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Language change (was: -es vs -en in English)

From:Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Monday, December 6, 1999, 19:20
At 2:33 pm -0500 5/12/99, Nik Taylor wrote:
>Raymond Brown wrote:
>Indeed, I've read that the difference between Classical Greek and Modern >Greek is greater than that between, say, Classical Latin and Modern >Spanish.
Difficult to quantify without going into a lot of research but FWIW I doubt that it's true. I have alsoseen it argued that the difference between Latin & Italian is greater than that between Ancient Greek and modern Greek. Modern Greek still retains the three genders of the ancient language and still retains three of the four case (not counting the vocative), so in these respects it remains much closer to its ancient parent than any of the modern Romance language to Latin. On the other hand, the Greek verbal system has been greatly simplified, more so than those of the Romance languages, I think. And the influence of a century of Katharevousa meant the reintroduction of much ancient vocabulary. I think on balance it's probably closer to the ancient language than Italian is to Latin/
>The distinction between when you have different forms of one >language, and another language evolving out of another is quite >arbitrary, I suppose, as in the Old English/Anglo-Saxon dispute.
The boundaries can be fuzzy. But there is, e.g. no dount that the language found in the Mycenaean inscriptions is Greek and not another IE language. When the language has acquired common nonIE vocabulary and is exhibiting different phonotactics than what we understand for PIE then we have IMHO a different language, in this case Greek. Had the argument been about whether Anglo-Saxon should really be termed Old English, then I could've gone along with it. Had the criterion been a little more erudite than: "If I can't read it, it's not English to me", I could've gone along with it. But it appears that there was no serious argument - I merely misunderstood a variety of humor <sigh> But to return to Anglo-Saxon, the language is in several respects different from the modern one and there has been a distinct break between the esssentially Germanic lang (with a few borrowings from Latin) and what emerged later. But middle English is a rather different beast. To me Chaucer is recognizable as a variety of English, I would not assume it was anything else. As one reaches further back, texts become more difficult. But I see no hard & fast break; the language seems to me to evolve gradually from middle English to the modern idiom. The blend of Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norse and Anglo-Norman is surely the mix out of which our own present day language evolved? The main additions have been learned borrowings from Latin & Greek and from the natlangs of various countries to English has been taken. But there were, in fact, some of these in the original mix - it's merely that more have been added to spice up the total mixture.
>> The comparison is silly. One should consider that every single cell in >> one's body has changed (quite often, I believe, tho I'm no biologist) > >With the exception of the brain cells. But even those brain cells are >made up of different molecules than they were when you were born.
Yep - said I wasn't a biologist :) OK - guess I should've said every molecule. Ray. ========================================= A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language. [J.G. Hamann 1760] =========================================