A Conversation for Declining English


Post 1


I wish I'd found this before it went through, as I have loads of comments! On the whole, I think it's a great attempt to cover a complex subject. However, I have two points: one of major importance and the other merely pedantic.

1. Inflection is _not_ the changing of noun endings, it is the changing of _any_ word form to show its grammatical relations. This is really important.
2. The apostrophe in the genitive case in English is a relic of an older form: -es. Hence there is something left out. This, of course, makes a nonsense of forms such as "police'", although I had never come across that.

I'm going to read it through about four times before I make any more comments!


Post 2

King Cthulhu of Balwyniti

I agree, this is a very comprehensive article on what can be a very difficult to understand subject. Just a couple of points:

It might help to put in a section about the origin of the English language being Germanic. Saying "English is, structurally, very much a Germanic language." whilst partially true is misleading. English belongs to the Germanic family of languages, it is descended from Proto-Germanic, as is modern German, Dutch, Icelandic, Gothic and numerous other languages. Obviously, English has undergone many changes, and has borrowed many forms from non-Germanic languages like French (to which English is also, though more distantly, related through Proto Indo-European, as are most other European languages in addition to Sanskrit.) Nevertheless, English is fundamentally and historically a Germanic language.

Additionally, it might be an idea to temper the proscriptivism of the article slightly. Although the disclaimer is put in at the start that the author is a 'linguistic conservative' (or at least, this is implied), people already have the idea that rules for languages (particularly in terms of grammar) are set and inviolable. Whilst it is true that there *are* standards in written and spoken English, and some constructions are so fundamentally flawed as to be incoherent, language is constant only in so far as it changes continuously.

A good example of this is the use of an apostrophe to denote the possesive. As noted by manolan, this apostrophe is an antecedent of the '-es' form which dropped out of English before it became "modern". So orginally the apostrophe existed to denote a letter that was dropped, as it does in all other cases today. The use of the apostrophe to denote possession is now also dying out in many areas of the world. Where "The dogs bone is large" would not long ago have been considered non-standard, its status now is more generally considered 'doubtful', and soon enough its use may be common enough to be considered standard in some parts of the English speaking world, including Australia.

Just two relatively minor points in an otherwise excellent and clear article. smiley - smiley Oh, and if anyone really wants to learn about inflection and noun cases, try learning Finnish, which is generally acknowledged to have 14 noun cases! smiley - biggrin


Post 3



Can you point me to where the changes need to be made?

Many thanks

Ashley smiley - smiley


Post 4


I'm not sure how easy it is to fix. The problem is in this paragraph:

"English is, structurally, very much a Germanic language. One of the features of German, which does not appear in modern Romance languages, though it is true of Latin, is that it is inflected. This means that the nouns are declined. To decline a noun, one employs its declension."

A strict correction would be to replace the sentence "This means that the nouns are declined" with "This means that word forms change to indicate their grammatical relations." The problem is that the discussion in the entry is entirely about nouns and pronouns, so some sort of link to that idea is required.

I'm also not sure about saying that modern Romance languages aren't inflected because French, for example, has changes in the form of verbs to indicate voice, mood, tense and number. In fact, I would say that French is at least as inflected as English, if not more so as English makes more extensive use of auxilliary verbs. English has only the relics of inflection in the genitive and plural of nouns & pronouns and in the formation of certain auxilliary verbs (such as "to be", "to have"). Clearly you could argue about the formation of participles (and gerunds) from the verb root, but these are normally classified as adjectives in dictionaries.

This begs an important question: when is a language inflected and when have the different parts of speech evolved into separate words? I'm simply not qualified to make an assertion.


Post 5


The original author (and sole author, presumably nothing of value was added by anyone in the Peer Review process) of the article almost certainly *is* qualified to confirm or deny the assertion. However, she won't be able to contribute anything to any discussions here, or compose any more scholarly Guide Entries of this quality, because several weeks ago (before this entry made the front page) she was banned for life from contributing anything further to the Guide. She can still read, of course...

(with apologies for use of the singular pronoun, but I don't want to get into that here...)


Post 6


I hadn't even noticed that it was written by LeKZ. They may very well be qualified, but the statement in the article that inflection is about changes of nouns is such a howler, that it really does need some sort of attention. The rest of my comments are just me musing on why I'm not really qualified to suggest the changes. "A little learning is a dangerous thing...."

Other than that, there are plenty of comments I'd like to make, but none changes anything of importance in an otherwise excellent article.


Post 7


Ashley, there's one small thing:

"None of the ladies, who were elderly, WAS acquainted" would be correct... ("none" being singular, similarly "was" rather than "were")



Post 8

Martin Harper

> "presumably nothing of value was added by anyone in the Peer Review process"

ooh, a little harsh there, HVL. F68844?thread=117767 is the PR thread, and it wasn't a *total* waste of time... smiley - smiley

(aren't old threads.... unnerving?)



Post 9


In answer to the first: I did write that before I'd ever had an entry recommended, so I assumed that if there was one person's name under "Written and researched by", they were the sole author. Reasonable assumption, I would have thought. Wrong, but wreasonable. (with apologies to Sellar and Yeatman).

In answer to the second: yes. "Arpeggio of the recently regurgitated by hospital and not sure really if should be trusted online alone and without supervision" smiley - erm



Post 10


>>(aren't old threads.... unnerving?)<<

Sure. They make me ask questions like, 'why the hell was I ever subscribed to this one, and why did it just wake up again?'

The past. You gotta love it. (Don't you? smiley - erm)


Post 11

Martin Harper

Only waking this thread up because there's an entry in PR now on the uses and abuses of the apostrophe, so I thought I'd review this entry and the threads. No ulterior motive... smiley - smiley

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