Language and English

From: Cameron Kaiser <>
Date: Fri Jan 4 19:54:12 2002

> > > English is a Germanic language,
> >
> > Now I will have to ponder why there are so many similarities
> > between French and Italian words and their English counterparts,
> > while to me the German language seems so much different.

> It is a Germanic language in origin and syntax (through the Saxon,
> etc.), but the vocabulary has been heavily influenced by the Norman
> French. Look at how many English cognates are now present in Japanese
> and Russian.

Which was caused by, ta-daa, the Norman invasion of 1066.

Nevertheless, the influence was largely limited to polysyllabic words, and
had just about no influence on grammar.

What *is* interesting about English from a diachronic linguistics standpoint
is how unadorned English is. Most of our grammatical markers are just about
gone except for vestigial constructions and the occasional irregular verb,
and case markers are pretty much restricted to pronomial constructions.
In morphology, we look at how words are built and assign the language a
particular classification; English is rapidly becoming more and more an
'isolating' type language where some words may not be analysable at all.
(Words like, "where some may not be at all" :-)

English as the 400-pound gorilla lingua franca is also a bit distressing
w.r.t how it strongly influences other languages. Kobardian is an OSV
language, as I recall, where object typically precedes subject (this is a
very strained word order, and very few languages are OSV or even more
weirdly, OVS or VOS). One of the largest ghettos of Kobardian speakers is,
of all places, Anaheim, Calif. (which also seems to have a large number
per capita of underpaid linguists) who have noted with some regret that
the Kobardian spoken by bilinguals is now often subject-object instead of
object-subject, more in line with English. While absorbing vocabulary is
sometimes necessary in a language's evolution to expand its expressiveness,
from a typology perspective it's kind of unfortunate to see it lose its
grammatical distinctiveness in the process. This *didn't* happen with
English and the Norman invasion, but it is happening with other languages
and English today (look at things like pidgins and creole languages).

Maybe I'll go to grad school and get my master's after I get my MD ...

----------------------------- personal page: --
 Cameron Kaiser, Point Loma Nazarene University *
-- FORTUNE: You can overcome any obstacle. Try a steeplechase. ----------------
Received on Fri Jan 04 2002 - 19:54:12 GMT

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