Re: evolving languages
|Date:||Wednesday, January 15, 2003, 16:08|
Christophe Grandsire wrote:
>En réponse à Florian Rivoal <florian@...>:
>>i have a vague idea of how sound change can occur, and borrowings is not
>>so difficult for me to comprehend. but appart from that, i hardly know
>>how grammar and sintax is likely to change.
>The trick is: we don't know :(( . But there seem to be tendencies: from
>concrete to abstract (e.g. Latin "de": out of became French "de": of), from
>aspect to tense (the Latin perfect became the French simple past, and in French
>this evolution happened even a second time, with the compound past, originally
>indicating perfect, came to be used to mark punctual past), from mood to tense
>(see English "will", which originally meant "want" and still has remnants of
>that meaning, but most often simply marks plural).
>You mean 'future'. I know you know that, I'm just going to be the first
>But very often, rather than
>an evolution of features, we see a renewal of features (for instance, in Latin
>the future of "amare" was "amabo". In Vulgar Latin the synthetic future was
>dropped in favour of an periphrastic construction "amare habeo". In Modern
>French the periphrastic construction merged into a new synthetic
>form "j'aimerai". From Latin to Modern French, the future tense was never
>abandoned and kept more or less the same meaning, but its form changed
>How can you tell the difference between an unstressed word, a clitic,
and an inflexion? What's to stop _j'aimerai_ from being _j'aim erai_
(that's an arbitrary split. I don't know French, spoken or written)? or
'would probably' from being 'wubprobably'?
One thing that could influence syntax and word change is two words
coming to be pronounced the same: 'father' and 'farther' are pronounced
the same in my dialect (/fa:D@/), and so 'farther' is simply not used
('further' is instead), ditto 'formally' and 'formerly' (/fo:m@li/)
('previously' replaces 'formerly'). Not grammar, but words are sometihng
>I think it was John Cowan who gave already good tendencies. A point to remember
>is that sound changes often works like erosion: clusters simplify, intervocalic
>consonants weaken, vowel hiatus are resolved into diphtongues, finally full
>words lose a word boundary, often recreating clusters and the like (the
>evolution of French is one of the best example of those phenomena) while
>through borrowings the language reintroduces intervocalic stops and otherwise
>weakened sounds which don't weaken anymore because the sound changes that
>provoked that are no longer active.
>And, just as irregularities in grammar will simplify (such as 'holp'
becoming 'helped'), irregularities in the phonology can sometimes
simplify in the same way. A relatively rare combination that is liable
to be killed (for example, hiatus) may be generalised away; in my
dialect of English (being non-rhotic) has [r]s the pop up after vowels
and diphthongs ending on non-close vowels and [I:] (as it derives from
and was till recently in complimentary distribution with [I@]) and
before vowels, so the word 'withdrawal' is pronounced [wITdZro:r@l],
where the second [r] is non-phonemic, though it would probably find
itself into phonemic notations (as it would in [o:r@l], 'aural').
Apparently, Basque uses [s] to solve hiatus. Yet I've seen it written
that Something can go to Nothing, but Nothing can't go to Something.
(French did a Nothing to Something change too: Latin st- > est- > et-
(status > > etat).) In French, it was done to solve a restriction about
consonant clusters that can be found in many languages about the
'energy' of it. Apparently English is evil with that: st- 'should' be
illegal and ts- legal, but it's vice versa. There was a discussion about
>Then again, remember that a tendency may
>actually be absent for millenia. French has weakened intervocalic [p] down to
>[v]. Spanish stopped at [b]. But in Italian intervocalic [p] just carried on
>I thought the Spanish sound was [B]? Am I confused? I don't know Spanish.
>In short, there are plenty of tendencies. But languages tend to be more or less
>willing to follow them, and the less willing ones seem to resist quite
>well ;)))) .
>I'm just wondering Christophe: were you trying to pun there, or have you
misunderstood the expression 'more-or-less'? It essentially means that
they'll follow them. For example, 'students who perform well in the VCE
more-or-less always go on to tertiary studies' means that nearly all of
them do, and the ones that don't probably have good reasons to not, like
they over-estimated their ability and applied for courses that wouldn't
accept them or they got pregnant or something (neither of which have
happened to me---I hope. Well, the second is just about impossible on
the former I'll find out on Sunday, but I should be right. God I hate
this. Why can't they just tell me already?).
I bring it up only because I think I've seen you use it before in the
same way and never the right one. Or maybe I just ignored the correct
cases :) I don't know.
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