historic / historical development of language

edward_mao

Member
China-Chinese
Hi, everybody, and here is my question:
It is necessary for us to have some background knowledge of the ___ development of the English language.
Should I fill the blank with "historic" or "historical"? What's the difference?
 
  • Artrella

    Banned
    BA
    Spanish-Argentina
    edward_mao said:
    Hi, everybody, and here is my question:
    It is necessary for us to have some background knowledge of the ___ development of the English language.
    Should I fill the blank with "historic" or "historical"? What's the difference?


    Hi Edward!!

    You need "historical" there because it is related to history.

    "Historic"refers to something that has been important or it is likely to be important in history.

    Something historic for example could be "the fall of Berlin Wall"


    Cheers!
     

    jacinta

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi edward,

    Even though the two words have a different usage, they are many times used interchangeably. A common usage is:

    The legalization of the women's vote is an historic/historical event. I would say it either way.

    But Art's explanaion is correct.

    Historic here would mean that it was a very important event.
    Historical means that it is an event in history.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    jacinta said:
    Hi edward,

    Even though the two words have a different usage, they are many times used interchangeably. A common usage is:

    The legalization of the women's vote is an historic/historical event. I would say it either way.

    But Art's explanaion is correct.

    Historic here would mean that it was a very important event.
    Historical means that it is an event in history.

    Hmm I say that both are correct, but they mean completely different things. In the UK women got the vote after the second world war, which was historic because it was so important and historical because it happened in the past.
     

    jacinta

    Senior Member
    USA English
    timpeac said:
    Hmm I say that both are correct, but they mean completely different things. In the UK women got the vote after the second world war, which was historic because it was so important and historical because it happened in the past.

    Yes, I completely agree with you, timpeac. I guess to be completely accurate, the two ideas of that post should be separated.

    What I meant to say is that historic is sometimes used for historical. It is not completely wrong to use historic when it is something that happened in the past. Historic does mean "of great importance" but it is also historical. Confusing? In other words, their meanings overlap.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    With adjectives like "semantic" and "semantical", "geographic" and "geographical", etc., I never know which form I should use. Is there a simple rule that can help me, or must I simply memorize each word one by one?
     

    Fishwife

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    Wherever possible I use the shorter. I also prefer "use" to "usage."

    Is there a place where "semantical" or "geographical" must be used?
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Well, I remember reading that "historic" and "historical" had different meanings. Is it an exceptional case?
     

    Aupick

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    Other pairs that have a different meaning, as well as historic vs historical, are economic vs economical and classic vs classical. I imagine there are more, but can't think of any at the moment.

    Among those which don't have a different meaning, I can quickly think of ironic and ironical. I prefer ironic and semantic (I've never heard semantical), but geographical. I've no idea why. Sorry!
     

    DaleC

    Senior Member
    Outsider said:
    With adjectives like "semantic" and "semantical", "geographic" and "geographical", etc., I never know which form I should use. Is there a simple rule that can help me, or must I simply memorize each word one by one?
    In practice, you just have to memorize them: e.g., nautical, clerical; poetic. Or, I wonder how close the correlations are between '-ical' in English and in Spanish and Portuguese, and between '-ic' in English and '-ico' in Spanish and Portuguese?

    Practice yields practical. I wonder if that's because practice ends in '-ice'?

    In most cases, there is only one right way. In other cases, there is a relatively popular lesser possibility. E.g., Google "geographic information systems" and "geographical information systems" and compare. The ratio is about 6:1, not, say, 99:1.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    In Spanish and Portuguese the suffix is usually -ico (náutico, poético); -ical is very unusual (clerical). That's the problem!
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    Hi,

    we've been having an ongoing discussion in the German forum that deals with "historic vs. historical." I've been told that "historic" stands for importance in the past (e.g. I've recorded some historic moments on a video tape) and "historical" refers to the actual past/history per se (e.g. People about the eighties now had to survive the worst historical moments during WWII).

    What difference do you, personally, see? I know it's very subtle in most cases (as in my latter example sentence). Gaer's translation goes as follows:

    With interest and with some displeasure, I followed the articles and letters to the editor from previous days and weeks dealing with the topic of “Ostalgie” in "Die WELT". I haven't seen the East-German programs and am therefore unable to make a judgement about their contents. However, it annoys me when people assert that such shows are dangerous and belittle or distort "the historical picture". I am seriously asking myself: Did such such TV shows have or do they have the right to present historical facts at all?

    He's chosen "historical," but I still think that it should be "historic," though I can't be sure. :)

    It would be great if you could enlighten me upon this subject.
     

    french4beth

    Senior Member
    US-English
    Hi Whodunit,

    I found this explanation on thefreedictionary.com:
    Historic refers to what is important in history: the historic first voyage to the moon... what is famous or interesting because of its association with persons or events in history: a historic house. Historical refers to whatever existed in the past, whether regarded as important or not: a minor historical character... refers to anything concerned with history or the study of the past: a historical novel; historical discoveries. While these distinctions are useful, these words are often used interchangeably, as in historic times or historical times.
    I never knew the distinction, and pretty much use the two words interchangeably.
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    Outsider said:

    But I'm afraid that the difference between "historic" and "historical" was not explaint in the thread. By the way, when Fishwife says that she prefers the shorter over the longer form, she'll disagree with Gaer's correction (or better: suggestion, I know he doesn't like to correct someone ;)) in my text.

    Anyway, I'm still looking forward to reading more useful explanations. :)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I have just merged this thread with two previous threads on this topic - so that this thread now includes a post saying:
    jacinta said:
    Historic here would mean that it was a very important event.
    Historical means that it is an event in history.

    OED definitions:
    historic 2. esp. Forming an important part or item of history; noted or celebrated in history; having an interest or importance due to connexion with historical events. (The prevailing current sense.)

    historical 1. a. Of or pertaining to history; of the nature or character of history, constituting history; following or in accordance with history.
    2. a. Relating to or concerned with history or historical events.
    ... and various other definitions of a similar nature.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Sorry, I thought the question was answered by the definitions.
    I would choose historical.
    "the historical picture" refers to an overally general concept of history.
    Guernica is an historic picture.

    historical facts are facts relating to history. Can I think of an historic fact? Well, no, I can't exactly. All the examples that put themselves forward are historic events, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    The OED lists definition (2) as the prevailing current sense. The other senses are much closer to historical. At some point, perhaps in the last 100 years, historic has focussed on this prevailing sense.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    To me, "historic" means that it, in itself, is an event that makes history. "The historic peace treaty", for example, would be a treaty that became a part of history because of its signifiance.

    "Historical" means "set in history" or "reviewing history" as its subject matter. A(n) historical novel would be one set in the past. A(n) historic novel would be a history-making novel, a novel whose publication would be considered worthy of recording in history.

    This is just from recall, not using a dictionary. You might be able to get a more precise definition from a dictionary.
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    English
    Oooh, off the top of my head I would say that something which is historic is important in terms of general history - Newton's discovery of the laws of gravity and motion was historic, as was the beheading of the King and Queen of France in the time of the Revolution.

    Historial means belonging to the past, even if not particularly worthy of note.

    The fact that the rulers of France where beheaded is historic - the fact that it was a man called Abcd Efgh who operated the guillotine is a historical detail.
     

    min300

    Senior Member
    Iran ,( Persian)Farsi
    I like visiting historical places , whenever I travel to a new country.

    Do you think 'historical' is correct in this sentence? By the way is it common to say 'Historical places' in English?
    For Example: Taj Mahal is one of the historical places in India.
     

    min300

    Senior Member
    Iran ,( Persian)Farsi
    I like visiting historical places , whenever I travel to a new country.

    Do you think 'historical' is correct in this sentence? By the way is it common to say 'Historical places' in English?
    For Example: Taj Mahal is one of the historical places in India.

    Does anybody no if it is common to say 'historical places'? I often say it but by reading this thread I doubt if it is correct.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Does anybody no if it is common to say 'historical places'? I often say it but by reading this thread I doubt if it is correct.
    I'm sure you do hear it, but the evidence of this thread suggests that it is indeed incorrect. I would stick with the uncontroversial "historic" for this context.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    It struck me that I'd offered an opinion on "historic" being used for negative things but hadn't really researched any examples. Here are a few I googled this morning.

    U.S. Faces Historic Defeat in Iraq
    http://www.socialistalternative.org/news/article13.php?id=479

    Historic Disaster Led To Air Traffic Control System
    http://asomewhatinterestingblog.wor...c-disaster-led-to-air-traffic-control-system/

    Historic Hurricanes--Some Of The Most Powerful Storms On Record.
    http://www.google.com/search?source...rlz=1T4GFRC_enUS207US208&q=historic+hurricane

    ...triggered tsunamis that inundated the coastal zones of much of the Indian Ocean, causing tragic and historic loss of life and property,...
    http://www.iugs.org/iugs/news/iugs_hazards_statement.htm

    EU Summit Collapse is 'Historic Failure'
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,361374,00.html

    No, to locate parallels on a scale equal to this historic idiocy one has to look beyond the U.S.
    http://www.counterpunch.org/lindorff09082003.html

    A historic disaster: Katrina toll may climb into the thousands
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20050901/ai_n15337006
     

    orlando09

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Hmm I say that both are correct, but they mean completely different things. In the UK women got the vote after the second world war, which was historic because it was so important and historical because it happened in the past.

    I agree with the meaning. But they actually got it in the 20s. But perhaps the voting ages for men and women weren;t equalised till after the 2WW.

    Definitely - historic = epoch-making/will go (has gone) down in history as a major event etc.. historical = just relating to history/the past. I'm sure I've seen/heard English-speakers mixing these up.

    e.g. a matter of purely historical interest, is something of no bearing on current events. Strictly speaking I think historic is much more useful/common than "historical". e.g. In many case where people might use 'historical' just 'old' is probably more to the point, whereas "historic" is usueful whenever you want to stress the importance of something - "that was a historic speech" etc.

    re "historical places", It doesn't sound quite right to me. Historic places would, i guess, be places that are famous because something important happened there etc. I guess at a pinch you could use it simply becasue the building itself is so important - the Taj Mahal is one of India's most historic works of architecture. I don't think you usually say "historical places" (for old places) although I don;t think it would be too terrible to use it that way! Literally, that might, perhaps, mean places that existed in history and don't now - for which you'd need a time-machine!
     

    anglomania1

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Hello there,
    I'd like to reopen this thread.
    I am doing a translation about a city and they are talking about the city centre.
    For the city centre, should we use historic or historical?

    My automatic answer would be the "historical centre of a city" as it merely refers to the old part, CONNECTED to history and NOT "historic centre" meaning it is important historically.
    The reason I am asking this question is that on Google "historic centre" gets more hits than "historical centre" - so either:
    1) I've got the meaning wrong
    2) there are a lot of bad translations out there on the net
    3) we just don't say "historic/historical centre" in English, we just say "the old part of the city" or "the old city centre"
    Any comments would be welcome,
    thanks and Happy New Year!!:)
    Anglo
     
    Last edited:

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Hullo Anglo. My automatic answer is historic centre: 'centre which has a long history', 'centre which has a lot of history' = 'centre which is old'. Historical centre (for me) would mean 'former centre', 'what was once the centre in a previous period of history' = 'old centre':)
     
    Last edited:

    orlando09

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I agree that historic centre is right, not historical, and that "historical" could hypothetically work in the sense that ewie mentions - in a phase like 'the historical centre of the town was in the area that is now a car park', or something. I also agree however that the term 'historic centre' is not really a standard phrase in English as it is, for example, in Italian, and we'd usually just say in the old part of town or something like that. I wouldn't say it's incorrect though, in the way, I would say, 'historical' would be.

    I would say that historical refers to something that is part of history, in the sense that it no longer exists in the present day, whereas historic refers to something that has marked history, but may or may not still exist.

    Where I live, in Nice, the old part is called la Vielle Ville, and I would call it the Old Town in English, but it's maybe an exception in that in Nice it is a very clearly identified area that is specifically known in this way. Otherwise, talking generally about a British city's older/more historic part I wouldn't use it.
     
    Last edited:

    anglomania1

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Hi there ewie and orlando09,
    thanks for your answers - it's a tricky question, isn't it?:)
    It's interesting that both of you consider "historical" to mean "former" - I have to say, I haven't found any evidence for that in any dictionary, but if you both say it, there must be a reason!!;)

    In my Oxford, it says:
    historic: means "famous or important in history" (a historic occasion)
    historical: means "concerning history or historical events"
    So logically the old part of a town should be "historical" in that it is old and has a connection with history that the new part of town doesn't have, because "historic" would have to mean that something of great importance in history happened there (the historic part of the town where X was executed, for instance).
    Maybe through years of usage they have become so similar that people don't really distinguish them any more.
    In any case, thanks orlando09 for the comment about Nice, I think that the Old Town is a good solution (I'm translating from Italian to English, so, like in France with the "Vielle Ville", they talk about "il centro storico", so we don't really say it so much in English -hence my dilemma!!).
    Thanks to both of you for your very useful comments, :)
    Anglo
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I agree with the others that "historical" would mean something similar to "former" here. I think the reason you don't find it in a dictionary is perhaps something like this:

    As others have noted historic/historical centre isn't really a set phrase in the way it is in some other languages (we'd say the old town or similar).
    So when someone uses "historical centre" our brains try to decide why that phrase has been chosen. If the speaker meant "famous" or "important" in history then they would have said "historic" rather than "historical", so it can't be that. If they meant "the old town" then that's the phrase they would have used. So in this context what interpretation remains for "historical centre" which means "concerning history or historical events" - an obvious one is that this was once the centre but this is no longer the case.
     

    anglomania1

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Hi there and thanks,
    in fact I agree the problem is we say neither historic nor historical centre in English!!
    So I'm plumping for the old town centre or something similar.
    Anglo
     
    Top