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Ammon V.
Linguistics Grad Student
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Writing
TutorMe
Question:

How can I improve transitions between paragraphs in my essays?

Ammon V.
Answer:

Maintaining a good flow throughout a written piece can be difficult. The purpose of transitioning well between paragraphs is to keep the reader in the loop as to where your ideas are going. So, the best way to improve your transitions is to look at the content of what you are writing. You need to make sure you know where you are going and that your presentation keeps to a logical flow. What I suggest is to consider your essay in terms of formal logic first: modus ponens, modus tollens and the like. This approach works best when a thesis statement is needed or you are simply critiquing a movie or something. Whenever you are expressing an opinion on something you can do it more powerfully by applying the rules of logic to the way you express yourself. If your essay topic is more like "What I did over the summer," then you might have to work a little harder to apply this approach, but it's still possible. The basic method is to first figure out the main point you want to make and frame it according to one of the logical rules, like modus ponens. The part after "therefore" is your thesis statement. Once you have your basic premises, you can begin to expand from there. For example, If you express your main point in formal logic first, then you will be able to write more convincingly. You expressed your main point in formal logic first. Therefore you can write more convincingly. Having done this, you can now look at the strengths and weaknesses of the premises. Why might it not be a good idea to start with formal logic? What does "convincingly" mean? How do you measure that? By expounding upon your premises you will likely need to continue to use logic in order to arrive at satisfying conclusions. The real key is to then express each premise and its explanations in paragraph form. As each paragraph represents a step in an argument, you will naturally transition very smoothly from your introduction all the way to your conclusion.

Linguistics
TutorMe
Question:

How do historical linguists reconstruct languages?

Ammon V.
Answer:

A common way historical linguists look into the past is the comparative method. This involves taking cognate words from more than one language and comparing the differences found between them. Cognates are words that come from the same historic source and thus are manifest in modern languages as very similar words. For example, English 'hound' and German 'hund' both mean 'dog'. These come from the same historic word, which could be reconstructed using the comparative method and data from a few more Germanic languages. A more distant relationship can be found in comparing Portuguese 'peixe' with English 'fish'. The comparative method relies on the hypothesis that sound change is regular. Sound change is the process by which speakers change the way they pronounce words over time. Linguists figure out which changes have occurred in a group of related languages by using the comparative method. By applying these changes backwards, they can determine what the original form of a word would have been.

English
TutorMe
Question:

Why does English have so many pairs of words, like pig and pork, that mean almost the same thing?

Ammon V.
Answer:

The answer comes by looking at the results of the Norman conquest of England. In 1066, armies from the north of France invaded England and became the ruling class. Thus, French became the language of the people in charge and English became the language of the peasants. The peasants were those who farmed and worked with their hands. That is why in English today the names of our basic farm animals are historically English. The nobles tended to eat the animals raised by the peasants and would have called the food by the French word they knew for it. That is why the food we eat today that comes from farm animals tends to have a French-derived name for it. For example, the French word for 'pig' is 'le porc' and that is why we eat 'pork' today.

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