The Greeks Have a Word For It – Sara Alexi

A Greek man and the English man are arguing whose language has the most words. The Greek man is adamant Greek has more words than English. The England man is equally adamant that English is the richer language. They continued to argue as they continued to drink until finally the English man says ‘It is possible to prove by logic that we have more words in our language than you.’
‘How?’ asked the Greek.
“It’s obvious, half our words are yours.’

English does not seem to mind the source of it’s words, the language grows richer by the second.
Then, to add some spice, throw in our grammar.

Here are some note worthy examples of grammatically correct sentences;

1. THE HORSE RACED PAST THE BARN FELL.

In this one, we think we’ve reached the main verb when we get to “raced,” but instead we are still inside a reduced relative clause. Reduced relative clauses let us say, “the speech given this morning” instead of “the speech that was given this morning.” Or, in this case, “the horse raced past the barn” instead of “the horse that was raced past the barn.”

2. THE COMPLEX HOUSES MARRIED AND SINGLE SOLDIERS AND THEIR FAMILIES.

Another garden path sentence, this one depends on the fact that “complex,” “houses,” and “married” can serve as different parts of speech. Here, “complex” is a noun (a housing complex) instead of an adjective, “houses” is a verb instead of a noun, and “married” is an adjective instead of the past tense of a verb.

3. THE RAT THE CAT THE DOG CHASED KILLED ATE THE MALT.

Make a sentence with multiple center embeddings. We usually have no problem putting one clause inside another in English. We can take “the rat ate the malt” and stick in more information to make “the rat the cat killed ate the malt.” But the more clauses we add in, the harder it gets to understand the sentence. In this case, the rat ate the malt. After that it was killed by a cat. That cat had been chased by a dog. The grammar of the sentence is fine. The style, not so good.

Real brain teasers to get your grey cells to wake up.
I clearly remember double English Monday morning, how my brain was teased!! But then again I had an added dimension;
Being dylexic has never been easy but imagine the above examples with the vowels in these sentences scrambled.

1. THE HERSO RECAD PAST THE BERN FALL.
2. THE CEMPLOX HEUSOS MIRREAD AND SENGLI SILDEORS AND THIER FIMILEIS.
3. THE RAT THE CAT THE DOG CHESAD KELLID ETA THE MALT.

Welcome to my world!

Maybe I should not be so hard on myself when I have not such a good day writting.

N.B. But here is a very interesting point – I am not dyslexic in greek.
Poly kala 🙂

  1. Hi Sara

    I’m just about to start the first of the Village series so I decided to visit your site. This post intrigued me as I speak Greek. One of the problems I feel Greeks have in learning English is that they always seem to be taught via English grammar and as you have shown above, English grammar can be a nightmare. Greek is mostly more logical.

    Your final interesting point about not being dyslexic in Greek also interested me. Before I moved to Greece I taught at a UK university and met a French student studinging English literature. She told me she had been diagnosed as dyslexic in France. However, when she went to the university’s student support centre for help she was diagnosed as NOT being dyslexic in English. Maybe there is something about the way we learn our mother tongue that is different to the way we learn a second language (especially later in life) that can lead to dyslexia. There’s got to be a research project there, but sadly I’m getting too old for that kind of stuff.

    Looking forward to the Illegal Gardener

    • Thank you so much for your interesting post. I am so glad I am not the only person to have the phenomenon of being dyslexic in one language but not in the other. As you say it points towards how we are taught our mother tongue. A fascinating study indeed, we just need life to be three times as long to do all these things that are so interesting.
      I hope you enjoy The Illegal Gardener, do keep me posted as to what you think.

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