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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    That one documentary I watched mentioned that at one point, redundant letters were added to make visible that they had french origin or something like that.
    Which is a terrible reason.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dehro View Post
    ah..spelling.. that's another thing that I really don't get about english: spelling bees
    how is being capable of spelling a word correctly worthy of a prize? and what is the big problem with spelling anyway?.. I mean.. you went to school, right? you read stuff, right? then you must have encountered words before.. how do you not learn how they're supposed to be written when you encounter them? people who suffer from dyslexia, I understand.. but everybody else should be able to spell at least the words they encounter normally, don't they? it seems to be a difficulty peculiar to english language, as is the pride connected to knowing your spelling (or conversely the heap of insults that rain on whoever fails at spelling)
    in any other language I know off or speak a little, when you're past 10 you're supposed to know how to write words.
    I don't think I've ever read anywhere on the web, the equivalent of "learn to spell" in any other language..
    I genuinely don't get it.
    What about starting a sentence with a capital letter? Is that easy too?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maralais View Post
    I find that spelling much more faithful to its origin from French, which in turn has it from Latin.
    All those British "-our" words are just weird. They are usually "-eur" or "-ure" in French and they are just "-or" (like American English) in the Latin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    It's mostly because in English, there's barely any connection between what sound a word makes and what letters it uses.

    The vowels a,e,i,o,u make one and only one sound in most languages. Rarely, they make a few, depending on what other letters are around them.

    In English? No chance. Every vowel makes somewhere between 2 and who knows how many different sounds, with no real pattern that I can see.
    that's the logical reason/difficulty behind it..but surely not such a big deal? non native speakers learn it with relative ease.. to the point where if you use english regularily spelling words really isn't an issue anymore.. I'd expect a native speaker to have this down pat after even a halfbaked primary education... yet the internet seems to be flooded by ignoramus whose first language is English but who are unable to remember the difference between their and there, you're and your, and other such.. rrrreally basic words.
    I mean.. I am, you are, he is.. is pretty much the very first thing you're taught in grammar lessons.. in pretty much every language..whether it's your mother tongue or a foreign language you're learning. How can people make mistakes on something they learn on the first day in school and get corrected upon, day in day out until they've got it right, for pretty much their entire education, however brief and incomplete?
    I haven't done any maths in more than a decade and would probably have a hard time trying to work through an equation.. but surely you can't forget "you're Vs. your", just because you have left school.. when it's something you use, read or write, dozens of times a day?
    Last edited by dehro; 2012-08-25 at 10:39 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    All those British "-our" words are just weird. They are usually "-eur" or "-ure" in French and they are just "-or" (like American English) in the Latin.
    Actually, the first example from the top of my head(troubadour), has the exact spelling in French.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dehro View Post
    snip
    In the UK, or the schools I attended at least, English is taught very poorly. The classes are mixed ability, which means that everyone has to go at the pace of the slowest student. And the focus is on literature and reading comprehension, to the exclusion of grammar. You would have grammatical mistakes corrected in the work you handed in, but I don't remember ever simply being sat down and taught grammar.

    My main memories from English lessons are of extreme boredom, slowly working our way as a class through some book, despite the fact that I and a few others had read ahead and finished it in the very first hour after it had been given to us, some three or four weeks prior.

    I learnt far more about the grammar of my own language in my French, German and Spanish classes than I ever did in English.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maralais View Post
    Actually, the first example from the top of my head(troubadour), has the exact spelling in French.
    How often do you use "troubadour" compared to "honor", "armor", and "color"?

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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    I'm reasonably sure that Americans don't spell it Troubador either, do they? I mean, the ending isn't even pronounced the same way as in all those others.

    Wiktionary also tells me it comes from a provencal word, not a French one.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2012-08-25 at 01:12 PM.
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    dehro, the thing to remember which makes the issue of spelling big in English is this. Sure, our vowels are a bit messed up compared to most languages, but they're actually pretty simple when we compare to consonants.

    Here's why spelling is screwed up in English. Shifts in pronunciation, dictionaries, and no governing authority on language.

    Languages, over time, tend toward simplification of pronunciation. Take, for example, the words king and knight. Their forms in Old English were cyning and cniht, pronounced küning and k-niht (the h in the word is pronounced, it's that phlegmy one from Hannukah and such. Also, both the k and n sounds were pronounced). As we dropped syllables and fixed spellings as time went by, the words got easier to pronounce and often spellings simplified.

    With the rise of the dictionary, it was seen as necessary to make the spellings reflect etymology somewhat, because of beliefs about preserving the essence of the word and such. With dictionaries came the notion of correct spelling - prior to them you simply put down how the word sounded as best as you could and you were understood. There was no standard. The dictionaries, however, established themselves as arbiters of standards, so they set spellings and carried on with their work of making sure that the spelling reflected the way the word had been put down between 1500 and 1600 to some extent.

    Now, many other languages, such as French and Spanish, have their academies which fix the language, establish spellings, and determine what goes in the dictionary. They are the final word on such issues. English does not have this. The dictionaries are pretty much self-arbitrating and have been from the beginning. So even though knight, for example, is pronounced [naIt], it is spelled knight.

    You'll find there are a great many words in English with misleading spellings because of their origins and the way the dictionaries froze spelling. Where spelling used to change as words took on simpler pronunciations, now spelling is largely a fixed thing and pronunciation is left to drift further and further.

    So it really does make sense to do spelling bees in English. The way we spell a great many words has nothing to do with what they sound like, a problem that is often baffling both for native speakers and English-language learners.

    As for people who can't even get their/there/they're, your/you're, its/it's, to/two/too, and the like, that's an educational problem. In part they're due to simplification of grammar - dropping the terminal t from art and completely removing thou (your/you sind would not be a problem, and thou art would easily contract to thart), removing all sense of vowel length and silencing letters but not removing them (too should have a longer vowel than to, and the w in two should affect the word), etc. But overall, it's the educational system failing to teach and the students not seeing any value in clear written communication.
    Last edited by SaintRidley; 2012-08-25 at 07:59 PM.
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    There's also the issue of different accents, especially with vowels. Should bath be spelled with an American pronunciation or a British one? I uhsuum assume will be spelled uhsyuum, but a Londoner might uhshuum otherwise. And what of Texans who peyit their kayits instead of petting their cats? I might've faw' sum dahgz but many other Americans would've fah' suhm dahgz, while a Bit likely fawt suhm dogz unless they're Cockney and they foh' sahm dawgz, while a South African says they fuht sahm dawks and a New Zealander retorted they foht suhm dogz.
    Last edited by lsfreak; 2012-08-25 at 07:25 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maralais View Post
    I find that spelling much more faithful to its origin from French, which in turn has it from Latin.

    Though the Turkish loanword "manevra" seems quite unrelated to it.
    When has a native English speaker EVER wanted to be more like the French? Personally I think a word should be spelled the way it sounds (a lesson the French need to learn just as much as we do )
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    For most of the history of the English language, French has been considered more sophisticated. For the first few hundred years it was the language of the aristocracy (exclusively, for a while) and until about a hundred and fifty years ago it was still the international language of choice for diplomacy and so forth. Even in more modern times, putting things in French is often shorthand for "fancy" - see most food, for instance. If you stop to think about it, there are a lot of words in English that have just been taken straight from French without bothering to Anglicise or translate.

    Personally I think a word should be spelled the way it sounds (a lesson the French need to learn just as much as we do )
    As mentioned above, though, that has to deal with the minefield of different accents and dialects. Trying to make spelling phonetic is just going to make cross-regional communication more difficult.
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Quote Originally Posted by Aedilred View Post


    As mentioned above, though, that has to deal with the minefield of different accents and dialects. Trying to make spelling phonetic is just going to make cross-regional communication more difficult.
    Indeed. As long as the spellings are common, it's possible for English to maintain something loosely like what you see with the various Chinese languages - one written system but intelligibility between different variants is limited or nonexistent. English still is largely mutually intelligible, at least in most variants, and the rise of radio and television have had a stabilizing effect on dialectization, but given enough time English will become more like the various Chineses.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lsfreak View Post
    There's also the issue of different accents, especially with vowels. Should bath be spelled with an American pronunciation or a British one?
    What's a British pronunciation like for that word anyway? I pronounce it as it's spelt, with a short a, as do most of the people in the North of the country. It's just soft Southerners who pronounce it "barth".

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    Quote Originally Posted by SaintRidley View Post
    too should have a longer vowel than to
    It does. When you pronounce the words in isolation, they sound the same. In actual use, they are quite different. "To" is rarely stressed but "too" often is and stress noticeably lengthens the vowel. Try reading these sentences out loud and see what happens at the end.

    "Did you do your homework yet?" "Not yet, but I'm going to."
    "I'm going to the beach." "I'm going too."

    The same thing happens with "be" and "bee":

    "I don't like to be as busy as a bee."

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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    How about "tuh".
    O is one sound, U is another, and you add an H to indicate the length of the vowl as in German.

    Or do it as in Japanese and make it "tuu".
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    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    What's a British pronunciation like for that word anyway? I pronounce it as it's spelt, with a short a, as do most of the people in the North of the country. It's just soft Southerners who pronounce it "barth".
    But there's no r in any pronunciation of bath!
    (This kind of thing can really mess up pronunciations. Burma and Myanmar have no r's in their name, except that Americans add them because it's spelled that way. Reading British missionary or trader transcriptions of native languages can be an absolute nightmare.)

    Languages, over time, tend toward simplification of pronunciation.
    Missed this before, I am somewhat going to contest this. To a point, this is correct - but more broad-scale it might not be. Words will be simplified, but they will also become more complex. Take French verbs, which are simplified compared to Latin - except then they added object agreement to the beginning of the word, adding further complications. My understanding is most Chinese lexical words are polysyllabic even if they were originally a single syllable; i.e. two synonymous words can be joined into a single word in order to eliminate homonyms. Function words, over time, may be attached to other words and eventually form new derivations and potentially even entire new inflections: take overuse of "like," which (without consulting an actual study of it) seems to be associated with phrases acting as object of the verb. So you have a series like:
    I ran like two miles (current, indicates approximation)
    I ran like two miles (semantic bleaching: loses meaning and becomes a general object marker)
    I ran leh two miles (reduction as an unstressed function word)
    I ran two lehmiles (c.l.i.t.i.c* attached to whole phrase becomes an affix attached to one word)
    I ran litwo limiles (further reduction, marking extends to associated numerals and adjectives)
    We now have an accusative case prefix li-, so you also have "I love watching likittens" and "We made lidelicious licookies."
    And now you have more complex words!
    *Auto-censor, making everyday words into overly-sexual ones since whenever

    Even on a small level, things can be reinterpreted towards complexity. Two vowels next to each other often end up having a consonant between them, which is then subject to further changes, diphthongs can be reanalyzed as vowels+consonants (Zeus ended up Zefs in Koine), vowels can be added as a result of rearranging what's allowed in a language (Latin spatha to Spanish espada), sounds can be added to break up certain clusters (emmer to ember, thimmle to thimble). I have three that I'm aware of in my own English:
    L-breaking and r-breaking: wor-uld and chi-uld instead of world and child
    Epenthetic glides between vowels: chi-uld is chi-yuld, cooperate is co-woperate
    Epenthetic stops between nasal + voiceless fricative: hamster/hampster, prince/prints, France/Frants

    On English Vowel Spellings:
    Reduction in English is so extensive it probably can't be represented accurately. The problem is it's positional, not just word-based. "[I]The apples and the grapes," two different the's. "The apples. And the grapes" has a different and. "It's her dress" versus "She's got 'er dress." Some of them did make it into writing: I've versus I have, I'm versus I am, I'll versus I will, cannot versus can't.

    Also, it's my intuition that we have a very weird combination, where ih/eh/uh are generally seen as short vowels, oh is a long vowel, and ah is... whatever ah is, not "short a" or "long a" as we typically use the word in English.
    Last edited by lsfreak; 2012-08-26 at 05:49 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lsfreak View Post
    Missed this before, I am somewhat going to contest this.
    I think written language may be a major contributing factor why we observe this effect in the last decades and centuries.

    English being an exception here, because of the terribly random spelling conventions. But in other languages, like German, Turkish, or Japanese, where the general rule of thumb is "pronounced as written", there is one commonly accepted standard for what is the "standard" pronounciation, even if none of the regional dialects exactly match with it. But when people from different regions come together, their pronounciations become more similar over time. And I am quite convinced that the end point, or "goal" for this equalization is to be close to the spelling.
    In the documentary I mentioned (which is by far the best descriptivist linguistic documentary I've ever seen) that the first American English textbook was based heavily on teaching words in sylables. And so laboratory was learned as la-bo-ra-to-ry and not laborat'ry.
    In Germany, watch any TV program that is not made by the regional channels or reality TV, and all presenters and narrators, and all the dubbing for foreign TV shows is in Standard German that is pronounced as written. It's less pronounced in radio, as most stations have only limited range, but except for special local programs, the presenters all give their best to get to the standard pronounciation.
    In the northernmost parts of Germany, the local dialects were so extreme that children had to basically learn a second language as their spoken language lacked any real resemblace to the standardized spelling. And in the cities, the second generation grew up with "written German" as their first language, and the local dialect was almost completely abandoned. When someone has difficulty to understand your dialect, you not only repeat it with a more clear voice, but also with a pronounciation closer to the spelling. Everyone knows what pronounciation is "correct", we just like the sound of our dialects.
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    Also since language authorities have recently been mentioned, I just want to say... How utterly wrong the idea is.

    Two of the three languages I have become more or less fluent(Turkish and French) have government-appointed academies or societies of language, which frankly seem a bit pompous to me. The foundation of the Institution of Turkish Language is seen as a positive thing for must Turks, but I think it's getting quite arbitrary, especially lately. We have been using circumflex for a long time, and it allows us to create even more homophones(take kar, snow and kâr, profit, for example), but the circumflex is no longer in use. I really don't understand what we can gain from that.

    As for Academie Française... Well, they're even worse. French is under English influence(irony much?) just like each and every language in the world that is not already English, and their vain attempts to fight the influence is rather funny. Sure, they are the sole authority to about what is considered French and what isn't, and how it is considered French, but there's a whole generation whose speech has almost nothing to do with standard French, not to mention the new vocabulary created by abbreviations. As a student who took science lessons in French for two years, I doubt I can speak fluently with a Frenchman, because everyday language is completely different from what is taught to me. I guess this will become even more obvious when the generation gap widens...

    Also, many thanks to Yora for showing the documentary.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maralais View Post
    Also since language authorities have recently been mentioned, I just want to say... How utterly wrong the idea is.

    Two of the three languages I have become more or less fluent(Turkish and French) have government-appointed academies or societies of language, which frankly seem a bit pompous to me. The foundation of the Institution of Turkish Language is seen as a positive thing for must Turks, but I think it's getting quite arbitrary, especially lately. We have been using circumflex for a long time, and it allows us to create even more homophones(take kar, snow and kâr, profit, for example), but the circumflex is no longer in use. I really don't understand what we can gain from that.

    As for Academie Française... Well, they're even worse. French is under English influence(irony much?) just like each and every language in the world that is not already English, and their vain attempts to fight the influence is rather funny. Sure, they are the sole authority to about what is considered French and what isn't, and how it is considered French, but there's a whole generation whose speech has almost nothing to do with standard French, not to mention the new vocabulary created by abbreviations. As a student who took science lessons in French for two years, I doubt I can speak fluently with a Frenchman, because everyday language is completely different from what is taught to me. I guess this will become even more obvious when the generation gap widens...

    Also, many thanks to Yora for showing the documentary.
    I learned french in school.. was able to talk for hours about Voltaire, Montesquieu or Rabelais.. but totally unable to order a pound of beef or tell the difference between a suppositoire and an artichaut
    ..untill I went and spent a month working at a grocery store in Paris
    but I do think that's mostly to do with how languages are taught in Italy (not very well)
    Last edited by dehro; 2012-08-27 at 04:47 AM.
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    The idea of language authorities was called stupid right from the time when it was first played with.
    In Germany, we have the Duden Dictionary, which in all German states is the standard for teaching spelling in school and grading spelling exams. And I think all official publications and all spell checkers also use it. But from what I can tell, it has no official legal status. The last major revision was in 1998 and so most people still learned the old spellings and are still using it. However, most changes were actually quite good ideas and my own spelling improved greatly. Because of my ADD I often subconsciously refuse to accept things that do not conform to the way I think things should work. That didn't change with the dictionary revision, but now lots of exceptions to the common rules are removed and my spelling is now correct.

    In many cases, there are now two versions which are both considered "correct", particularly when it comes to compound verbs and adjectives.
    Compound words are great, but usually we think of nouns. "Car + Engine = Carengine", "sliding + Door = Slidingdoor". Just like in English, we just remove the space in the middle.
    But in German you can also compound verbs and adjectives which is done in spoken language all the time. "To travel home" can be said in German as "towards home travel", but also has "home travel". The first one is easy, but what about the second? Is the verb "travel" and "Home" is just the object of the sentence, using a weird order of words and dropping "towards" completely? In that case, it would be spelled "Heim fahren". Or is it a compound verb like "overfalling" (eng. falling over) in which case it would be spelled "heimfahren".
    Or "time saving", which could be "Time saving" or "timesaving".
    The new dictionary says "Screw it, pick the one you want!"
    I don't actually know what the old rules were.
    A weird one is to drop the rule that in compound words, you never have the same letter three times. "Ship travel" is formed from Schiff + fahrt, which would result in Schifffahrt. Which looks weird, but it makes a lot more sense to have it look weird than to stick to the arbitrary rule that you use only two Fs instead of three.

    Our North German dialects don't have any spelling rules. It was considered to introduce them at one point, but I think it was decided not to mostly because it's funnier that way. After all, the dialects have become their own registers (ways of talking appropriate to specific situations) to express being informal, relaxed, carefree, and more 'simple folk'. Going all spelling nazi about it would defeat the purpose.

    Turkish Orthography is a special case, as it was artificially created in the late 20s by professional liguists to replace the Arabic script. It even created new letters for phonemes (a single sound) unique to Turkish and not found in the latin alphabet, which means it could get rid of any historic baggage and start again from scratch. In theory, I don't know how well that was actually achieved.

    And of course, it was a very dramatic political statement and a very strong element to define the national identity. It was plainly telling the whole world "We are not Arabs, we are a western county!". And not only telling the world, but the own citizens as well. From now on, you can read European scripts which are familiar to you, and soon most of us will have no clue what Arabic texts are about. That is really quite radical.
    And I have to say from the perspective of political power, very brilliant.
    Last edited by Yora; 2012-08-27 at 07:24 AM.
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  21. Top - End - #351
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Not a single Swiss dialect has any kind of official spelling, as far as I know. We just learn Standard German as a "foreign" language and use that to write or say anything official. It's just far enough apart to be distinct, but not all that difficult. (A lot of words are different and certainly all the pronunciations, and it has a few more tenses than we do, but that's about it).
    I think the reason here was mostly that dialects vary a lot on a local scale. It used to be that pretty much every village had its own few distinctions in the way I talked, and "I'll be damned if I talk like those damn people over there on the other side of the river". So we instead learned to talk like those "Swabians over the border".
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Turkish Orthography is a special case, as it was artificially created in the late 20s by professional liguists to replace the Arabic script. It even created new letters for phonemes (a single sound) unique to Turkish and not found in the latin alphabet, which means it could get rid of any historic baggage and start again from scratch. In theory, I don't know how well that was actually achieved.

    And of course, it was a very dramatic political statement and a very strong element to define the national identity. It was plainly telling the whole world "We are not Arabs, we are a western county!". And not only telling the world, but the own citizens as well. From now on, you can read European scripts which are familiar to you, and soon most of us will have no clue what Arabic texts are about. That is really quite radical.
    And I have to say from the perspective of political power, very brilliant.
    Oh, right the script change. Well, I mostly agree with you on the westernization's success that made Turkish a language much easier to read, but I have recently read some of the downsides, and it got me thinking.

    Although the major alphabet change increased the amount of literate people hugely[and I do mean literally(pun intended)], but it also restricted access to past literary works. This, combined with the HUGE refinement of Turkish vocabulary(e.g., some of the "linguists" who were prominent during the reforms even refused to use the particle "ve", which is a direct equivalent of and, because it was of Arabic origin.), makes Divan poetry, first novels of the 18th century, and many other works under the Turkish-Islamic period(except Aşık Poetry, which is given the name folk literature, while Divan poetry is seen as pointless and elitist) unintelligible to us.

    So now we're facing a dilemma in a "What if?" situation: Would keeping the language as it was help us have a better connection with our past culture? Or would it cause a problem with literacy, causing educational problems?

    I wish there was a way to keep both. Retaining the connection with Divan poetry and embracing it as a part of our culture, while renovating the script to increase literacy and ease education.
    Last edited by Maralais; 2012-08-27 at 06:27 PM.
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  23. Top - End - #353
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Is there no way to translate old Turkish into the new Turkish? If it works for other languages, why wouldn't it for an older version of your language, like how most old English epics have been translated?
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  24. Top - End - #354
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    Quote Originally Posted by ForzaFiori View Post
    Is there no way to translate old Turkish into the new Turkish? If it works for other languages, why wouldn't it for an older version of your language, like how most old English epics have been translated?
    Well, it could be done(it's partially done for high school literature class, where a few chapters are about Divan poetry, and so some examples are translated and given in original form), but it would be as foreign to us as any other English, French or Arabic book. It would be a translation, thus losing some part of its harmony and meaning. And that's how people are alienated from their culture.
    Albeit said culture was court poetry, but I see both Ottoman social classes as a part of our culture, so sue me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wind4air View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Andmcmuffin2 View Post
    Any reason the Positive Energy Plane isn't a flavor you like? You do die of overhealing there.
    lol so they go something like this?

    "omg i'm so HEALTHY! RWARRRR!" <kursplode>

  25. Top - End - #355
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Now that's a tall claim.

    Not that I am calling it wrong, but what is the reasoning behind that connection?
    Even if it does not convince me, I am actually quite interested to at least learn about the paradigm, from which this follows.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Now that's a tall claim.

    Not that I am calling it wrong, but what is the reasoning behind that connection?
    Even if it does not convince me, I am actually quite interested to at least learn about the paradigm, from which this follows.
    You mean the "Divan poetry is elitist" claim, or the "this alienates us from our culture" claim?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wind4air View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Andmcmuffin2 View Post
    Any reason the Positive Energy Plane isn't a flavor you like? You do die of overhealing there.
    lol so they go something like this?

    "omg i'm so HEALTHY! RWARRRR!" <kursplode>

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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    The alienation.



    Reading about the paralympics, I noticed that English uses the word "disability", while the German word better translates as "impairment". Particularly when talking about the paralympics, that word seems a much better choice.
    I have some metal focusing problems that I have no problem calling an impairment in German, because that's what it is. But you couldn't say I am disabled in English, that just isn't true at all.
    Handicaps are difficult enough to deal with, people really don't need to be constantly be confronted by language that tells them and everyone they talk with "you can't". With all the fuss about calling people "black" and "indians", why doesn't there seem to be any political corectness debate about the term "disabled". "Indian" is just a name, it's not a definition based on a persons capabilities. "Disabled" seems like a much more harmful word to me.
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    With all the fuss about calling people "black" and "indians", why doesn't there seem to be any political corectness debate about the term "disabled". "Indian" is just a name, it's not a definition based on a persons capabilities. "Disabled" seems like a much more harmful word to me.
    Funnily enough, "disabled" was the term landed on after "handicapped" was decided to be non-pc, which in turn replaced other terms that people decided were demeaning. It's a cycle, I'm just glad that some of the more ridiculous euphemisms ("handi-capable" etc.) never really caught on.

    Edit: here's what I was thinking of, the Eupemism Treadmill. See also the section immediately below it that discusses the "disabled" transitions.
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    The Euphamism treadmill is why I don't even try to be PC anymore. No offense to people, but is "latino" so much better than hispanic, or is African American better than Black, even when your family hasn't even been to Africa in the past 150 years? I get crap for calling myself Italian American because the last full Italian in my family was my great grandfather, and I've actually been there, kinda speak the language, and know about the culture and history! Should we call Europeans white or Caucasian? Neither really works, since Caucasian is specific to the Caucasus, and there are whites outside of Europe and non-whites in Europe. Or can I say that i'm European American?

    The problem isn't the term, it's a select group of people USING the term. Don't get rid of the word, get rid of the hate that colors the word.
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  30. Top - End - #360
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Somehow reasonable concerns about degratory language ended up with people pulling race cards and playing the guilt game all the time.

    Though it is interesting that the first european settlements in America had very strong laws about proper language, actually recognizing the powerful effect of speech on thinking and perception, which is very much universally accepted today.
    Which I assume is the origin of the very different threshold for unacceptable profanity in America and Europe today. In Germany we do have "harmful speech" of course, but I don't think we really have a concept of "harmful words". Words are value-neutral, it's their use that gives them degratory, harmful, or flattering meanings. In our local dialect, we use really quite foul language as a form of affection.
    Censorship in TV, radio, and print is virtually nonexisting and I have the very strong suspicion that most casses are actually deliberately to make something appear more "edgy" without there being any legal requirements. There are things that are not said on TV, but those are things people don't normally say anyway. Unlike current american colloquial, which seems to use lots of words in common everyday speech, that are still considered non-acceptable for TV. Which does appear very odd to us.

    Which isn't to say we don't have our own casses of PC silliness. What I see a lot is the use of "students and studenttes", which lots of older University employes seem to regard as neccessary to point out that they are not exluding the female students. But when I checked back in the class, almost all the female students said that they don't consider "student" to be male-specific but just the name for an occupation regardless of the persons it applies to. Similar to how it is used in English.
    Which is shared by the male students as well and seems to be mostly a generational thing. Recently, you more often see the new word that basically means "people engaged in studying", which avoids the whole issue of being not enough PC or too much PC, as it is Studierende both in the male and female form, since it's actually a verb turned into a noun.
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