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Re^2: The Germanic language form

by clinton (Priest)
on Jun 01, 2007 at 11:20 UTC ( #618700=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to Re: The Germanic language form
in thread The Germanic language form

I'm English speaking, but live in Spain, and have spent the last two and a half years learning Spanish.

The British are almost typically embarrassed about their language - they think it is clunky, and nowhere near as romantic / beautiful / expressive as French / Italian / Spanish.

What I've realised is that, because English has very simple grammar, it is easy to learn basic English, while the Romance languages present more of a barrier to pick up.

However, while learning Spanish, I've realised what I love about English - the enormous expressive vocabulary. This is my opinion, I can't be certain, but my experience is that native English speakers use a much larger lexicon of words in their everyday language than a native Spanish/etc speaker.

For this reason, to speak English WELL, is very difficult - it's not that there are rules you can understand, you have to learn each word separately.

Oh dear....

I think English may be PHP.

That can't be right!


Comment on Re^2: The Germanic language form
Re^3: The Germanic language form
by blazar (Canon) on Jun 01, 2007 at 11:45 UTC
    What I've realised is that, because English has very simple grammar, it is easy to learn basic English, while the Romance languages present more of a barrier to pick up.

    This is certainly true, but then one should analize what the added complexity is up to. Latin for example is even more complex than Italian, but its linguistic features make for a very high degree of expressiveness for very short and concise phrases. Indeed there's a track of this in commonly used idiomatic forms and cultural references even today, e.g:

    • "do ut des": I give you something to obtain something in change from you;
    • 17 is considered an unlucky number because it's written like XVII as a roman number, which in turn is the anagram of "vixi": "I have lived", but with such an exact and strong bent that it's really "I have terminated living", thus "I'm dead".

    Latin has declensions. *NIX shells have a moderate amount to, in that nouns (variables) do not have a sigil as they're defined, thus used as a subject, but they do have one when they're used, that is when they play the role of a complement.

      its linguistic features make for a very high degree of expressiveness

      I couldn't agree with you more. The form of expression is different - I find that the Italic languages use the same words with a different order, or a different preposition, or just a different context to achieve the same thing that we do in English by having an entirely separate word.

      Caveat: obviously, these are not absolute rules, but rather tendencies

      clint

        Caveat: obviously, these are not absolute rules, but rather tendencies

        In fact, I also find that in English, if you exclude perhaps technical jargon, there are so many words having widely different significances in different contexts whereas we have distinct ones. Or terms to describe very common things are clearly compound of simpler words, e.g. "necklace" where we have "collana", or "asscheek" (yes, I also know about "buttocks") where we have "chiappa".

Re^3: The Germanic language form
by sgt (Chaplain) on Jun 01, 2007 at 13:08 UTC

    An interesting comment but which is not connected directly to english IMHO. I am a french living in Madrid, Spain(14 years already), and previously had been living in Michigan (7 years) and Southampton (1 year). I think on the average that british people were using a larger (and more precise) vocabulary for daily activities (meaning taking out specialized contexts). But the average american daily vocabulary was much poorer about equal I would say with the spanish or french "daily vocabulary". Maybe the continuous rise of the use of specialized "slangs" borrowing lots of english words means in the long run an impoverishment of native non-english "daily word pools".

    cheers --stephan
Re^3: The Germanic language form
by hardburn (Abbot) on Jun 01, 2007 at 16:48 UTC

    This is my opinion, I can't be certain, but my experience is that native English speakers use a much larger lexicon of words in their everyday language than a native Spanish/etc speaker.

    I don't know about everyday language, but English definitely does have a massive vocabulary compared to most contemporary languages. Through the centuries, languages have been getting simpler, but English is the odd one out. It's constant borrowing of words over the last thousand years or so has made it comparable to far more ancient languages in complexity.


    "There is no shame in being self-taught, only in not trying to learn in the first place." -- Atrus, Myst: The Book of D'ni.

Re^3: The Germanic language form
by raptur (Acolyte) on Jun 02, 2007 at 04:06 UTC
    English certainly doesn't have nearly as much morpho-syntactic complexity (i.e. complicated verb paradigms, noun-adjective agreement, &c.), but that's largely because it has undergone extensive phonological weakening at the end of words--that is, the morphemes that did all the agreement stuff have been slowly disappearing over the last millenium or so due to regular sound change. English syntax still has some fairly difficult constructions. Consider Unbounded Dependency Constructions:

    Who*1 does Kim*2 think the coworkers want management to replace her*2 with *1?

    Kim*2 is the logical object of "replace" and Who*1 is the logical object of "with," but they are on completely opposite ends of the sentence. Moreover, the sentence can be extended in principle for as long as we want:

    Who*1 does Kim*2 think Carol hopes Jim says... the coworkers want management to replace her*2 with *1?

    The computational endeavor of detecting when an unbounded dependency construction is being used and of linking up the right fillers (Who*1 and Kim*2 here) with the right traces (her*2 and *1 here) is extremely non-trivial. Also, check out a grammar of the English Language in your spare time ;)

    We don't have many conjugations &c., but we have weirdo word-order rules all over the place. Swiss German, Dutch, and Norwegian have even some weirder stuff going on.

      The examples that you have given are now considered acceptable spoken English, but not formal English (although that is fast approaching).

      They could be written more formally as:

      Who does Kim think the coworkers want management to replace her with?

      With whom does Kim think that her coworkers would like management to replace her?

      and
      Who does Kim think Carol hopes Jim says the coworkers want management to replace her with?

      With whom does Kim think that Carol hopes that Jim says that her coworkers would like management to replace her

      The grammar in the formal versions is more closely related to Latin grammar, but it introduces a stiffness into the construction that appears to be a dying trend. Forms that, 20 years ago, would have been considered errors, are now accepted practice and come more easily to the tongue, such as:

      Ending a sentence with a preposition: Who ... with as opposed to With whom
      and
      The split infinitive: They could be more formally written as... as opposed to They could be written more formally as...

      ...and I am pleased that it is so. I love the flexibility of English, the fact that it is so adaptable, but it does make parsing it hell!

      update jporter correctly pointed out that this is not a split infinitive

      Clint

        The split infinitive: They could be more formally written as...

        That's not a split infinitive, because it's not an infinitive at all. The word rearrangement you suggest has null effect, except perhaps for questions of style.

        The thing I don't like about "They could be more formally written as..." is that it's in the passive voice. This could be eliminated by rewording as "One could write them more formally as..." But, of course, there are contexts in which passive voice is not only acceptable but preferable, for example, in scientific writing. Is this discourse scientific enough to merit passive voice? I don't know, but I personally would err on the other side.


        A word spoken in Mind will reach its own level, in the objective world, by its own weight
        What's considered "acceptable English" almost always says more about the prescriptivists than it does about the language itself. Preposition stranding is perfectly acceptable (and actually preferred) by native speakers, and I don't believe that "who" really has case in English anymore. I often see native speakers attempting to use "whom," but invariably distinguishing "whom" from "who" not in that "whom" has object case but that "whom" is a relativizer:

        I like to visit my grandmother whom always gives me delicious cookies. (also see this)

        The notion that modern English should adhere to Latin grammar rules is actually quite ridiculous when you think about it: modern English is separated from Latin by a thousand years, and isn't even descended from Latin (English is Germanic). This notion is more attributable to the Western infatuation with everything Classical rather than any property of English itself.

        This isn't to say, of course, that standards shouldn't be adopted to try to make English as intelligible as possible to non-native speakers in appropriate circumstances, but these standards should be understood as outside impositions towards maximally helpful language use rather than as characterizations of good language use.

        I apologize if this is way too off-topic.

        Assuming that both questions regard replacing Kim, unless it's known to the audience that Carol is a male (unusual, but not unknown), then "With whom does Kim think that Carol hopes that Jim says that her coworkers would like management to replace her?" is ambiguous, and violates the grammar rules I was taught. Because the antecedent of the pronoun is not the nearest appropriately-gendered noun, one must replace "her" with "Kim" to be painfully correct.

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