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 Post subject: Re: London bridges
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 5:07 pm 
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s1m0n wrote:
...or you'd still be using "whom" in your everyday speech.

But - and I'm embarrassed to admit it - I do. :lol:

Not as consistently as I might, sure, and I do question the utility of the difference any more, and it depends on whom I talk to. :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: London bridges
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 5:09 pm 
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awildman wrote:
Imagine how fast language must have changed before literacy was a thing. Somebody would know better than I, but it is conceivable that a couple hundred years difference could result in the same language being almost unintelligible. Almost every time travel show/book ignores this fact.


It happens faster in English, for some reason, than in many other languages. I'm told that Cervantes is much more like contemporary spanish than his contemporary, Shakespeare, is like modern english.

But yes, with its present geographic spread, without literacy and the media english would have long ago collapsed into mutually unintelligible dialects/languages.

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 Post subject: Re: London bridges
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 5:22 pm 
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s1m0n wrote:
awildman wrote:
Imagine how fast language must have changed before literacy was a thing. Somebody would know better than I, but it is conceivable that a couple hundred years difference could result in the same language being almost unintelligible. Almost every time travel show/book ignores this fact.

It happens faster in English, for some reason, than in many other languages. I'm told that Cervantes is much more like contemporary spanish than his contemporary, Shakespeare, is like modern english.

I have a Tamil friend. His own language is one of the longest-surviving classical languages on the planet, if not number one on that list, and its standards were crystallized into rules long ago, so it's been consistent over the centuries. He's constantly frustrated that English grammar doesn't have real rules to hang his hat on, but general standards with wiggle-room instead.

Knowing how to pronounce what he reads isn't so much a problem for him, as he's lived around English all his life. What trips him up are hard-core French loanwords like "esprit" and "beau".

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 Post subject: Re: London bridges
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 5:25 pm 
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Nothing to do with spell checkers, but think I said 'homonyms' and meant 'homophones'... which is interesting because I had the latter in my head as I typed!

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 Post subject: Re: London bridges
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 5:36 pm 
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Polish, too. I'm told than when an 80s era student went home to poland and told his friends that most americans had spelling checkers on their computers, they thought he was making an ethnic joke. Polish spelling is relentlessly phonetic.

However, spelling is only one thing about a language that can change. Pronunciation, grammar, lexicon, orthography (letter shape/system) and doubtless a few other categories I've forgotten can also shift with time. All living languages change, but it may be that some languages change in different areas.

Also, it's likely that languages compensate for change in some areas by being very conservative in others. Which is why english preserves all these archaic spellings that so confuse ESL learners. Those spellings were once perfectly phonetic, but pronunciation changes have left them high and dry. English is among the fastest languages at adopting new vocab, but we preserve some ancient spellings.

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 Post subject: Re: London bridges
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 5:49 pm 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
Nothing to do with spell checkers, but think I said 'homonyms' and meant 'homophones'... which is interesting because I had the latter in my head as I typed!

What counts is that we understand your meaning. :wink:

But you raise an inescapable question: At what remove can we really say that assigned meaning - such as the difference between "homonym" and "homophone" - is ultimately unimportant? I don't think we can; not seriously, not if we look to the long haul. But one takes into account the speed of the moment, and the eye of the beholder. And of course I have to concede that time does change things; "egregious" used to be a compliment, and "fulsome" has now become too wayward to use with confidence.

s1m0n wrote:
...but we preserve some ancient spellings.

It gives us "ghoti" for "fish". When I was in Japan, my fellow Japanese students would complain about English's seeming randomness of spelling pronunciation, when contrasted with their consistent syllabic system. "Think of words in English spelling as being more like kanji," I offered, and they had something of an "Aha!" moment. Don't know if it really helped, though.

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 Post subject: Re: London bridges
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 5:58 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
Not in my case. I had a grasp of this when I was young, and I know young folks now who are sticklers too, so the age argument doesn't apply.


Every generation has its pedants, and we both were among that number. I'm talking about generations en masse, not as individuals.

My observation about age and change isn't controversial among language historians.

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 Post subject: Re: London bridges
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 6:11 pm 
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s1m0n wrote:
Nanohedron wrote:
Not in my case. I had a grasp of this when I was young, and I know young folks now who are sticklers too, so the age argument doesn't apply.

Every generation has its pedants, and we both were among that number.

And I hope I still am. I just checked, and I see I draw a breath yet. But I like to think I'm only a pedant when asked to be, or when the conversation - such as this one - doesn't discourage it. I've told younger pedants to tone it down.

s1m0n wrote:
I'm talking about generations en masse, not as individuals.

Of course. And that is why I brought up the individual case. Yin and yang, you see.

s1m0n wrote:
My observation about age and change isn't controversial among language historians.

And I wouldn't suggest it was. I just find your foremost emphasis on it to be somewhat one-sided.

If we think English spelling is a bear, I'll tell you one language that gives me the spelling willies: Tibetan. I could never guess that Bka'-rgyud is pronounced "Kagyu". :boggle:

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 Post subject: Re: London bridges
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 6:33 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
But you raise an inescapable question: At what remove can we really say that meaning - such as the difference between "homonym" and "homophone" - is ultimately unimportant? I don't think we can...


Well, it happens. Is happening constantly, in fact. A new generation comes along that invests less and less in the distinction. What follows is period in which you see two forms being used interchangeably for both definitions. Eventually, consensus my arrive that one spelling is the more 'correct', and then dictionaries will start listing the second with a 'see the first' note. For example:

Quote:
Incidence: The rate at which events occur
Incidents: ,pl A number of events

Will become:

Incidence: see Incidents
Incidents: A number of events; The rate at which events occur


Quote:

Precedence: The order of procedure or privilege.
Precedents: ,pl Rules determined by prevailing previous rulings.

Will become:

Precedence: see Precedents.
Precedents: Rules determined by prevailing previous rulings; The order of procedure or privilege.


And I picked these examples because it's absolutely happening. Even if you knew these distinctions, and doubtless we all do, I doubt many of us will be startled to read, "There have been a number of incidence..." in a quality publication.

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And now there was no doubt that the trees were really moving - moving in and out through one another as if in a complicated country dance. ('And I suppose,' thought Lucy, 'when trees dance, it must be a very, very country dance indeed.')

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 Post subject: Re: London bridges
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 6:36 pm 
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s1m0n wrote:
I doubt many of us will be startled to read, "There have been a number of incidence..." in a quality publication.

Well, I certainly hope you're off the mark, there. If we know the meaning, I think it behooves us to be startled.

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 Post subject: Re: London bridges
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 7:01 pm 
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Keep your eyes peeled, then. I'm annoyed when I see them but these days I'm no longer surprised.

My judgement is that consensus hasn't quite congealed in that critical 'youngest fully educated' demographic, but the mistake is so ubiquitous that I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

"Precedence/precedents" is particularly ill-distinguished.

The youngest educated demographic matters because this is the stage where a lifetime's linguistic habits are set. Once a critical mass of this generation decides that something is correct, it soon will be. They'll support each other against their elders and succeeding gens will follow this gen, not the older ones.

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And now there was no doubt that the trees were really moving - moving in and out through one another as if in a complicated country dance. ('And I suppose,' thought Lucy, 'when trees dance, it must be a very, very country dance indeed.')

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 Post subject: Re: London bridges
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 7:24 pm 
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s1m0n wrote:
Keep your eyes peeled, then.

And that's another one. I'd pat you on the back for not writing "pealed", as is often seen, but I wouldn't insult you so.

s1m0n wrote:
I'm annoyed when I see them but these days I'm no longer surprised.

It's a good thing I intend to be cremated, because otherwise I'm afraid they'd have to bury me with my shaking fist of indignation sticking out of the ground. :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: London bridges
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 7:44 pm 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
Nothing to do with spell checkers, but think I said 'homonyms' and meant 'homophones'... which is interesting because I had the latter in my head as I typed!


I think that's a muscle-memory error. We start typing a word and let muscle memory take over, but sometimes, your muscles take you into a similar but different word.

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 Post subject: Re: London bridges
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 7:51 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
I'd pat you on the back for not writing "pealed", as is often seen, but I wouldn't insult you so.


Why not? I set out to deliberately annoy you with "pique slang", after all.

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And now there was no doubt that the trees were really moving - moving in and out through one another as if in a complicated country dance. ('And I suppose,' thought Lucy, 'when trees dance, it must be a very, very country dance indeed.')

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 Post subject: Re: London bridges
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 7:58 pm 
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s1m0n wrote:
Nanohedron wrote:
I'd pat you on the back for not writing "pealed", as is often seen, but I wouldn't insult you so.

Why not? I set out to deliberately annoy you with "pique slang", after all.

But I did insult you. Just backhandedly, is all. :wink:

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