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Question about english language.

  1. Oct 21, 2009 #1
    There are few points about english language i do not like. Why in english (also in many other languages) you do not write the same as you speak? Why people make things difficult? I noticed that in USA schools make some spelling champoinships. Vel in mai kauntri stjudents vuld fait forever bekoz vi spik az vi vrait.
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  3. Oct 21, 2009 #2


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    No, you don't. Even in your country (unless you are from San Marino, Liechtenstein or some other tiny country), you have DIALECTS, and not all of those are represented in your written language. Besides, you censor yourself in writing by rooting out a variaty of grammatical and syntactical mistakes.
    You do NOT "write as you speak"!

    An official written language is meant to be a COMMON medium, and by agreeing on certain rules to be effective, it becomes much easier for others to understand what you are saying.

    This is not as necessary when speaking, because you can always backtrack, use body language etc. in order to clarify what you meant.
  4. Oct 22, 2009 #3
    arildno, I did'nt understand your post.
    We have dialects. If someone is speaking word differently, then it is also written differently.
    The question is why do you write ''cat'', but say ''ket''?
  5. Oct 22, 2009 #4
    Talking about the difference between writing and speaking, I think Chinese is the champion.
  6. Oct 22, 2009 #5
    Vel in mai kauntri stjudents vuld fait forever bekoz vi spik az vi vrait.
    But in mi cuntry stewdentz wud wayt forever beecuz wee speek as wee rite.
    Your phonetics are quite different to my phonetics.
    Besides English language crosswords would not be nearly so subtle and annoying using newspeak.
  7. Oct 22, 2009 #6
    At least I see some logic in your phonetics although it is different from mine.
  8. Oct 22, 2009 #7
    it may also have to do with the fact that pronunciation and other aspects of the spoken language change at a much faster rate than the written aspects of a language. also, as mentioned, dialects are spoken differently, but spelled the same, to allow people who speak the same language to communicate easier.
  9. Oct 22, 2009 #8


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    Because it would be difficult/combersome and pointless to write a textbook for every dialect.
  10. Oct 22, 2009 #9


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    True. Reading is much slower when the text is written in "dialect". Some of the posts in this thread were written in "how I talk" style, and I struggled through them, very slowly.

    Yet, like most native speakers, I can read standard English faster than I can speak it, as can a Scottish person...though I (a Western US dialect English speaker) can't understand the spoken Scottish dialect without a lot of effort.

    So having a standardized written language helps to smooth written communication between people who speak different dialects.
  11. Oct 22, 2009 #10


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    A mentor here, Kurdt lives in an area of Northern England where a special ancient dialect called "Geordie" is spoken. Unfortunately, he went to private schools so wasn't subjected to the dialect and can barely speak it.

    Due to the area being closed off to much immigration, the old English language was preserved within this geographic pocket.

  12. Oct 22, 2009 #11


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    Evo, do you REALLY mean that? Old English is preserved there? How authentic or valid?
  13. Oct 27, 2009 #12
    I think your question is why aren't written languages more phonetic, at least in terms of the standard dialect. In fact there are a number of reasonably phonetic written languages: German, Spanish, Italian, Russian for example. French is not phonetic since there are a lot of silent letters and silent whole (usually terminal) syllables. For example parle, parles, parlent and parler, and parlaient are all pronounced PARL. There is certain consistency to French spelling so that with practice, you can learn how pronounce words from their spelling.

    English is the real outlier here: bite (BYT) but tight (TYT), seat (SEET), beat (BEET), but feet (FEET) (which is the plural of foot, not 'feets', but that's a grammatical irregularity). However foot is pronounced like soot but not like boot or toot or root. Spelling-phonetic irregularities in English could fill a book and the reasons why, another book (book like foot, but not like loot and certainly not good). It mostly has to 'due' with the diverse sources of the English vocabulary and the fact that for centuries, English spelling wazn't standardized.

    http://www.spellingsociety.org/aboutsss/johnson1.php [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  14. Oct 28, 2009 #13
    Nice replay SW VandeCarr. Still can't fully understand why other could find a way to make their language phonetic but others didn't. I learned French too and it's spelling is even crazier. I just couldn't pronounce what was in the book.

    There is another thing that troubles me about English language very much. I can't often understand what people are in movies and songs saying. Often i can't even pronounce the word I heard in song. I know 4 languages (Latvian is my mother language) and such problem is only in this language. The words in English are so ''soft'', ''foggy'' and are horribly rhyming (like learn and earn, please and police, etc.). For me German is the opposite side of this problem. It is hard accent, clear word endings, I could say it is pedantic. Funny thing is, I better understand English form a person who speaks English with some accent.

    I just listen for few songs. In the song ''The Doors-Riders on the storm'' I swear, that I hear text ''...if you give this man a ride sweat family will die. ...'' I look up the lyrics and I see there is no ''family'', but it is ''memory''. What do you hear? It happens to me all the time. I like Kate Bush songs very much. And it is a big pity for me to know, what beautiful lyrics her songs have, only by reading the lyrics.
  15. Oct 28, 2009 #14
    I still haven't mastered English even though I've been using it every day for a long time. If it wasn't for spell check, I'd be lost. I think most languages that use a phonetic alphabet (as opposed to ideographic like Mandarin) are probably reasonably phonetic. By that, I mean you can read a word and be reasonably confident you can pronounce it. German, Spanish and Italian all have this quality. Russian is phonetic, but you have to learn where to place the accent. I understand written Arabic is phonetic for the classical dialect used in the Quran, but not for the many modern dialects.

    I agree that English is a "soft" language. When spoken rapidly or when syllables are altered slightly as in songs, it's hard to discriminate words and syllables. Vowels are particularly weak and varying as I tried to demonstrate. In Spanish and Italian, vowels are strong and distinct without the subtle modifications that French and English have. German is a "hard" language with distinct syllables (IMHO). It's a very good language for communicating displeasure as in Verstehen Sie?.

    However, the rich English vocabulary, flexibility of construction and the analytic grammar make it ideal for expressing shades of meaning and more complicated ideas and concepts (IMHO).

    EDIT: I'm not surprised you find the English of non-native speakers easier to understand. That's true for me also. That's not uncommon. Native speakers have acquired many habits of speech that the non-native speaker can only learn by living in a particular locale for some time.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2009
  16. Oct 28, 2009 #15
    English is known for its ability to assimilate new words into itself and for its flexibility. As SW pointed out, this makes it good for conveying shades of meaning. It also has a complex history, being originally a germanic language that was influenced by some druidic, the latin of the roman empire and the catholic church, and then the the Norman french. It has also been largely since developed in the cultural melting pot of America.

    I could be wrong, but I think the more phoenetic languages you are referring to have a more restricted capacity for word and concept absorbtion.
  17. Oct 29, 2009 #16
    Yes, that's the plus of English. Compered to my language (Latvian) it has far more words and to express yourself. Another big pluses of English it is easy to learn and the words are like therms. I can easily find info in google. But in Latvian I have this problem in witch form should I write the words to find info. Nouns decline into seven cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative, and vocative. This is a headache. I could say English is more masculine, but Latvian (Balto-Slavic languages) more feminine language. English words are like therms, but Latvian words can be changed in pronunciation to describe feelings, situations.
  18. Oct 29, 2009 #17
    I've heard from people who find English grammar easy and others who find it difficult. Those who find it difficult are not used to the word order being so important, so I guess it depends on the speaker's linguistic background.

    Like all languages, English has its irregular forms, but I always found its relative lack of inflection a plus: no grammatical gender, no noun case inflections except for the weak "Saxon genitive" (as the French call it), an analytic verb tense/mood/aspect system ("I shall have been waiting..) and a progressive aspect. The progressive aspect is important for a reason that I don't find in textbooks. When I say "I eat at 8 o'clock." I'm actually expressing a habitual activity, not an activity that's happening right now. For that I can say "I am eating (so don't bother me)." Other languages don't generally distinguish between these two conditions.

    Anyway, for now English is the leading international lingua franca. I can't imagine what language might replace it. French was the former first international language, now it's second (but they know don't that). It won't be Mandarin as some are saying. It won't be any other European language. So what will it be? I'll leave that question open for discussion.

    By the way, I'm not familiar with the word "therm" as you're using it. Could you clarify?
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2009
  19. Oct 29, 2009 #18

    I think that in the future, english and spanish will gradually merge, and this combination as well as mandarin will be the two main earth languages.
  20. Oct 30, 2009 #19
    That would be muy interesante. The majority of the English vocabulary is already derived from Latin, mostly via Norman French, but also directly as you pointed out in an earlier post. Anglo-Saxon words make up a small core of about 5000-10,000 words (depending on how you define a distinct word). Most educated people use (or at least understand) about 30-40,000 words out some 500,000 words in the English language. The second sentence of this post contains: majority, vocabulary, derived, Latin, via, Norman French, directly, pointed, post; all based on Latin roots. The word "in" is common to both English and Latin but has more ancient (PIE?) roots since it also occurs in German.

    I don't see Mandarin making major inroads into the rest of the world. Nor do I see countries giving up their national languages. What I do see is an international language for global commerce and trade, the sciences and scholarship in general, diplomacy, and other international activities (including tourism and the internet). English largely serves this purpose now.


    My guess is English will absorb even more words from other languages, gradually acquire a standard phonetic script (as used in dictionaries), but otherwise retain the better qualities that I enumerated. Much of its future development might be done by non-native speakers using English as the basis for an 'International English'. Other possibilities include constructed languages like Esperanto or Interlingua. These are easy to learn and Interlingua has a recognizable vocabulary to people familiar with Latin roots. (And as I indicated above, if you speak English, you are already familiar with a lot of Latin derived words.)

    Last edited: Oct 31, 2009
  21. Oct 30, 2009 #20
    A follow up question, specifically for non-native english speakers: It seems to me from observation that native english speakers often have more difficulty learning a second language then speakers of other native languages. Why do you think this is? Does it have to do with english having a larger vocabulary and more complex rules to learn?
  22. Oct 30, 2009 #21


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    English is still a Germanic language. (Being a Germanic language has nothing to do with the vocabulary, mind you!) Druidic had almost no influence on the language. The Roman Empire ended long before English split off from the other Low Germanic languages (like German and Frisian). The bastardized Church Latin (a sort of substratum of VL with CL vocabulary) did influence the language, but the technical latin of the day influenced it more.

    There's more German in the language than most give it credit for, almost a quarter of the words. About two-thirds is Italic, split roughly evenly between Norman French (as you correctly point out) and Latin. The balance is borrowings from other languages.
  23. Oct 31, 2009 #22
    Certainly English is a Germanic language by ancestry, but I also think it has something to do with vocabulary. It's true the modern Germanic languages don't share very many identical words, but the similarities are recognizable: were, waren; have, haben; Ich, ik (Dutch), I; father, Vater; warm, kalt etc.

    What I find interesting is how different modern German is from English in other respects. German spelling is very phonetic, and English?...not exactly. German is highly inflected, English is not. German: inflected for three genders, four cases with adjective agreement by case, number and gender,etc. English: no grammatical gender, minimal case inflection(the Saxon genitive) and mercifully, no adjective-noun agreement.

    Spoken German is crisp and clear while the OP finds spoken English often indistinct and difficult to understand. Others have told me the same. I personally can't judge whether it's the speaker or the language. I certainly can't follow a lot of the English lyrics of many popular songs, but German lyrics sound clearer to me.

    So maybe English is a Germanic language, but it has wandered a fair distance from modern German.

    EDIT: I'd be very interested in your views about the future of English as the leading international language, or whether you believe another language might eventually replace it. If so, what language? (Ref post 20).
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2009
  24. Oct 31, 2009 #23
    My bad, I meant term.

    I think because of 2 points. 1- English is easy compered to other languages. 2- Everyone knows English. So, if you would meat a person from other country you would speak in English and ignore he's language.

    As far as I know English is the best. As you said - no grammatical gender, minimal case inflection(the Saxon genitive) and mercifully, no adjective-noun agreement. Such efficiency is essential in our age of information. Does anybody knows similar language +phonetic +clear? However being a international language, the language loses its identity. And one of the things that defines the country and its culture is the language.

    Talking about the history of languages I want to brag a little bit :). Latvian and Lithuanian are considered to be the oldest of survived languages in the world (hope its right) and are the most closest of Indo-European languages to Sanskrit. As I studied Hinduism in culture history, I was amazed how many things we have in common.
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2009
  25. Oct 31, 2009 #24
    I've done a lot of traveling in my working career and I think Malaysian-Bahasa Indonesia (pretty much the same language) has a fairly simple analytic grammar and is said to be easy to learn. The vocabulary is quite foreign to the Western ear, but science-tech terms come through clearly. However I don't think any Eastern language will be an international language. If that sounds Eurocentric, I must say most Asian folks that I met in my travels much preferred to learn English than another Asian language. In particular, English seems far more popular in Japan and South Korea than Mandarin as a second language. There also seems to be an usual interest in classical Latin among some South Korean students! In India, English is much preferred by those whose native language is not Hindi (about half the population).

    Yes. That's something native English speakers might not be aware of. I've been told that English is too important to be left to the British and Americans. The language must be saved from its native speakers who thoroughly botched its orthography and continue to defile its integrity with neologisms. (Not my opinion necessarily). International English would have a controlling body (like the French Academy?) to keep the language intelligible for international gatherings of all kinds. Native speakers may come to regard International English as a foreign language!

    The Wiki article is pretty good too.

    I've read that the Balto-Slavic languages (Latvian, Lithuanian and Old Prussian) may be the closest spoken or attested languages to Proto-IndoEuropean (PIE). But they are probably not be the oldest. I think Basque (a non IE language) may be older. Other extant languages which lack a native written language such as Inuit and the indigenous languages of Australia, Africa and the Americas could be older. It just depends on how much they've changed over time. To say a language is the oldest entails that it hasn't evolved in a substantial way over a long period of time.
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2009
  26. Nov 1, 2009 #25
    I've heard arguments like this from cultural conservatives as well, but I think this would rob english of the feature that makes it s popular. As we have mentioned in this discussion, te unique thing about english is its ability to assimilate new features. If you constrained its evolution, it would lose this feature and stagnate.
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