Why dialects in colonized places retain archaisms

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Beachxhair, Jul 9, 2013.

  1. Beachxhair

    Beachxhair Senior Member

    Manchester UK
    English-England
    ..Archaisms of the parent language, I mean. And archaisms in any sense - vocabulary, pronunciation...

    For instance, there are some expressions in Canadian French from the 17th Century that are now obsolete in "standard" French (as spoken in France). Unless I'm mistaken, Latin American Spanish also has some archaic elements to it, that no longer exist in Peninsular Spanish. And I once read that American West Country accents are closer to Shakespearean pronunciation than Received Pronunciation. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/9143302/How-should-Shakespeare-really-sound.html


    Any thoughts on why colonized places, places that people travel to and impose their language, (are said to) retain archaisms?

    Thank you :)
     
  2. nwon Senior Member

    Northwestern Ontario
    Inglés canadiense
    Because they are separated from the places where the norm is set. Due to this, there are as many innovations as examples of rentention of archaisms usually (on both ends).
     
  3. Beachxhair

    Beachxhair Senior Member

    Manchester UK
    English-England
    That would make sense....Thanks.
     
  4. Hulalessar Senior Member

    Andalucía
    English - England
    That is certainly the case with Indian English, though "archaism" is not perhaps the right word.
     
  5. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    They both continue to evolve, but they do so semi-independently. Some things will change in both, some will change in one and not the other. There are no doubt "archaisms" that are retained in the Old Country that are dropped in the newer one, but those in the Old Country won't realize that they are using "archaisms" - because if they are part of everybody's common speech, they are by definition not archaisms. Archaic is in the eye of the beholder! ;)
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2013
  6. nwon Senior Member

    Northwestern Ontario
    Inglés canadiense
    Very good point. It's interesting how these "archaisms" are seen by both sides. "Vos" is from Old Spanish, which changed to "vosotros" in Spain, while it was retained in some latin american dialects as a second person singular pronoun. On the flip side, vosotros is seen by some latinoamericanos as archaic.
     
  7. swintok Senior Member

    English - Canada
    I would argue that, in general, colonial languages tend to be more conservative in the way they evolve. They are slower to adopt new vocabulary (unless forced by circumstance to do so) and new structures, especially when they are in the position of being a linguistic minority in their new location. This has certainly been the case in the English, French, and Ukrainian spoken in Canada.
     
  8. nwon Senior Member

    Northwestern Ontario
    Inglés canadiense
    I have to disagree. Mexican spanish is very well-known for its wide variety of colloquialisms.
     
  9. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    I disagree as well. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that colonial languages are more conservative as to their structure, but vocabulary? I don't see how that can be. AmE has, for example, adopted an enormous number of words from New World sources, including Mexican Spanish, various American Indian dialects, and the French spoken by the "Voyageurs" (explorers and fur traders). Settlers lived in places that were very different from the old country, they lived lives that were very different from what they would have lived in the old country, and they had to have vocabulary to describe those things. I mean, a mesa isn't the same as a hill, is it? IN addition, AmE has adopted words from the languages of the many immigrant groups. One that comes to mind is Yiddish, which has had (or so I understand) a much greater impact on AmE than on BE.

    Surely this is the case with Canadian and Australian English, as well as the New World varieties of Spanish, Portuguese and French. I don't speak French, but my grandfather was Cajun, and so I know for a fact that Cajun French has a lot of words that the French spoken in France does not.

    AmE's structure might be more conservative than that of BE - I think I've read of some examples of that. But I would need to see some fairly compelling evidence before I could accept that the vocabulary is. I just don't see how that could possibly be true.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2013
  10. jmx

    jmx Senior Member

    Barcelona
    Spain / incorrect Spanish
    :thumbsup:
     
  11. Walshie79 Junior Member

    Shropshire, UK
    English (British)
    As a Brit, there are definitely some words used in AmE that are archaic in my "dialect", here's a few:

    "Fall" instead of "Autumn"
    "Gotten" as a past participle
    "Felon(y); very old-fashioned word word in BE, not been in common use for at least 100 years
    "Turnpike" for "toll road"; 19th century BE, a word that brings to mind horses and carts

    Any British words that sound archaic to Americans?
     
  12. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    "Toll road" is actually far more common in AmE these days (at least in the parts of the US that I've lived in) than is "turnpike." I think "turnpike" might still be used on the East Coast, though. And we do still have roads with "pike" as part of the name. New roads aren't called "pikes," but old roads that were originally called that sometimes retain the old name. And by the way, both "fall" and "autumn" are used here. "Fall" is more common, but "autumn" doesn't sound particularly BE to an American. It just sounds like a less common synonym of "fall."

    But as for your larger point, I think we are talking about different kinds of "archaic" words. I'm sure there are examples in AmE of words still used here that have gone out of fashion in BE, but for one thing they aren't necessarily used the same way here as they were once used in the UK - "sheriff" for example. I think this term is still used in the UK, but it's used in a very different way here.

    And anyway, no matter how many old words are still used in AmE, that doesn't change the fact that there are also a whole bunch of new ones - new to English, that is, even if they're not new to Spanish or Yiddish or Algonquin.

    As for BE terms that sound old-fashioned to AmE ears, the first one that comes to mind is "carriageway." "Handbag" sounds very quaint to me (that's a term I associate with my grandmothers) - oh, and also "trousers."
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2013
  13. Walshie79 Junior Member

    Shropshire, UK
    English (British)
    Interestingly I very nearly put "sheriff" as another example: in English English, although a ceremonial office of that name still exists, it is generally an archaism; most people probably associate the word with Robin Hood. In Scotland though it isn't, being used to mean a judge: they have "sheriff courts". So it's still in use in some varieties of BE.

    Clothes and food are a minefield; with clothes it seems to be a case that many BE words are used to mean different things in America (pants, vest), also goes for Australia/NZ (thongs). So not archaism, just semantic change (though in the case of "pants", it's AmE that preserves the original meaning). Food is the area that has the highest number of incomprehensible American words to me; while "eggplant" was once used here (my grandfather used to say it), other terms like "zucchini" (courgette) must be a result of things being introduced separately to Britain and America, borrowed from different languages. ("Lima beans" is an American term I keep encountering on the internet, having googled it for pictures I'm not even sure they exist in Britain, I don't immediately recognise them).
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2013
  14. swintok Senior Member

    English - Canada
    Sorry for not being clear. When I wrote "slower to adapt new vocabulary," I was being lazy. I really had a couple of things in mind. One is that I believe colonial languages are more likely to preserve older or original meanings of words whose meaning changed in the mother country or to preserve words that have disappeared in the language of the mother country. Secondly, colonial languages that find themselves in a minority language situation tend to resist foreign borrowings, preferring instead to adapt existing words or to create neologisms that sound more "authentic." This partly stems from the seige mentality that develops when trying to preserve a language and culture in a minority population. This is all my own observation, so I am open to being convinced otherwise.
     
  15. nwon Senior Member

    Northwestern Ontario
    Inglés canadiense
    The people who spoke European languages while conquering the new word would never have considered themselves the minority, since they assumed that they were better and more advanced than the native americans, who to the Europeans appeared to be from the stone age. In fact, Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese have taken tonnes of words from the native Aztec, Maya, Inca, etc. English has done this far less, however.
     
  16. DaveWen Junior Member

    Chinese(Mandarin)
    while early Modern English was rhotic and cat had rhymed with "bath", I doubt they pronounced "hot" as "haat" or "caught" and "cot" as "kaat". There are plenty of English dialects within Britain that conserve all the above features, plus a bit more, like the pronunciation of "o" in "love", for example. North American English may be closer to Early Modern English than BBC English is, but it can hardly be said about English dialects spoken in England as a whole.
     
  17. swintok Senior Member

    English - Canada
    Agreed, but there were minority European languages within populations of another European language. Québec (and Acadia) within British North America is the most obvious example, but there are others. With the beginning of mass migration of Europeans to North and South America in the early to mid-19th century, this phenomon increased. This is not only linked to the New World, however. The German, Bulgarian, Swedish, etc., spoken in areas of the former Soviet Union are of of great interest to linguists and ethnographers because of their "archaic" linguistic and cultural features, such as preservation of old orthographic, lexical, and syntactic forms and tendancy to create new vocabulary rather than adopt foreign words. Similarly, I've read that the various forms of Chinese scattered throughout South and South-East Asia and the Indian languages spoken in Africa exhibit similar tendencies (though I'm getting out of my depth here).
     
  18. nwon Senior Member

    Northwestern Ontario
    Inglés canadiense
    Very interesting. I haven't read enough about much other colonialzation other than that of the discovery of America, etc., so my mind usually stays within the realm of the English/Spanish. I would like to say, though, that the French covered more area than the English in the beginning before the Lousiana Purchase. I believe New France actually owned all of the land around New England. I may be mistaken, though.
     
  19. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    There is definitely a lot of French influence in the place names around the Great Lakes. This is because of the Voyageurs (explorers and fur traders). They're the reason for Des Moines, Racine, Detroit, Sault Ste. Marie, Isle Royale, St. Croix, Fond du Lac, etc., etc., etc.
     
  20. Kasrav Senior Member

    India
    India - English
    This is an interesting discussion. I am not an academic but perhaps this live example may help.

    I speak "Indian English". I am 40. I find some of the words my parents use quaint and "archaic". They were born in the 30s and went to schools run by missionaries in the 40s and 50s . Examples

    emoluments, slacks, till the cows come home, the whole hog, mischievous (in the sens of not naughty or playful but with the intent to cause harm), wishy-washy - they also use fewer Indian language words when speaking English than I do.

    My children are puzzled when they see words and expressions like "in some manner", "herewith", "aforesaid", "hereunder". I do use some Indian language words when speaking English but I am conscious of it and do it deliberately sometimes to appear less "stuffy", more friendly and cool too. Quite a few in my generation went to certain schools where there was a "fine" for using Indian language words when speaking English....:)

    I am puzzled when I hear them use certain set words for a variety of situations "weird", "whatever", "I don't care (in the AmE sense of it doesn't matter) "nice" and they use Indian language words when speaking English quite spontaneously.

    I think as time passes, as there is more exposure to other "standards",as the need to be accepted based on how we speak a language varies - "archaisms" disappear.
     
  21. Hulalessar Senior Member

    Andalucía
    English - England
    I am glad that someone from India has used the word "quaint"! That is exactly how some expressions strike many non-Indian native speakers. It is as if they learned their English by reading P.G. Wodehouse. It does not present any barrier to understanding as the words or phrases are all well-known, even if not exactly in current use. Of course the position of English in India is complex - for a start it is a big country - and there are wide regional as well as social variations with different indigenous languages playing their part in the variations.
     
  22. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Why would this be the case? The "siege mentality" could promote the preservation of archaisms, but you seemed to be treating siege mentality as a separate factor below.

    This does happen sometimes, but it's easy to find cases where it doesn't: e.g., the Spanish spoken by Latin American immigrants to the US is not especially conservative, and it often (depending on the speaker) shows more English influence than the Spanish spoken in these immigrants' countries of origin.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2013
  23. Kasrav Senior Member

    India
    India - English
    Hulalessar - I didnt even realise that quaint was "quaint" :) But you are absolutely right about PG Wodehouse (and of course Maugham, Waugh, Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie etc.) and that India has a complex linguistic landscape
     
  24. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Actually, some of these "quaint" expressions are still in widespread use in the U.S. Slacks isn't common (it sounds very old-fashioned to my ears), but it is nonetheless still used in AmE to differentiate dressier trousers from jeans. (Trousers, on the other hand, is not used very often at all in AmE, though I know it is very common in BE.) Wishy-washy is extremely common throughout the U.S. - I hadn't the faintest idea until reading these posts that anybody would find it archaic. Til the cows come home is also quite common, even among people who have never touched a cow, and while whole hog is less common, it too can be heard even among people whose closest connection to hogs is the bacon on their club sandwich.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2013
  25. Kasrav Senior Member

    India
    India - English
    just kate - thanks for the post !you are right - I was once facilitating in the US (Midwest) where there were many participants who were in violent disagreement about the approach to be taken. When I said "we either go the whole hog or...." there was silence for a moment - and everyone broke into laughter and someone said they had not heard that expression since ages...:) and the meeting concluded well - with a consensus on "going the whole hog !" and for a long time that approach was referred to as the Whole Hog Option !
     
  26. Kevin Beach

    Kevin Beach Senior Member

    A slight correction, Walshie: "Felonies" were in standard use in that part of BrE that related to the criminal law in England until they were abolished and effectively replaced by "Arrestable offences" in the Criminal Law Act 1967.
     

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