Trolling for languages

Sej Mac skring at banet.net
Thu Jul 2 13:56:48 EST 1998


Richard Kerr wrote:

> At 12:53 1/07/98 -0400, you wrote:
> >In article <35996492.9D430F09 at banet.net>, skring at banet.net wrote:
> >
> >> Bryan J. Maloney wrote:
> >>
> >> > Mentipoo, I "grok" the Latin you used just fine.  I also consider Latin to
> >> > be useful for historians and antiquarians.  It's dead.  No natural
> >> > scientist needs it these days.
> >> >
> >> > If you consider how many words in most modern Western languages are
> composed
> >> > of Latin or Greek, you would not call either a dead language.  If anything,
> >> > English is an almost dead language, as there is very little Angle-ish left
> >> > in it.
> >>
> >> (Sorry; just couldn't resist this iconoclasm)
> >
> >
> >I did not write the second paragraph, and whomever claims that most words
> >in English are "composed of Latin or Greek" is only showing off his utter
> >ignorance of English, indeed, he is only showing off his utter ignorance
> >of northern European languages.
>
> . . . .Also, there is a second subtext
> here.....English is a language that has very little Angle-ish left in it, I
> agree, as it has a lot (or even 'many') words with French, German or even
> Slavic origins (although I admit I can't think of an example for the last
> one right now).

French adoptions in "English" are largely of Latin origin; indeed, French the
"single language" of today is really the remnant of a pidgin of Frankish and Latin.
I don't know even roughly how many words of a purely Frankish origin remain in
French  (doesn't seem worth the study), but the many "English" words adopted from
French are ultimately Latin---like _language_, _ garbage_, and all the other _-age_
words claimed to be French (_-age_ comes directly from IE, some form of it appearing
in virtually all IE tongues), for example.

The German and Slavic tongues of today are also filled with Latin (and even Greek),
but the former is of West Germanic stock, the latter of East Germanic stock, and
both from the root language Germanic, as are Angle-ish and Saxonese, which comprise
whatever is left of bonafide English.  So I eliminate these when claiming that
English is largely composed of the "dead" languages, Latin and Greek.  My only point
was that these languages are far from dead.  We can scarcely utter a sentence today
which does not have some Latin and Greek in it, even in common parlance, and
bionet.neuroscience, the name, illustrates this, not to mention the subjectmatter!
The more scientific the subjectmatter of a sentence, the more "living" the Latin or
Greek.

> The notion of a language being static is not supported by
> many people (and IMHO laughable) as language is dynamic, just as its users
> (ie: you and me) are similarly dynamic.
>

True enuf, but this is an irrelevant copout (usually defensively raised by the
linguists themselves); it would take a million posts and thrice the number of years
to point out all that is *missing* from this simplism.

But your point raises an interesting facet I never tho't of before:  Greek and Latin
*are* "dead" languages insofar as they cannot change as drastically as those we call
"English," "French," etc.  But they do change, even so---both in phonology and
semantically---thanks to us idiots.  A great example from Greek is _phenomenon_
which in modern parlance has come to encompass what the Greeks called _noumenon_,
(e.g., "psychological phenomena") and which, curiously, has no singular and plural
distinction; both one and many are (to hear everyone speak) "phenomena."  A parallel
example from Latin is _medium_.  In its plural form, this word has come to be almost
the proper name of modern information disseminators: newspapers, mags., radio, TV.
One radio station or one magazine is, today, "a media."

Ever wonder how language , er, "evolves"?


> a little more constructive debate please.
>
> Richard Kerr.
> The Murdoch Institute,
> R.C.H. Flemington Rd, Parkville, 3052,
> AUSTRALIA.
> kerrr at cryptic.rch.unimelb.edu.au
> Phone (61) 3 9345 5045.
> FAX   (61) 3 9348 1391.
> 'The most interesting things about vertebrates occur in the neural crest.'
>         Peter Thorogood.






More information about the Neur-sci mailing list