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Re: evolving languages

From:Tristan <kesuari@...>
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 of hundreds.
>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 >completely. >
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 to consider.
>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 that here.
>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 >unharmed! >
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. Tristan.
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Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Arthaey Angosii <arthaey@...>
Jake X <starvingpoet@...>
Nik Taylor <yonjuuni@...>