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Old 25th January 2007, 12:35 PM   #1
chris epic
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English is most probably the strongest language

Originally Posted by l0rca View Post
I...feel that the English language is most probably the strongest language devloped and evolved by a culture. This is speaking in a broad sense, and I acknowledge there are weaknesses in the language which other languages may be stronger in.
Okay- have at it. This should have been done a long time ago. The majority of the "Thought Without Words" thread is based on this claim completely off the topic.

So, in response to your claim: No one on the prior thread agreed with you. And as I stated before- in scientific inquirey, feelings are meaningless. If a feeling is the root of an inquirey, it must be immediately followed by objective and strong support for your claim, which you admit is unattainable, or strongly unlikely to acquire.

But lets try it out.

What is your evidence that English is "most probably the best language" and don't just support this claim with what English "does." It must be measured against other languages. That is objectivity, amd that is crucial to your argument. Your Xfire Debate Club should have taught you that.

EDIT: I used "best" to replace "strongest" because it implies the same meaning.
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Last edited by chris epic; 25th January 2007 at 12:37 PM. Reason: modification
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Old 25th January 2007, 12:50 PM   #2
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Wink

Originally Posted by chris epic View Post
Okay- have at it. This should have been done a long time ago. The majority of the "Thought Without Words" thread is based on this claim completely off the topic.

So, in response to your claim: No one on the prior thread agreed with you. And as I stated before- in scientific inquirey, feelings are meaningless. If a feeling is the root of an inquirey, it must be immediately followed by objective and strong support for your claim, which you admit is unattainable, or strongly unlikely to acquire.

But lets try it out.

What is your evidence that English is "most probably the best language" and don't just support this claim with what English "does." It must be measured against other languages. That is objectivity, amd that is crucial to your argument. Your Xfire Debate Club should have taught you that.

EDIT: I used "best" to replace "strongest" because it implies the same meaning.
Of course, I was not the original poster, and I have no opinion as to whether English is a better language than any other (except for French--it is better than French).

In defense of English, it almost certainly has the largest vocabulary of any language, as a simple result of its history of absorbing words and grammer from a number of different tongues, especially Norman French. This does sometimes allow shades of meaning not available in other languages--like French.
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Old 25th January 2007, 12:55 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by richorman View Post
In defense of English, it almost certainly has the largest vocabulary of any language, as a simple result of its history of absorbing words and grammer from a number of different tongues, especially Norman French. This does sometimes allow shades of meaning not available in other languages--like French.
This statement is half right. Yes, English has a (relatively) large vocabulary -- although it's dwarfed by the vocabulary of polysynthetic languages that can make an entire sentence into one word.

But the idea that you need a word to be able to convey a concept is ludicrous. That's what phrases are for. If you have a concept you want to convey, and there's no single word for it, use several words and string them together.
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Old 25th January 2007, 01:08 PM   #4
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Quote:
So, in response to your claim: No one on the prior thread agreed with you. And as I stated before- in scientific inquirey, feelings are meaningless. If a feeling is the root of an inquirey, it must be immediately followed by objective and strong support for your claim, which you admit is unattainable, or strongly unlikely to acquire.
It was already stated in the last thread that this wasn't a scientific question, or a scientific inquiry. This was the quote:

Quote:
I understand it's not possible to be scientific, and so I'm not really making a scientific inquiry here. I admit that my knowledge of language is limited, but I don't think English as a superior language to most can't be far from the truth; I'm just further stating that in general, in summing up what I stated as some very important criteria in language, that English probably has more stengths in this criteria than all the other languages. If I can be shown another language that bests English in a majority of these, or another language which can claim a different set of strengths which arguably holds itself against my criteria set, I'll admit I'm wrong.
The criteria I listed was:

At being specific, at avoiding tropes, at rhetorical awareness, at technical vocabulary (I'll actually append this to "wide-ranging vocabulary"), at grammatic flexibility, and at familiarity through the most cultures.


Quote:
Your Xfire Debate Club should have taught you that.
A zinger, right? Good one! And quite an excellent display of what you meant by requesting we not insult each other.

Last edited by l0rca; 25th January 2007 at 01:13 PM.
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Old 25th January 2007, 01:16 PM   #5
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Ok strenghs of english as pure language (ignoreing culture)

It uses an alphabet rather than being logographic or useing syllabaries.

Appears to have a reasonable number of letters without being excessive and uses vowels (although sometimes I'm not sure if loseing was a good idea). Writes left to right.

Letters are fairly easy to form compared to say Greek (Xi is anoying) and to a lesser extent Cyrillic see (Zhe).

It has also largely managed to dump the whole "the must be male or female thing" and has a vocab that is large enough for pretty much anything

Weekness as a pure language:

Much of the spelling is extreamly consistant. A large number of odities in other areas ()

Cutural

Engish has the advantage that it generaly has no problems accepting new words. It is also the case that there is more data stored in english than any other language.
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Old 25th January 2007, 01:18 PM   #6
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This statement is half right. Yes, English has a (relatively) large vocabulary -- although it's dwarfed by the vocabulary of polysynthetic languages that can make an entire sentence into one word.
I think I should also clear this up; something else Chris didn't mention. In that thread, and I retain in this one, I am not talking about synthetic languages, but languages of a culture. I've no doubt that a linguist could create a language superior to our others, and specialized languages as well.
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Old 25th January 2007, 01:20 PM   #7
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Is the English language really a distinct thing? Can it be measured or spoken about as an entity on its own?

My touchstone for this question is The Unfolding of Langauge by Deutcher. He reminds us that language is constantly evolving in both content and grammar. We would be difficult to understand a hundred years ago, even more difficult two hundred years ago and a visitor from 1507 would find it almost impossible to follow a modern english conversation. If English (and all languages) are evolving at a rate that is faster than generational, is there any thing to measure against other languages?

N.B. Don't believe our language is evolving? Consider these two sentence pairs: 1) I'm gonna be right back / I'm going to be right back. 2) I'm going to the store / I'm gonna the store. The word "gonna" is in the process of replacing "going to" but it hasn't completely replaced it yet. Language (unlike h. sapiens) can actually be caught in the act of evolving.
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Old 25th January 2007, 01:26 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Loss Leader View Post
Is the English language really a distinct thing? Can it be measured or spoken about as an entity on its own?

My touchstone for this question is The Unfolding of Langauge by Deutcher. He reminds us that language is constantly evolving in both content and grammar. We would be difficult to understand a hundred years ago, even more difficult two hundred years ago and a visitor from 1507 would find it almost impossible to follow a modern english conversation. If English (and all languages) are evolving at a rate that is faster than generational, is there any thing to measure against other languages?
There are certian common features and some languages such as french don't shift so much. Indeed I would claim that one of the features of engish is that it shifts extreamly quickly
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Old 25th January 2007, 01:30 PM   #9
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There are certian common features and some languages such as french don't shift so much. Indeed I would claim that one of the features of engish is that it shifts extreamly quickly
Are you considering the British form of the idiom?

Because of this, I think the only shifts that should be considered are those appended to the lexicon. The rest of it I would consider of dialect and colloquial aspect.
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Old 25th January 2007, 01:37 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by l0rca View Post
The rest of it I would consider of dialect and colloquial aspect.
I can't help but get the feeling that somewhere in that sentence he just insulted Americans.
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Old 25th January 2007, 01:47 PM   #11
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Well, I'm from Philadelphia, and I serve in the military. If I were to insult Americans for the way they speak, I'd be one hell of a hypocrite.
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Old 25th January 2007, 02:47 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by l0rca View Post
I think I should also clear this up; something else Chris didn't mention. In that thread, and I retain in this one, I am not talking about synthetic languages,
You have no idea what the term "polysynthetic language" means, do you?

It doesn't mean "artificial language" (like Esperanto).

It means "language with a huge morpheme-to-word ratio." LIke Navajo, Basque, Greenlandic, Turkish, .....
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Old 25th January 2007, 02:48 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Loss Leader View Post
Is the English language really a distinct thing? Can it be measured or spoken about as an entity on its own?
Yes, and yes.

Chimpanzees are constantly evolving, too. But no biologist considers that we can't talk about them as a result.
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Old 25th January 2007, 02:49 PM   #14
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Nope, didn't know what it meant.
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Old 25th January 2007, 02:50 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by l0rca View Post
Because of this, I think the only shifts that should be considered are those appended to the lexicon. The rest of it I would consider of dialect and colloquial aspect.

So this means that the Great Vowel Shift wasn't an example of language change?

I suspect that if what you had written above made sense at all, it would be wrong.
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Old 25th January 2007, 02:55 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
Letters are fairly easy to form compared to say Greek (Xi is anoying) and to a lesser extent Cyrillic see (Zhe).
Uh ? I may accept that Xi may be annoying to a foreigner but Greek letters in general are much easier to pronounce correctly than English ones. Italian and Spanish probably being the easiest widespread languages.
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Old 25th January 2007, 02:58 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by drkitten View Post
So this means that the Great Vowel Shift wasn't an example of language change?

I suspect that if what you had written above made sense at all, it would be wrong.
My point was that English is such a large language that we need to consider a larger view of its use to measure how much it is shifting. As it stands, there are plenty of phrases and words that the British uses that Americans do not, and vise versa. I don't think that a subjective account in an area of English use should be considered an overall shift of language.
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Old 25th January 2007, 03:06 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by drkitten View Post
But the idea that you need a word to be able to convey a concept is ludicrous. That's what phrases are for. If you have a concept you want to convey, and there's no single word for it, use several words and string them together.
Afterall, thats what the dictionary does. Its interchangeable too. I was actually thinking about it the other day, the basic irony of a dictionary. In order to define one word what do they do? They give you a bunch more words. And sometimes they throw words in there that you have to look up! Otherstimes they give you synonims (sp) that still don't help you.

I guess some of most important reasons for phrases or words stringed together as an alternative for one word are:

A) Audience
B) Connotation

If two people are speaking English together and one person uses an English word that the other person associates a different connation to, then replacing it with the actual meaning would difuse misunderstanding.
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Old 25th January 2007, 03:09 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by l0rca View Post
My point was that English is such a large language that we need to consider a larger view of its use to measure how much it is shifting. As it stands, there are plenty of phrases and words that the British uses that Americans do not, and vise versa. I don't think that a subjective account in an area of English use should be considered an overall shift of language.
But that has little or nothing to do with the lexicon. Some of the differences between British and American "standard" English are lexical -- sidewalk/pavement, trousers/pants, ironmonger/hardware store.

But there are also huge variations in pronunciation; the phonetic inventory of the two dialects is different. There are also morphological and syntactic variations as well. For example, the following dialogue could only be heard in "America".

"Can you have this ready for me by tomorrow?"
"Yes, I could."

In Britain, you can't use auxiliary verbs as full verbs -- it would be "Yes, I could do." Question inversion -- "Have you any apples?" -- is much more acceptable in Britain, while Yiddish-fronting -- "Apples? I love apples. Pears, I'm not so fond of." -- is more acceptable in the States. Any dialectologist could cite millions of examples.

Similarly, in the States, any noun can be verbed, something that annoys the daylights out of many educated Brits. The ability of Americans to productify morphemes languagewise is another stellar example of the differences that are NOT reflected in the lexicon.

But by the same token, there are also huge shifts that reflect language change on both sides of the Pond that do not seem to be dialect-based (or that lead in one dialect but are quickly absorbed in the other).
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Old 25th January 2007, 03:13 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by l0rca View Post
It was already stated in the last thread that this wasn't a scientific question, or a scientific inquiry.
Science is the method by which ANYONE produces a claim and explores objective evidence to verify, support, or refute that claim. Science and Skepticism go hand in hand. I'm not talking about white lab jackets and data processors, I'm talking about the very foundation of the entire Randi Forum.
Quote:
A zinger, right? Good one! And quite an excellent display of what you meant by requesting we not insult each other.
Hey, the Xfire thing was came out before we settled our dispute privately and came to an agreement of civility. But don't take it to heart. Who cares what I say. If you took that as an insult, that's your choice. I stated a fact. You are in a debate club, therefore when you debate; laughing and "duhs" should be suspended with self-restraint.

Act civil because you are civil, not because of how others act toward you. Who cares what other people think. Don't get blind-sided by ad hominem from me or anyone else. If you see someone veering off the topic because of that, ignore them and continue your coarse on your personal journey of intellectual exploration.
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Old 25th January 2007, 03:18 PM   #21
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Americans insult Americans all the time. Just because you're from America doesn't prevent you from doing so.

But Webster's and Oxford's cohorts would be an awesome Pay-per-view bar brawl.
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Old 25th January 2007, 03:20 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by drkitten View Post

It means "language with a huge morpheme-to-word ratio." LIke Navajo, Basque, Greenlandic, Turkish, .....
Thats interesting. Could you describe that further? Basque is an anomoly, isn't it? No idea where it came from, yet its surrounded by PIE languages. Are the others the same? Is Navajo an anomoly, or is it Asiatic-based?
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Old 25th January 2007, 03:22 PM   #23
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Here is just a thought. Do we single out English? Something thats come up several times here is that English is cool because its taken on many other words from various other languages. Okay- we, the English users have taken on various other words from other places. Most of the languages we borrowed from are Indo European which includes Celtic, Germanic, Balto-Slavic, Latin, Greek, Sankrit, and Farsi.

Should we say that Indo-European languages are better or stronger than African dialects? What about the Bushman dialect? The oldest spoken language? "click-clock glong lock"

Better than Asian languages?

Could Noam Chompsky enlighten us with what language is the "best" or "strongest?"
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Old 25th January 2007, 03:22 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by chris epic View Post
What is your evidence that English is "most probably the best language" and don't just support this claim with what English "does."
How many languages do you all reckon a person should be able to speak in order to be allowed to make such a claim? How manby of those should he be fluent in?

Personally, I'll take the claim serious if the claimant is fluent in one dead langauge, two or three European languages (which a linguist will have a nicer word for, I''m sure - but French, English and Swedish will do just fine), one Baltic language, one Arabian language and one Asian language.

Since I am no linguist myself, really, I guess "Baltic" might be a bad choice and should maybe be extended to also include one extra language like Russian or Polish.

Also, I doubt that the amount of information available in one language or the number of people that speak it makes a good criterion. It might make it very useful to know that language - but that the language itself should be viewed as more powerful only because more people speak it doesn't seem to make much sense. If everyone learned Japanese the English language would still be the same and still have the same properties, after all.
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Old 25th January 2007, 03:26 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by El Greco View Post
Uh ? I may accept that Xi may be annoying to a foreigner but Greek letters in general are much easier to pronounce correctly than English ones. Italian and Spanish probably being the easiest widespread languages.
Nothing to do with pronounce. It was how to write the darn thing.
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Old 25th January 2007, 03:30 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
Nothing to do with pronounce. It was how to write the darn thing.
Oh. You mean capital Ξ or low case ξ ? Man, that's beautiful!
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Old 25th January 2007, 03:35 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Rasmus View Post
Since I am no linguist myself, really, I guess "Baltic" might be a bad choice and should maybe be extended to also include one extra language like Russian or Polish.
Balto-Slavic
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Old 25th January 2007, 03:39 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by chris epic View Post
Basque is an anomoly, isn't it? No idea where it came from,
Pretty much. Might be related to Aquitanian language.

http://www.buber.net/Basque/Euskara/...rehistory.html
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Old 25th January 2007, 03:42 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Rasmus View Post
How many languages do you all reckon a person should be able to speak in order to be allowed to make such a claim? How manby of those should he be fluent in?

Personally, I'll take the claim serious if the claimant is fluent in one dead langauge, two or three European languages (which a linguist will have a nicer word for, I''m sure - but French, English and Swedish will do just fine), one Baltic language, one Arabian language and one Asian language.
You've missed out several langue families and gone a bit overboard on indo-european

Quote:
Also, I doubt that the amount of information available in one language or the number of people that speak it makes a good criterion. It might make it very useful to know that language - but that the language itself should be viewed as more powerful only because more people speak it doesn't seem to make much sense. If everyone learned Japanese the English language would still be the same and still have the same properties, after all.
The culture attached to a langue is one of it's properties.
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Old 25th January 2007, 03:57 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by chris epic View Post
Thats interesting. Could you describe that further?
Beyond the cited Wikipedia article, you mean?

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Basque is an anomoly, isn't it? No idea where it came from, yet its surrounded by PIE languages.
Aside from your abuses of terminology, yes.

Quote:
Are the others the same? Is Navajo an anomoly, or is it Asiatic-based?
No, and neither. Navajo is a Native American langauge spoken (of course) by the Navajo tribe of the southwestern USA. LInguistically, it's part of the Athabaskan family of Na-dene languages. There are some highly controversial connections proposed to other languages -- including, oddly enough, to Basque -- but no one takes those connections seriously, at least while the bars are still open. As far as reality-based research goes, no one has shown any convincing connection to Asia beyond the obvious that, as human beings evolved in Africa, they presumably migrated to the Americas from Africa through Asia.

There are a lot of Na-Dene languages, ranging from Alaska down into Mexico, mostly concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, so it's hardly an "isolate" (correct term). Depending upon how you count, there are something like 40 Athabaskan languages and probably a hundred Na-dene.

Greenlandic is another Native American language, spoken (as you might expect) by the tribes in Greenland, and is part of the Eskimo-Aleut family This family does have connections to Asia, mostly in Siberia, but not with any language you've probably heard of.

Turkish is, of course, spoken in Turkey and is a "Turkic" language.

Some other polysynthetic language families that you might have heard of include Uto-Aztecan (spoken by the Aztecs), Mayan (spoken by the Mayans), Bantu (spoken in Africa), and a few of the Papuan languages.of New Guinea (which are a mess to sort out, historically speaking).

So in some parts of the world, polysynthesis is more the norm than the exception.
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Old 25th January 2007, 04:00 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Rasmus View Post
How many languages do you all reckon a person should be able to speak in order to be allowed to make such a claim?
Zero, if she's got other sources of evidence.

Although speaking at least one language would make the process of actually making the claim easier. It's hard to do scientific discourse through the medium of interpretive dance.
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Old 25th January 2007, 04:11 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
You've missed out several langue families and gone a bit overboard on indo-european
Like I said: I am not a linguist.

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The culture attached to a langue is one of it's properties.
I wouldn't see the sheer number of people speaking a language or the accumulated information available in that language as "culture" though. Maybe I am just missing your point, though.
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Old 25th January 2007, 04:14 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by drkitten View Post
Zero, if she's got other sources of evidence.
My bad.

I am not sure if I'd buy any argument from a person who wouldn't speak several languages, though. But I concede that it might be possible to make the argument.

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Although speaking at least one language would make the process of actually making the claim easier. It's hard to do scientific discourse through the medium of interpretive dance.
Pitty. I'd love to see that.
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Old 25th January 2007, 04:21 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Rasmus View Post
I wouldn't see the sheer number of people speaking a language or the accumulated information available in that language as "culture" though. Maybe I am just missing your point, though.
Well, I would. For example, one feature that determines whether or not a language is used is whether it's useful -- i.e., it allows you to communicate with a large enough number of people about a large enough number of topics. One of the reasons that many "endangered" langauges are dying out is because the youth of that culure no longer see fit to use the language among themselves.

As an example -- documented, I believe, by David Crystal in Language Death -- a young woman who moved out of her village in Turkey to a big city (Ankara, IIRC) found that she couldn't talk or write about her life in the city in the native tongue of the village. The words she needed, for things like "internet cafe" and "junk bonds" and "elevator," simply weren't there. And she found that she was forgetting the words that she knew for things like "goat" and "plough" that were no longer a part of her city life. So even when she talked to fellow villagers, she was using standard Turkish. She couldn't watch movies or enjoy a cultural life in her native tongue. Basically, there isn't enough "stuff" in her native language. What is that if not culture?

That's part of how languages die. First, people stop using them for technical stuff. Then, people stop using them for (high) cultural stuff. Then, people stop using them for personal stuff. And eventually they just become ritualized phrases like the Latin Mass, phrases that people memorize and say but don't understand.... and eventually they just disappear. ("Hoc est corpus meum" becomes "hocus-pocus," and then magically vanishes.)
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Old 25th January 2007, 04:23 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Rasmus View Post
I am not sure if I'd buy any argument from a person who wouldn't speak several languages, though. But I concede that it might be possible to make the argument.
Wanna see the brain scans? "Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, if you look at this slide, you notice that the activation in the occipital-parietal-frontal lobe is 38% greater for speakers of Yupik, reflecting the characteristic increase in referential specificity as identified by Flintstone and Rubble in their famous work....."
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Old 25th January 2007, 11:25 PM   #36
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No correlation between language and culture?

Language comes out of a culture and a culture is perpetuated through language.

Language serves two major functions aside from the obvious communication.

a) it is used by a society to interperate their environment

b) it is used to transmit culture from one generation to the next
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Old 26th January 2007, 12:23 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by drkitten View Post
But that has little or nothing to do with the lexicon. Some of the differences between British and American "standard" English are lexical -- sidewalk/pavement, trousers/pants, ironmonger/hardware store.

But there are also huge variations in pronunciation; the phonetic inventory of the two dialects is different. There are also morphological and syntactic variations as well. For example, the following dialogue could only be heard in "America".

"Can you have this ready for me by tomorrow?"
"Yes, I could."

In Britain, you can't use auxiliary verbs as full verbs -- it would be "Yes, I could do." Question inversion -- "Have you any apples?" -- is much more acceptable in Britain, while Yiddish-fronting -- "Apples? I love apples. Pears, I'm not so fond of." -- is more acceptable in the States. Any dialectologist could cite millions of examples.

Similarly, in the States, any noun can be verbed, something that annoys the daylights out of many educated Brits. The ability of Americans to productify morphemes languagewise is another stellar example of the differences that are NOT reflected in the lexicon.

But by the same token, there are also huge shifts that reflect language change on both sides of the Pond that do not seem to be dialect-based (or that lead in one dialect but are quickly absorbed in the other).
How would you classify the difference between these two cultures, then?
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Old 26th January 2007, 12:26 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by drkitten View Post
Wanna see the brain scans? "Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, if you look at this slide, you notice that the activation in the occipital-parietal-frontal lobe is 38% greater for speakers of Yupik, reflecting the characteristic increase in referential specificity as identified by Flintstone and Rubble in their famous work....."
I can't tell how serious you are. Would you mind providing resources to what you're talking about?
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Old 26th January 2007, 02:19 AM   #39
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Quoted from Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, written by W. Nelson Francis

(this guy: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=W.+nelson+francis)

Quote:
English is undoubtedly the most important of the world's languages at this time [this point of which he writes is elaborated on in a pragraph concerning its use in science, communication, business, and worldwide familiarity; the next paragraph below of course, is still auxillary to the argument of the main idea]...

...It is not the intrinsic superiority of English over other languages that has made it the premier world language. If it is richer in vocabulary, more flexible in grammar, and more expressive than other lanugages (and some would question at least the last two of these claims), these qualities are the results, not the causes, of its importance in the world. Simply stated, what makes a language important is the importance of the people who use it and the uses to which they put it.

Last edited by l0rca; 26th January 2007 at 02:24 AM.
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Old 26th January 2007, 02:23 AM   #40
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If you took that as an insult, that's your choice. I stated a fact. You are in a debate club, therefore when you debate; laughing and "duhs" should be suspended with self-restraint.
I'll say this one last time, and from now on completely ignore this sort of advice you are trying to give: I don't need your lessons on how to act, and you were certainly not exemplifying this advice. Let's not advise each other on how to conduct ourselves.
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