Purify English / Old English revival

laurent485

Member
Chinese
I speak French along with English. Linguistically, English is a Germanic language but has a high percentage of French and Latin vocabulary. I'm just wondering how a lot of words of Germanic origin that existed in old English and always exist in modern other Germanic languages such as German, Dutch and Sweidsh, etc, had been lost and replaced by French and Latin vocabulary, for exemple: arbeiten (labour), Luft (air), Regierung (government), Bund (Federal), König (King, but its adjectif royal is of French origin, are there other exempls like this one?), Handel (commerce), etc etc.

Moreover, I am wondering whether it is possible to purify English vocabulary, that is to replace as much as possible words of French or Latin origin by either corresponding words of Germanic origin in use or old English words that had been forgotten or new words but based on old English roots or Germanic roots. I have some suggestions such as: arrive replaced by come, language by speech, combat by fight, construct by build, dictionary by wordbook, Germany by Dutchland (accordingly German by Dutch, Dutch that we use by Netherlandish), etc.
 
  • Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,
    Moreover, I am wondering whether it is possible to purify English vocabulary
    Almost everything is possible, but why would you like to purify English? What would be the practical benefits of a 'purified English'?
    I really wonder why some people have the urge to think that they have to purify something used by 100s, 1000s, 10,000s, millions of speakers who don't really skip their well deserved 8 hours sleep wondering whether or not their language is 'Pure'...

    that is to replace as much as possible words of French or Latin origin by either corresponding words of Germanic origin
    I also think your ideas about a 'pure language' are a bit thwarted, or at least, highly selective.

    Why this very arbitrary starting point called, sorry, labeled 'Germanic'. Why do you think 'Germanic' is 'pure'?

    Why stop at 'Germanic', or -- if you're following a language family three model -- why not stop at PIE? Why not purify English to the point of 'ooh', 'aah', 'wee-wee', 'blahblah' and 'oink'?

    And why only the vocabulary? Why would you like to have 'Germanic' words but wouldn't mind a non-typically Germanic syntaxis? Neither do you advocate for a Germanic morphology (cases and verbal inflection). Why not?

    Just wondering.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     
    Last edited:

    Athaulf

    Senior Member
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    I speak French along with English. Linguistically, English is a Germanic language but has a high percentage of French and Latin vocabulary. I'm just wondering how a lot of words of Germanic origin that existed in old English and always exist in modern other Germanic languages such as German, Dutch and Sweidsh, etc, had been lost and replaced by French and Latin vocabulary, for exemple: arbeiten (labour),
    There's an ongoing thread about that one. As for the others, you seem to be underestimating the Germanic legacy of English: :)

    Luft (air),
    This root still lives in the English words "loft" and "aloft".

    Regierung (government),
    This word comes from Latin regere "to rule" (or some French derivation thereof), so it's no more Germanic than English "government".

    Bund (Federal),
    This one has a bunch of English cognates, among them "bind", "bend", "bond", and "bound".

    König (King, but its adjectif royal is of French origin, are there other exempls like this one?),
    Of course, there are many other English words where you can choose between Germanic and Romance synonyms. In fact, for just about any Germanic word in English, you'll also find one or more Romance words with similar meanings.

    As for "king", it's of course a Germanic word. Yes, the usual corresponding adjective is Romance "royal" (or more rarely Germanic "kingly" and Latin "regal"), but most other Germanic languages also have words derived from the same Romance root as "royal", like e.g. German Royalist.

    Handel (commerce), etc etc.
    Again, this is not a lost Germanic word, but merely semantic drift. English "handle" is cognate with German Handel, and in fact, it's closer to the original meaning, which was derived straight from "hand".

    That leaves us with only one real example in your list. :)

    Moreover, I am wondering whether it is possible to purify English vocabulary, that is to replace as much as possible words of French or Latin origin by either corresponding words of Germanic origin in use or old English words that had been forgotten or new words but based on old English roots or Germanic roots. I have some suggestions such as: arrive replaced by come, language by speech, combat by fight, construct by build, dictionary by wordbook, Germany by Dutchland (accordingly German by Dutch, Dutch that we use by Netherlandish), etc.
    Of course, such a change would be impossible to impose in practice. However, in principle, it wouldn't be difficult to construct such a "purified", almost purely Germanic English, together with modern technical terminology and everything.

    In fact, there have been some attempts along these lines. The famous SF writer Poul Anderson once wrote a popular-science essay on atomic theory titled "Uncleftish Beholding", in which he used an invented scientific terminology derived almost solely from Germanic English roots. You can find an excerpt from Anderson's essay and a link to the complete version here. I think the article wonderfully demonstrates how very much Germanic English still is. It reads very naturally and to anyone familiar with the topic, every single sentence is perfectly clear. (Moreover, as someone with a solid background in physics, I can vouch that the essay is completely accurate scientifically, in fact much more accurate than what usually passes for pop-science.)

    As a side note, I once read somewhere that if one was supposed to speak English using only Germanic words, the Romance word most difficult to replace would be "to use". Anderson has cleverly opted to use "to wield" instead in his essay. :)
     
    Last edited:

    jackswitch

    Member
    Australian English
    The reason those words were replaced by their French equivalents in English is due to the Norman occupation of England, which began in 1066. Areas like government, law, science, the humanities and so on were all affected. This is why English seems to have a Germanic 'core', but with a layer of French and Latin over the top taking care of its 'big words'.

    As for 'purifying' English... you're kidding, right? Any populations you'd like to purify too?
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    As for 'purifying' English... you're kidding, right? Any populations you'd like to purify too?
    There would be a historic parallel. The “Deutsche Sprachverein” tried to rid German of all non-Germanic words. Fortunately, they did not succeed but quite a few differences between German German on the one hand and Austrian and Swiss German on the other hand can be trace back to this effort (e.g. Bürgersteig instead of
    Trottoir). The silliest proposal was to replace Nase with Gesichtserker. I did not happen during the Nazi period but a few decades earlier. But purification of populations was indeed what followed as we all know.:(

    But it could be an interesting exercise to try to find out if the surviving OE roots would suffice to make yourself understood at least in simple every-day contexts.:)

     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Moreover, I am wondering whether it is possible to purify English vocabulary, that is to replace as much as possible words of French or Latin origin by either corresponding words of Germanic origin in use or old English words that had been forgotten or new words but based on old English roots or Germanic roots. I have some suggestions such as: arrive replaced by come, language by speech, combat by fight, construct by build, dictionary by wordbook, Germany by Dutchland (accordingly German by Dutch, Dutch that we use by Netherlandish), etc.
    That sounds like an interesting intellectual exercise, but most unlikely to succeed in practice. I think that Modern English is too widespread across the world and "entrenched" for any substantive reform to be feasible.

    But if the idea truly fascinates you, the next best thing you can do is study Old English. :)
     

    Ayazid

    Senior Member
    Ahoj lidi

    Firstly, I think that some of you were a bit too hard on the original poster. He posed a question which is, although highly speculative, quite innocent and legitimate. I don't see there any "underestimation of the Germanic legacy of English" as Athaulf wrote neither he expressed a will to purify any population together with the English language :D I think that if we substituted the word "purify" with "remove" it would not sound so "dangerous".

    Anyway, as for the question itself, as the other foreros already wrote, such attempt would be theoretically possible but practically completely utopian since most of those "loanwords" are already firmly embedded in the English vocabulary and most English speakers seem to be fine with them. It doesn't mean that there has never been any "attempt" of that kind, but it was always a personal initiative or hobby of some individuals who never constituted any movement like purists in some other languages. In Wikipedia there is an interesting article about such purist proposals in English:

    Anglish

    A few enthusiasts are even building their own version of Wikipedia written completely in such "purified" English:

    The Anglish Moot

    But it could be an interesting exercise to try to find out if the surviving OE roots would suffice to make yourself understood at least in simple every-day contexts.:)
    I am certainly no expert on the English language, but I think that they would, since the basic vocabulary of English is mostly Germanic (not only Old English but also Scandinavian), but talking about more advanced things like politics, science, arts etc. without Romance and Greek loanwords would be much more difficult and probably impossible. But the "Uncleftish Beholding" is a possible solution :D

    By the way, this topic has been already discussed various times in WR, so the following threads might be worth reading:

    English - the Weight of the Germanic Component

    English, a Germanic language??

    Artifacts from the origins of English

    English words having their origin in French
     
    Last edited:

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    I think we should start purifying the English language by ridding it of all Anglo-Saxon elements. They have been disturbing factor all along and came from what is now Germany and nobody likes the Germans anyway.

    No, honestly, there are so many elements from so many corners of the world forming what we know today as the English language. A very basic and characteristic feature of the English language is its huge Vocabulary that more than makes up for what it lost Gramatically along the way. So "purifying" would mean throwing away most of what has become this language over the centuries - or you'd have to pick out elements based on some nitty-gritty nationalistic and biased motivation. It would then have more to do with fascism than linguistics.
     

    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    The beauty of the English language is, in fact, the diverse heritage of its vocabulary. Even if there are more words to be learned, at least Europeans with a Germanic or Romance language as their first language, will get a 'free ride' in that they look alike in writing, and often mean the same thing.

    Icelandic is probably the 'linguistic opposite' in that new words and concepts are often not borrowed 'as is' from Latin, English or Greek, but are usually 'translated' to Icelandic words with pure Scandinavian etymology, which makes Icelandic very difficult to understand even for other Scandinavians.

    /Wilma
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,
    Icelandic is probably the 'linguistic opposite' in that new words and concepts are often not borrowed 'as is' from Latin, English or Greek, but are usually 'translated' to Icelandic words with pure Scandinavian etymology, which makes Icelandic very difficult to understand even for other Scandinavians.
    Which, in it's turn, should force us to think why we'd consider those 'Skandinavian etymologies' as pure. And what's 'pure Skandinavian' anyway?

    Let's deal with it, let's get over it: A "pure language" is a contradictio in terminis.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     

    Athaulf

    Senior Member
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Firstly, I think that some of you were a bit too hard on the original poster. He posed a question which is, although highly speculative, quite innocent and legitimate.
    I agree. I don't think anyone in this thread ever seriously thought about "purifying" English as a project that should be really undertaken in practice. Experimenting how far we can get by limiting ourselves to the Germanic vocabulary in English is just a fun intellectual exercise.

    I don't see there any "underestimation of the Germanic legacy of English" as Athaulf wrote
    Well, he did incorrectly claim that certain Germanic words had been lost in English, as evidenced in detail in my post #3. What I meant with this statement is that he is jumping to conclusions whenever the English cognates of a German, Dutch, or Scandinavian word aren't immediately obvious.
     
    Last edited:

    Nanon

    Senior Member
    français (France)
    Moreover, I am wondering whether it is possible to purify English vocabulary, that is to replace as much as possible words of French or Latin origin by either corresponding words of Germanic origin in use or old English words that had been forgotten or new words but based on old English roots or Germanic roots.
    Amusingly (funnily ;)), this is how we were instructed to speak English when I was a student. We had to use as many words of Saxon origin as possible, in order to show that we were not just relying on our knowledge of French. Obviously, the purpose was entirely pedagogical. Such a "purified" language does not exist in real life.
    As a result, we could ask, but we could not pose a question :rolleyes:.
     

    Hilde

    Member
    Norwegian
    I know some scholars claim that English is a originally creol language. In that case there would definitely not be such a thing as a pure English:)
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    Hi,


    Which, in it's turn, should force us to think why we'd consider those 'Skandinavian etymologies' as pure. And what's 'pure Skandinavian' anyway?

    Let's deal with it, let's get over it: A "pure language" is a contradictio in terminis.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
    which you in a certain way could say they are, because the Icelandic language only differs little from the language that was brought there from Scandinavia. That is probably as pure Scandinavian as you can get.

    But the words they construct are often very odd and artificial - the best example I can think of is the hybrid of "number" and "shaman" getting to mean computer.
    That is what happens when a small group of people invent words for the rest of the population.
     

    jimreilly

    Senior Member
    American English
    Yes, an interesting intellectual exercise, perhaps, to purify the language. But if the task could be accomplished we would miss out on all the history (political, social, literary) that has been embedded in the language's impurity.

    Here's to impurity, so rich and various! English is a sexy Cleopatra, and Shakespeare, who described Cleopatra's variety as so alluring, certainly took advantage of all the impurity he could find in English, even inventing some of his own.

    Not only Latin and French have added their "foreign" blood to our linguistic genes; only yesterday I was in a bungalow here in Minneapolis, and while I was there someone picked some schnibbles up off the floor. And, given the large Somali population now living here, I am waiting to hear the first word of that language become common in local non-Somali discourse. Here's hoping....
     

    sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    I've only found this when re-reading the thread; missed it first time:
    I know some scholars claim that English is a originally creol language. In that case there would definitely not be such a thing as a pure English:)
    No, Hilde, with due respect but no scholar ever would claim seriously that English (as such, the English language, and not a particular regional variety) were a Creole.
    A Creole is a language evolving from a Pidgin; and Pidgin is a simplified language used only as a means between people who don't have a common language - a Pidgin is no one's mother tongue, while creolisation is the process of a Pidgin becoming a mother tongue.
    And the English as spoken in medieval England never really was a Pidgin: the Anglosaxons never changed their mother-tongue (i. e. never gave up their old one and never adopted a new one), change as it happened was gradual and thus completely different from a creolisation process. And some scholars indeed compare this process with creolisation - but those who claim that it were creolisation (if there are any) really are just wrong.

    But you are nevertheless right of course: it would be impossible to try and purify English (and I don't think that anyone of the people who've posted here thinks so).

    which you in a certain way could say they are, because the Icelandic language only differs little from the language that was brought there from Scandinavia. That is probably as pure Scandinavian as you can get.
    Yes, Icelandic is probably as pure Scandinavian as you can get - but nevertheless it is not completely 'pure', and it has artificial elements - all those puristic new words indeed are artificial.

    But let's stick to topic.
    There never really were serious attempts to purify English - I guess the English speech communities are one of the least puristic ones we have; English just assimilates what it needs, and creates where the need arises. To try and purify English the language would need native speakers who wish to purify it - and even though there are some overall I'd guess they're a very small percentage of the whole population.
     

    laurent485

    Member
    Chinese
    Moderator note:
    This is more or less the same question asked again. I therefore merged the two threads.
    Berndf


    I am doing a linguistic study on the evolution of English. Old English was merely a dialect of west germanic language brought to England by Saxons, Angles and Jutes and has undergone a lot of changes, especially influences from Latin and French on English vocabulary (fortunately there has been nearly no influence on English grammar and phonetic system). However, due to its mixed vocabulary (ONLY 25% of modern English vocabulary is native anglo-saxon words, while Latin and French loan words make up around 60% to 66%, source from Wikipedia). The result is that in Modern English there exists often two words for the same thing, one of Anglo-Saxon origin and the other of Romance origine.
    So I am wondering whether it is possible to revital the Old English, at least its vocabulary/wordstock (if I can say that) and to coin words from the Old English word stems to get rid of French and Latin influence. Icelandic language is a perfect exemple in that Icelanders always use words of Scandinavian origin to replace loan words from Danish, Low German and Latin. Moreover, I wish to know what native English speakers, especially Brittons think of the fact that there language is full of French and Latin words? French people are pround of the French language, although I think it rather ridiculous that French people or more precisely the Gaullish people had abandonned their authentic native language the Gaullish to adopt Latin and try to protect their language from influence from English.
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    Aydintashar

    Senior Member
    Iran, Turkish
    Pure language is a rare phenomenon, and is not considered an advantage. All living languages have a certain degree of load words, no less than 50% in certain cases. Today, English is a cosmopolitan language, it is not the property of English people only. So, your proposed revival of old English is neither possible, nor fruitful.
     

    Askalon

    Senior Member
    English (US)
    English is English by now, regardless of where it came from. As an English speaker, I couldn't care less where the words come from. As a linguistics student, I just find it interesting.

    I'm not sure what you mean by a "revital of Old English." Do you mean trying to steer Modern English towards increasingly using words of only Germanic origins, while expecting all or some of the English-speaking population to go along with forcibly eliminating Latin and French influence in their language? That won't happen and there would be no benefit to speak of anyway.

    If you mean simply maybe coming up with some sort of half constructed language based on both Modern and Old English, then I see no reason why something like that couldn't be created. Extremely few people would actually use it though.

    I'm not sure what you mean by French people abandoning Gaulish. Gauls are not equivalent to modern French people, first of all. The Gauls were conquered by the Romans and became a part of the Roman Empire, which is why they started speaking Latin (which ultimately replaced Gaulish), and the Latin they spoke developed into a distinct dialect and eventually language. The Franks showed up at some point with their Germanic language and this influenced the Latin dialect the people there were speaking. From all of this you eventually got a new language called Old French. So the Gauls did not one day decide they really didn't care for their language anymore and would rather speak Latin--they were forcibly invaded.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I'm not sure what you mean by a "revital of Old English."
    I think what was intended was a revival.
    As for the question about how do modern day English speakers feel that such a high proportion of their vocabulary is Latinate (encompassing French), I don't think they know. The vast majority of English speakers are monolingual and aren't aware in more than basic names for fruit/veg in French, let alone the lesser known words, the ones that look less French.

    In fact, on multiple occasions when I've been in the company of people and they've noticed a similar word in a Romance language, the normal (and I suspect natural) understanding is that it is from the English word that the French / Italians get it, not the other way around. It's human nature if you're used to speaking a language all of your life, and all of a sudden you see a very close cognate in another language, you associate its similarity to your language.

    I've had a lot of conversations about aspects of the history of English with many friends of mine, even ones who have completed MAs and most others with BAs (even in English) that express this same sort of sentiment. Only through studying a foreign language and/or the linguistic history of English do you come to know/appreciate the period when English borrowed all of these words. I don't think anybody who doesn't know anything about the other languages or the history of English would know that army is derived from French, and is not a native English word. This goes (I imagine) for thousands of other words as well.

    With Icelandic, the purist language Háíslenska (High Icelandic) can function with these words because it is regulated by a language body, which is independent of the language body that regulates the normal Icelandic language. Without a body functioning in the same capacity in England I can't see how it would ever be possible to introduce a system even if it was wanted, to make English more like its older counterpart. This also works because it's a relatively contained language, native to mainly Iceland and some colonies in Canada/North America, English is too far spread for a consistant change to be applied for Englishes used all over the world.

    So in that sense I'd have to disagree that it would be ever possible to actually carry out a revival of Old English that would be universally adopted.
    I think the attempts to revolutionise spelling even before English became so far widespread is an indication of how mass change would not be accepted, so we write like English was spoken about 400-500 years ago. People are reluctant to change in any dramatic way, linguistic change occurs tiny step by tiny step, in ways the speaker doesn't even consciously realise, so how that could be applied in this case... well, I don't think it could.
     
    Last edited:

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    (British) English is still imitating French to a great extent - the relatively recent adoption of -ise instead of -ize being a case in point.

    "Purifying" English is an utter impossibility.
     

    grubble

    Senior Member
    British English
    I wish to know what native English speakers, especially Britons think of the fact that there language is full of French and Latin words? French people are pround of the French language, although I think it rather ridiculous that French people or more precisely the Gaullish people had abandonned their authentic native language the Gaullish to adopt Latin and try to protect their language from influence from English.
    As a native of England (as opposed to Britain - so there is little or no Gaelic influence in my speech), I have always enjoyed the fact that I have so many words to choose from. Sometimes they are exact synonyms but more often there is subtle difference in meaning.

    In general Germanic (G) words are used for everyday speech whereas Latinate (L) words are used in learned works, the law, science, medicine and other technical subjects.

    This is helpful because often, if something is said in G we know that it probably is not backed up by study or research but is a personal opinion. This is a huge generalisation but I believe there is truth in it.

    For example, when people wish to convince buyers that their product (say hair shampoo) is efficacious, they often use L sounding words in order to blind their listeners with science.

    This web page shows some different ways of describing such products. http://www.amazon.co.uk/b?ie=UTF8&node=74094031

    Flaky Itchy Scalp Shampoo - This uses ordinary, everyday words because it is important for the user to know the purpose of the product.

    Shampoo 360ml and Conditioner 360ml (Fortified Amino Scalp Therapy) Most purchasers would not know what the phrase "fortified amino therapy" really means, it sounds good though.

    New Hair Biofactors Shampoo for Normal to Oily Hair This product uses both forms: "oily hair" explains in simple language what the product does whereas "biofactors" sounds as though it means something important or scientific.

    Note, I am not praising advertisers for this usage. It is merely a convenient way to point out the differences. In scientific writing for example the vocabulary is tightly defined so as to avoid ambiguity and misunderstanding. We tend to use L words for this. In everyday speech, ambiguity and vagueness are often acceptable and indeed useful; thus we tend to use G words.

    Example
    John: "Hello Tim, I see you have broken your leg."
    Tim: Hello John, yes I broke my shinbone when some shelves fell on me. I am suing my employer.
    (The information is approximate but clear enough for a friend)

    Later in court...

    Judge: What was the injury and its cause?
    Doctor:He has a medial tibial fracture, proximate cause - impact from heavy object.
    (The meaning is precise as needed for evidence)



    (apologies to lawyers and medics if I got anything wrong!)
     
    Last edited:

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    English already is "purely English". Once a word becomes incorporated into a language, it is part of that language. The words "spaghetti", "royal", "chair" or "diversify" are no less English than "wield", "yarn", "rutabaga" or "spit".
     

    Aydintashar

    Senior Member
    Iran, Turkish
    In General, the discussion concerns all living languages, which are extremely impure. Some languages are suffering from a superfluous inflow of foreign (often unnecessary) loadwords, due to political situations. For example, my mother language Azeri is under a very strong influence of Russian (in The Republic of Azerbaijan) and Persian (in Iran). This kind of languages really have to defend themselves, and revive at least some of their genuine words. English, on the other hand, is in a dynamic situation resulting from economical and political factors, and is actually disrupting plenty of other languages in the world due to its cosmopolitan situation. I think, this language needs no external intervention to control its evolution. As for the loanwords from Latin, Greek etc., absorbed during the past centuries, these loanwords have greatly enriched the language and increased its capacity in various branches of science and technology as well as medicine and philosophy. It is impossible to use (even relatively) pure English in fields such as engineering, law, medicine, philosophy etc. You cannot draft even a brief agreement or express a brief mathematical theorem in pure English.
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    In General, the discussion concerns all living languages, which are extremely impure. Some languages are suffering from a superfluous inflow of foreign (often unnecessary) loadwords, due to political situations. For example, my mother language Azeri is under a very strong influence of Russian (in The Republic of Azerbaijan) and Persian (in Iran). This kind of languages really have to defend themselves, and revive at least some of their genuine words. English, on the other hand, is in a dynamic situation resulting from economical and political factors, and is actually disrupting plenty of other languages in the world due to its cosmopolitan situation. I think, this language needs no external intervention to control its evolution. As for the loanwords from Latin, Greek etc., absorbed during the past centuries, these loanwords have greatly enriched the language and increased its capacity in various branches of science and technology as well as medicine and philosophy. It is impossible to use (even relatively) pure English in fields such as engineering, law, medicine, philosophy etc. You cannot draft even a brief agreement or express a brief mathematical theorem in pure English.
    So, in short: loanwords in English equals an enrichment, loanwords in other languages equals a threat.
    Allow me not to understand this.
     

    rayloom

    Senior Member
    Arabic (Hijazi Arabic)
    So, in short: loanwords in English equals an enrichment, loanwords in other languages equals a threat.
    Allow me not to understand this.
    Some people resist change, some don't.
    I think it's a subjective matter (I'll keep my personal opinion for last).

    In regards to Arabic, some really view the acquisition of loanwords to be a threat. The reason is that some Arabs (although I don't claim to be speaking for any party) see that change in Arabic means drifting away from our ancient culture and literature.

    As in: Maybe for an English speaking person, it's not that important to be able to read and understand Shakespeare, but for an Arab, not being able to read and understand the Quran for example might be considered a big problem.
    You see a religious reason gets mixed up in the issue, which is quite difficult to ignore in reality.

    There are already some Arabs who view the current diglossial situation and the divergence from Classical Arabic to be a big problem.

    On the otherhand, there are Arabs who are calling for the opening up of the language, and using the colloquial forms as formal languages. Some Arabs support this, others view it as treason and those calling for it no less than traitors!

    As for my personal view, I think that languages are bigger than being controlled by the will of a few. Languages develop and grow, it's only natural to change. And I welcome borrowings and the diglossia which have enriched the Arabic language and culture.

    I also view that the view to purify a language is quite absurd.
    Let's purify French for example. The Franks originally spoke a Germanic langauge too. Or should we remove the Gaulish influence from French, so it can be a "purer Latin" language; it would certainly sound "more Latin"!
    Or should we remove the Frankish and Latin altogether, and revive Gaulish, it's the "original French" now isn't it?
     
    Last edited:

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The impossibility of eradicating non-Germanic from English will readily be appreciated when you consider that a native English speaker can hardly sit down to eat without using non-Germanic words: table chair plate fork
     

    Nanon

    Senior Member
    français (France)
    Fork
    O.E. forca "forked instrument used by torturers," :D a Germanic borrowing (cf. O.N. forkr) from L. furca "pitchfork; fork used in cooking," of uncertain origin. Table forks were not generally used in England until 15c. The word is first attested in this sense in English in a will of 1463, probably from O.N.Fr. forque (O.Fr. furche, Mod.Fr. fourche), from the Latin word.
    OED
     
    Last edited:

    grubble

    Senior Member
    British English
    In the history of the world no living language has ever remained stationary let alone moved backwards. Why? - because language describes our lives and our lives change and evolve with our culture.

    Think of the sheer effort to invent old-sounding words to describe the arts, the law, literature and works of science. Then, having done it, all we achieve is an inability to communicate with other nations.

    Fun to talk about but impractical, undesirable and pointless.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    In the history of the world no living language has ever remained stationary let alone moved backwards. Why? - because language describes our lives and our lives change and evolve with our culture.

    Think of the sheer effort to invent old-sounding words to describe the arts, the law, literature and works of science. Then, having done it, all we achieve is an inability to communicate with other nations.

    Fun to talk about but impractical, undesirable and pointless.
    Well some do. E.g. Modern Hebrew which artificially reverts to Mishnaic Hebrew ignoring medieval Hebrew. They use biblical and Mishnaic words translate modern concepts on a large scale. E.g. the Israeli defense minister is Sar HaBitachon. If you translate this with a modern Hebrew dictionary you get Minister of the Security; just for fun I once used my Biblical Hebrew-German dictionary and got Prinz der Zuversicht = Prince of the Confidence.:D
     

    grubble

    Senior Member
    British English
    Well some do. E.g. Modern Hebrew which artificially reverts to Mishnaic Hebrew ignoring medieval Hebrew. They use biblical and Mishnaic words translate modern concepts on a large scale.
    Well I did say impractical and not impracticable. ;) I get your point though. Efforts on a much smaller scale have been made to do the same sort of thing with Welsh and there are some amusing tales about this.

    Cyclists between Cardiff and Penarth in 2006 were left confused by a bilingual road sign telling them they had problems with an "inflamed bladder".
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7702913.stm
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Efforts on a much smaller scale have been made to do the same sort of thing with Welsh and there are some amusing tales about this.

    Cyclists between Cardiff and Penarth in 2006 were left confused by a bilingual road sign telling them they had problems with an "inflamed bladder".
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7702913.stm
    Haha I remember when that article first popped up (wow, over 2 years ago).
    But, I'm afraid this doesn't link to the process of the Welsh reverting back to an earlier form of the language :eek:, so while the article is funny, I'm not sure how it links to back up the point about older forms of the language? This BBC article suggests it was possibly an online translation error.

    After moving to Wales part of what I've been interested it is its linguistic history and I've not come across a revival movement linking to older forms of the language. There is certainly a revival movement here definitely, for example with mandatory primary education and quotas of Welsh language radio, but this is just to spread the language and make it equal with English in certain parts.
     
    Last edited:

    grubble

    Senior Member
    British English
    But, I'm afraid this doesn't link to the process of the Welsh reverting back to an earlier form of the language
    The anecdote was to support my belief that artificial languages are impractical. Welsh is backward looking in the sense that, in the past, most Welsh speakers borrowed technological words such as "television", "refrigerator" and so on. The purists want to replace these with words that have Welsh roots.

    Example: refrigerator --> oergelloedd

    This is directly related to the original question of purification.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The anecdote was to support my belief that artificial languages are impractical. Welsh is backward looking in the sense that, in the past, most Welsh speakers borrowed technological words such as "television", "refrigerator" and so on. The purists want to replace these with words that have Welsh roots.

    Example: refrigerator --> oergelloedd

    This is directly related to the original question of purification.
    Ok, I totally get what you mean here.
    But the 'inflamed bladder' wasn't a case of this, as the article says:

    Welsh language expert Owain Sgiv told the South Wales Echo: "It certainly does not mean anything like cyclists dismount."

    A spokesman for the Vale of Glamorgan Council's highways department said: "A mistake has been made and we are investigating.
    I just wanted to explain the root of my confusion about this.
    But in general, purification is quite a common ideal in Welsh here.
     

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    As Hulalessar said--there is really no practical way to strip English of its non-Germanic words (let's say mainly those of Latin/Romance origin). I find such an idea to be even incredibly ludicrous as it demonstates a complete misunderstanding of what English is. As with many, or most, languages, it has a lot of vocabulary from diverse sources. That's just how it is. To say that "house" or "king" are more English than "mansion" or "royal" is idiotic. They are all just English words--pure and simple. They just have different etymologies.
     

    jimreilly

    Senior Member
    American English
    In the history of the world no living language has ever remained stationary let alone moved backwards. Why? - because language describes our lives and our lives change and evolve with our culture.

    Think of the sheer effort to invent old-sounding words to describe the arts, the law, literature and works of science. Then, having done it, all we achieve is an inability to communicate with other nations.

    Fun to talk about but impractical, undesirable and pointless.
    The idea of "purifying" a language and the above quote remind me a bit of the creation of nynorsk in Norway, a language based on Norwegian dialects which had remained relatively free of Danish influence. The more Danish-influenced language was called riksmål or bokmål (i.e. the language of the kingdom and book-language), and was spoken by people with more formal education and people closer to the centers of power. Of course the creation of nynorsk had a politcal component ( the desire for a free Norway after long years of Danish rule, then Swedish rule).

    This was successful only to a certain extent--there is excellent literature in Nynorsk, many people took it up, and it still exists as one of the legal languages of Norway. But it has never become the majority Norwegian dialenct, as much as some people might think it "purer" or "more Norwegian". And us poor non-Norwegians who study Norwegian generally study bokmål and when we encounter nynorsk we can be easily confused.
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I have trouble with the notion of purity. Why would anyone wish to attempt to "purify" (whatever that may mean) a language? Most such attempts have been part of a policy of authoritarian nationalism, and I don't want any of that here.
     

    jimreilly

    Senior Member
    American English
    I'm with you, Sound Shift, and such efforts sometimes also have a racist component. Check out a book by Moussa Traore about the history of such efforts by means of the Academie Française and the overlap of these efforts with racism. (If you Google Taore's name and "Academie Française" I'm sure you'll fin it--I just can't remember the title and I'm too lazy to go upstairs and find it).
     

    Donnerstag

    Senior Member
    Icelandic
    Hi,


    Which, in it's turn, should force us to think why we'd consider those 'Skandinavian etymologies' as pure. And what's 'pure Skandinavian' anyway?

    Let's deal with it, let's get over it: A "pure language" is a contradictio in terminis.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
    With regards to Icelandic, for the past 200 years it has been a policy to avoid loanwords and use old Scandinavian words instead, or, if they don't exist, to formulate new words derived from parts of old Scandinavian words. Of course it hasn't succeeded completely, there are still some loanwords, like e.g. sígaretta (cigarette)

    This policy has had broad popular support in Iceland and people generally try as they can to use Germanic words.

    Why?

    Simply because the old Norse sagas, which were written in Iceland, are such a huge part of the culture, we generally consider them to be what defines us. The ability to read these 1000 year old sagas of the first settlers here and adventures of their kinsmen in Europe is something Icelanders generally want to preserve.

    So this language policy is designed to give every Icelander, born now or in the future, the ability to read our sagas, even though they were written nearly 1000 years ago. The language has changed very little since then.

    Other Scandinavians, on the other hand, would never be able to read them without extensive studying.
     

    Tazzler

    Senior Member
    American English
    We should change the word "question" to "askthing" to get rid of that annoying Latinate word.
     
    Last edited:

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    We should change the word "question" to "askthing" to get rid of that annoying Latinate word.
    Any suggestion for the word "purify"? ;-)
    And revival for that matter?
    And suggestion, obviously?
     
    Bit lost for suggestion though :p
    But yeah pointing out the Latin terms in the original title is quite funny and ironic :)

    Well, since suggestions get put forth, my forthput would be to coin a new word along those lines. :) It would have the added benefit of being parallel in form to the already existing input, output, throughput...
     

    Peano

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Catalan
    It seems to be just a question of commonsense. Probably the English-speaking people would use language far more accurately if plain English were favored. See for example Orwell :

    In his 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language", George Orwell wrote:
    Bad writers –especially scientific, political, and sociological writers– are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones.
    ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglish )

    In 1946, writer George Orwell wrote an impassioned essay, "Politics and the English Language", criticizing what he saw as the dangers of "ugly and inaccurate" contemporary written English - particularly in politics where pacification can be used to mean "...defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets...".
    ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plain_English )
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top