Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Re: Degrees of volition in active languages (was Re:Chevraqis: a sketch)

From:H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
Date:Sunday, August 13, 2000, 21:27
On Sun, Aug 13, 2000 at 02:41:42PM -0500, Thomas R. Wier wrote:
> "H. S. Teoh" wrote:
> > Yeah, actually, now I recall my Greek professor emphatically saying in > > class, "Use the article with proper names!". Some manuscripts, he said, > > may omit the article, but as a rule, *we* were never supposed to omit the > > article. > > No, it really isn't. Here're a couple examples from different authors of > Attic Greek in different works:
[snip] Yes, what I meant was that the prof didn't want us (his students) to omit the article. We did note that many passages omit the article for proper names; but I suppose he wanted us to get into the habit of using the article for names (since it's quite a foreign idea to English-speakers). [snip]
> > As for the Greek article... it's actually quite an awesome thing. It's > > much more flexible than, for example, the English article, especially when > > used as a pseudo-pronoun (which, IIRC, is where it developed from). > > No, it had been fully a demonstrative pronoun. Nothing pseudo- about it.
Well, by the time it got to Attic Greek, its use as a pronoun has been mostly replaced by egw, su, he:meis, humeis, and autos. (Perhaps this only applies to Attic Greek poetry -- I don't know enough about it to say for sure.) [snip]
> > My theory is that widespread acceptance of a language usually causes it to > > "degrade" or "simplify", losing a lot of old constructs in the process. > > But I've yet to come up with a plausible explanation for languages > > becoming *more* complex as they evolve. > > Not really. If all languages simplified, that would beg the question: "How > complicated would the original ancestor language have to be?" After at > least 100k years of language, the ancestor would have to be virtually > infinitely complex to allow the kinds of complexity that we see in today's > languages.
No, I didn't say that all languages simplified! :-) As you said, that wouldn't make any sense at all, since ancestor languages would have to be unimaginably complex. However, from my limited observations, simplification often happens during the period where the language gains widespread acceptance. And I mean, *widespread*... as in koine Greek, English, etc.. I can see why this happens -- when a language becomes somewhat a lingua franca, people learning the language may not necessarily be interested in its intricate details -- they just want to know enough to communicate. Hence, there's a tendency to simplify. What I meant to say was, I know that sometimes languages do gain complexity, but I haven't quite figured out why it would.
> Moreover, in languages with extremely long written records, like Egyptian, > you can actually *see* the language cycling through predominantly fusional, > then isolating and then agglutinating, where the complexity of the language > shifts from syntax to morphology and back again.
Any interesting theories on why this happens? Perhaps ppl might find that useful in developing descendant conlangs... T