Denseman on the Rattis

Formerly known as the Widmann Blog


Linguistic sophistication

The Kite Runner
Originally uploaded by tomorrowstand

Léon has for some time known that dragons and kites are called the same in Danish (en drage).

Today Phyllis decided to test whether he would calque this into English.

She showed him a picture of a kite (knowing that he’s very familiar with dragons already) and asked him what it was:

– What’s that, Léon?

– What’s that?

– What’s it called?

– A flying box? [sounding uncertain]

– Is it a dragon?

– Yes, it’s a dragon! [sounding relieved]

This shows that’s he’s analysed that Danish drage and drage are homonyms, not just senses of the same word, and that he therefore can’t assume that the two drager will be called the same in English.

Also, he’s clearly keeping track of the words he knows in each language, and he won’t just use the Danish word for something when he’s speaking English. He used to do this, but he’s clearly realised that doesn’t work.

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