Purify English / Old English revival

Pedro y La Torre

Senior Member
English (Ireland)
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 )
I would suppose the regarding Latinate and French words as more "refined" or "educated" is a hold-over from the effects of the Norman Conquest. The English upper-classes have always had a sense of inferiority in comparison to the French, and at one time, if not still to this day, strived to imitate them wherever possible. Many countries have a similar relation with what many consider to be a grander power, Ireland of course is one of them.
 
  • berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    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 )
    Here, Orwell criticizes the euphemistic character of the use of the term pacification. It has nothing to do with the romance origin of the word.

    I would suppose the regarding Latinate and French words as more "refined" or "educated" is a hold-over from the effects of the Norman Conquest. The English upper-classes have always had a sense of inferiority in comparison to the French, and at one time, if not still to this day, strived to imitate them wherever possible. Many countries have a similar relation with what many consider to be a grander power, Ireland of course is one of them.
    I don't think we have to go quite that far back. The nimbus of refinement around Latin and French was a pan-European phenomenon until the 19th century where upper class families, nobility and bourgeoisie alike, had French speaking nannies, ... sorry... governesses, for their children.
     

    Peano

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Catalan
    Here, Orwell criticizes the euphemistic character of the use of the term pacification. It has nothing to do with the romance origin of the word.
    In my opinion, the term pacification (from Latin, not Romance) may be more easily manipulated than say ceasefire, which has a plain meaning in comparison.

    Actually I'm not acquainted with the book of Orwell, nor with the "Plain English" campaign, but let me speculate about the ingent Latin-Greek component of the English lexicon, which may be kept so high just in order to create the fiction of a "hyper-language" to rule the world, while becoming the international language.

    Getting a language 100% pure in its lexicon is probably impossible, but English stays at the other extreme, having a Germanic base apparently under 50%, which is incredible.
     
    Last edited:

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    from Latin, not Romance
    Well, English got it from French but in French itself in it a late medieval loan from Latin and not inherited. In this respect you are right.:)
    ...may be more easily manipulated than say ceasefire, which has a plain meaning in comparison.
    ... but has nothing to do with Germanic vs. Romance words. If he'd been criticizing German military/political jargon he would have criticized the purely Germanic word Befriedung (=pacification) in the same way.
     

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    How words are used/misused has nothing to do with their etymology. A young speaker of English tends not to be aware of whether a word is of Germanic or Latin or any other origin.
    Above in "Rinsed English": How words are tooled has nothing to do with their come-from-ness. A young speaker of English ofts not to be aware of whether a word comes from a Theodish or Latinish spring.
    I guess the "Rinsed English" is sort of understandable but would have a certain sloppiness to it. Besides, we'd have to litterally invent tons of new vocabulary.

    Besides, whether you pacify or "make a village happy"--it's the same cynical misuse of the language.

    What would happen with basic vocabulary like peace, chair, boy, lettuce, pear, sauce, school, coast, mountain, forest, city, quiet, etc... I don't see them as being that replaceable without making the language really poor (oops two "latin" words).
     

    jimreilly

    Senior Member
    American English
    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.
    I certainly admire the Icelanders for their efforts to preserve and protect their language, and while I don't speak it I have sung it upon occasion (probably badly) and have taken a little second-hand pleasure in their admirable musical culture.

    But their situation is certainly unique, in that the language changed so little for so many years. English, which has changed in so many many ways for so many years, is in a very different situation. And in the United States, where so many of us are of mixed heritage (Italian, German, and Irish in my case) the fact that English has words that reflect various aspects of our heritages is especially delightful. We need linguistic purity just as much as we need genetic purity--that is, not at all.
     

    Tazzler

    Senior Member
    American English
    Any suggestion for the word "purify"? ;-)
    And revival for that matter?
    And suggestion, obviously?

    I guess we have "cleanse." "revival" maybe "againliving." For "suggest" we could use "forslay" based on German "vorschlagen."

    chair-> backstool
    table-> legboard

    I remember readinga paragraph that the authors wrote deliberately only using words of Anglo-Saxon origin. Unfortunately, I can't find it, but it was quite interesting to see that such a feat could actually be done (only a paragraph though).
     
    Last edited:

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Greek
    That made me remember something relevant.
    Zolotas used to be director of the Bank of Greece (he had served as a PM for a while). In order to demonstrate the contribution of Greek language to the English vocabulary he gave two speeches in English in 1957 and in 1959 to foreign audiences "using with the exception of articles and prepositions only Greek words". Everybody understood them.

    Here's a little extract of his speech in 1957:

    "...This phenomenon is characteristic of our epoch. But, to my thesis, we have the dynamism to program therapeutic practices as a prophylaxis from chaos and catastrophe..."

    Both speeches and information are in this link of wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenophon_Zolotas

    and here:

    http://users.forthnet.gr/ath/ttz/

     
    Last edited:

    Havfruen

    Senior Member
    USA
    English - American
    I guess we have "cleanse." "revival" maybe "againliving." For "suggest" we could use "forslay" based on German "vorschlagen."
    Sounds closer to a borrowing from North Germanic, i.e. Scandinavian.
    "question" in Danish/Norwegian/Swedish is forslag/forslag/förslag and the Danish is even pronounced like "forslay"
    "revival" in Danish/Norwegian/Swedish can be genoplivning/gjenoppliving/återuppliving which mean approximately "again living"

    If I had to remove all the non-Germanic words from modern English, then I would propose to replace them with Danish words.:idea:
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Sounds closer to a borrowing from North Germanic, i.e. Scandinavian.
    "question" in Danish/Norwegian/Swedish is forslag/forslag/förslag and the Danish is even pronounced like "forslay"
    No, forslag/förslag are Middle Low German loans (/foɐslax/, /føɐslax/ in Modern Low German). The common Germanic base is *slog-/*slakh- < PIE *slak-. The Danish noun slag alone is certainly derived form ON but the phrasal verb foreslå from which forslag is derived is a German loan (or claque, in this particular case the distinction doesn't really matter; click).
     
    Last edited:

    Peano

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Catalan
    ... but has nothing to do with Germanic vs. Romance words. If he'd been criticizing German military/political jargon he would have criticized the purely Germanic word Befriedung (=pacification) in the same way.
    Possibly that was not a good example.

    I will try it with school. We may ignore the etymology of it (ancient Greek σχολή), which was "leasure, spare time", and especially "leasure for learning", and then "learning-place". ( http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/school ).
    Well, schools sometimes may become stressing places (exams, punishments, bullying, and so on), rather than "leasure-places". I'm just speculating. But anyway, I mean that by keeping an ingent number of loanwords like "school", it is more easy to make children believe that schools are necessarily streesing.
    Why not to call it just "learning-house"? Why not to call a church (also from ancient Greek, κυριακόν) a "godly-house"?
    So, to me all the "Plain English / Anglish" cause is just common-sense.
     

    erased

    New Member
    English
    Overall, this operation sounds very anachronistic, i am unable to see, what is the motivation and in the other hand what is the "true final target". The Icelandic case has a context completly different,first of all Icelandic never died, Danish had a little impact on Icelandic. In addition we must remember that the ,so called, "Icelandic Revival" had an important role:the reawakening of the Icelandic National Identity during the danish "occupation". But who care about the words , the are only signs on a piece of paper, what ,really,identify a Language is the grammar and not the words. Or do you think that Czech language is a Latin language only because it uses the Latin alphabet? Can you write something on English using a non-germanic grammar? In most cases the answer is :not. Can you write something in a non-germanic languages using a germanic grammar? In most cases the answer is :not. There is an Institute on Iceland ,which erases foreign words ( Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies), Ok, it is right to defend their own culture,but there is also a limit. I dont know what is kimono or vodka or google in Icelandic, but i suppose they could be some strange words or paraphrases. At the same time what could be in a purified English words like coffe (turkish?) or tea (chinese?) or blitzkrieg (flash war?'?'??), we could reach strange results. People forget that the composition of a vocabulary occurs in the course of centuries and it is influenced by many factors and by different cultures,not necessarily from a single culture . This happens in English like in other languages,but for some, obviously, what is different is bad. Also Talibans thought so,and then Bayamin Buddhas were differents? -erased- ,The twin towers were differents? -erased-.
     

    Tazzler

    Senior Member
    American English
    Here are some place one would find in an Anglo-Saxon city (or "bigtown"):

    Children go to learnhouse to receive an education.
    When one needs surgery, one goes to a sickhouse to get an operation.
    Dramatic pieces and movies are performed at a playhouse.
    One can borrow books to read at a bookhouse.
    When one travels to a foreign country, one would stay in a biginn.
    To receive a higher education, one attends a biglearnhouse.
    You keep your money and make financial transactions at a goldhouse.
    People go to worship at a godhouse.
    You can find collections of rare objects at an oldhouse.
    You can work out and exercise at a bodyhouse.
    You can find good food at a mealhouse.
    You can send packages at a sendhouse.
     

    Tazzler

    Senior Member
    American English
    That made me remember something relevant.
    Zolotas used to be director of the Bank of Greece (he had served as a PM for a while). In order to demonstrate the contribution of Greek language to the English vocabulary he gave two speeches in English in 1957 and in 1959 to foreign audiences "using with the exception of articles and prepositions only Greek words". Everybody understood them.

    Here's a little extract of his speech in 1957:

    "...This phenomenon is characteristic of our epoch. But, to my thesis, we have the dynamism to program therapeutic practices as a prophylaxis from chaos and catastrophe..."

    Both speeches and information are in this link of wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenophon_Zolotas

    and here:

    http://users.forthnet.gr/ath/ttz/

    What about "this," "we," "but," "have," "and," "my," and "our"? ;)
     

    terredepomme

    Senior Member
    Korean
    If we were to go back in time before the Norman Conquest, we would try our best to protect the English tongue as it were. But the old English people did not bother protecting it, because a language was regarded differently by then, since there was no nationalism, whereas in modern days, all formal languages are "national." That is to say, there were no standard grammar, no standard dictionaries, no teaching of national languages in schools, and no need to standardize the various dialects into a common form. But now English, as a national language of many nations, should be protected how it is formed, because it is simply too late, and all the history and culture has been written in this form of English. That is to say, if a feat of linguistic invasion similar to the Norman conquest were to happn to English today, I would be a vehement opposer of that conquest. This is because a language means different to us than what it meant to people of the pre-nationalist era.
    Likewise, Korean, rich with Sinitic vocabularies, should stay as it is for now, accepting its Sinitic lexicon as part of its indivisible identity. If we were to go back in time before the Chinese language influenced Korean, we would try to adopt the Korean words to form higher vocabulary, but now it is too late. Moreover, I highly oppose that the words of English and other languages infiltrate the contemporary Korean language, because now is not an age where languages should develop that way.
    Why is this? Because this is an era where we decide to use our vernacular tongue as a formal language, whereas in pre-nationalist era, classical languages different from speech language were used, such as Latin and Classical Chinese, and these languages remained relatively unchanged. Now, the same thing applies to national languages; we cannot compare the un-protective attitude towards vernacular languages of the past with our attitude towards our modern-day national languages; rather, we must be protective of our national tongue as the elders did with their classic languages, because the national languages has assumed the function that the classic languages once served: a universal, standard language, unchanged throughout time and space.
    The purest form of a language is as it is now, as defined by your dictionaries, your school teachers, and your language councils. Instead of reviving the past, focus on maintaining what is established at the present, so that the posterities may not deviate from what we speak.
     
    Last edited:

    Peano

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Catalan
    what could be in a purified English words like coffe (turkish?) or tea (chinese?)
    They could be part of a moderate stock of foreign loanwords, maybe a 5%, with the most popular ones, including coffee, tea, wine, potato, and so on.
    But note that potato itself would be "land-apple" according to the French.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    But note that potato itself would be "land-apple" according to the French.
    Ground apple or earth apple but not *land apple. Land is terre in its extension on the surface (terroir, pays) but not the element. Some Germanic languages use such constructs, like Southern German Erdapfel (earth apple) or Eastern German Grundbirne (ground pear).
     

    Peano

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Catalan
    Ground apple or earth apple but not *land apple. Land is terre in its extension on the surface (terroir, pays) but not the element. Some Germanic languages use such constructs, like Southern German Erdapfel (earth apple) or Eastern German Grundbirne (ground pear).
    Ok, you're right. So earthapple might be fine. Actually Erdapfel is at least as fine as Kartoffel, which seems to come from an Italian tartufolo ... ( http://de.wiktionary.org/wiki/Kartoffel ).
    Just as fine as watermelon (German Wassermelone) and other fruit names.

    If searching a little, it's curious to see how a given language like Russian would take the Italo-German loan Kartoffel (> картофель, картошка), while Greek would take just the Caribean-Spanish πατάτα. It's so funny to go comparing various languages.

    Of course an eventual commission for the selection of loanwords (in England or wherever) should provide advice, not banning. Any official language commission must give advice, not ban. The problem is the narrowminded school-teachers who disapprove any word suspicious to be outside the norm, without giving any reasons at all.
     
    Last edited:
    IMHO, non-purism and anti-purism are two different things. Non-purism would/should be just as open to newly coined words or old words with new meanings that are of full or partial Germanic origin as it is to borrowings. On the other hand, anti-purism, as in discouraging/mocking any new words based on the Germanic part of English vocabulary, sounds just as extreme as purism.
     

    apmoy70

    Senior Member
    Greek
    Note that pomme de terre coexists with patate, which is colloquial. Which one should we "purify"?

    That one sounds Scandinavian to me :).
    But it's also germanic. Hospital is Krankenhaus in German, which would mean something along the lines of "House of the Sick".
    And English; Jackspeak (Navy slang) actually: Sick bay--> A room or area for the treatment of the sick or injured, as on board a ship or at a boarding school (dictionary.reference.com)
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Apart from Occam's Razor, one difficulty is that English has grown up using Germanic and Romance word and whereas there might seem to be synonyms in each, in fact, I suggest there are not.

    An example given at the start of the thread was 'regal' and 'kingly'; to me, 'regal' possess the implication of sophistication, almost unworldly, drifting around in robes dispensing favours, whereas 'kingly' makes more of the absolute monarch side of the business, somewhat autocratic, bellicose yet paternal. (These are 'off the top of my head' but the thrust is there.)

    I see this distinction in many such synonyms. The point here is that the introduction of a Germanic word to replace a current Romance one would not work. The Germanic word would only be of use (and thus adopted) if it expressed a different attribute, however slight.

    There is nothing to stop words for new concepts/products being Germanic based though.
     

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    While this thread is about doing away with things (here doing away with the English language and replacing it with a contrived "Anglish" language), I think we should do away with the term "borrowing". Languages don't borrow--akin to borrowing a pen and then giving it back. They absorb. These words of "other origin" become part of the language period. Eventually people don't even know they are "borrowed". Besides what about words like "slippage", "shortage" or "convolutedness"--they combine germanic and romance elements in one word.
     

    erased

    New Member
    English
    The problem is the narrowminded school-teachers who disapprove any word suspicious to be outside the norm, without giving any reasons at all.
    ....but .... they do it wisely. These words come from our ancestors,and there is a reason because they chose to use "Hospital" istead of "Sykehus",which is Norwegian....not English. England is a very little country ,geographically speaking,but it is incredible that a so little country produced a so big culture. This attempt (I'll sleep peacefully tonight,beacause our "powerful" school system will never accept these "puns") sounds to me ,really humiliating for English culture/language,first of all because many of these puns are not so easily understandable ("oldhouse" what is? an old house or?), and after i don t think that this " copy and paste " form Norwegian or from who knows where.. it is an enrichment/enhancement but it is ,quite,a parody of English culture/language.
     

    Walshie79

    Member
    English (British)
    It's only now dawned on me that no truly Old English word for either war or peace has lived on! Gyth, lac, frith, grith- the last two would be spoken out much the same in English today as back then, as is "smith".

    I think the big deal English-speakers have learning other tongues is the one and only make-up of the English wordstock; many of the first words Netherlandish children learn are understood by us English-speakers:

    moeder vader een twee drie

    yet we understand the Frenchish grown-up words instead:

    mariage exceptionnel regrette impossible

    Which leads to we never can learn either rightly.
     

    Peano

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Catalan
    I think we should do away with the term "borrowing". Languages don't borrow--akin to borrowing a pen and then giving it back. They absorb. These words of "other origin" become part of the language period. Eventually people don't even know they are "borrowed".
    Here is the key! Our dictionaries have been absorbing thousands of foreign words, for centuries and centuries. And now the English sponge is so overloaded that some people are willing to press the sponge and let go a good number of unnecessary words. I think the point is to keep just those words that are really hard to be replaced by the native stock (coffee and so on). Or just to keep the most beautiful ones.

    Why not, any borrowed words might be given back, when an increasing number of speakers are not willing any longer to keep on with them.

    Maybe there is not "an owner" to "take back the borrowing", and it is rather a question of just "giving up" the words.

    Do we really need a vocabulary of 2 544 000 words? (English Wiktionary)
     

    rayloom

    Senior Member
    Arabic (Hijazi Arabic)
    Do we really need a vocabulary of 2 544 000 words? (English Wiktionary)
    This number is the number of entries on the English wiktionary. Mind you, not all entries are English on the English wiktionary.
    For example, you have an entry for كوكب in the English wiktionary (and yes, in Arabic characters).
    English words are closer to a milion, including scientific words.

    I personally find this number to be acceptable. Since it counts also the derivatives of words.
    For example you have:
    friend
    unfriend
    befriend
    defriend
    friendship
    friendly
    unfriendly
    friendliness
    friendless
    boyfriend
    girlfriend
    penfriend
    friendish

    All these words are counted as different words. And when it comes to scientific words, then you can find even more derivatives and root combinations, giving rise to an even larger number of counted words.

    Now, is there such a thing as having unneeded words. English has around 50 thousand obsolete words (according to here), that's 50 thousand from amongst a milion (or more). Meaning that the nearly milion words are in use, certainly not in all domains or regions, but they are in use. Moreso that English is now an international language taught in nearly every corner of the world and used for science, business and commerce (among other fields).
    Consider it a tax in a way or the other!
     

    terredepomme

    Senior Member
    Korean
    Most languages have more words than any speaker can ever learn in one's life. It's quite misleading to say that one language has more vocabulary than others.
     

    Peano

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Catalan
    Most languages have more words than any speaker can ever learn in one's life. It's quite misleading to say that one language has more vocabulary than others.
    You're surely right.
    But still there is the possibility of selecting a set of essential words, like Simplified Chinese. This doesn't mean to forbid the Traditional Chinese (which is healthy at Wikipedia), it simply means to support the simplified version, mainly at the schools.

    English had a try with "Basic English" ("Simple English" at Wikipedia), but it surely was too simplified, with its 850 words.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    English had a try with "Basic English" ("Simple English" at Wikipedia), but it surely was too simplified, with its 850 words.
    Probably, but it did have the benefit of concentrating minds on what the core vocabulary should be for those learning English.
     

    terredepomme

    Senior Member
    Korean
    But still there is the possibility of selecting a set of essential words, like Simplified Chinese. This doesn't mean to forbid the Traditional Chinese (which is healthy at Wikipedia), it simply means to support the simplified version, mainly at the schools.
    The Simplified Chinese has nothing to do with vocabulary. It's a reform of a writing system, not a simplification of vocabulary.
     

    Peano

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Catalan
    The Simplified Chinese has nothing to do with vocabulary. It's a reform of a writing system, not a simplification of vocabulary.
    Well, I'm used to see Simplified Chinese showing a number of essential words (radicals), arranged by number of strokes. It may have something to do with vocabulary.

    But I admit that other reformed languages would have more to do with our topic (we are dealing with purified English). For instance, I guess the purified North-Corean lexicon would be closer to the "Anglish" case.

    I'll be off-line for some days. Bye.
     

    jimreilly

    Senior Member
    American English
    I don't think it's possible to freeze (American) English in its present form, although we might be able to slow down change a bit. There will always be new technologies demanding new vocabulary, new words entering from other languages, new slang (some of which will become "standard"), shifts in pronunciation, etc. We (Americans) do not live on a little island with a small population; trying to control English would be like trying to control how much rain hits the ground.
     

    terredepomme

    Senior Member
    Korean
    I don't think it's possible to freeze (American) English in its present form, although we might be able to slow down change a bit. There will always be new technologies demanding new vocabulary, new words entering from other languages, new slang (some of which will become "standard"), shifts in pronunciation, etc. We (Americans) do not live on a little island with a small population; trying to control English would be like trying to control how much rain hits the ground.
    It is an ideal that, although may never be completely achieved, must be constantly aimed for. Neologisms of new technologies are one inevitable changes that must be made, but even those have to be made accordingly to the language's phonetics and etymologic context. I for one thinks that the Academie Française did a great job for coming up with the word "ordinateur" for computers. On the other hand, slang words should stay what they are, slang words, and not be standardized. The next generation should be able to read our works exactly as we read them, and not be mislead by slang words that will have become obsolete or of different meanings in their time.And people of smaller population living in small islands experience linguistic changes just as much, it is not unique to Americans or other peoples of a bigger population.
     

    Peano

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Catalan
    Probably, but it [Basic English] did have the benefit of concentrating minds on what the core vocabulary should be for those learning English.
    Yes. Indeed I didn't get to be fluent in English until reading "Basic English. International Second Language" (CK Ogden, 1968).
    Basic English is not wholly an "Anglish", as it has many non-germanic nouns (like hospital and so on.) But it is partly a kind of "Anglish" because its set of essential verbs & grammatical particles is wholly germanic (except some two or three words):

    come, get, give, go, keep, let, make, put, seem, take, be, do, have, say, see, send, may, will; about, across, after, against, among, at, before, between, by, down, from, in, off, on, over, through, to, under, up, with; as, for, of, till, than; a, the, all, any, every, no, other, some, little, much, such; that (those), this (these), I (we), he (she, they), you, who (which, what); and, because, but, or, if, though, while; how, when, where, why; again, ever, far, forward, here, near, now, out, still, then, there, together, well; almost, enough, even, not, only, quite, so, very, tomorrow, yesterday; north, south, east, west; please, yes.

    Perhaps we have already a thread on Basic English?
     

    Peano

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Catalan
    trying to control English would be like trying to control how much rain hits the ground.
    Trying to control English is just what the editors of English dictionaries do. Not to mention advertising, where language is controlled in order to control the consumers. That's our daily bread.
    So, why not to let an official academy to work on language.
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Well, I'm used to see Simplified Chinese showing a number of essential words (radicals), arranged by number of strokes. It may have something to do with vocabulary.
    It doesn't really matter how you are used to see it, does it? :D. "Simplified Chinese", or rather, simplified Chinese characters is about the script, as has been pointed out in this thread. There is a whole body of literature about it. Maybe this Wiki-article is a good starting point.

    Trying to control English is just what the editors of English dictionaries do.
    What do you mean by this?
    Not to mention advertising, where language is controlled in order to control the consumers. That's our daily bread.
    What do you mean by this?
    So, why not to let an official academy to work on language.
    What does this have to do with the two previous sentences?
     
    Last edited:

    Peano

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Catalan
    It doesn't really matter how you are used to see it, does it? :D. "Simplified Chinese", or rather, simplified Chinese characters is about the script. There is a whole body of literature about it, maybe this Wiki-article is a good starting point.
    Well, at the Chinese course I attended, we saw a list of numbered Chinese radicals arranged by number of strokes. But I can not say whether the list was "official". I'll have to check it, thanks for the link.


    What do you mean by this?
    I mean that dictionaries are a kind of work requiring an enormous task of control, that is: "the power and means of limiting or regulating something" (Oxford English Mini Dictionary). Here we are dealing with the power of defining words, the power of giving words a fixed semantic limit. Who has the authority to do this, is not always clear. Now the official dictionaries of Spanish and Catalan are regulated and published by two official academies (the "Real Academia de la Lengua" and the "Institut d'Estudis Catalans" respectively). But actually the official Catalan dictionary of the IEC is very recent. During the last decades of the 20th century there was the dictionary of the "Enciclopedia Catalana" which is a prestigious publishing house. So to say, the Catalan people have believed in the high quality of the "Enciclopedia Catalana" dictionary, and this has been a critical factor in favour of the Catalan language. In fact, the new dictionary of the official IEC is highly based on the former dictionary of the "Enciclopedia Catalana".

    http://dlc.iec.cat/

    In the case of English, there are several dictionaries, Oxford, Collins, Webster, even Ogden ("The General Basic English Dictionary", 1940), etc., and such a diversity of definitions may seem a bit surrealistic. According to the dictionary you have at home, the definition of things may be somewhat different.




     
    Last edited:

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Well, at the Chinese course I attended, we saw a list of numbered Chinese radicals arranged by number of strokes. But I can not say whether the list was "official".
    Please do some basic reading about simplified Chinese characters. Please.

    Aren't you all in all a little bit too much obsessed with the erronous idea of a language having to be "official", that somebody (or some organisation) has to regulate it?
    In the case of English, there are several dictionaries, Oxford, Collins, Webster, even Ogden ("The General Basic English Dictionary", 1940), etc., and such a diversity of definitions may seem a bit surrealistic. According to the dictionary you have at home, the definition of things may be somewhat different.
    Yes, so... ? So what? You find it surrealistic? Okay, so...?

    What's the problem exactly? And what does it have to do with the topic of this thread?

    Frank
     

    jimreilly

    Senior Member
    American English
    Trying to control English is just what the editors of English dictionaries do. Not to mention advertising, where language is controlled in order to control the consumers. That's our daily bread.
    So, why not to let an official academy to work on language.
    Some editors of dictionaries may be trying to "control" English, but other editors try to define words according to usage current at the present time (or at past times). I love picking up the OED and seeing how word meanings have shifted, and I love looking at the examples given from different periods. Variety and change are a feast for an inquiring mind, they are not "surrealistic" (unless life is "surrealistic"). Slang can enrich a language, it has vitality, it gives different groups (e.g. young people, ethnic groups, minorities) a way of asserting identity and value. In the case of English the horse left the barn such a long time ago that the idea of shutting the barn door
    now is a fantasy.

    Of course all this makes it harder to learn English! But as a sometime speaker of French I have some of these problems, too (changing meanings, slang, new technical vocabulary), despite the Académie. That's the way it is.
     

    Peano

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Catalan
    Some editors of dictionaries may be trying to "control" English, but other editors try to define words according to usage current at the present time (or at past times). I love picking up the OED and seeing how word meanings have shifted, and I love looking at the examples given from different periods. Variety and change are a feast for an inquiring mind, they are not "surrealistic" (unless life is "surrealistic").
    Well, in the end we are dealing with the scientific method. If the OED is an excellent work of lexicography, so much the better. Some other works may be far poorer.

    Aren't you all in all a little bit too much obsessed with the erronous idea of a language having to be "official", that somebody (or some organisation) has to regulate it?
    By "official" I mean: "authorised by a public organisation", that is an organisation democratically constituted, like the Real Academia de la Lengua Española, or the Institut d'Estudis Catalans. I feel that a dictionary edited by such public institutions will be a more trustworthy reference than anyone of several dictionaries edited by several publishing houses.
    Anyway, if you give me good arguments in favour of the OED, or any other, I might do an exception.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    By "official" I mean: "authorised by a public organisation", that is an organisation democratically constituted, like the Real Academia de la Lengua Española, or the Institut d'Estudis Catalans. I feel that a dictionary edited by such public institutions will be a more trustworthy reference than anyone of several dictionaries edited by several publishing houses.
    Anyway, if you give me good arguments in favour of the OED, or any other, I might do an exception.
    In many cultures, among them the English speaking area, people reject the idea that any kind of government agency, however democratically legitimated, should have the power to regulate language.

    This is very closely related to the concept of freedom of speech which includes the right to use language in a deviant way. If people don't understand you that is your problem. Hence linguists and dictionaries observe factual language usage but don't define it. This hasn't been always so. If you look at 18th century dictionaries the prescriptive ambition of the authors were obvious. But today the purpose of dictionaries are different.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top