bookmark_border/ˈsɑfdəˌwænˀ/ on the /ˈkʌbərz/

Originally uploaded by Ian EP

Selvom Anna stort set taler rent nu (hvilket naturligvis er grunden til, at jeg skriver mindre om hendes sprog, end jeg plejede), har hun stadig problemer med fonemet /v/.

Sjovt nok håndterer hun det forskelligt på dansk og engelsk. På dansk bliver det konsekvent til [w]: vand /wæn?/; på engelsk bliver det til [b]? covers /?k?b?rz/.

Det er naturligvis korrekt, at dansk /v/ normalt er en approksimant ([?]) og ikke en frikativ som på engelsk ([v]), men de fleste ikke-fonetikere bemærker normalt ikke forskellen.

Det er derfor interessant, at Anna håndterer dem forskelligt.

Det kan naturligvis også være, det ikke er den auditive, men den distributionsmæssige forskel, hun har observeret: Engelsk /v/ holdes altid klart adskilt fra /w/, hvorimod dansk /v/ ofte realiseres som [w], blot ikke i forlyd (når man set bort fra jyske dialekter).

bookmark_borderKing’s new inflation target

It’s is well-known what the Bank of England’s inflation target is:

The Bank’s monetary policy objective is to deliver price stability – low inflation – and, subject to that, to support the Government’s economic objectives including those for growth and employment. Price stability is defined by the Government’s inflation target of 2%. […] The inflation target of 2% is expressed in terms of an annual rate of inflation based on the Consumer Prices Index (CPI).

Readers of this blog will know that I’ve often been wondering why the BoE kept overshooting their target, when it’s been clear to many observers that the dramatic devaluation of the pound would have massive inflationary consequences.

However, Mervyn King has now revealed (PDF format) what is going on (reactions here, here and here):

If the MPC had raised Bank Rate significantly, inflation might well have started to fall back this year, but only because the recovery would have been slower, unemployment higher and average earnings rising even more slowly than now. The erosion of living standards would have been even greater. The idea that the MPC could have preserved living standards, by preventing the rise in inflation without also pushing down earnings growth further, is wishful thinking. […] Further rises in world commodity and energy prices cannot be ruled out, and attempts to resist their implications for real take-home pay by pushing up wages would require a response by the MPC. There is some evidence – for example from household surveys – to suggest that inflation expectations have moved higher.

The way I’m reading this, King has quietly redefined the BoE’s price stability target to mean wage stability, at least during a recession and the subsequent recovery. In other words, inflation that is due to external factors is ignored, and only inflation that is caused by earnings growth is taken into account, which means that interest rates will stay low until salaries start rising again.

It actually makes sense, but I’m not sure I like changing the target by stealth. If the Bank of England think that the inflation target is harmful and should be redefined, why can’t they put their case to the government and have them change it?

bookmark_borderStram norsk retskrivning?

Originally uploaded by jcbear2

Der er et interview med professor Jens Normann Jørgensen på P1, der iflg. linket mener, at “der sagtens kunne være flere måder at stave et ord på – i stedet for bare en korrekt udgave.”

Jeg har ikke haft tid til at lytte til indslaget, og så skal man passe på med at kritisere, så det flg. skal ikke tages som en direkte kritik af professoren.

Jeg har ikke noget problem med små variationer i skriftsproget, hvis det afspejler en forskel i udtalen blandt mennesker, der taler skriftsprogsnært. Det er fx på sin plads, at østrigere skriver “Jänner” i stedet for “Januar”, da det afspejler deres udtale af ordet, ligesom det er OK, at amerikanere skriver “aluminum” i stedet for “aluminium”.

Jeg kan blot ikke komme i tanke om mange eksempler, hvor den slags er et problem på dansk, så det er næppe dette, han prøver at løse.

Men Jens Normann Jørgensen skriver også flg.: “Det, jeg taler for, er, at vi i nogen grad indfører norske tilstande i dansk stavning. I vores uddannelsesvæsen lærer vi de unge mennesker, at der kun er en måde at gøre det på, og det er den korrekte. Hvis man ikke gør det på den måde, så gør man det ikke ordentligt, og så behøver vi ikke høre efter. I Norge er det stik modsat.”

Det er nok en noget lemfældig omgang med sandheden om den norske sprogsituation. Det er ganske korrekt, at mange ord kan skrives på mange måder på norsk, men det er jo slet ikke tilfældet, at man bare kan skrive, som man taler. “Bogen” kan fx kun hedde boka (begge målformer), boken (kun bokmål) eller boki (kun nynorsk), selvom -k- bliver til -g- i nogle områder, og selvom den bestemte artikel også kan have andre former end -a, -en og -i i dialekterne. På samme måde kan “kommer” kun hedde kommer (bokmål), kjem eller kjemer (begge nynorsk), men ikke fx *kom eller *kjemmer.

Samtidig revideres norsk retskrivning ofte, så det er faktisk yderst vanskeligt at skrive korrekt norsk – det er slet ikke et spørgsmål om at lægge mindre vægt på korrekthed.


Flour for 7
Originally uploaded by PhylB

One of the good things about having a large family (there’s seven of us two thirds of the time) is that you can sometimes buy products in quantities that average families can only dream about.

For instance, I recently noticed that Shipton Mill had some really interesting types of flour for sale (e.g., Khorason and Swiss flour). Normal consumers might find the £5 shipping charge too high for a couple of bags of flour, though.

However, delivery is free if you order 24 kg or more, and we can eat our way through that amount in just a couple of months, so that was £5 saved. 🙂

It seems to be an extremely efficient web shop, by the way – I had 26 kg of flour delivered exactly 25 hours after ordering it.

bookmark_borderPrice inflation, wage inflation and stagflation

inflation …
Originally uploaded by Ferdinand Reus

A few recent articles have suggested that the UK is entering stagflation. (For a definition of the term, see Wikipedia.)

I’m not actually disputing this, but the only real experience this part of the world has had of stagflation was the 1970s, when both price inflation and wage inflation were very high.

This time, inflation is not actually that high (between 3 and 5 percent depending on the measure used), but the problem is that wage inflation is so low. I’m aware that National Statistics think wage inflation (or earnings growth, as they call it) is around 2%, but my gut feeling is that this figure is as high as it is because of investment bankers or similar – most people I know have been on pay freezes or minimal pay rises for the past two years.

This means that most people are almost 5% worse off every single year. That’s the kind of figure you can live with for a year or two, but if it becomes engrained, it’s going to cause real pain.

This situation – price increases outpacing pay increases year after year – could in theory continue without the economy slumping back into recession, so long as unemployment is high enough to scare workers into submission.

So should we call this stagflation, or would it be better to come up with a new term?

bookmark_borderWhy Greece and Ireland won’t ditch the euro

The American economist Paul Krugman has written an article about the EU and the euro, which in many ways is informative and useful.

However, towards the end he discusses “four ways the European crisis could play out (and it may play out differently in different countries). Call them toughing it out; debt restructuring; full Argentina; and revived Europeanism.” I don’t have any issues with these apart from the third one, Full Argentina. This is his name for reintroducing a national currency and devaluing it:

To do so, they would have to overcome a big obstacle: the fact that, unlike Iceland, they no longer have their own currencies. As Barry Eichengreen of Berkeley pointed out in an influential 2007 analysis, any euro-zone country that even hinted at leaving the currency would trigger a devastating run on its banks, as depositors rushed to move their funds to safer locales. And Eichengreen concluded that this “procedural” obstacle to exit made the euro irreversible.

But Argentina’s peg to the dollar was also supposed to be irreversible, and for much the same reason. What made devaluation possible, in the end, was the fact that there was a run on the banks despite the government’s insistence that one peso would always be worth one dollar. This run forced the Argentine government to limit withdrawals, and once these limits were in place, it was possible to change the peso’s value without setting off a second run. Nothing like that has happened in Europe — yet. But it’s certainly within the realm of possibility, especially as the pain of austerity and internal devaluation drags on.

The big difference between Argentina’s dollar peg and a Eurozone country like Greece is that there is no Greek currency any more. Some English-speaking commentators seem to think that there are Greek (and German etc.) Euro notes, and that bank accounts are in Greek (or German etc.) Euros, more or less as the situation was under the ERM/ECU system.

However, this is not the case. Euro notes are the same throughout the Eurozone (the serial number shows where each note originated, but all notes are legal tender everywhere), and debt and savings are in Euros, not in national currencies.

As Willem Buiter once wrote: “There are no German euro notes and Italian euro notes. There are just euro notes. There are no Greek euros, Irish euros, Italian euros and German euros. There are just euros. Easy, isn’t it?”

Imagine a country (for argument’s sake, Greece) wanted to leave the euro. What would happen? (Based partly on this article.)

As soon as people found out that the option was being seriously discussed, they would assume that the new Greek currency would be devalued vis-à-vis the euro, and savers and investors would rush to move their investments into ‘safe’ euros, i.e., either physical euro notes, or euro accounts outwith Greece; at the same time, borrowers from all over the world would try to move into Greek euros, taking out loans with Greek banks. The overall effect would be to trigger huge transfers of deposits out of the country and wreck the banking system.

Then there would be the problem of creating new drachma notes and coins, which could take years, and in the meantime the euro would still be used.

So basically one would be looking at several years’ of capital flight, followed by a huge devaluation, and probably endless legal fights about which the currency of cross-border contracts (if I had signed a contract with a Greek customer today about delivery in three years’ time, I’d expect to be paid in real euros, not new drachmas).

So I really can’t see that any country would possibly want to go through hell like this, no matter what American Nobel prize winners say. It’d probably be easier for a Eurozone country with a sound economy (e.g., Germany) to reestablish a national currency, but that wasn’t what Krugman was discussing in his article.