Noun “means” (use and grammar)

Noun means is both in plural and singular, don’t let the ending -s fool you. Here are some examples.

  • It the 19th century a new means of communication was developed – the railway. (Swan)
  • There are several means of transport on the island. (Swan)
  • For some artists, the internet is a means of exploring and highlighting how digital technologies shape our lives. (BBC News)
  • Sustainable development won’t happen without the means to implement it (The Guardian)

As you can see, means functions as a singular and plural noun while always keeping the -s. It’s always means.

Grammatical use of the word 'means'
Grammatical use of the word ‘means’

Some other nouns with plural same as singular

Means is not the only that has the same singular and plural form. The same common ones are: barracks, crossroads, headquarters, series, species, works (when it means factory), Swiss.

The use of by all / any / no means

The phrase by all means is used to say that it’s OK to do something, to permit an action. The expression by no means has the opposite meaning.

  • Study: Why Tobacco Smoking Is by no Means a Healthier Option (Empire State Tribune) – there is no way that smoking is a healthier option, it is absolutely ridiculous to even consider that.
  • By all means, we need to have this discussion. (Washington Times) – of course we need to have this discussion, I root for this discussion to happen.
  • By all means grab a weekend away (or several) and take advantage of a fantastic deal (…). (Telegraph) – you really should  have a weekend away by taking the deal if you can.

Bibliography: Swan; referenced sources.

We wrote about collective nouns as well.

srmorph: Serbian Morphology in Python

My interest in linguistics and programming is continued with an experiment in morphology and srmorph project. It is a pilot endeavour I use to test ideas about parsing words of my native language (Serbian) on word level, and later, syntactic level. This post is about the work in progress.

What Can Be Seen, Searched, Parsed?

The project for time being has only Web/AJAX interface at http://srmorph.languagebits.com/ which allows:

Affixes as Basics

At the foundation of srmorph are Serbian affixes. I always wanted to write a parser that would work by first examining words on the level of prefixes an suffixes (infixes are somewhat tougher problem). Therefore, the analysis is for now based on identifying affixes.

Environment and Data Format

The environment is Python 3 programming language, while the grammar data format is based around Python classes themselves. The uninstantiated classes are the actual data containers, and after they inherit from main meta classes, the become useful for parsing. For example, a class containing suffixes about declension looks like this:

class AffNounDeclension0(MAffix):
    """Suffix. Example: 'доктор'. Ref. Klajn:51."""
    pos = 'MNoun'
    place = 'end'
    process = ('inflection', 'declension')
    subtype = 1
    gender = 'm'
    suffix = {0:'', 1:'а', 2:'у', 3:'а', 4:'е', 5:'ом', 6:'у'}
    blendswith = ('nonpalatal',)

The attribute suffix lists seven endings glued to some masculine nouns in Serbian (Croatian, Bosnian). POS identifies word class, here a noun, etc.

Parsing and Website

The inherited Serbian affix classes (60+) are so far parsed functionally. I have set up a dynamic website at http://srmorph.languagebits.com/ which shows some of the things that can be done by parsing. For now the algorithm is rather straightforward, until further filtering is introduced on word class level.

Once reasonably developed, the project will become open source.

screenshot: all classes where suffix "na"
Details about affix “na” in Serbian

Jotpub – Minimalistic Language Tests Platform

I am happy to announce a new website project, following several months of development: Jotpub.com, titled Minimalistic Language Tests Platform Jotpub is a website that enables anyone, from most modern devices, to solve, create, and share language tests, see the score and keep track of the solved tests — for free.

Purpose

Jotoub logo (green circle with white JP letters in it)
Jotpub

The purpose of Jotpub is to be a simple, creative, open, non-obstructive and trusted solution for language practice by online tests. It is simplistic in design and idea — there are too many complex learning platforms and Jotpub is not trying to be one. It is open, so all interested visitors can solve tests and check their answers, and thus non-obstructive. It encourages creativity  by giving an opportunity to all registered users (the registration is free and necessary so tests could have an author) to make and share tests. “Trusted” means that the author (and the editor) pays close attention to the sources of the selected tests and texts, and that only checked, reliable, content is visible to learners. All in all, Jotpub an attempt to reach, educate, and help language learners (an their teachers). And, yes, it’s free.

Features

Main features of Jotpub are focused on solving, creating, and sharing language tests. Solving is based on entering, checking, and revealing answers to “traditional” questions: fill in the blanks, true/false and multiple, with either one or several correct answers — try solving The Indefinite Article Basics or Articles from “Golden Bird” (a lengthy one). Creating is done on the website on a special page (Jotpub Test Maker) that uses a simple interface to create new language tests.  Sharing is made possible by publishing a page address (for now by using a third-party solution), and all authors can share the link to their tests.

How Language Tests on Jotpub Function

Fill-in-the-blanks - text and lozenges to enter answers
Fill-in-the-blanks, one of the questions on Jotpub

The language test are organized into  two main groups: by categories and tags. The categories follow a strict linguistic division, for example Grammar > Articles > All articles, while tags represent more loose, mixed, labeling (in the tag listings, the categories are tags as well). Users can browse the tests and then select one to solve. After entering the answers and clicking on Check my answers, the analysed test will appear, showing correct, incorrect and missing answers. Users can now redo the test, or reveal the answers (this option is available only when tests are first attempted).

If users are registered, their test is saved in Testbook,  so they can redo it later. Also, each listing has small symbols that show solved and attempted tests.

Jotpub has a nice printing style and only the relevant information for test solving is shown on the paper. You can copy it and share to your learners. You can also print solved tests.

Creating Language Tests

making multiple answers question on jotpub
Jotpub Test Maker – an example of creating a multiple select question.

The test creation is done in the Jotpub Test Maker — the page anyone can use, and the one I use to make all tests on Jotpub. After users register, they will be able to load the Test Maker  and enter their questions. Great attention was given to an attempt to make this as simple as possible. For example, to make a blank, just enter the sentence and enclose any word (or a letter) in square brackets ([like this]); for multiple select either one or several answers — this will render two types of questions.

The test are at first unlisted. This means they are not available to all users. After the test is checked it may be listed and visible to all visitors. However, all created tests can be shared if the test creator shares a link to it.

Further Plans For Jotpub

There are several plans regarding the future development of Jotpub. Some are focused on stability and optimization, and others on new features (particularly about statistics). For now, the  primary task is to see what users think abut the website, and what they would like to see changed, improved or added. You are invited to be one of the visitors to solve some tests!