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 Language and its peculiarities

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Nakia the Rogue
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PostSubject: Language and its peculiarities   Sun Mar 27, 2011 3:59 am

We humans have many ways of communicating and we call this language, body language, spoke, written language, sign language these are the ways we express ourselves to others.

Since the only language I truly know is English I am going to discuss that. You are welcome to discuss any language you wish.

English is the language spoken by the English, pretty obvious, yes? It was carried throughout the world by English explorers, conquerors, settlers and traders. It is a vibrant, living always growing and changing language. It s beginning lie in Britain but it a child of many languages, Saxons, Anglos, French, Romans, Greeks and just about any where the British touched down have influenced this language. It was carried to North America, Canada and the United states by the settlers, to Australia and New Zealand. We speak a common language that is unique to each country. Smile Each country has placed its mark on the language.

Here in the USA we even have differences from section to section. Southern and Northern, eastern and western, mountain dialects. TV and radio have created a more common language but there are still differences from area to area.

How do you pronounce envelope or envoy? What is a pig in a poke?What does beauty mean to you? Love? Friendship?

Is English the most complicated language? Why don't native speakers speak it as well as foreign born speakers? Actually not all of them do but those who study English usaually do.


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PostSubject: Re: Language and its peculiarities   Sun Mar 27, 2011 8:56 am

English is a Germanic language. Old English and Old German were very similar, both had gender for nouns and declension whereas Modern English has a much less complicated grammar system (English grammar is certainly not complicated but it is complex). Things got much more complicated when French (a Latin language) was introduced to England.

1066. We all know that this refers to the Battle of Hastings. The last Anglo-Saxon king died in the battle (supposedly killed by an arrow that went through his eye) and this event marked the beginning of Norman domination over England as William the Conqueror, a Duke of Normandy (formerly known as William the Bastard) became the first Norman king of England. This event is significant because as a result for roughly three centuries the aristocracy and the elite were French speakers (Norman French) and as a result the English language was influenced by Norman French so much that many words that are commonly used in English today are French.

For instance Richard I of England, Richard the Lionheart (or better yet Richard Coeur de Lion) spent very little time in England and mostly spoke French and very little (if any) English.

This was an ongoing process and as a result the English language was simplified over the years. If you consider the existence of pairs modern English you can see a result of that. Think about words like sheep/mutton, pig/pork, ox/beef what we have is a word of Germanic origin paired with a word of French origin. What can you notice about these words? The Germanic word refers to the animal whereas the French word refers to the end product and that points out the fact that the people who consumed the meat spoke French whereas the people who bred cattle and tended to flocks spoke a Germanic language (i.e. English).

This can also be seen in many different words that exist in Modern English. Think about freedom and liberty for instance. Freedom is a word of Germanic origins and liberty is a word of French origin. Linguists agree that the French word is used for more abstract meanings whereas the Germanic word is more concrete, more grounded into reality and not as much in the realm of ideas.

The French influence went far beyond vocabulary. In some archaic expressions you can still use the Germanic way of ordering numbers instead of the French way by saying things like "four-and-twenty" (vier und zwanzig in German) instead of the regular "twenty-four" (vingt-quatre in French).

Have you ever wondered why the word "this" and the word "thing" are spelled in the same way when the "th" is not pronounced in the same way? -these are not the same sounds, the "th" in "this" is voiced whereas the "th" in "thing" is voiceless (I'm not even considering instances in which "th" is pronounced like a regular "t"). English spelling throughout the ages was inconsistent and heavily influenced by French. In this case French didn't use the "th" sound so it failed to discern the difference between voiced and voiceless phonemes in the spelling (another by-product of the Norman conquest).

I could go on forever. To illustrate these points I invite you to have a look at a few documents, Beowulf in Old English, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in Middle English and the King James Bible or Shakespeare plays to see how the language shifted from a Germanic language with Norse influences towards a hybrid language borrowing heavily from Latin and French.

Nowadays English is important as a second language worldwide because it allows people from all around the world to communicate. In the last century English has replaced French as a Lingua Franca and it may well yet evolve into a much more simplified form (Globish?). The great asset of the English language in that respect is its apparent simplicity: no gender for nouns, very few tenses and a grammar that is so unobtrusive that most native English speakers only have a purely empirical (and limited) knowledge of the way this language works.

Compared to French or German, English is a much easier language to use but it's quite hard to master (notably because of the elusiveness of its grammar). English spelling may be more straightforward than French spelling (a real nightmare even for educated native speakers -trust me on that point English spelling is incredibly easy) but it is very similar to French in the way that spelling rarely reflects exactly the way a word is supposed to be pronounced (the fanciful alternate spelling for "fish" as "ghoti" is a direct illustration of such extremes). It only gets even more unreliable when you factor in the differences between British English and American English (so how do you pronounce a simple word like "vitamin"?). This gets even worse if you start looking at different accents and dialects (Scots anyone?)

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Last edited by Carabas on Sun Feb 03, 2013 6:00 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Language and its peculiarities   Sun Mar 27, 2011 9:46 am

I thought Americans said 'vite-a-min' and English say 'vit-a-min'. The two examples that really annoyme is 'erb instead of herb and bayzil instead of basil!
My expertise llie in sign-language. I have no specific interest in the pecuralalities of spoken language. BSL (british sign language) is spelled the same although the word placement is different and body language and facial expressions comprise a large section. If one wanted to introduce ones self then it would be 'Hi I'm Rachel, how are you?' In order to sign it you would say 'Hello. Name me Rachel. Good you?'
A lot of the language is context based as well. There's a limit to how many signs you can have (yes some people can bend their fingers all over but a lot of people can't) so some signs have several meanings. It's hard to just walk into a conversation and understand what's going on as quickly as you could with a spoken conversation.

I should try uploading a video of it actually, it's be much easier!

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PostSubject: Re: Language and its peculiarities   Sun Mar 27, 2011 5:25 pm

English is easy to spell? Try growing up in the mid-west and spelling the simple word "wash".. I still want to spell it "warsh". Factor in the Southern drawl, Texan drawl, various mountain dialects, Black English, Spanglish, whatever they speak in Massachusetts and it is a miracle we can spell at all.

"elusiveness of Grammar"? Not sure what you meant by that, Cara, English does not have grammar because it stole all its rules from someone else and contorted them to fit the language. Don't use a preposition at the end of a sentence because that comes from Latin.

On a side note, I was listening to a talk show this morning and one of the callers used the phrase "you know" constantly. That phrase drives me up a wall, sets my nerves quivering, makes me want to scream, I pay no attention to what the speaker is trying to say because that is all I hear "you know".

I say vite-ta-min and on-va-lope, vase with a long a, to-may-toe, palm with the l sounded which is accepted but not preferred. My accent is not true "standard" American. I think standard American is what they teach you at Harvard, not sure.

Of the languages I have some small aquaintence with I think Spanish is the easiest. Simple and straight forward. Hokay, maybe not Castillian, I know a very little of the American spanish. American refering to the Western Hemisphere continents and not the very incorrect usage as if residents of the USA where the only Americans. Talk about language why couldn't our founding fathers have given our country a proper name?

By the way the USA has no national language. I hope we never do. We might have to actually learn to speak English if it was made the national Language.

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PostSubject: Re: Language and its peculiarities   Sun Mar 27, 2011 6:17 pm

Nakia the Rogue wrote:
English is easy to spell?

Compared to French it's really easy.

Nakia the Rogue wrote:
"elusiveness of Grammar"? Not sure what you meant by that, Cara, English does not have grammar because it stole all its rules from someone else and contorted them to fit the language. Don't use a preposition at the end of a sentence because that comes from Latin.

English has a grammar alright but it doesn't advertize it as much as other languages... It's certainly more practical and straightforward than French but it can be as abstruse. Most people can get by without ever using the subjunctive (how often do you actually use this form in Modern English?) the same can be said about other languages but it's more obvious when considering English.

Languages are used on an everyday basis and as such they are simplified through constant (ab)use. Anything that is not necessary will end up being discarded because people won't bother. Think about the number of English speakers who drop the "s" ending from their verbs in the third person singular (simple present). What does grammatical correction mean in such a context? Not much I'm afraid.

We're not even considering text speak... I guess that as long as we don't have to speak Newspeak (coined by George Orwell's in Nineteen Eighty-Four) we will be fine.

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PostSubject: Re: Language and its peculiarities   Sun Mar 27, 2011 9:12 pm

Subjunctive??? What is that? I was an A student in English because my grandmother was an English Major (masters), a journalist, an editor and a writer. Parsing was easy because it is mathematical, oh yes it is. I also had the ability to learn something quickly and once used forget it. Did it for tests all the time. I do know prestI am sleepy, past I was sleepy, future I will be sleepy. (Blasted cat) I also know is a difference between "I should be sleepy" and "I would be sleepy" but am not sure what it is.



Of course we should drop what we don't need. I have a whole attic to drop.

If Pam is correct instead of paLm then spell it that way. "You plays with ball" sounds funny. There is no third person singular in English, at least in USA English. Down with Th tyrants, down with the lords who demanded we peasants address them in the plural We are now all equal and will address all in the plural. Y'all hear me? Note: Y'all is always plural even when directed at a single person, it includes, family friends and pets.

What is the difference between a number and a numeral? As an ex-mathematician I know that one and we use them incorrectly all the time.

There is scientific language as opposed to everyday languag Textspeak? Don't know it and don't want to know it. Y'all can have the job of dealing with that.

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PostSubject: Re: Language and its peculiarities   Sun Mar 27, 2011 9:50 pm

I'm not saying that we won't get there some day... That's the way things are. But I for one believe that if anything is worth doing then it's worth doing it right and that includes rules about language and archaic or outdated spelling. I don't mind silent letters, they are a testament to the long history of the language. For instance not only does the word "palm" comes from the Latin but it wouldn't be pronounced as it is if there was no "l" in it (/a:/ not /ae/ like in Pam). Not all things that seem redundant are useless. Wink

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PostSubject: Re: Language and its peculiarities   Mon Mar 28, 2011 9:29 am

Laughing Just as a picture on the wall adds no functionality it is still important to the individual.

Growing up with my grandmother I have a great deal of respect for language. She also insisted on politeness. Please and thank you were so ingrained in me that I have been accused of over doing it. Maybe so but I would rather over do it than under do it.


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PostSubject: Re: Language and its peculiarities   Mon Mar 28, 2011 11:00 am

Sometimes the picture is more important than the wall and what is supposedly functional merely trivial.

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PostSubject: Re: Language and its peculiarities   Mon Mar 28, 2011 4:11 pm

True. When we sit down to eat I doubt we think about the fact that we need food to function but think about the taste of the food, even how it looks. Does it please our senses. Food is also a means of communication. Breaking bread together establishes a relationship of friendliness or at least non-hostility. You are not supposed to kill some one with whom you have shared a meal. Smile


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PostSubject: Re: Language and its peculiarities   Mon Mar 28, 2011 4:21 pm

my Japanese friend said he could write English before he could speak it. he said it was rather hard at first.

i remember helping him with the finer points because in English we have so many ways to say something. there are even times i get the there- their/were-where wrong. it its and it's XD

this was many MANY years ago mind you so i might not remember it the best XD.
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PostSubject: Re: Language and its peculiarities   Sun Feb 03, 2013 3:03 pm

Searching for something else I ran across this thread. It fits I think rather well with RYUchan's epic Language Thread so I am bumping it.

I still don't know what the subjective case is or when to use.

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PostSubject: Re: Language and its peculiarities   Sun Feb 03, 2013 6:12 pm

Nakia the Rogue wrote:
I still don't know what the subjective case is or when to use.

It's just a way of saying that your utterance is distanced from the actual situation (or in other words what you're saying is not true at the moment).

I think the wikipedia page is rather straightforward:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_subjunctive

Have a look at the examples and you'll realize that you've been using it forever.

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PostSubject: Re: Language and its peculiarities   Sun Feb 03, 2013 6:34 pm

Thank you, Cara, you are correct. "He should see a doctor" perfect example. I think that will stick in my mind.

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