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Orthographic convention (was: Speedwords hare etc

From:Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Monday, May 28, 2001, 18:45
At 6:08 am -0400 27/5/01, Andreas Johansson wrote:
> >Hm, you capitalize Danish nouns? That's been obsolete since shortly after >WWII. At the time,
Is that so? I have no occasion to write Danish and the textbooks I have are decidedly out-of-date on this, e.g. my _1973_ edition of "Lyall's Guide to 25 Languages of Europe" still capitalizes Danish nouns - and that's 28 years after the end of WWII. Anyway, thanks - at least I can be up-to-date on this henceforth :)
>the reform was seen as having the dual benefits of making >written Danish more similar to the other Nordic langs and less similar to >German. I hope the later isn't seen as a benefit nowadays ...
Indeed, tho one can see why it might've been considered so in the late 1940s. -------------------------------------------------------- At 11:21 am +0000 27/5/01, Lars Henrik Mathiesen wrote:
>> Date: Sun, 27 May 2001 06:39:20 -0400 >> From: The Gray Wizard <dbell@...> >> >> > From: BP Jonsson >> > >> > Of course it would be a benefit if German abandoned capitalization of >> > nouns. It would make it more like other languages written in >> > Roman script! >> >> Benefit to whom? In what way would changing their language to "make it more >> like other languages" benefit Germans? What might motivate them to make >> such a change on this basis? > >I'm not sure B.Philip said it would or should. However, I think it >would in fact be a benefit to learners, both to children learning to >write in primary school, and to people learning German as a second >language. >
> >German, like English and the Scandinavian languages, can easily use >adjectives as nouns and bleach nouns of their full nouniness; the >rules for when something is 'really' a noun and should be capitalized >are an orthographical convention and sometimes does not agree with the >Sprachgef¸hl of speakers. So there's a fair amount of rote learning.
Of course - and IMHO rote learning just to conform with arbitrary orthographical conventions is not the most enlightened way to occupy young minds - even tho the anglophone world seems to think so. It reminds me of a similar rule in the 'traditional' (i.e. 1650) Breton orthography, where, as in, e.g. German & Russian, final obstruents are always voiceless: if a word were used adjectively one writes the voiceless form, i.e. _drouk_ = 'evil, bad' if the same word is used substantively one writes the voiced form, i.e. _droug_ [druk] = 'evil'. The modern 'Orthographie universitaire' adopted in June 1955, writes simply _droug_ in all environments since (a) the pural of the noun is _drougou_ and (b) when the adjective is followed by a word begining with a vowel it is pronounced [drug]. It means that one now writes _Brezoneg_ and doesn't have to check whether one is using 'Breton' as a noun or an adjective! ------------------------------------------------------------------- At 7:52 am -0400 27/5/01, The Gray Wizard wrote:
>> From: BP Jonsson >> >> At 06:39 2001-05-27 -0400, The Gray Wizard wrote: >> >> >Benefit to whom? In what way would changing their language to >> "make it more >> >like other languages" benefit Germans? What might motivate them to make >> >such a change on this basis? >> >> It is certainly not immediately clear to schoolchildren which words are >> nouns. I'm sure a lot of class time could be used for more >> valuable learning. > >I don't know. Given the other complexities of German nouns (gender, case, >number), I can't imagine that capitalization rules score very high in terms >of learning difficulties. I can't remember any significant class time being >spent on it when I studied German as an undergrad.
But learning a language as an undergrad is rather different, methinks, to learning to write one's native language as a kid! The gender, number & case difficulties will have been encountered a few years earlier through the spoken medium; the spelling (one hopes) will reflect the spoken language. I know that in the case of German this isn't so straightforward in that regional dialects often differ quite a bit from the standard language; but I suspect gender will not be significantly different and also, I suspect that mass-media, especially TV, will have ironed out quite a bit of these differences and that German schoolkids of 2001 are more familiar with the standard forms when they start school than their counterparts in 1901. What we're talking about with the capitalization rule is an artificial distinction in the written language which has no counterpart in the spoken. It is artificial conventions in orthography that can waste schoolkids' time. What an adult foreign learner finds difficult is a very different matter. For several years when we lived in south Wales, we had foreign language students stay with us. The thing that most of them said they found the hardest in English was not, surprisingly, its eccentric spelling but its bizarrely idiomatic phrasal verbs. This is not one of the problems encountered by five-year-olds in our schools - they and school kids many years older (and I speak with memories of my teenage years) find the spelling the biggest bugbear. Ray. ========================================= A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language. [J.G. Hamann 1760] =========================================