Date: Fri, 26.10.12 02:42
AH> While I remember the less/fewer distinction being
AH> pointed out to me in school, I don't remember seeing
AH> or hearing anybody use the terms "countable" and
AH> "uncountable". You're familiar with such terms
AH> because you've studied English as a foreign language.
ak> Everett wondered in the same way when I spoke of
ak> "countable" and "uncountable" nouns. ;-)
I imagine his experience (or lack thereof) is/was similar to mine re
these terms. IIRC I first encountered them in this very echo when someone else
from Russia used them. Not to worry! It seems they're widely understood among
students of English as a foreign language, and I got the drift right away.
ak> Some people call them "mass nouns." Probably it
ak> is a better term.
FOWLER'S uses "count nouns" synonymously with "countable nouns", and
"mass nouns" synonymously with "uncountable nouns". In both cases I prefer the
second alternative, however, because it seems more intuitive to me. Some folks
may prefer the first alternative because it requires less typing on their part.
OTOH, you may lose half your audience if you expect them to look it up.... ;-)
ak> Human brain is a strange thing. We spend years
ak> on learning, and think that it is difficult, but
ak> a two-year-old child speaks perfectly well, and
ak> nobody teaches him. ;-)
Young children are eager to learn, and their brains are growing at a
phenomenal rate. The adults around them may not think of what they're doing as
"teaching". Human beings, however, are social creatures. Awhile before babies
learn to speak they go through a stage where they experiment with using various
sounds... typically described as "goo goo, ga ga" or "babbling". They might be
saying "Have a good day!" in Sanskrit or "The square on the hypotenuse is equal
to the sum of the squares on the other two sides" in Greek or "the Lord created
the heavens and the earth" in Hebrew... but if their parents don't understand a
word of these languages they'll probably remain silent. Now watch what happens
when Junior says "Ma ma" or "Da da". Assuming the family is still intact, both
parents are delirious with joy because the kid has uttered his first word. One
gestures enthusiastically toward the other & repeats "Mommy" or "Daddy" as they
are accustomed to hearing it. They phone Grandma to share the good news. Then
they brag about it to their 500 nearest & dearest friends on Facebook....
ak> And, it seems to me, the more we live the more soon
ak> children start to speak. ;)
Perhaps they do. OTOH... as we grow older time seems to accelerate,
and we forget how old "baby" is now. I am reminded of a conversation years ago
with a neighbour who had visited Germany briefly. When I told him I'd given up
on German in lesson nine, where I was introduced to over two dozen prepositions
using three cases, he said "What cases??" I had to dig out a textbook in order
to prove to him that there are cases in German. Toddlers learn the way he did,
and their understanding of prepositions also develops later! Today's kids have
advantages Dallas & I never had. But we grew up in an era when almost everyone
around us was a native speaker of English. I understand why the folks from the
local greengrocery try to pluralize "broccoli" even though it's plural already,
yet fail to pluralize other nouns. Plurals are treated differently in Chinese.
Learning a new language isn't so easy after the first few years of life because
the neurological connections required tend to develop much more slowly....
ak> In two years he spoke and understood perfectly,
ak> while I cannot even remember myself before 5
ak> years old age.
Don't be too hard on yourself! The majority of adults remember very
little if anything of what happened to them before this age or later. We saw a
poster in our doctor's office recently indicating that children in general have
difficulty pronouncing certain consonant blends & consonant digraphs in English
up to the age of four. This poster didn't mention grammar, but I know a lot of
middle-aged native speakers who still seem unclear on various concepts....
--- timEd/386 1.10.y2k+
* Origin: Wits' End, Vancouver CANADA (1:153/716)