Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Re: English plural -(e)s

From:John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Date:Saturday, November 27, 2004, 19:50
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


Sally Caves <scaves@...>
Rene Uittenbogaard <ruittenb@...>