Category Archives: Languages and Linguistics

All language and linguistics related matters, including the Huliganov Russian Course and the Gold List Methodology can be found in here.

RL101-10 Russian Alphabet

Playout date: 24 December 2006
Duration: 20:38
Views at the time added to HTV: 26,526
Likes at the time added to HTV: 182
Dislikes at time added to HTV: 9
Popularity % ” ” ” =L/(L+D): 95.3%
Comments at time added: 48
Total interactions at time added: 239
Camera: Logitech Webcam
Post Production: Windows Movie Maker – medium use
Location: Home
Other people featured: None
Genre: Lesson
Music used: Daleko daleko (Far away) by Nosov, sung by Red Army Choir
Languages used: English, Russian
Animals/plants featured: None
Other remarks:

The last in the first series of the Huliganov Russian Course, here I put the alphabet, previously learned by grouping the letters from provenance, all back together again in dictionary order, along with a demonstration of handwriting using colours to show the order of attack for each letter when writing cursively.

It all wraps up with the usual crap joke and this time a rather poorly performed version of won of my favorite songs of all time, Daleko Daleko, by Nosov, in the version of Belayev, of the Red Army Choir.

RL 101-9 Soft sign, hard sign

Playout date: 10 December 2006
Duration: 20:47
Views at the time added to HTV: 27,355
Likes at the time added to HTV: 304
Dislikes at time added to HTV: 5
Popularity % ” ” ” =L/(L+D): 98.4%
Comments at time added: 102
Total interactions at time added: 411
Camera: Logitech Webcam
Post Production: Windows Movie Maker – heavy use
Location: Home
Other people featured: Irina and Elena and Sophie’s voice
Genre: Lesson
Music used: Cheburashka song (with Sophie James)
Languages used: Russian, English
Animals/plants featured: None
Other remarks:

The lesson on the role of hard and soft signs in the Russian language, part of Huliganov’s Russian couse. For the full course in order, see the naigation in the right hand ppane for the section on the course, or the course page in the navigation at the top.

RL101-8 Missing Vowels Pt 2 of 2.

Playout date: 21 November 2006
Duration: 10:07
Camera: Logitech Webcam
Post Production: Windows Movie Maker – medium use
Location: Office
Other people featured: None
Genre: Lesson
Music used: Cover of “They don’t know” by the lovely Kirstey MacColl via the lovely Tracey Ullmann.
Languages used: Russian
Animals/plants featured: Fish at rear
Other remarks:

The cover of “They don’t know” has been adopted to fit the needs of the learner of the Russian Language.

RL101-8 Missing Vowels Pt 1


Playout date: 21 November 2006
Duration 12:27
Camera: Logitech Webcam
Post Production: Windows Movie Maker – slight use
Location: Office
Other people featured: None
Genre: Lesson
Music used: None
Languages used: Russian
Animals/plants featured: Fishtank at rear.

Explains how there is a hard set and a soft set of vowels in Russian. In other Slavic languages the Latin alphabet cannot always cope with this and the soft annotation moves to the consonants or use additional letter I’s.

Contains a comparison to what is the equivalent of the idea of soft and hard in West European languages, and how vowel systems work in a few other kind of languages to give some perspctive to the Slavic and especially the Russian system.

Gold List Method for Scripture Memorisation

Man shall not live by bread alone…

Greetings gentle readers after a long lapse in posting.

I was recently contacted in e-mail by a Christian polyglot some of my readers will know personally from Gatherings, Brother Fiel Sahir, who wrote:

Hi David! I did some googling but maybe I messed up and I haven’t found where you’ve discussed this, but have you further developed the GLM for scripture memorization?  I know for a fact that you were goldlisting sentences when I met you, but what I recall was you used those sentences to help you remember a focus word rather than the sentence itself.  Just something interesting, because a friend of mine has encouraged me to begin memorizing scripture. A spiritual discipline that is definitely underated and under practiced in my opinion, first and foremost by myself.  Anyways, I look forward to your response, but a blogpost would be more beneficial to the world, so I await that as well!  Thanks David. I hope to see you around soon!

In response to this, I wrote the following:

Dear Br. Fiel,

Anything which is to be learned to the Long Term Memory can best be learned using GLM. My suggestion would be to select a passage which you would like to be able to repeat verbatim, at any time later in you life, and place it into the headlist with let us say no more than five words per line.


  1. The Lord is my shepherd
  2. I shall not want. He
  3. Maketh me to lie down in
  4. Green pastures, he leadeth me
  5. Beside the quiet waters. He
  6. Restoreth my soul…


When you have left this two weeks as with any other GoldList project, if it is a passage you already substantially knew, but are trying to get word perfect I would try to write it on D1 position as accurately as possible, but in pencil, covering the original over on the left side. Here you can write maybe seven words at a time. Then note any mistakes you made, in the little words, bits missed out altogether, punctuation, if that’s something you want to get right too, verse numbers (which I didn’t include in the example, but if you ant to be able to remember them, then pay attention to that) and highlight those errors with a red pen or highlighter. Your 25 lines will now anyway be 17 lines just by dint of writing 7 words instead of 5 at D1.

Obviously that’s not a strategy that can continue indefinitely, so at D2 you will take a slightly different approach. You will probably not try to write out the whole from memory at D2, but instead write out the parts where you had had a problem before. The bits where you had no problem, just write the first letter of each word. Write tightly, allowing as many words per line as is comfortable.

Remember you are leaving at least two weeks again between D1 and D2, and the same when you turn D2 to D3, but here you can simply leave out and not even write the first letter of words if you know that you remember confidently the whole sentence. In order to remember the flow of idea in a longer passage, consider writing the first and last words in each clause, and maybe with abbreviations.

  1. The Lord..want, he maketh..gpast,he leadeth beside tqw. Restoreth.

That may well be where you are by D3 or D4, with 6 lines now looking like a single line.

And you can carry on that way. So, please let me know how you get on. And since you asked for a blogpost, I will base one on your query and my answer. Can I use your name and text?

To which Fiel responded that I could. And thanks to his query and willingness to let me share, we have here something which I hope will encourage many of you to try a project of GLM for long term memorization of a holy text.

Even if you are not Bible believing, you can probably try it on the Qur’aan or on some poetry you want to rote learn for life. I recommend Scripture though. It is what David said needed to be “hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee”, and if this tool can help towards the hiding of Divine words in the heart, I don’t know what higher thing can be said of the GoldList Method.


The mysterious case of the German biting dog…

Today’s post is not the first in taking the form of a brief epistollary.
Regular commentator and reader, though not in that order, of this blog, Mr A… B… , wrote to me a few days ago saying the following:

Dear Mr James,

Please forgive my writing directly but I’m not certain how I can post a general message on Huliganov TV.

I thought that perhaps you could put me out of my grammatical misery. I have a grammar query that is driving me nuts for want of an answer. The question concerns the case system in German (I hesitate to call it a system as it seems half-baked to me but that could be my misunderstanding).

I appreciate that in German (as in many languages) the nominative / accusative case endings (I am not concerning myself here with the other cases) applied to masculine words will enable me to identify the subject and object of a sentence. All well and good. So, for example, if I use the classic biting / bitten scenario we would have something like:-

Der Hund beisst den Mann.  And if I reverse the word order (Den Mann beisst der Hund) the meaning remains the same, namely “the dog bites the man”. Directly comparable to the Latin usage of the case system – “Canus virum mordet” with the same versatility of word order.

BUT, it seems to me that where the Latin uses it’s nominative and accusative endings consistently (in that there are ending for masculine, feminine and neuter nouns) this is not carried through to German as the different noun endings apply to the masculine nouns ONLY where the accusative is concerned.

So, if I now use a feminine object in my example, Der Hund beisst die Frau the word order would now have to be rigid as reversing it could mean that the woman is biting the dog (not impossible of course, but rather eccentric behaviour for woman or a man to have! ). Same applies to a neuter object. It seems to me there is little or no point in applying a different ending for accusative noun unless it is applied equally to ALL genders.

German ACC endings are :  (maculine) ‘der’ becoming ‘den’ ; (feminine) ‘die’ unchanged ; (neuter) ‘das’ unchanged. Had there been something like :- Der/den ; die / det ; das / dax  (the feminine and neuter accusative endings being my inventions), then I would see the point of it and it would be a very useful feature. As it is, it is confusing and pointless.

If we take a Latin feminine object example, “Canus matronam mordet” we can still have any word order without changing the meaning. This is not the case (no pun intended !) with German accusative usage as we are unable to distinguish the nominative ‘die’ from the accusative ‘die’. Hence there is uncertainty about the feminine noun being subject or object.

Allowing for my poor Latin and looking at the principle involved, am I missing some important point in the German case system or is it (as I believe it to be) poorly implemented and inconsistent ?

I do hope you can throw some light on this as nothing that I can find on an Internet trawl can offer any guidence. I even asked a German native speaker about it on a Skype session, but he seemed to miss the point of my confusion.
If my suspicion about this German case usage is correct I shall abandon any further study of the language and spend the time saved reading Mark Twain’s “The Awful German Language” section of his book of 1880, “A Tramp Abroad” .

Sincerely and with best wishes to you.

So I wrote back with the following information:


even if the person being bitten is die Frau or das Kind, they are still in the accusative. The fact that in Germanic (the same applies incidentally in Icelandic, others have lost three genders and have two or only a default gender for all but personal pronouns) the feminine and neuter have the same endings and have had for more than a thousand years in feminine and neuter genders for the masculine and accusative cases doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Look again at it with personal pronouns.

She bites the dog – Sie beisst den Hund
The dog bites her – Der hund beisst sie.

He bites the dog – Er beisst den Hund
The dog bites him – Der Hund beisst ihn.

So, you have more diversity for gender in English, arguably, than in German, alhough the fact is we took the DATIVE case pronouns and mae them good for both the dative and the accusative.

Der Hund gibt IHM / IHR viel Vergnuegen

The dog gives him/her much pleasure. When it is not biting them, presumably. You can see the same m and r endings carrying over.

In Slavic Neuter has identical nominative and accusative, also vocative for that matter, where it exists, but differentiates in masculine and feminine. German just goes one little bit further. It is on the way to ending up with the Dutch or Scandinavian system of having two genders only.

Hope this helps.

Can I put the Q & A back onto HTV?
Best regards,

And then A… replies as follows:

Many thanks, David,  for your fast reply to my question and your interesting explanation. This certainly helps in addition to providing extra insights to the case system in general. 
I’m still a little confused though. Am I correct in saying that if we have a simple German sentence containing a feminine subject and a feminine object (neither being a pronoun) we could not distinguish subject from object merely by looking at the articles. Only perhaps by context or word order ? 
I can see that no problem arises where there is a masculine noun in the sentence because the change made to its ending would determine its function in the sentence and the remaining noun would automatically be determined by default. So if the masculine noun has den or einen as its article, it is an object in the sentence so the remaining noun (of any gender) has to be the subject in the sentence.  
However,if the sentence contains only feminine or neuter nouns, their appears to be no way of knowing which is intended to be the subject and which the object by inspection of the articles used. From what you have said, it seems that only the use of pronouns would resolve the uncertainty (context and word order perhaps also being of value). 
Is my understanding faulty here or am I near the mark ?

[yes please, would you put the content onto HTV for the benefit of others that are perhaps as confused by cases as I am ! ]

Very best wishes, 

And since I did not manage to answer this second letter yet, I will answer it now, especially as I have the kind agreement of A… to let everyone see our linguistic discussion.

Basically, when it comes to masculine nouns in German, they retain a fuller set of differentiation in the case endings than the feminine or neuter do, and nevertheless the word order remains flexible.

You can say “Der Hund beisst den Mann” and “Den Hund beisst der Mann” and the direction of the bite is precisely opposite, but what is not the same is the syntax.

This is what is usually left unsaid by people who use this sentence, and others like it, as an illustration of how cases work and allow more flexibility in word order. It is effectively a very good example of why syntax is one thing and grammar another. Syntax is the place at which grammar means style.

The sentence “Den Mann beisst der Hund” actualy does not have the same semantic loading as the sentence “Der Hund beisst den Mann”. True, the bite is being carrying out by the same canine agent in both sentences, but the meaning has changed. In the sentence “Der Hund beisst den Mann” you have a simple form. The dog is biting the man. There is no doubt about which dog it is or the man, as we are simply following the default SVO of German.

When I invert that and say “Den Mann beisst der Hund” then I am making a new emphasis. I am showing that there was uncertainty about which man was being bitten by the dog. Therefore I bring it to the beginning of the sentence. German sentences can be very long and if in cases of urgency I don’t bring the key information about which man it is to the start of the sentence, by the time I get to the close, he could have already bled out, und das wollen wir nicht.

This means the intonation also changes, when you say the inverted OVS sentences. You won’t hear them in the same tone of voice as the SVO simple forms. So, bearing in mind that spoken language precedes written language by centuries if not millennia, this is why there seems no need to worry that the Feminine form seems to maintain the mystery of who is biting whom. The tone of voice would have made it clear. In writing, you generally have context, and that ought to make it clear. If you make a piece of writing in which a feminine nouns is object and subject in an OVS sentence without any context, then for sure you have an ambiguity. Language speakers are usually quite good at exploiting ambiguities like this for jokes so it would be a pity if it weren’t there.

You can imagine how in German this could work and in English not:

– Eine Schlange biss meine Schwiegermutter.
– Autsch, ist sie giftig?
– Naja, aber nicht so schlimm wie der Schwiegervater.

“A snake bit my mother-in-law”
“Ouch, is it toxic?”
“Well, yes, but not as bad as my father-in-law”

There are two grammatical reasons why the joke sounds very confusing in English.

The joke is possibly confusing in German also, but only because Naja, in addition for being a common colloquial German affirmative, is the Latin name for a very poisonous snake.

No wonder the Germans come across as a little verbissen at times…

Poem on the whole history of human language

I recently expanded my earlier metrical version of the Genesis account of Babel to include some further points on the history of language from that point onwards and beyond the veil of Eternity. Hope you enjoy this and find it edifying.

The earth had once one speech o’erall. One tongue men used, to tell
From th’East to Shinar’s plain they came and settled there, to dwell.
Among themselves did they conspire “Bricks let us make,” said they
“To building stones them throughly burn and slime for morter lay.”
“Go to,” said they, “a city great, a tow’r to reach the sky,
We shall construct unto ourselves, our name to magnify
Lest scattered far abroad we be the whole earth’s face around”
They built the walls from bricks they’d baked and slime from lime they’d found.

The Lord looked down at Adam’s kin and saw their undertaking
He knew that left alone this would become mankind’s unmaking
Although still in his infancy, not yet a million souls
Mankind was learning things with which he’d score fatal own goals
Adamic language and long life allowed the human mind
To know and build technologies while immature and blind
The Lord said “See, this people is by language unified
Now can no thing their power restrain their will to realise”

“Now let Us unto them descend, their language to confound
That each the other’s speech and tongue no more may understand.”
And so the LORD did scatter them all o’er the earth from thence.
Their city no more could they build. Its name is Babel hence:
That there the LORD in mighty pow’r the earth’s speech did confound,
And He from thence did scatter them the whole earth’s face around.
For here the Lord unto each soul his single language giving
Ensured that man’s wish was to be with but close kindred living

And so each man his nearest took and from the crowd did flee
They lived alone until they spoke one tongue per family
The mother taught the babies hers, the father also learned it
The elder siblings got to add some features if they earned it
And families at length combined by dint of need to wed
So tribal languages emerged as Babel’s tongues went dead
And tribe fought tribe, and strong tribes grew, their tribal tongue promoting:
The structure ever simpler, the word-stock ever growing

And as they filled the earth and crossed each hill and vale and river,
Some tribes grew great and in due course their languages did sever
Through ice and fire and flood and marsh men walked and faced all dangers
To use all space this world allowed and grow to outnumber angels
And language families emerged that had one time been one
But once again they could no more grasp one another’s tongue.
One tribe, the seed of Abraham, in whom all would be blest
Got history and prophesy to cherish for the rest.

But man since Babel always sought to get back there again
To build the city, raise the tower and make himself a name.
To make the countries all one state and into Unions bind
And place a ruler over all, as blind will lead the blind
Each man who tasted power’s rush soon hatched the grand ambition
To subjugate all men to himself as slaves to his volition.
But rulership of this world here is but for its Creator.
It is reserved for God the Christ and He shall take it later.

For only Christ makes all things good: he’ll teach us what was missing
And speak to us in tongues of men, while angels throng to listen.
And when the Resurrection comes and all things be made new,
That ancient tongue shall sound again, the one that Adam knew.
The lives of men became too short to learn that perfect tongue
But it will be a joy to learn for the forever-young.
And so when we are healed in heart, bodies and minds restored
Again we’ll learn that language giv’n to Adam by the Lord.

One commentator on Chris Huff’s Video states “I’m not sure that Davey’s method does reflect Ebbinghaus, but it seems to work anyway”. True or False?

True. It is only a working approximation to Ebbinghaus. Supermemo and Anki can get on his curve much closer, but the problem is in order to work they repeat material you really already know and this method enables you to skip writing that again, thus focusing only on the unlearned material. In order to achieve that economy, I have a working approximation to the curve, which works on reiteration of unlearned material. Like scissors cutting the hair too long but then cutting again until you get what you want versus electric shears with a set depth which might not be precisely the depth you wanted and only work if a short cut is desired, and the shears won’t work at all unless you have electricity.

It’s harder to see the curve that it is with the Supermemo algorithm, but by the application of the 14 days with iteration, you do cover the same thing, only with less work and less risk of switching on more short-term memory.

In addition to that I have a scientifically untested hypothesis which is divergent from Ebbinghaus, namely that short-term memory and long-term memory are distinct functions, the one happening when we remember consciously and the other when we allow it to function like breathing when we forget about it. This idea is my own conclusion from non-scientific observation of my own case and the case of users.

The number of contented users of GLM who keep going with it into repeated projects year on year, some of whom have done as many if not more than I have and probably will end up doing much more, proves that the method certainly works, it works probably regardless of people’s views about their own learning type as long as they at least enjoy the process of writing.

In short you’ve made a fair comment about the relation of Ebbinghaus. I want to acknowledge the input of what I learned from Ebbinghaus, but you correctly note it doesn’t stop there.

Not enough real science has been done with memory and if anyone wants to fund or test in a real university setting the hypotheses underlying the GLM then I’m happy to be involved.

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