Category: Language and mind

Going far and deep: syntagm and paradigm

Syntagm comes from Greek and means “together”. In language it means a group of words that stand together, like take + a walk. If you look at language on paper it becomes clear it unfolds horizontally, word after word.

Paradigm means category. In a paradigm there are items that can come up in a syntagmatic string, one at a time. For example, take a walk, take a shower, take a nap etc. The words walk, shower, nap are part of the same paradigm. If syntagmatic strings unfold horizontally, you can imagine paradigms as sets unfolding vertically. You just scroll down, pick the word you need and place it in the string you are forming.

So today let’s go both far and deep: take a look at strings of words stretching out horizontally; and go deep by scrolling down the paradigms – meaning will be generated at the crossroads.

Words don’t come easy

Words are maybe the most common thing we exchange every day, and yet so often we find that words don’t come easy actually. Why not? After all, words are easily decoded by dictionary definitions, so what could be the problem? Most people think that words simply stand for objects or facts in the real world. That…

Life into language: living in the present perfect

One of the things I like best about English is its present perfect. It looks quite common, as many other languages have the same structure, have + Ved to talk about a past event. If we think about it, even the form is interesting: although you’re talking about the past, there is a grammar word that…


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