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How Fast Do Languages Change? (Linguistics)
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rexleroy


In: Alabama
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Mick Harper wrote:
The process is an interesting one, involving not writing a particular "joke", then noting that somebody else duly posts it, you seeing that it was not funny because not actually original, spotting the twist that would have rendered it so, noting it is now too late etc etc.


The next stage is writing something that is certain to cause someone else to post the joke, and making a bet with yourself on who it will be.
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Mick Harper
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Greetings, King Bastard Son of a King. I had a dog called Rex once but the school psychiatrist recommended my parents get me a real one. I can't remember what he was called. Unless he was a cat called Igor.

I do not recognise the quote. It sounds like I must have been on my meds that day. I never bet with myself. Bet against myself, I do all the time. And a very successful strategy it has proved to be. Though I will be losing the bet with my next book. You see if I won't. But as I say, welcome aboard. Something more substantive next time.
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rexleroy


In: Alabama
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I have nothing original to say yet. But I am spreading the good word to a community of friends who are almost certain to reject it soundly. Here's my rehashing of what I learned this week:

We are told that Old English evolved into Middle English and thence into Modern English. Bollocks. Old English is a different language from the other two entirely. "Middle English" is the same as what we speak, but without standardised spelling. "Old English" would better be termed Anglo Saxon, and it not only has a very different vocabulary, it is syntactically distinct.

That is to say: Beowulf needs translating, but Chaucer only needs an updating of the spelling (and a glossary for rare and archaic words). These are different languages entirely, and the one did not evolve into the other. Anglo Saxon and "Middle English" appear to have been contemporaries.

The familiarity of English written in the Middle time is somewhat obscured by the use of the funny letters like þ (thorn) and ȝ (yogh), so just replace them with their basic equivalents: th and y.

[omitted: a demonstration with the "In þat lond ben trees þat beren wolle" text from some thread here]
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rexleroy


In: Alabama
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I'm riffing off (or ripping off) a book proposing that the autochthons of Britain (or at least the first-comers) were a racial group that spoke an English that was no more different from what we speak today than Geordie or Yorkshire or whatever it is the Scots yell. They settled both of the islands and have always been the majority. Some time later a racial group that spoke the so-called Celtic language (which later became Welsh and Cornish and Irish and Scots dialects.) invaded the islands (from the west) and subjugated the English-speakers. They were never a majority, as is typical with foreign elites.

Later the Anglo Saxons invaded and drove the "Celtic" elites from power. The use of "Celtic" languages receded to the areas of original invasion as the small minority of elites retreated. The English-speaking race remained the vast majority, subjugated under a different set of elites, but this time they were distant cousins, as indicated by some degree of similarity in the Saxon tongue.

Then some Norsemen who had adopted the French language for mercenary purposes invaded and drove the Saxons from power. Over the next 70 years or so, as the Anglo Saxon scribes died out, the written form of A-S did also. Then somebody adapted the A-S script for use with English and began keeping chronicles in it. The spelling was, of course, not standardized at the beginning, and that can veil how "Middle English" is obviously the same language as "Modern English", modulo vocabulary changes. The Norsemen seem mostly to have left their literary French in legal documents in the Channel Islands.
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rexleroy


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The basic claim is: contrary to all the bullshit we have been taught, Languages Do Not Change Rapidly. You will not find any texts displaying intermediate forms between supposedly mother-daughter languages. It is just baldly asserted that the Romance languages derive from Latin, that English derives from Anglo-Saxon (falsely called Old English). The fuddlewits claim "Middle English" as the intermediate language, but that is quite obviously false. "Middle English" is our same English, just spelled differently.

Another way to approach this is parallel to Vox Day's (done earlier by Walter ReMine, I should add) simple arithmetical destruction of evolution-by-random-mutation. How fast can a language evolve into a different language? Did all the kids Yoda-wise speaking one day start? What did their grandpas think of this? Thus linguists should (but aren't smart enough to) hypothesize generationally-digestible changes in languages, then count how many are needed to get from the fossils of Language A (by which I mean written documents) to the fossils of Language A-prime, then figure out how fast evolution MUST occur.

Now, obviously, some language changes can occur in parallel (unlike random beneficial mutations), but the basic idea is the same.

And, horizontally, changes in languages aren't likely to occur suddenly, because people live with other people.
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Mick Harper
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I'll take up your detailed points in due course but for now, here's an extract from the above-mentioned new book

---------------

With Anglo-Saxons emerging out of the red mists of the Dark Age, historians were now faced with their next herculean task: turning Anglo-Saxon into English. Only now there is a historical record, not a Dark Age, to illuminate what was going on so it has been an uphill struggle

Linguists insist English is directly descended from Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon is still around in the twelfth century
English is up and running by the fourteenth century

Any casual observer can see they are completely different languages with scarcely a word in common. How are the English going to change virtually every word of their language in two hundred years when they changed hardly any of them in the four hundred years between Shakespeare and Pinter? By creative labelling of course

Step 1: Rename Anglo-Saxon Old English
Step 2: Rename English Modern English
thereby creating Middle English

Step 3: Rename the Dark Age the Early Medieval Period
thereby creating a sort of notional cusp that is part Dark Age and part Medieval Age when one written language (Anglo-Saxon) can morph into another written language (English) without anyone being able to see the join, because during it

Step 4: The Normans get rid of the Anglo-Saxons (and written ‘Old English’)
It takes ages for the natives to start writing again by which time

Step 5: Old English has become Middle English
But they are not writing much so after some vowel shifts, spelling reforms and trickle-down standardisation

Step 6: Middle English has become Modern English
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rexleroy


In: Alabama
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1. I haven't been able to find an ebook for sale of THOBR, by the buy, and while I do want a copy of the real thing, I don't have much library space at the moment. Is it still for purchase somewhere?

2. I am the production editor for an indie publisher making leather-bound books that don't make you cringe (Easton is publishing ridiculous trash these days, coffee table books about basketball players and such), and we're doing a parallel edition of Beowulf later this year, so finding you people and your theories has pleased me immensely in a time of strife. (Beowulf on the left, Moncrieff on the right)
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rexleroy


In: Alabama
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Everyone over at my other place is responding pretty much how it always goes here. So I let fly with increasing verve.

-----

Speakers spewing SOV cannot just gradually switch to the more reasonable SVO. Nor can they discard in bits and dribbles a tightly wound syntax of no-disagreement-tolerated inflections that allowed them wild latitudes of freedom in word order, and adopt in nibbles and nudges a syntax no inflections heavily word order on to disagree with having.

(this was about Latin and the Romance tongues)

Latin is probably an artificial language, having no demotic roots. It was invented by elite dominators and never really spoken by hoi polloi.

French and Spanish and Woppish, like English, have always been there. As be now, so before.
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Mick Harper
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If I don’t comment, the comment is ‘Agreed’.

I'm riffing off (or ripping off) a book proposing that the autochthons of Britain

Try to avoid words I don’t know the meaning of. It usually means something is trying to be slipped past me.

(or at least the first-comers)
Autochthons don't slip past anyone then.
were a racial group
Not necessarily.

that spoke an English that was no more different from what we speak today than Geordie or Yorkshire or whatever it is the Scots yell.

A great deal more different, I would have thought, but I see where you’re coming from.

They settled both of the islands and have always been the majority. Some time later a racial group that spoke the so-called Celtic language (which later became Welsh and Cornish and Irish and Scots dialects.) invaded the islands (from the west) and subjugated the English-speakers. They were never a majority, as is typical with foreign elites.

Or it was the other way round. Or they weren’t an elite.

Later the Anglo Saxons invaded and drove the "Celtic" elites from power.

Hadn’t the Romans already done this?

The use of "Celtic" languages receded to the areas of original invasion as the small minority of elites retreated.

So the elite Celts were everywhere but retreated to the areas where they weren't elites but just newly arrived immigrants off the boat where they seem to have adopted non-elite ways if history (and me) are any judge.

Then some Norsemen who had adopted the French language for mercenary purposes

and changed all their Norse names for French ones. We could use mercenaries like that today.

Then somebody adapted the A-S script for use with English and began keeping chronicles in it.

I sort of know about the Peterborough Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Are you saying there are others?

The Norsemen seem mostly to have left their literary French in legal documents in the Channel Islands.

Just to be technical for a moment, the Channel Islanders were leaving legal documents in Norman-French in the Guernsey and Jersey Greffes right up until the twentieth century.

Another way to approach this is parallel to Vox Day's (done earlier by Walter ReMine, I should add) ...

I do not know who it/they are. And if I don't, you should not be plonking them down here without a by-you-leave. I could not easily follow the rest of your piece. Maybe slow down a bit but apart from that...
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Mick Harper
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1. I haven't been able to find an ebook for sale of THOBR, by the buy, and while I do want a copy of the real thing, I don't have much library space at the moment. Is it still for purchase somewhere?

Everywhere. The Icon edition is still in print (I believe, they don’t tell me anything). And knocking around on Amazon for a few pence. And under the title The Secret History of the English Language (published by Melville Press) on American (and to my fury because people buy both and blame me, British) Amazon.

2. I am the production editor for an indie publisher making leather-bound books that don't make you cringe (Easton is publishing ridiculous trash these days, coffee table books about basketball players and such), and we're doing a parallel edition of Beowulf later this year, so finding you people and your theories has pleased me immensely in a time of strife. (Beowulf on the left, Moncrieff on the right)

In that case I will post up a little squib from the new book about leather bound indies.

Everyone over at my other place is responding pretty much how it always goes here. So I let fly with increasing verve.

Do tell us about this other place of yours.

Speakers spewing SOV cannot just gradually switch to the more reasonable SVO.

More terms I do not understand. And I found the rest a bit hard to follow. Maybe slow down a bit but apart from that...
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Mick Harper
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He had joined that remarkable interwar British cultural phenomenon, the ‘artistic printing press’. Celebrated in adoring books, exhibitions, social histories and the BBC, all agree these bijou publishing operations are one of the glories of a traditional, better, England. An England of the arts-and-crafts movement and the Bloomsbury Group. An England that was to disappear forever under the all-devouring demands of the Second World War and the necessarily coarser tastes of a more egalitarian post-war society. We shall not see their like again.

Good thing too. This is the England of the book forger and the pornographer. It is a matter of following the money. The business model of the artistic printing press goes something like this:

You make bespoke limited editions of books illustrated by some of the leading artists of the day on the most recondite of subjects
You print them on specially crafted paper, each page hand-cranked by worthy artisans
You bind them in covers of the finest-tooled calfskin
You offer them for private sale to discerning collectors

Give me a break. In philistine Britain, in the Hungry Thirties? Let’s hear the real story just for a change. It won’t make any difference to the nostalgic affection lavished on these little outfits, but you and I need to know what is going on if we are to follow the spoor of...
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Ishmael


In: Toronto
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rexleroy wrote:
I'm riffing off (or ripping off) a book proposing that the autochthons of Britain (or at least the first-comers) were a racial group that spoke an English that was no more different from what we speak today than Geordie or Yorkshire...


Isn't this entire summary a summary of the thesis of The History of Britain Revealed? I assumed it was.
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Ishmael


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Mick Harper wrote:
Speakers spewing SOV cannot just gradually switch to the more reasonable SVO.

More terms I do not understand. And I found the rest a bit hard to follow. Maybe slow down a bit but apart from that...


Subject, object, verb.
Subject, verb, object.
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Mick Harper
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Rex has left us as quickly as he joined. He declines to respond to my impassioned (and apologetic) private messages. This is a shame as he looked promising in a scattered sort of way. Even if he wasn't, we can't afford to be losing people so easily, not with the dregs we have become.

Quite apart from the fact that I was interested in using his professional services for the publishing of my next, especially cataclysmic, work. Are there lessons to be learned? Were we (I) insufficiently welcoming?
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