Shift and Trisyllabic laxing (a long vowel three syllables back is shortened, as in insane ~ insanity). But all the answers aren’t really answering why pronunciation is still being pronounced pronunciation.

Let’s look at another instance of  trisyllabic laxing: private ~ privacy.

In Britain, privacy has a short vowel, following the same rule as insanity and pronunciation. In the US and Australia, it’s a long vowel.

Is that because the US and Australia are illiterate? Why then, so are the British, when they say pirate ~ piracy, with a long vowel. (I’m told piracy still has a short vowel among laywers.)

No, it’s because trisyllabic laxing has resulted in a lack of morphological transparency. The change in vowel looks wrong: if privacy comes from private, they should sound the same. And they’ve been made to sound the same again, a few centuries later,  by analogy.

Well, just as piracy has come to sound more like pirate by analogy, and privacy  has come to sound more like private, now it’s pronunciation‘s turn. People are tempted to pronounce it pronounciation, for the same reason. I do. And it’s not currently considered correct, but it may yet.

Which Indo-European language is most closely related to Armenian?

As I commented in https://www.quora.com/Why-isnt-G… 

FWIW, if you look in terms of common stems (someone actually went through Pokorny’s etymological dictionary and did the stem counts: The Distribution of Indo-European Root Morphemes  ), Armenian has the most common stems with Greek. Given that Phrygian was next door to Greek and no other languages from close by have survived, that makes sense.

Yes, lexicostatistics is no substitute for the comparative method. It’s not nothing either.

What are some words in your language whose pronunciation is accidentally similar to a word in another language?

My language features in textbook examples of words that both mean and look the same, in completely unrelated languages, by coincidence. e.g. The Handbook of Historical Linguistics. Greek mati and Malay mata, eye. Google “mati mata malay greek” for more examples.

As a bonus: Greek meli Hawaiian meli—not accidental.

Why isn’t Cyprus part of Greece?

Greece got most of the Aegean islands from the Ottoman Empire in 1913, after the Balkan Wars. There were three exceptions:

  • Greece did not get Imbros and Tenedos (Gökçeada and Bozcaada), because of their strategic importance right outside the Dardanelles. When the invasion at Gallipoli happened, the British (and ANZACs) were based at the next island down, Lemnos.
  • The Dodecanese, which Italy got from Turkey just before 1913.
  • Cyprus, which Turkey had sold to the British in 1878.

Half the island (well, a third) is culturally Turkish; but if Cyprus had still been under Turkish rule in 1913, it’s not impossible that it would have been ceded to Greece. And the Turkish element in Cyprus would likely have been expelled under the 1923 population exchange, as happened in the rest of Greece outside of Thrace—and as did not happen in the Dodecanese, which still weren’t in Greece. (That only happened in 1946.)

Cyprus remained under British rule until the Cyprus Emergency of 1955–60. The intent of the Greek Cypriot militants EOKA was union with Greece, Enosis. That did not happen, not least because of the Turkish minority asserting itself and Cypriot intercommunal violence. The Republic of Cyprus arose as a compromise.

Much water has flown under the bridge since then. The Republic of Cyprus no longer has a substantial Turkish population, because of the continued intercommunity violence and the de facto partition of the island. But fifty five years on, even though most Greek Cypriots do not identify as Cypriots first Greeks second, they are quite used to being a separate country, and don’t feel any urge for Enosis.

What other logical languages are there other than Lojban?

Lojban is begotten from Loglan; Lojban is a schism of Loglan, and seems to have taken most of the Loglanists with it. Loglan also begat Guaspi, although I don’t think that it got much of a following (and its inventor  is also a Lojbanist).

That’s the Loglan family of logical artificial languages that I know of.

Why do we need to capitalize “I” and the days of the weeks in English?

No disagreement with the answers here. I’ll philosophise a bit more generally:

Each language authority or community ends up with a particular set of conventions about punctuation and capitalisation—or borrows them from a more prestigious language. You only become aware of alternate ways of doing things if you’re exposed to other communities. And it only becomes a problem if your language does not align to a single community. (This is a problem for languages like Esperanto or Ancient Greek, which is often capitalised and punctuated differently according to the country printing the text.)

The conventions about punctuation and capitalisation are memes, and they are only partly selected in response to functional needs.

So you can argue that I was capitalised because i looks odd (and ambiguous with Roman number 1); note that the older and dialectal variant ich (which shows up in King Lear) is not capitalised. And capitalising nouns does make some sense as a disambiguation, especially in a language with zero morphology like English.

But mostly it’s just a matter of fashion. It’s also an in-group marker: this person follows the community’s rules, so they are declaring allegiance to our community.

Fashion does change (English got rid of capitalised nouns); but conscious innovation by a single person does not usually get far.

As someone whose other language (Greek) borrowed its punctuation from French, I cannot tell you how much better English would be if it used French’s quotation dash. All those stupid “he said”s and “she said”s and “he expostulated” would just disappear: the dash would tell you all you need to know. Joyce thought the same thing, and he used quotation dashes.

And no one else in English does, because the quotation mark and “he said” convention has stuck.

And why has the convention stuck? Why don’t you get to be a mountain goat instead of a sheep?

Because language use does not usually reward the unconventional. People just scratch their heads and think you’re odd. Just like no one got fired for buying IBM, no one gets fired for following the language community’s rules.

You can violate the community’s rules to make a point. If you’re a poet, or an entertaining storyteller, you may be heard appreciatively. If the medium is part of your message—if you’re foregrounding the language, you can start your own memes, and be an agent in language change.

But much of the time, and particularly in formal writing, no one cares about how witty or innovative you are. They just want the content, and then they move on. So being a mountain goat in most contexts just makes you annoying. And wit and idiosyncrasy are a currency you should use sparingly in any case: the more persistently you do it, the less effective your deviations become.

Why do we capitalize words after a punctuation mark? Is the redundancy necessary?

I agree with Susan Sisson’s answer, and refer you to Nick Nicholas’ answer to Why do we need to capitalize “I” and the days of the weeks in English?

With reference to OP’s rather defensive comment:

You can do as you please. And in turn, we get to react as we please. It doesn’t hurt our brain when you deviate from the community norm. We just get to think you’re an oddball. Which, despite the UK’s celebration of eccentrics, does mean your message ends up less, not more effective. And again: there are areas of life where innovation and rule-breaking advance humanity. Punctuation is not one of them.

What is the meaning of words – pluviophile , bibliophile?Why are they not mentioned in my latest Oxford dictionary?

Category:English words suffixed with -phile from Wiktionary.

Both your terms happen to be defined there:

pluviophile – Wiktionary : (biology) Any organism that thrives in conditions of heavy rainfall; One who loves rain, a rain-lover (from Latin pluvia)

bibliophile – Wiktionary : One who loves books; One who collects books, not necessarily due to any interest in reading them. (from Greek biblion)

If you know a bit of Greek or Latin (or Italian), you can work these out.

Why are they not in your Oxford dictionary? Depends on your Oxford dictionary. There’s lots of vocabulary that is considered obscure, specialised, or antiquated, and the smaller the dictionary, the more of that kind of vocabulary it gets to exclude. I’d be surprised if pluviophile gets used seriously now outside of biology, and within biology it may be antiquated. I’d have thought bibliophile is slightly less obscure, but I’m not writing marketable dictionaries.