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What’s so good about English? - Stephan [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Stephan

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What’s so good about English? [Sep. 25th, 2011|04:11 pm]
Stephan
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I’ve never professed to be well educated. Coming from a family who by today’s standards would be considered poor, so too was my schooling. Hampered further by impatient, domineering parents and by a learning difficulty that back then I didn’t know the name of.

Once free of my father’s yoke I discovered that not only am I capable of learning, but that I often enjoy doing so, even if it means studying the same thing ten times in order to comprehend half of it and remember one quarter.

Recently I was recommended a DVD set “The Adventure of English” presented by Melvyn Bragg. So far I’ve only been able to watch the first 60 minutes (twice). This portion of the documentary expanded on something I was aware of since high school; that many modern synonyms in English arose from the Danes and Normans when they conquered England.

While I toy with the idea of becoming fluent in other languages, I doubt that this will ever happen, and therefore I have no knowledge of how English compares with any other language. Frankly the diverse influences in English have often left me wondering if it’s a “mongrel” language and thus overly complex. Often I’ve wondered if languages that are faithful to their root language (Eg: Latin) are easier and less cumbersome. I'm even less familiar with Asian languages, but I suspect that they'd be purer than English.

Take my hypothetical fursona for example; foxaroo. Were it only possible that nature could grant such a breeding you’d have a creature that could never leap so far or high as a kangaroo, nor hunt with the cunning or stealth of a fox, but possess some strengths of each. The vocabulary of the English language was greatly expanded by the Danes and the Normans and became very descriptive and poetic, but I’ve often wondered whether this larger set of words, and all the numerous rules of usage of the language, are really a blessing or a curse?

Thoughts?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: carlfoxmarten
2011-09-25 09:52 am (UTC)
You might also want to check out (if only for the comedy aspect) the Open University short series on A History of English, in ten minutes...
(the link is to the first of ten minute-long videos)

If English has been a dustbin of a language, does that mean that it has a bit more of a right to be the universal language, or would that make things even more confusing?
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2011-09-25 09:40 pm (UTC)
Those videos are hilarious! :D

Not sure about English's rise to becoming a universal language. The documentary I'm watching has a chapter on that, but I'm a long way before reaching this point.

Logically I guess that a language which has bits from other nations would make it more compatible and adaptive than languages formed in isolation, yes, so there is that I guess.
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[User Picture]From: carlfoxmarten
2011-09-26 10:18 pm (UTC)
If English wasn't my first language, I'd rather learn a language that mine had a hand in creating, as opposed to one that nobody's language had a part in.
(yes, I'm looking at you, Esperanto!)
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[User Picture]From: deckardcanine
2011-09-30 01:34 pm (UTC)
What? Esperanto samples numerous languages. That's the point.
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[User Picture]From: dewhitton
2011-09-25 01:55 pm (UTC)
I love that series; it's brilliant! I really like the Bible translation episode.

English is a dynamic and evolving language, not afraid to steel words from other languages. No one tries to keep it "pure," unlike the French Government who has a department to keep the French Language uncontaminated by foreign words.
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[User Picture]From: dhlawrence
2011-09-25 01:59 pm (UTC)
They try, but it never happens. French has assimilated a lot of English expressions, especially from the Internet.
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[User Picture]From: r_caton
2011-09-25 11:35 pm (UTC)
Welsh does that... with "welshed" spelling
"gofi" for example. Wanna guess what that's bean?
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2011-09-26 10:48 am (UTC)
No idea. What's "Gofi" mean?

On the subject of Welsh... Play from 2:18 to 2:30.
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[User Picture]From: r_caton
2011-09-26 03:15 pm (UTC)
Gofi = Coffee
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2011-09-26 09:34 pm (UTC)
...and here I need one of Old Wolf's icons in foxaroo form to show a pair of rolling eyes.

Mai Jones (Welsh accent): Who's that?
Seagoon: I just brought your saucepan bach. Ha ha ha.
Mai Jones: Oh, it's Harry son back from the pit bach. You're back early from the pit bach?
Seagoon: Yes, I found a piece of coal so they sent me home.
Milligan: Meiouw.
Seagoon: Puss, puss, come here, puss bach.
Milligan: Meiouw, meiouw bach.
Seagoon: [Dry] That's the first time I've heard a cat bark.

(Cat barking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aP3gzee1cps)
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2011-09-25 09:48 pm (UTC)
(Rose Quoll avatar, yay!)

Thanks Den, I'll be keeping an eye open for that chapter. :)

Steeling words as in reinforcing them, or stealing them as in pilfering? ;)

This is why I'd like to learn another language, and French could be a candidate if I do ever move to Canada.
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[User Picture]From: dewhitton
2011-09-25 11:04 pm (UTC)
Both! Good old English words like Bungalow and Verandah came from India.

We Aussies are just as bad (good?) at this. Our word for cheap wine "plonk" was brought back from France by the WW1 Diggers, from the French blanc (white wine.)

The Bible episode is excellent. It covers the language shift from Middle English of Chaucer to Early Modern English of The Tudors. Also, Wycliffe, Tyndale and the King James translations of the bible from Latin to English.
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2011-09-25 11:43 pm (UTC)
(Was drawing attention to the difference between "steel" and "steal" because I suspect you had the two confused back there).

I heard that the French name for that wine was "pleh'onk." I don't think it's truly Aussie though; the word was used in the movie "Educating Rita" set in Liverpool, England (filmed in Dublin).
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[User Picture]From: r_caton
2011-09-26 09:57 am (UTC)
There were Enlish soldiers too who brought the term "plonk" from blanc

It's not so much the location that counts as the date....
but would a Tommy be drinking wine pre-1914? Wine isn't a working class drink, never was and as such not the sort of thing a poor bloody infrantryman would be acquainted with.
If you have an interest in colloquial English take a look at the work of Eric Partridge; there is another book called "Hobson Jobson" that reveals the crossovers from the Indian sub continent.
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[User Picture]From: dhlawrence
2011-09-25 01:58 pm (UTC)
It's a good series. In the last episode they pay a visit to your shores.

Latin changed over the years as well; that's why there is "Classical" Latin and "Vulgar" Latin. All languages change, even the ons that try to fight it. The French set up an academy to keep their language free of contamination but they've assimilated a lot of English words, especially since the Internet took off.
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2011-09-25 09:50 pm (UTC)
Yes Aussie is mentioned in the intro. I've no idea what to expect when I reach that chapter.

"Free of contamination" well said! And yes, the internet contaminates everything!

Poses a difficulty for time travellers, unless the accompany the Doctor.
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