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Re: English plural -(e)s

From:Sally Caves <scaves@...>
Date:Sunday, November 28, 2004, 4:03
:)  Good show, John!  How things come 'round, again.  I gave the much
truncated and recollected version of that days ago.

If I recall, Shippey then went on to say as he sat on the hillside in
Yorkshire, "So instead of stan stanas, hors hors, scip scipu and boc bec,
you have stone stones, horse horses, ship ships, and book books."

(_A Story of English_ fanatic, here)


----- Original Message -----
From: "John Cowan" <jcowan@...>
To: <CONLANG@...>
Sent: Saturday, November 27, 2004 2:50 PM
Subject: Re: English plural -(e)s

> Benct Philip Jonsson scripsit: > >> Possibly. Certainly they were smart enough to figure >> out that [stA:nas] and [stainaz`] were the same things, >> especially in context ("Come on over here and help me >> remove those stones, will you?") > > Here's where Tom Shippey's (concocted) examples come in: > > # After Alfred, the Danes and the Saxons lived alongside each other > # for generations, more or less at peace. Because both their languages > # had the same Germanic roots, the language frontier broke down and a > # kind of natural pidgnisation took place that gradually simplified the > # structure of Old English.... > # > # Consider what happens when somebody who speaks, shall we say, good > # Old English from the south of the country runs into somebody from the > # northeast from speaks good Old Norse. They can no doubt communicate > # with each other, but complications in both languages are going to > # get lost. So if the Anglo-Saxon from the South wants to say (in good > # Old English) "I'll sell you the horse that pulls my cart," he says: > # "Ic selle the that hors the drageth minne waegn." Now the old Norseman > # -- if he had to say this -- would say: "Ek mun selja ther hrossit er > # dregr vagn mine." > # > # So, roughly speaking, they understand each other. One says "waegn" and > # the other says "vagn". One says "hors" and "draegeth"; the other says > # "hros" and "dregr", but broadly they are communicating. They understand > # the main words. What they don't understand are the grammatical parts of > # the sentence. For instance, the man speaking good Old English says for > # one horse "that hors" but for two horses he says "tha hors". Now the > # Old Norse speaker understands the word horse all right, but he's not > # sure if it means one or two because in Old English you say "one horse", > # "two horse". There is no difference between the two words for horse. The > # difference is conveyed in the word "the" and the old Norseman might not > # understand this because his word for "the" doesn't behave like that. So: > # are you trying to sell me one horse or are you trying to sell me two > # horses? If you get enough situations like that there is a strong drive > # towards simplifying the language. > > -- > If you have ever wondered if you are in hell, John Cowan > it has been said, then you are on a well-traveled > > road of spiritual inquiry. If you are absolutely > > sure you are in hell, however, then you must be > > on the Cross Bronx Expressway. --Alan Feuer, NYTimes, 2002-09-20 >