French and English (was Re: Spelling WASRe: Optimum number of symbols)
|From:||Jan van Steenbergen <ijzeren_jan@...>|
|Date:||Tuesday, May 28, 2002, 6:58|
--- Christophe wrote:
> > Wouldn't it be easiest to conclude that both are hopeless? :))
<sorry for snipping the essence of what you wrote, but all I wanted to say was
When I say "hopeless", I don't mean wrong, or ugly, or anything else that could
be understood as critique. On the contrary, I like irregularities, because they
are the salt that make your egg tasty.
Take a random criterium: suppose that someone knows the orthographic rules of a
language and has a vague idea of grammar, but doesn't know the vocabulary. Then
make him write a dictée. What would his results look like?
I'm quite positive that in the case of both English and French our hypothetical
person's result would suck, to such a degree, that a native speaker would be
able to decypher it only with truly hard work.
If he were to write in Dutch, German, or Russian, the text would be full of
mistakes, but it would be understandable anyway, and the mistakes could easily
In the case of languages like Polish, Italian, Hungarian, the result could be
close to perfect if the person has been provided with a good set of ears.
It's just a matter in how far the spelling coincides with the actual
pronunciation. I don't say one option is better than the other, and I
definitely won't advocate any spelling reforms.
And I hereby withdraw my suggestion that English and French are equally
hopeless. For this reason:
If you ask the same person to read aloud a text in a language, the results will
be quite different.
For English, his score would be equally bad as in the case of the dictée.
But his French would probably be alright, even better than his Dutch, German or
In this example, I did not take into account a tendency I noticed in the past
among my French colleagues, that a word, only slightly mispronunciated, becomes
completely incomprehendable for them.
"You know, I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought,
wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that
happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great
comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe." --- J.
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