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Bloggingheads 09-03-2011 02:22 AM

Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 

sugarkang 09-03-2011 03:00 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
I learned a word from Pat Buchanan: dudn't.

did not = didn't
does not = dudn't

Florian 09-03-2011 07:52 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
A pleasant relief from the usual bhtv fare. I look forward to reading John's book.

Without being a professional linguist, I would dispute John's claim that what makes English unique as a language of empire is the result mainly of what happened to old English when the Vikings invaded England. Take the vocabulary of English. All the words I have bolded come either from French or from Latin, often via French. Indeed I once read that nearly 50% of the English lexis is of French origin or of Latin origin via French. And there are some words whose etymology is no longer even apparent, e.g. war (from "guerre"). Just off the top of my head, here are some common words whose French origin is obvious: debt, pay, purchase, lodge, common, curtesy, pray, repent, renounce, fruit, dinner, sauce, feast, veal, table, touch, manner, polite, police, medicine, peace, justice, grace, evidence, pardon....

The Norman Invasion (1066) changed everything in English. Middle English is more or less comprehensible to anyone studying English literature today because its vocabulary was completely transformed by the Normans. Old English is not. There are 39 words of French origin in the first 43 lines of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

So if English is a hybrid language, it is not only because the "Anglo-Saxons" were invaded by the Vikings but also because they were subjugated by the Normans in 1066. That and the fact that for the next five hundred years, English borrowed extensively from both French and Latin. To say that English is grammatically simple because it is the language of an empire, like Persian, overlooks the fact that its vocabulary (and the concepts that are conveyed by vocabulary) is largely the product of the Roman Empire and its continental heirs.

harkin 09-03-2011 11:02 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
The promise of a refreshing discussion was only marginally fulfilled. I'm much less interested in how fascinating ebonics is than how russian schools succeeded where urban american schools have failed. Also somewhat surprising was a discussion of language with almost no mention of reading.....but then that's probably unintentionally the point.

It's been a while since anything made me think of Francine Prose's excellent I Know Why The Caged Bird Can't Read:

"The present vogue for teaching “values” through literature uses the novel as a springboard for the sort of discussion formerly conducted in civics or ethics classes—areas of study that, in theory, have been phased out of the curriculum but that, in fact, have been retained and cleverly substituted for what we used to call English. English—and everything about it that is inventive, imaginative, or pleasurable—is beside the point in classrooms, as is everything that constitutes style and that distinguishes writers, one from another, as precisely as fingerprints or DNA mapping."

Uhurusasa 09-03-2011 12:26 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
A blast from the past:

The Story of English

http://www.youtube.com/user/DespairIsAsin#g/a

Winspur 09-03-2011 01:57 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
I have to disagree with John that Latin is 'a nightmare.' The grammar is difficult, true, but:

--there are only 4 regular verb conjugation patterns
--verb tenses are limited to past perfect and imperfect, present, and future (Greek is much worse in this regard)
--a native English (or Spanish) speaker can pronounce all words in Latin.

bkjazfan 09-03-2011 03:34 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
It's becoming difficult to traverse the city of Los Angeles without the ability to speak and understand the Spanish language. Being monolingual in this area of the world is a handicap under which I have first hand experience with. I tell myself I will learn it but never get around to doing so. Oh, don't waste your money on Rosetta Stone. Nice software but it doesn't take you anywhere.

ohreally 09-03-2011 03:40 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
Good stuff.

graz 09-03-2011 03:41 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by bkjazfan (Post 224450)
It's becoming difficult to traverse the city of Los Angeles without the ability to speak and understand the Spanish language. Being monolingual in this area of the world is a handicap under which I have first hand experience with.

You ought to write a book about that fantastical anecdote.
And then have it translated into Spanish so as to increase sales.

Potential titles:

"The trials of traversing the City of non-Anglos"

"No speak my language in Chavez Ravine"

ETA: Define difficult, and traverse?

graz 09-03-2011 04:28 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by bkjazfan (Post 224456)
How about "Why Doesn't Anyone Understand Me?" or

"I Can't Believe I Was Born In The Pico-Union Area"

Even better than my suggestions. Although the first one may speak to more than a language barrier :)

bkjazfan 09-03-2011 05:26 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by graz (Post 224457)
Even better than my suggestions. Although the first one may speak to more than a language barrier :)

You aren't cutting me any slack today. Better luck next time.

Florian 09-03-2011 06:11 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by harkin (Post 224430)
"The present vogue for teaching “values” through literature uses the novel as a springboard for the sort of discussion formerly conducted in civics or ethics classes—areas of study that, in theory, have been phased out of the curriculum but that, in fact, have been retained and cleverly substituted for what we used to call English. English—and everything about it that is inventive, imaginative, or pleasurable—is beside the point in classrooms, as is everything that constitutes style and that distinguishes writers, one from another, as precisely as fingerprints or DNA mapping."

Le style, c'est l'homme: Style is the man (Buffon, 18th century). I agree. I am not sure what your remark has to do with the diavlog, but there is no doubt that the teaching of literature, in the US especially, has become the teaching of "values." To the detriment both of values and literature.

T.G.G.P 09-03-2011 10:56 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
Cool diavlog. I recall asking before for McWhorter to talk more about linguistics. I just wonder what time period he's referring to with the Vikings. Does he mean Normans, because I thought they brought latinate/French language.

Ken Davis 09-04-2011 12:16 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
Thanks for the absorbing conversation. T'wasn't long enough.

What is it called when a word is coined by combining two (or more) words?

Here's my contribution to the vocabulary: alactric. Means fast as lightning. In noun form: alacricity. Most people say "alectric" anyway. They've almost got it.

Sulla the Dictator 09-04-2011 03:04 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
Excellent post.

JonIrenicus 09-04-2011 03:38 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by harkin (Post 224430)
The promise of a refreshing discussion was only marginally fulfilled. I'm much less interested in how fascinating ebonics is than how russian schools succeeded where urban american schools have failed. Also somewhat surprising was a discussion of language with almost no mention of reading.....but then that's probably unintentionally the point...

It seems like the US is a much less homogeneous population than a Russia. And we all know people tend to self segregate in where they live and who they hang around. That would seem to lead to stronger and wilder swings in language and accents.

sugarkang 09-04-2011 04:07 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ken Davis (Post 224528)
What is it called when a word is coined by combining two (or more) words?

portmanteaux

whburgess 09-04-2011 04:45 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by harkin (Post 224430)
The promise of a refreshing discussion was only marginally fulfilled. I'm much less interested in how fascinating ebonics is than how russian schools succeeded where urban american schools have failed. Also somewhat surprising was a discussion of language with almost no mention of reading.....but then that's probably unintentionally the point.

I didn't see any indication, at any point, that this discussion was about the education system in urban America. The discussion is about his book which is about the nature of the English language and how it came to be that way.

Apparently he uses Ebonics as an example of how the English language evolved, but he never suggests that Ebonics is a result of bad urban schools. It is a result of adult slaves from Africa learning English as adults and this form of English was passed down the generations. Furthermore, this form of English (Ebonics) is no less correct then the form the rest of us speak, because what we speak is also a derivative of old English in the same way, and for much the same reasons, as Ebonics is a derivative of our English.

sugarkang 09-04-2011 07:17 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by whburgess (Post 224546)
Apparently he uses Ebonics as an example of how the English language evolved, but he never suggests that Ebonics is a result of bad urban schools. It is a result of adult slaves from Africa learning English as adults and this form of English was passed down the generations. Furthermore, this form of English (Ebonics) is no less correct then the form the rest of us speak, because what we speak is also a derivative of old English in the same way, and for much the same reasons, as Ebonics is a derivative of our English.

Yet another reason pedantic grammarians don't matter.

dieter 09-04-2011 09:38 AM

Praise and doubts
 
Edit: wrong thread

dieter 09-04-2011 10:29 AM

Praise and doubts
 
Great diavlog. I'd like to see John McWhorter do more on language stuff.

I am not convinced by his thesis though. Not because I find it to be implausible, but Joshua Knobe asked mostly softball questions. I'd like to see a challenge from a contrarian and knowledgable linguist.

1.) Getting invaded by Saxons, Vikings or Normans doesn't look like an act of imperialism to me. British imperialism took off at a time, when the language was already fixed. The invaders weren't exactly imperialists either. They just pushed into Britain and settled there. This happened in continental Europe during the Migration Period and up until not so long ago on a constant basis and rather more frequent than on the insular and therefore relatively secure British isles. New Nations were formed and overwhelmed. Nations split and merged frequently. Languages changed and formed in this process. There must have been a lot of adult learning going on all the time. Yet the languages that are around on the continent today are grammatically complex.

2.) Latin has been spoken and used exclusively by adult learners for 1500 years, yet it remained complex and is reportedly more complex and refined than the common Latin spoken in the Roman Empire.

3.) McWorther speculates jokingly whether Poles are playing a joke on Anglos and don't really speak the complex language, they claim to speak. I don't know about Polish, but this is actually true to some extent. Native speakers use only a subset of the standardized grammar. This varies by class, formality and education level. African American English sounds to me just like a typical uneducated lower class dialect.
My grandmother, who enjoyed only six years of education, spoke such a dialect. And dialects varied from one village to the other, based on the ethnic origin of the villagers. (Croat, Hungarian, former Slavs, ...) One village is said to have had a large influx of soldiers from Napoleon's defeated army.

Older German texts vary greatly in grammar and spelling. It seems like even many literate folks wrote just like they spoke, just like we can see on Twitter and Myspace today.

4.) Non-native speakers frequently don't bother with the gender, case and inflection business. This sounds odd to the ear. It can be unpleasant, but also charming, rather like the different accents of non-native English speakers. But it is usually perfectly intelligible.

5.) Idiomatic expressions are difficult to spot for non-native speakers. How can their extensive use in the English language be reconciled with the adult learner thesis?

Based on these observations, I wonder, whether the grammatical Exceptionalism of the English language is mostly based on a lack of standardization and active care by the learned elites.

Regardless of the origins of grammatical complexity I wonder what accounts for it, especially, if we assume, like John McWhorter, a natural process of accumulated complexity. It could be clarity of thought, which McWorther seems to dismiss. Other reasons could be aesthetics or error correcting redundancy.
It is definitely a form of intellectual status display to use the grammar correctly and use its advanced forms. The intellectual elites could have manufactured and emphasized grammatical complexity for this reason.

kezboard 09-04-2011 10:36 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
Pre-1066, the Vikings were a huge presence in England.

Winspur 09-04-2011 11:13 AM

Re: Praise and doubts
 
Quote:

1.) Getting invaded by Saxons, Vikings or Normans doesn't look like an act of imperialism to me. British imperialism took off at a time, when the language was already fixed. The invaders weren't exactly imperialists either. They just pushed into Britain and settled there.
The Saxons and Vikings settled in much greater numbers than the Normans did. In most of what is now England they totally supplanted the old Celtic languages. In contrast, the Norman conquest looked more like 19th century imperialism; a small elite grabbed the best land along with London. All the two-part English place names (Melton Mowbray, Leighton Buzzard) come from Norman lords seizing or buying existing villages.

Ocean 09-04-2011 01:27 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by bkjazfan (Post 224467)
You aren't cutting me any slack today. Better luck next time.

No te preocupes. Todo se soluciona en la vida siempre y cuando tengas paciencia.

Ocean 09-04-2011 01:31 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
Certainly not science, but an enjoyable, brief conversation of scholarly nature.

JonIrenicus 09-04-2011 01:55 PM

Re: Praise and doubts
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by dieter (Post 224556)
...
2.) Latin has been spoken and used exclusively by adult learners for 1500 years, yet it remained complex and is reportedly more complex and refined than the common Latin spoken in the Roman Empire.
...

Years ago I went to a highschool with a large hispanic population, and during that time some Bush family member (not GWB) gave a pandering speech where he spoke spanish to the crowd and I remember some of them talking about how "proper" he sounded, like he learned the spanish used in SPAIN not Mexico.

Not sure how that bush learned spanish, but if he learned in a formal way that probably preserves the original language better than ad hoc spoken absorption.

kezboard 09-04-2011 03:30 PM

Re: Praise and doubts
 
Quote:

Getting invaded by Saxons, Vikings or Normans doesn't look like an act of imperialism to me. British imperialism took off at a time, when the language was already fixed. The invaders weren't exactly imperialists either.
I actually don't think this is what McWhorter means and that he did himself a disservice by talking about empires. What I think he means is that languages that have been learned by lots of adults tend to have simpler grammars. He didn't bring up the case of trade languages, but these seem pretty obvious -- Swahili and Indonesian are both supposed to be really easy to learn, even though they're both related to languages that are really complicated. They're both trade languages.

Quote:

There must have been a lot of adult learning going on all the time. Yet the languages that are around on the continent today are grammatically complex.
I don't know. We would need some actual evidence on this point. But it's worth keeping in mind that Latin was used for a very long time among European elites, and also that while it's true that many areas of Europe were polyglot for a very long time, I would imagine that in many of these areas, these languages existed side-by-side and you didn't have the sort of wholesale adoption of a language the way McWhorter says you did when the Vikings moved into England. When Saxons were encouraged by the Hungarian king to settle in Spiš to set up mining towns during the 12th century, they didn't come in and start speaking Slovak or Hungarian, and they didn't force the Slovaks or Hungarians living there to start speaking their language either; the three language groups continued speaking their own languages at home.

Quote:

McWorther speculates jokingly whether Poles are playing a joke on Anglos and don't really speak the complex language, they claim to speak. I don't know about Polish, but this is actually true to some extent. Native speakers use only a subset of the standardized grammar.
No way. As someone who's learned a closely related Slavic language, it's not a joke. All those cases are used. It's true that there are parts of standardized grammars that are archaic (like the subjunctive in English, for instance) or just not used all that often (like the future perfect continuous tense -- "will have been being") but people don't just throw out grammatical cases because of laziness.

Ocean 09-04-2011 04:11 PM

Re: Praise and doubts
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by kezboard (Post 224584)

No way. As someone who's learned a closely related Slavic language, it's not a joke. All those cases are used. It's true that there are parts of standardized grammars that are archaic (like the subjunctive in English, for instance) or just not used all that often (like the future perfect continuous tense -- "will have been being") but people don't just throw out grammatical cases because of laziness.

Oh, yes, I remember while learning (British) English I had to make sentences using different verb tenses. "If I stay here until the theatre opens, I will have been standing for about two hours."

kezboard 09-04-2011 05:20 PM

Simplification
 
This was a really interesting diavlog. I've asked linguistics diavlogs before and I'm very happy they've obliged, even though the impetus for this was probably more John's new book than any request I made a few years ago. But please, more.

I read and enjoyed McWhorter's book on English, where he also discussed his theories about the "simplification" of English being caused by the absorption of non-native adults into the English-speaking community. This seems totally plausible to me, and his theory about the "Big Dude" languages does as well, although like I said in my response to Dieter, I think McWhorter ought to clarify that he's not just referring to imperial languages, languages with a lot of speakers, or languages that served as lingua francas (I have no idea what the plural of "lingua franca" is) but rather ones that experienced the influx of lots of new adults learning the language and then raising their children to speak it, PRIOR TO STANDARDIZATION.

However. I'm not totally sure that "simplification" is the best word to use. Why English is an isolating language in a family of synthetic languages is definitely a question that needs to be answered, and like I said, McWhorter's answer sounds totally plausible to me. I'm willing to say that it's totally reasonable that languages that are spoken by small bands of people are able to handle more grammatical complexity, and that the process by which a language like that becomes a massive international language spoken by millions involves a certain amount of flattening out of these complexities. (I so do not believe that Navajo has no regular verbs, though. Seriously, does anyone have a reference for that?) But I don't know that English becoming more isolating is the same as English becoming simpler. It was a little funny that first McWhorter talked about standard modern English being simplified from Old English, and then Black English being simplified from standard modern English, and then he went on to describe complexities of Black English that standard English doesn't have (why you can't say "I be ghetto").

I'm an ESL teacher, and I teach speakers of Czech, which is part of a group of languages McWhorter described as so complicated it seems like a joke. For English speakers, thinking about having to use the right ending on every single noun in a sentence does sound like a joke. I promise it isn't. For Czech speakers, though, the incredibly restrictive word order of English seems like a joke, and learning English takes the same sort of mental re-programming for Czechs as learning a Slavic language does for English speakers. Once a student, trying to tell me that I was the one, not her, who found something, said "It found you!" I've corrected the "I and my sister" mistake a million times. A synthetic language like Czech would never make a pointless rule like this, but English does, because keeping the word order straight is very important. Furthermore, the tense and aspect system in Czech is downright simple. I know there are some languages that have absurdly complex tenses, distinguishing between way far back in the past and yesterday or between whether you saw it happen or whether you just heard that it happened, but as far as I know, English does not have a simpler tense system than those of its relatives. I don't understand why, if the trend was towards general simplification in English, we would lose a really pervasive feature like gender but keep a tense like the future perfect continuous ("I will have been doing") that I probably use about once a week.

kezboard 09-04-2011 06:24 PM

Re: Praise and doubts
 
At least in English the verb stays the same, so it's "I will have been waiting", "you will have been waiting", etc., which I guess is what McWhorter means when he says English is simple. Still, it seems like what he means by simple is that verbs don't decline and there's hardly any case system, which seems like more of a symptom of his own difficulties with Russian noun declensions or Spanish verb conjugations than anything about English.

Florian 09-04-2011 06:37 PM

Re: Simplification
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by kezboard (Post 224597)
I read and enjoyed McWhorter's book on English, where he also discussed his theories about the "simplification" of English being caused by the absorption of non-native adults into the English-speaking community. .

The theory may be true in general, but, as I pointed out above, it was the non-natives, a tiny minority of Norman invaders, who completely transformed English---by not being absorbed into the English-speaking community. For nearly two hundred years after the Conquest they spoke only in their native French (Anglo-Normand), refusing to learn the language of the Anglo-Saxons, or only learning enough to communicate with the peasants... It was the latter who had to adapt, tant bien que mal, to the language of their masters. After dispossessing 95% of the landowners of their land, the Normans dispossessed them of language as well. I don't know what percentage of English words disappeared and were replaced by French and Latinate words, but it was huge. And the process of latinization went on for centuries.

The rest of your reflections on teaching "simple" English to non-natives are very interesting. I had similar experiences when I used to teach English in France. Getting the French to see the "logic" of the different uses of the present continuous and future continuous (You will be hearing from us soon) convinced me that there are other things that complicate language besides case endings etc.

kezboard 09-04-2011 07:08 PM

Re: Simplification
 
Quote:

The theory may be true in general, but, as I pointed out above, it was the non-natives, a tiny minority of Norman invaders, who completely transformed English---by not being absorbed into the English-speaking community. For nearly two hundred years after the Conquest they spoke only in their native French (Anglo-Normand), refusing to learn the language of the Anglo-Saxons, or only learning enough to communicate with the peasants... It was the latter who had to adapt, tant bien que mal, to the language of their masters. After dispossessing 95% of the landowners of their land, the Normans dispossessed them of language as well. I don't know what percentage of English words disappeared and were replaced by French and Latinate words, but it was huge. And the process of latinization went on for centuries.
McWhorter actually addresses this in his book Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, where he talks about common "histories of English" which focus on English vocabulary and spend a lot of time with the Normans. For McWhorter, it isn't at all surprising that the Normans affected English vocabulary to such a huge extent: the Normans were an elite ruling class, and when you have elites speaking one language and the peasantry speaking another language, the peasantry will end up using words from the language of the elite to refer to elite kinds of things. The best example is how English uses French-derived words to refer to cooked meat (mutton, pork, etc.) and Germanic words to refer to the actual animal. But is common in lots of languages, which is why McWhorter doesn't find it very interesting. (The only difference between English and other languages in this regard is that English has never gone through a period where non-native vocabulary was plucked out and replaced with newly coined words from native roots.) What McWhorter is interested in is how English grammar has changed, and because of what you described about the Normans and their social position, they had hardly any effect at all on English grammar, while he argues that the Celts and Vikings did.

ohreally 09-04-2011 08:01 PM

Re: Simplification
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by kezboard (Post 224597)
I have no idea what the plural of "lingua franca" is.

Linguini francese.

Florian 09-04-2011 08:06 PM

Re: Simplification
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by kezboard (Post 224611)
McWhorter actually addresses this in his book Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, where he talks about common "histories of English" which focus on English vocabulary and spend a lot of time with the Normans. For McWhorter, it isn't at all surprising that the Normans affected English vocabulary to such a huge extent: the Normans were an elite ruling class, and when you have elites speaking one language and the peasantry speaking another language, the peasantry will end up using words from the language of the elite to refer to elite kinds of things. The best example is how English uses French-derived words to refer to cooked meat (mutton, pork, etc.) and Germanic words to refer to the actual animal. But is common in lots of languages, which is why McWhorter doesn't find it very interesting. (The only difference between English and other languages in this regard is that English has never gone through a period where non-native vocabulary was plucked out and replaced with newly coined words from native roots.) What McWhorter is interested in is how English grammar has changed, and because of what you described about the Normans and their social position, they had hardly any effect at all on English grammar, while he argues that the Celts and Vikings did.

I'll have to read McWorter. But I find it hard to believe that he would argue that the pervasive use of French (and not just for cooked meats etc.) had no effect on English grammar. That just doesn't ring true. But my graduate school memories of Medieval English and French literature are too dim. Chaucer, writing some 300 years after the Norman Conquest, has a grammar that seemed to me at the time very different from the grammar of Old English, which no one can read without a crib/translation.

Anyway, I don't see how a linguist can downplay the importance of the Norman Conquest for the evolution of English, given the fact that English now has a vocabulary that is almost 60% of French-Romance-Latinate origin.

graz 09-04-2011 08:06 PM

Re: Simplification
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ohreally (Post 224613)
Linguini francese.

That made my day, thanks.

dieter 09-04-2011 08:10 PM

Re: Simplification
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by kezboard (Post 224597)
I know there are some languages that have absurdly complex tenses, [...] between whether you saw it happen or whether you just heard that it happened,

Only journalists and some academics, bureaucrats and intellectuals actively use the German subjunctive forms.

I frequently notice how fellow German speakers, including myself, don't even bother to form the simple future and past tense properly and use the present tense instead.

e.g. "Morgen gehe ich in's Theater" ("Tomorrow I go to the theater")
or
"Gestern bin ich im Wirtshaus. Sagt der Franz, dass er ein neues Auto hat"
("Yesterday I am in the restaurant. Franz says that he has a new car")

It is perfectly normal to talk that way.

The Genetive case is rarely used in informal speech. On the other hand it is overused highfalutin speech.

That's what I meant, when I wrote that the notion that McWorther's musing that all of this complexity could be an elaborate joke, is partially correct. The complexity is real though and it is used to some extent in certain conditions. And these complex grammatical forms are not arcane, I don't think. They are probably in more frequent use today than in the past, before the advent of mass communication and mass university education.

The Norman conquest seems to be somewhat similar to the Teutonic Order in Prussia. The Prussians used to be a Baltic tribe. Their language died out in the early 18th century and left almost no trace whatsoever.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Prussians

dieter 09-04-2011 08:11 PM

Re: Simplification
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ohreally (Post 224613)
Linguini francese.

Sounds like a delicious dish.

bkjazfan 09-04-2011 09:32 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 224570)
No te preocupes. Todo se soluciona en la vida siempre y cuando tengas paciencia.

Don't know what it means but I agree.

SkepticDoc 09-04-2011 09:41 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Black Martian Linguists (John McWhorter & Joshua Knobe)
 
Ocean would never say anything mean to anybody.

The ultra short translation would be: Don't worry

My translation: Don't worry. Everything in life is eventually solved as long as you are patient.

ohreally 09-04-2011 10:24 PM

Re: Simplification
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 224605)
For nearly two hundred years after the Conquest they spoke only in their native French (Anglo-Normand), refusing to learn the language of the Anglo-Saxons, or only learning enough to communicate with the peasants... It was the latter who had to adapt, tant bien que mal, to the language of their masters. After dispossessing 95% of the landowners of their land, the Normans dispossessed them of language as well.

Normans were originally vikings, no? So why is it the Normans changed their language to French when they conquered Normandy and but then refused to change when they conquered England? I spot a certain inconsistency in Viking history.

Second question: If you lived in Normandy, why would you invade England and move there? For the food?


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