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Thread: Decline of English Grammar

  1. #41
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by cuchuflete
    Try translating saudade from Português to English in less than a paragraph.
    This would tell us that there is no need for languages to borrow from one another
    Hi
    According to the WR dictionary saudade = nostalgia. If due to its usage there is a necessity to borrow saudade into English, then it will be incorporated in the next issue of the Oxford Dictionary

    There is no human idea that can’t be incorporated exactly, one way or another into English. This includes saudade. This is because English is the newest of the European languages and most advanced in its grammar and form.

    How long will it take for the German, French, and Spanish etc. to get rid officially of their illogical grammar and complicated structures? This defines the period of how far these languages are behind English. People’s resistance to change is unimaginable

    Complexity in grammar is like foam in a river. It is produced by obstacles, which break the smoothly flowing current

    Regards

  2. #42
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    Hi Magmod,
    There is a borrowing from French that fits your point labelled with the green arrow. Naïveté

    Many dictionaries give short and direct translations. And, they are wrong. The word in question means something rather different. The brief EN translations miss most of the nuance. The translations are not exact.

    Your optimism that EN can express any and all ideas, from whaterver language, may, in fact, be correct. Maybe not.
    I can only go by the languages I know. In any event, the relative newness of EN is an illogical explanation for the claim you make. Spanglish is newer, as is Portuñol. Thus, by your reasoning, they are more apt to accommodate any and all ideas, regardless of source language.

    What yardstick did you apply before coming up with this bit of arrogance? " how far these languages are behind English
    "
    Quote Originally Posted by Magmod
    Hi
    According to the WR dictionary saudade = nostalgia. If due to its usage there is a necessity to borrow saudade into English, then it will be incorporated in the next issue of the Oxford Dictionary

    There is no human idea that can’t be incorporated exactly, one way or another into English. This includes saudade. This is because English is the newest of the European languages and most advanced in its grammar and form.
    Last edited by cuchuflete; 10th April 2006 at 6:12 PM. Reason: fix spelling
    That mod mods best that mods least...with apologies to Th. Jefferson.

  3. #43
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by the wickerman
    When I read French written at the time of Shakespeare it is in some cases only slightly more difficult to understand than English written at this time, such is the extent to which English has changed over the years.
    At the time when it was written, wasn't Shakespeare considered rather racy, somewhat slangy, and not all that proper?

    One thing I have determined from seeing the questions asked in the English Only forum is that, while English has been streadily simplifying over time grammatically, it has also been building layer on layer of subtle nuance of meaning depending on the tone, the word sequences, and the subtle meanings of words in combination and in context.

    Maybe Humpty Dumpty should be the poster child for the new English language??

  4. #44
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    There is nothing that is said in any language on this earth that cannot be expressed exactly in English. This shows the strength of English and its grammar



    What you say it's true for all the languages I know and it shows nothing.
    If I'm not wrong in English doesn't exist a real future tense, does it? You had to create it by adding a modal verb...

    How long will it take for the German, French, and Spanish etc. to get rid officially of their illogical grammar and complicated structures?
    Well, never, I hope.
    English grammar is complicated as well. (Don't forget you have sentences like this:
    John's wife had been taught to behave in such a way that her parents would have as quiet a life as possible...)
    And sometimes rules of English grammar are more strict than those of other languages. In Italian we can omit the subject of the sentence, we can change the structure of the clause, we don't need to change the structure of the sentence if we ask a question...

    Grammar rules help us to be more accurate and clear and to develop the ability to reason in an abstract way.

    Ciao
    Last edited by TimeHP; 11th April 2006 at 11:14 AM.
    T

  5. #45
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    I agree with TimeHP. No "Western" language is more difficult than English. For students from abroad, there are so many rules that our impression is that there are no rules at all. We have to learn all in a one-by-one basis.

    Meanwhile, English have two or three inflexible, dictatorial laws that seems like a corset for Romanic language speakers: the adjective always goes before the name and the subject with the verb. Anyway we would like a few more rules. Learning English is a pain in the ****.

    Said this, if it fits so many people I assume it has some advantages. Certainly it is true that you can express almost all in English ,which is very confortable to us and its word economy is fantastic (except when achieved by phrasal verbs).
    Last edited by Fernando; 11th April 2006 at 10:56 AM.
    Only a Spanish speaker. If you need an exact translation, wait for better opinions.

  6. #46
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    Hi
    English developed from Latin, Greek, French, German etc and got rid of 500 pages of illogical verb conjugations, 5,000 pages of stupid noun genders and probably 50,000 pages of grammar rules, if you were to consider every grammar case. Will that not make it superior to lesser developed languages? Eventhough English is new and made all these basic simplifications, there is no human thought that can’t be expressed precisely in English. It is not a case of being naïve as cuchuflete said

    If a grammarian were to try to explain every case of the use of say "se" in Spanish and to avoid all its ambiguities, he will need at least 10 chapters. He will also need a chapter to explain the difference in meaning of putting an adjective before or after a noun plus learning all their “****” illogical conjugations

    For the world domination of English one has to especially thank the Americans who again came to the rescue of English and made further simplifications.

    Regards


    Complexity in grammar is like foam in a river. It is produced by obstacles, which break the smoothly flowing current

  7. #47
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    Magmod, since I assume you are an English speaker I understand how you can think English is a "logical" (!!!!!!!!) language. Believe me if I say that no language is further from logic than English.

    There is one motivation for English to be the present dominant language: the hegemony of UK in, say, 1850-1950 and US in 1950 to the present. It is OK to me, English is fair enough to me to communicate, but please, do not dare to say that English is "logic" or "more developed".
    Only a Spanish speaker. If you need an exact translation, wait for better opinions.

  8. #48
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    English developed from Latin, Greek, French, German etc and got rid of 500 pages of illogical verb conjugations, 5,000 pages of stupid noun genders and probably 50,000 pages of grammar rules, if you were to consider every grammar case. Will that not make it superior to lesser developed languages?
    I admit you're good at telling jokes.
    I didn't know we were talking nonsense.
    If so you could like this link: http://www.egreeley.com/messages/335.html
    Ciao
    Last edited by TimeHP; 11th April 2006 at 2:49 PM.
    T

  9. #49
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    People are confusing a lot of things in this thread, Magmod most of all, and it's really quite frustrating.

    Grammar consists of a lot more than just morphology. Just because English has no genders, no adjectival agreements, and very few conjugations does not mean it doesn't have much grammar, or has simple grammar. When English ceased making the distinction between subject and object case, for example, it acquired a whole set of rules about word order. Other languages can put the object before the verb and the subject after if they want. English can't. (Except after 'hardly', 'rarely', 'seldom', etc., where inversion is required.) Where's the simplicity in that?

    Languages are a bit like balloons: you squeeze in one place and they bulge elsewhere. English expresses through syntax and word order what lots of languages express through word endings, just as it expresses tenses through modals instead of through conjugations. Magmod might claim that modals are simpler than verb conjugations, but that's because he's English and the linguistic patterns that his brain learnt as a child have an easy time with modals and a hard time with conjugations. Our native language defines how we understand all languages. Speakers of other languages have a hard time with modals, and rightly so: they're a mess! If 'will' is supposed to be a marker of the future, why do we say things like 'Boys will be boys', which is a comment on the eternal nature of masculinity? If the future is supposed to be formed using 'will', how come 'I'm going to see a film tonight', 'I'm seeing a film tonight', 'tonight's film starts at 8 o'clock' and 'Eastwood is to make another film about boxing' are all forms of the future?! That's five ways to form the future. Where's the simplicity in that?

    And to claim that English can express any idea in perfect clarity (with the implication that other languages can't) is pitifully naive and horrendously arrogant. Every now and then someone asks in the French forum how to translate 'fuite en avant'. The thread usually spawns a few dozen posts with great suggestions that are mostly inadequate. Yes, it's possible to work around these problems and eventually get one's point across, but what makes you think that's not true of other languages?

    And, since you address English as a whole, why do you fail to recognise that English has one of the most challenging (ie irregular) systems of pronunciation? You seem not to have counted the thousands of 'stupid pages' of phonetic rules that exist for English where other languages can be summarised in a dozen.

    Rant about Magmod aside, I still take issue with the notion of 'decline' in English grammar, which is such a loaded word. The language has changed because it's alive, as much for the good as for the bad, but it's harder to be aware of what's new that of what's disappeared. Did you know, for example, that passive forms of continuous tenses (eg 'a meeting is being held tonight...') are a nineteenth-century invention? So the number of tenses has actually increased over the years.

    Another criticism I have is that 'decline' suggests there was a golden age of English grammar which has been lost, but such an age simply didn't exist. Some might say Shakespeare's English is a golden age, but people didn't speak like Shakespeare, even in the sixteenth century. At that time spelling was random (and therefore confusing), and grammatical rules such as forbidding double negatives had not yet been established, and all that led to a lot of confusion. That is after all why characters such as Lowth and Murray decided to 'clean up' the language with all their pedantic rules. But even in the nineteenth century, when these rules were taught, people didn't follow them. Certainly those who went to grammar schools did, but that was only a small minority. The language surviving from that period is overwhelmingly 'standard' because the published word was dominated by a small minority, while the vast majority of English speakers had no outlet for their language, many not being able to write and most not being publishable. These days anyone can write and be published, as this forum proves. Speakers of non-standard English have a voice that they never had in the past, and we're finding that we make mistakes and follow deviant, non-standard patterns of grammar.

    In the end, though, can't we just be happy that we have so many choices at our disposal. 'Whom' hasn't really been replaced by 'who'. It still exists in the language. But if in the past it had a grammatical role (marking the object case) these days it has a stylistic role. We can choose whether to say 'Who did you buy that book for?' or 'For whom the bell tolls' depending on what we want to express. Aren't such possibilities a bonus? If 'whom' was obligatory in all object cases, 'For whom the bell tolls' wouldn't sound nearly as awe-inspiring.

  10. #50
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    Well said, Aupick, and the variety available to us is a great treasure, altough sometimes as confusing as one of those giant supermarkets with too many choices! And it is a struggle for my friends who are learning English to deal with pronunciation, modals, and quite a few other things....

  11. #51
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    Bravo Aupick! You have debunked more than a few false premises and conclusions free of logic.

    I just enjoyed a short tract by Henry Fowler, in which he adeptly skewered the enemies of the split infinitive. He praised--or was he condemning?--American preservation of grammatical forms which had, in the early twentieth century, become obsolete in BE. Was this saudade? I doubt it.
    Nor was it nostalgia, which is a rather different matter.
    That mod mods best that mods least...with apologies to Th. Jefferson.

  12. #52
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by jimreilly
    I'm not sure anyone having to learn English (such as a West African friend of mine) would think English simple compared to other languages, including French.

    I think the best way to describe at least some of what has happened is just to say the language has changed, not that it has deteriorated or gotten more simple. Languages change for many reasons, and English is not the only language to have experience rapid change in the last 100 years (take a look at Norwegian, for example).

    I, like many people, find some of the changes disconcerting, but I can bring myself down to earth a bit by asking some questions. Would I really miss "whom" if it had never existed? No. Would I really miss the subjunctive? No. I wouldn't miss it if it were to cease to exist in French, either, and speakers of French sometimes neglect to use it when they "should". Yes, even native French speakers make mistakes when they use or do not use the subjunctive!

    For that matter, if English verbs didn't even change endings depending on the person of the subject (e.g. I am, you are, he is, etc.) and were like Norwegian (jeg er, du er, han er, etc.) or some other languages, would I mind? Of course I would, but only because I'm used to English as it is. Norwegians don't seem to mind at all.

    It's a mistake to think of a language at a certain point in history as a logical, good system, one that would be ruined if it were to "deteriorate".

    Change is one sign of vitality and creativity, too. Or, at least, sometimes it is. Some of my friends who speak with far from standard grammar nevertheless have and use a language filled with vitality and creativity. They rarely fail to communicate what they mean to say, and they sometimes do it far more vividly than I do.

    Change is also hard to accept. Or, at least, sometimes it is.
    We Norwegians get something of a shock when we discover that verbs which are simply conjugated in Norsk like jeg er, du er, han er, etc. (I am, you are, etc) have to be conjugated in first, second and third persons, both singular and plural, in most of the European languages. But we learn...!

  13. #53
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    OMG! It's happening in France too! Pretty soon, we will reduced to moans and grunts! The End is near!

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1235401.stm
    The well-bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves. -Oscar Wilde

  14. #54
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by Magmod
    Hi
    English developed from Latin, Greek, French, German etc and got rid of 500 pages of illogical verb conjugations, 5,000 pages of stupid noun genders and probably 50,000 pages of grammar rules, if you were to consider every grammar case. Will that not make it superior to lesser developed languages? Eventhough English is new and made all these basic simplifications, there is no human thought that can’t be expressed precisely in English. It is not a case of being naïve as cuchuflete said

    If a grammarian were to try to explain every case of the use of say "se" in Spanish and to avoid all its ambiguities, he will need at least 10 chapters. He will also need a chapter to explain the difference in meaning of putting an adjective before or after a noun plus learning all their “****” illogical conjugations

    For the world domination of English one has to especially thank the Americans who again came to the rescue of English and made further simplifications.

    Regards


    Complexity in grammar is like foam in a river. It is produced by obstacles, which break the smoothly flowing current
    Oh dear, oh DEAR!!! "To the rescue...!!!? And (some of) the English deplore the use of Americanisms in British English that seem (according to them) to foul up the language! Aand here we are not talking of grammar.The infiltration of American English into British English started with the onset of US films, and some of todays underthirty British don't even know what is British-or American English!. Brits write "honour, colour, night" but I have seen Britishers write "honor, color, nite"...in the belief that this is British English. But regarding the history of the American English it's a wonder that the English language survived at all. I'm thinking of all the foreign tongues that immigrants from all over the world brought with them,including my countrymen, and made the American language what it is today. In Norway we are taught both British and American English, and both languages are regarded as equal.

  15. #55
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    Here's in interesting article which (or that?) addresses the issue of American English fouling up the English language:

    http://www.pbs.org/speak/ahead/change/ruining/
    The well-bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves. -Oscar Wilde

  16. #56
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by Residente Calle 13
    OMG! It's happening in France too! Pretty soon, we will reduced to moans and grunts! The End is near!

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1235401.stm


    Isn't it shocking, Residente? It's up to us to see that high standards are maintained, otherwise the whole world is doomed.

    LET OUR GRAMMAR NOT DECLINE!


    LRV

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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by Magmod
    There is nothing that is said in any language on this earth that cannot be expressed exactly in English
    Oh come on!
    Isn't that a rather arrogant statement for an English-speaker to make?

    Can the nuances of double-meanings in other languages be expressed in English? Can a German pun be translated… or a French crossword clue… or an Irish allegorical poem?

  18. #58
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    I second Maxi and those who hold the same idea. If you happen to know any other languages(put aside Western ones for a moment), and I DO wish, you would know that it's nearly impossible(if ever) to translate(maybe to transliterate) or express EXACTLY the words of say Confucius or any other figures that you guys are not that accustomed to. So please or at least try not to be SO arrogant or cocky or should I say competent in your speech when you're diving for the extreme or the impeccable absolute, which I doubt if any. By doing this, you're also paying tribute and respect for other cultures that may have survived much longer than the existence of the English language itself.

  19. #59
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by la reine victoria
    Isn't it shocking, Residente? It's up to us to see that high standards are maintained, otherwise the whole world is doomed.

    LET OUR GRAMMAR NOT DECLINE!


    LRV
    Yes! It's quite shocking! The sky is most definitely falling! In a few years, we shall all become deaf and mute! The end of all language on Earth! Oh my!
    The well-bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves. -Oscar Wilde

  20. #60
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    Re: Decline of English Grammar

    Sorry to interrupt, but working from the original (ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee),
    ... the alternative to:
    For whom the bell tolls,
    ... wouldn't be:
    For who the bell tolls,
    ... but:
    Who's that bell ringing for.

    Here is the complete version.
    Who's that bell ringing for?
    Don't ask.
    It's you!!

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