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OT: English and schizophrenia

From:Danny Wier <dawier@...>
Date:Saturday, August 4, 2001, 16:42
I posted this to a mental health discussion board.  I'll share this message with
y'all, and if you're on AUXLANG, pass it on because I'm not crossposting it
there, sorry.


"English: a schizophrenic language?"
Written 4 August 2001 by LudwigVan, a single plum floating in perfume served in
a man's hat.


The world wants to learn it. In most countries of the world it's a status
symbol. It's the unofficial official language of the Internet.

But it's also one of the world's most difficult languages to learn. And in my
opinion, its contradictory and arbitrary rules can cause mental confusion.
(Dyslexia is highest in English-speaking countries, I read.)

First, orthography (phonetic-spelling rules). The word "read" is actually two
words: one pronounced like "reed" and one like "red". Whereas the other
languages in the "Big Six" list have predictable rules concerning letters and
letter combinations and the sounds they represent (Spanish, Russian, Arabic,
Hindi -- Chinese has a different complexity in that is uses thousands of
ideograms instead of a couple dozen phonetic symbols), English can use many
letters and letter combinations to represent one sound, and one letter or
combination can be many. The most extreme example is "ough" (though, through,
rough, cough, ought, bough) which can have up to six consonant sounds, and even
plain "a" has five (cat, make, care, father, pizza). You have the non-rhyming
pairs: tomb/comb, dear/bear, fine/machine, meat/great, do/go, father/rather...
you get the idea.

In fact, the author George Bernard Shaw once spelled "fish" like this: GHOTI. GH
from "cough", O from "women", TI from "nation".

Now on to grammar. English has a very large number of irregularities in both
noun/adjective and verb grammar. Though it is simple in some ways (verb
conjugation: where English has "I say", "you say", "he/she/it says", Spanish has
"digo", "dices", "dice"), you have a lot of exceptions to the rules. Past tense
for example. While "talk" becomes "talked", "sing" becomes "sang" and not
"singed". And "bring" becomes neither "bringed" and "brang", but "brought".
There are dozens of verbs like that. Also, you got the weird plurals: "cat"
becomes "cats", but "mouse" becomes "mice", "goose" becomes "geese", while
"sheep" remains "sheep" and "fish" is still "fish". And "child" is not "childs",
but "children".

Finally, the vocabulary. English has a lot of synonyms, or words with the same
meaning (or almost the same meaning). This is because the language is always
eating up words from other languages. It all started when the Anglo-Saxons, two
Low German-speaking nations, were invaded by Vikings, thus all the Scandinavian
words. Then the Normans from France conquered England in 1066. The result: Old
English was a pure Germanic language, but Middle English was a hybrid of Romance
and Germanic. When Modern English emerged, Latin and Greek came in from
classical literature -- as Shakespeare and the King James Bible testify. When
British world trade and colonialism peaked, one could find Arabic, Afrikaans,
Hebrew, Russian, Indic languages, Chinese, Malay, Yiddish, Romany (aka Gypsy)...
in the language. As the American nation grew, American Indian words of all kinds
were inherited, not to mention the language of our main competitor for
territory, Spanish. What makes things worse is that the original spelling of the
word has often been preserved, thus adding to the complexity of English
phonetics and spelling.

And there you have the beast: a twisted, confused and identity-starved language
wants to take over the world and create the biblical Babel.

And maybe this does have something to do with mental illness. Language is one of
the most dear things to an individual and to a culture. To deprive one of the
right to communicate in their own language (which English-speaking peoples have
had no trouble doing to many) is to deny one's freedom and dignity. Most
countries have a national language, or maybe a few, just like they have a
national religion, or maybe a few. We not only communicate in language, we think
in it.

So what should we do? Create an artificial "Basic English", which someone has
actually proposed? Learn Esperanto? Return to Latin which Western Civilization
used without dispute until the Reformation? I don't know. Maybe this is another
paranoid ramble of mine. Or maybe I have a point here.

And I do believe one can be conditioned to be delusional with enough

The floor is now open. Please watch your step.

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John Cowan <cowan@...>
Adrian Morgan <morg0072@...>