MemberlistThe Library Index  FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   RegisterRegister   ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 
How Fast Do Languages Change? (Linguistics)
Reply to topic Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3 ... 42, 43, 44
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

If you are wedded to the proposition that English is an evolved form of a Germanic language (Anglo-Saxon) then, yes, it has lost all those case endings the Continentals go in for with varying degrees of enthusiasm. But if you believe English isn’t a Germanic language then you might expect it to go in for a system all its own. Which it does. Sometimes it has an accusative form He hit him but mostly it doesn’t He hit the ball; it is however enthusiastic about genitive case endings, employing the simple device of adding a sibilant: He hit his ball and He hit the ball’s cover.

How the English managed to invent this neat, distinctive and fully functional system during the twelfth century when Anglo-Saxon was evolving into English is not something we have to explain. Orthodox linguists, as you might predict, apply 'careful ignoral' to the problem. They go watery-eyed and say things like, "Well, of course the transition from Old to Middle English is a complex process not entirely understood as yet... [etc etc for as long as necessary] Our own learned commentator agrees, and changes tack...
Send private message
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

In this view languages do not evolve from some primitive state toward greater sophistication. Changes in grammatical structure could be nothing more than a random walk through the space of all possible linguistic features.

Now that, if I may say so, is a very wise statement. I do not say it is a true statement, this geezer is not saying it is a true statement, so what is it that makes it a wise statement? It is because no linguist could say it. The curse of academia is the constant search for pattern, for meaning, for something to say. The one thing they can't stand -- because it removes their function -- is that things are random. Here's a case in point

But if that’s the case, then there’s not much hope of finding an intrinsic marker of priority between pairs of languages.

You're practically back to pre-evolutionary biology. No rhyme, no reason, just God's work. We can describe what we can see but so can everyone else. Anything goes including, oh no!

And so Latin really could have been invented by a bunch of Italian-speaking merchants.
Send private message
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

Learning Languages in Early Modern England John Gallagher Oxford £60

At that price and from that stable I won't be reading it any time soon and the review in the Guardian is not likely to change my mind

There has never been a language as globally dominant as English is today.

Good start, sets the table, but I feel a yet coming on

Yet 400 years ago, it was the lowly tongue of an insignificant backwater on the edge of Europe.

Yer what? In 1619 English was the language of Shakespeare and England was one of the great powers of Europe.

Unlike French, Italian, Spanish or even Dutch, it had no cultural prestige

Hold on there. Just a mo. I'll grant that French had a certain cachet but Italian hadn't even really sorted itself out by this stage, Spanish was strictly for the Spanish and as for Dutch, even Dutch, well even the Dutch didn't like Dutch.

and was useless overseas.

As was every language, including French for the most part. You could get by in learned circles with Latin and, like I say, French in high society, but after that...

Anyone who aspired to real civility, or to travel or trade with mainland Europe, had no option but to learn its languages. How English men and women of the late 15th to the early 18th century went about doing so is the subject of John Gallagher’s fascinating new book, a welcome attempt to show that the history of language encompasses much more than just the history of words.

Amen to that. But I wouldn't bank on him getting his basic facts right.
Send private message
Boreades


In: finity and beyond
View user's profile
Reply with quote

A Medium Question:

How Far Back in Time Could a Modern English Speaker Go and Still Communicate?


I would tell you more but Medium has decided I am not worthy of accessing their material.

https://humanparts.medium.com/how-far-back-in-time-could-a-modern-english-speaker-go-and-still-communicate-44a0366724c6
Send private message
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

It blocked me too
This user had blocked you from following them or viewing their stories.

which had me worried. So soon! But I got in round the back way and came up with this

English is a crazy language with irrational and illogical syntax which is largely due to a history stemming from Norman conquerors trying to hookup with Saxon barmaids. It has stolen bits and pieces from many other languages over the centuries while its speakers spontaneously invented new terms willy-nilly. Have you ever wonder if you had a time machine, how far back could you go and still understand English?

The following video tries to answer that question, but I think it falls short. The video’s makers underestimate how slang and colloquialisms affect one’s ability to understand a speaker, and how accents can render a known word into a completely unrecognizable gibberish. (You don’t even need a time machine to witness that first-hand; simply move from one part of the US to another, or talk to someone from another country.) But on the plus side, the video does get certain points right. Take, for example, the works of Shakespeare. His plays are difficult to understand today not only because of unusual syntax but also because we no longer pronounce words the same way they were said when he was writing his plays
.

Which sounds like the debate I thought I'd entered but it's all disappeared as far as the Medium search engine is concerned. However....
Send private message
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

... at the time I was just exploring this new vista following the links as you do and came across a later contribution from an obvious American academic who was laying down the law. English, she said, was an ever-changing process and plonked down verbatim examples from Beowulf to Shakespeare. Except Chaucer which she decided needed her own 'translation'. Yeah, well we all know why so I thought I'd let everyone on Medium.com know why

----------

Sorry, Kath, this might be what is taught in American universities but it just ain’t so. You say English is a ‘process’ but why, for instance, did you change the rules? Here is a word for word ‘translation’ of Chaucer

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour

When that April, with his showers sweet
The drought of March hath pierced to the root
And bathed every vein in such liquor,
Of which virtue engendered is the flower

This is just English, plain and simple. Different spelling conventions is all. In six hundred years it hasn’t changed one bit apart from soote to sweet and has to hath. Where’s the process in that?

It has to be taught as a ‘process’ for only one reason: Anglo-Saxon, as you say, is a foreign language but universities insist Anglo-Saxon is the fore-runner of English. But it isn’t. Just the language of a bunch of foreign dudes that once ruled England, like the Romans before them and the Normans after them, speaking their foreign languages, Latin and French. Not forgetting William III (Dutch) and George I (German).
Send private message
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

Musing on everything at leisure I have a conspiracy theory that fits the facts.

1. I post up my mild reproach.
2. Kath removes it.
3. Thus 'Mick Harper' no longer appears in the Search function
4. Kath bans me
5. So I can no longer 'Find' her post

It all sounds far-fetched and I prefer my original 'dumb software engineers' theory.
Send private message
Grant



View user's profile
Reply with quote

It’s amazing how if you pronounce Chaucer like modern English and ignore the silly spellings, the “difficulty” in understanding him disappears. You are right, Mick. It’s one of your finest discoveries. Even showers soote might be “showers suit”
Send private message
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

A quick word from Danny Bate [Linguist. Syntax, etymology and PIE. PhD student in Prague/Edinburgh. BA York, MPhil Cam. Churches, classical and medieval history, very dead languages. He/his.]

"Eils! Scapia! Matzia ia drincan!" ('Hail! Waiter! Food and drink!') This short sentence, preserved in a Latin poem, is believed to be the only surviving utterance in Vandalic, an East Germanic language of Late Antiquity spoken by the Vandals.

which led to the usual learned Twitter discourse about ancient Germanic languages, including this from Harriet Vered [Berkshire housewife]

If this is 'the only surviving utterance in Vandalic', it might prove difficult to establish this is in fact Vandalic.

Danny set out the technical situation in lay terms
oh Lord, not you again

I've placed this in the How Fast do Languages Change thread because, although with just the one example it is difficult to judge how quickly Vandalic changed, its status from a spoken language to a written language to a dead language was meteoric.
Send private message
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

While I'm at it I should set out the normal stages in European languages

1. The people of X-land speak X-ish
2. Some X people, using or adapting an existing alphabet, and employing a dizzying array of rules and contrivances, write their language down
3. This leads to a stupendous outpouring of literature in X-ish
4. The spoken form of X-ish tends to standardise on and stabilise around the written form of X-ish.

Unless you're the Vandals.
Send private message
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

Why There Is No Polite Way of Saying ‘You’ in English
Other languages have polite second-person pronouns. English used to have one, too
.

Claire Healey https://humanparts.medium.com/why-is-there-no-polite-way-of-saying-you-in-english-a3e19b1c9f51

A biggish story in Medium.com and got 1,800 claps and 39 responses. It was a fair scissors-and-paste job following the orthodox line that is all highly complicated but basically to do with English-speakers being terribly democratic and not liking having to go round tutoying or not tutoying. All the responses agreed like mad with the author except this one

I'm afraid all this is complete nonsense. The truth, as always, is deadly dull. When writing 'th' at the start of a word, the letter Y could be used as a short form without ambiguity, as in Ye Olde Shoppe. Hence when writing 'thou', you could also write 'you'. This was definitely ambiguous but, in speech, it demonstrated you could write! So the toffs started using 'You' for both singular and plural, followed gradually by everyone else.

You can guess who that was and it got no claps. But it did get this response

Harry Blanchard: The letter y was used much later as a substitute for thorn (probably in many cases an uneducated one, or pastiche, as in Ye Olde Shoppe), the letter which has disappeared from English and replaced with the digraph "th" so I would contend that the author's argument is completely valid [34 claps]

I did not respond since I thought this was so favourable to me that people might assume that 'the author' was me rather than Claire Healey. Then someone else weighed in

Chris Crawford: It's true that the substitution of "y" for thorn was a common occurrence. Nevertheless, I find the original author's hypothesis more convincing, as it appears to fit the history of English more closely. [79 claps]

If you think that's baffling, check this one out. After quoting my line Hence when writing 'thou', you could also write 'you' ...

Jackson Holiday Wheeler: This is not true, check any respectable etymological dictionary. Thou/thee comes from the same historical root as tu in Romance languages, and ye/you is the plural form. The article “ye” is just a misspelling of “the”. https://www.etymonline.com/word/ye [35 claps]

Again there wasn't much I could usefully say. But then the temperature started to rise

Tom Ritchford: Can we have a citation or some other source, please? If you're going to start off insulting someone, the least you can do is give some evidence that your insult is justified. [90 claps]

This finally stirred me to issue a rebuke

Mick Harper: A citation for what? That the letter ‘y’ was used to stand in for ‘th’? That this is the simplest explanation for the highly unusual fact that modern English lacks a second person singular? That the ‘thou’ form is still used in dialect and archaic situations? You want the name of other people who have advanced this idea (which I found to my fury, there were)?

But even so, I’m sorry for the perceived insult. It’s just I get ansty when everyone goes in for these wondrously complex explanations, often drawn from contemporary political beliefs held by whoever is advancing them (and, by the way, seldom accompanied by a citation) rather than something a bit prosaic. ‘The truth is always boring’, as someone said, but I don’t have a citation for that. Unless ‘Mick Harper, Applied Epistemology Library, c.2018’ fits the bill.
[No claps]

And got rebuked right back, but nicely this time

Tom Ritchford: I personally know that some old uses of "y" replace "thorn" to give a theta sound, yes. :-D Yes, false etymologies piss me off too. I still can't see the word "isle" without getting steamed at some long-dead and unknown (to me anyway) British prescriptive etymologists who added the "s". But if you're contradicting someone's claim, sources are useful, because otherwise it's your word against theirs! And is what you are saying really so? This article doesn't seem to support it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thou

I thought this deserved some encouragement

Strikes me that Wiki is more of the same. I still prefer mine to theirs. Don’t you? The whole trouble with etymologists is that someone comes up with a plausible ‘sounds like’, everyone else plays follow-my-leader and soon it’s in the OED. How do you fancy a disquisition on English place-name theories? I have written extensively on the subject, though without noticeable effect. Also about islands so an s-disquisition of your own would be welcome, if it is not too much out of place here. [No claps]

And there things stood until a week or so later this really strange comment which, if anyone can enlighten me, I'd sure like to know what the geezer is driving at

Cory Waddingham: Earlier today I got to see an example of Murphy's Law in the wild, now here is an example of Cunningham's Law. Wonder if that means there's a Medium article waiting where a responder compares the author to Hitler, just to hit the trifecta of Internet comment laws?
Send private message
Boreades


In: finity and beyond
View user's profile
Reply with quote

Breaking news from the BBC

Boris Johnson to unveil post-English lockdown plans
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-55038155


Perhaps it will be a new language locked down with fewer words, and a much simpler set of rules, grammar and spelling? (Like wot he rote)
Send private message
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

George Bernard Shaw was the last person to advocate this but declined, on pension grounds, to apply it to his own play bills. He found it was yet another QWERTY situation (kwurtee) and we were immovable. "Piss off back to Russia," we shouted. Now his mate Stalin could have weaned the Russkies off Cyrillic to their great long-term benefit but was murdered by alternative alphabet-wielding Jewish doctors before he could. The Chinese government could get rid of their hopelessly inefficient ideograms but have decided it is easier to get the rest of the world to adopt ideograms. Then, and only then, will the Chinese adopt the alphabet and forbid us using it. But what they don't know...
Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Reply to topic Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3 ... 42, 43, 44

Jump to:  
Page 44 of 44

MemberlistThe Library Index  FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   RegisterRegister   ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 


Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group