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Do all languages have a "turning point"?

  Tags: Linguistics | History
 Language Learning Forum : Philological Room Post Reply
38 messages over 5 pages: 1 2 3 4
ScottScheule
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
scheule.blogspot.com
Joined 5101 days ago

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Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: Latin, Hungarian, Biblical Hebrew, Old English, Russian, Swedish, German, Italian, French

 
 Message 33 of 38
29 June 2015 at 9:51pm | IP Logged 
Funny, I don't have any problem with the Hobbes. I have to slow down a bit, but otherwise unobjectionable (and quite well written besides, it seems to me).

It would be interesting to see, on average, how far back modern native speakers can read older literature. Obviously it's something you can't really test on an individual level--knowing some Latin and some French and some German all contributes to making Shakespeare easier for me, but obviously not every modern speaker has smatterings of those languages like I do. So even if I can read Shakespeare without too much trouble, I'm not sure how things stand for the average English speaker.

If the Danish can't read further back than 1900, then I find that quite surprising.
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robarb
Nonaglot
Senior Member
United States
languagenpluson
Joined 4932 days ago

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Speaks: Portuguese, English*, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, French
Studies: Mandarin, Danish, Russian, Norwegian, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Greek, Latin, Nepali, Modern Hebrew

 
 Message 34 of 38
30 June 2015 at 7:59am | IP Logged 
Here is some Danish from the mid-19th century.

Hans Christian Andersen wrote:

Der var saa deiligt ude paa Landet; det var Sommer, Kornet stod guult, Havren grøn, Høet var reist i Stakke nede i
de grønne Enge, og der gik Storken paa sine lange, røde Been og snakkede ægyptisk, for det Sprog havde han
lært af sin Moder. Rundtom Ager og Eng var der store Skove, og midt i Skovene dybe Søer; jo, der var rigtignok
deiligt derude paa Landet! Midt i Solskinnet laae der en gammel Herregaard med dybe Canaler rundt om, og fra
Muren og ned til Vandet voxte store Skræppeblade, der vare saa høie, at smaa Børn kunde staae opreiste under
de største; der var ligesaa vildsomt derinde, som i den tykkeste Skov, og her laae en And paa sin Rede; hun
skulde ruge sine smaae Ællinger ud, men nu var hun næsten kjed af det, fordi det varede saa længe, og hun
sjælden fik Visit; de andre Ænder holdt mere af at svømme om i Canalerne, end at løbe op og sidde under et
Skræppeblad for at snaddre med hende.


Here it is in modern orthography:

Hans Christian Andersen wrote:

Der var så dejligt ude på landet; det var sommer, kornet stod gult, havren grøn, høet var rejst i stakke nede i de
grønne enge, og der gik storken på sine lange, røde ben og snakkede ægyptisk, for det sprog havde han lært af
sin moder. Rundt om ager og eng var der store skove, og midt i skovene dybe søer; jo, der var rigtignok dejligt
derude på landet! Midt i solskinnet lå der en gammel herregård med dybe kanaler rundt om, og fra muren og ned
til vandet voksede store skræppeblade, der var så høje, at små børn kunne stå oprejste under de største; der var
lige så vildsomt derinde, som i den tykkeste skov, og her lå en and på sin rede; hun skulle ruge sine små ællinger
ud, men nu var hun næsten ked af det, fordi det varede så længe, og hun sjælden fik visit; de andre ænder holdt
mere af at svømme om i kanalerne, end at løbe op og sidde under et skræppeblad for at snadre med hende.


I'm not even Danish and I can read that fine even in the old spelling. Though there has obviously been a
substantial spelling reform.
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getreallanguage
Diglot
Senior Member
Argentina
youtube.com/getreall
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240 posts - 371 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*, English
Studies: Italian, Dutch

 
 Message 35 of 38
30 June 2015 at 7:19pm | IP Logged 
In Spanish, a fair bit of grammatical simplification has happened regarding verb tenses. There are currently three tenses that are never used (except in fixed expressions) unless one is talking or writing about legal issues or contracts: the future subjunctive, the future perfect subjunctive and the anterior preterite (futuro de subjuntivo, futuro perfecto de subjuntivo, pretérito anterior), as in "fuere", "hubiere ido" and "hubo ido". In other words, these are tenses almost exclusively used by lawyers and accountants.

There are also two forms of the past/imperfect subjunctive ((pretérito) imperfecto de subjuntivo), "fuera" and "fuese", with the second one being less commonly used and, because of that, being more common in writing and very formal registers, as it carries an air of archaicness and ceremony.

Also, in most forms of non-poetic speaking and writing, the "canonical future" (futuro) "irá" is only used for hypothetical future, not for regular future (where you use the periphrastic future "va a ir" or the present "va").

Further simplification is underway in some dialects. In my dialect (Buenos Aires, influenced by Rosario by way of both my parents), the present perfect (pretérito perfecto) is restricted to cases having to do with personal experience or strong emotion or opinion like "eso nunca me ha pasado" (I personally call it "the tense of moral indignation"). For some speakers in Buenos Aires, even this restricted use is disappearing, i.e. the preterite "nunca me pasó" is taking it over whole cloth. For speakers like me, it's acceptable to say "el doctor todavía no llegó", whereas in Spain, Mexico, and many other places (including other parts of Argentina) you have to say "el doctor todavía no ha llegado".

The subjunctive, on the other hand, is doing just fine.

Edited by getreallanguage on 01 July 2015 at 2:28am

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getreallanguage
Diglot
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Argentina
youtube.com/getreall
Joined 5344 days ago

240 posts - 371 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*, English
Studies: Italian, Dutch

 
 Message 36 of 38
30 June 2015 at 7:53pm | IP Logged 
Some more change is underway in Spanish regarding hypothetical constructions.

Where normatively people would say "si tuviera más plata, me compraría una Ferrari", some speakers are now saying "si tendría más plata, me compraría una Ferrari" (I don't do this myself but have heard/read it countless times).

In a past hypothetical, where normatively speakers would say "si hubiera sabido, no habría ido", some speakers are saying "si habría sabido, no habría ido", and some are also saying "si hubiera sabido, no hubiera ido" (I say the first _and_ the third alternatives, and I have heard/read the second one a lot).

Leaving verbs aside, I have also written a little bit on my blog about historical/current change/variation regarding third person object pronouns in Spanish.

When it comes to reading an older text in Spanish, I find that the hardest thing is the vast difference in style, followed by lexical semantic drift and archaic words, and finally grammatical differences.

To give you some perspective on how hard (or simple) it is to read an old Spanish text, I have read the oldest surviving example of Spanish literature, the Cantar de Mio Cid. It's from the 12th century. It was a difficult read. I read it in college, and I had professors helping me, but it was not easy. I had to learn the different spelling-sound correspondences, read it aloud, and consult the glossary and notes very often. It took me an hour to read the first few pages. There was a learning curve, though, and now I find it relatively easy to read it. In other words, it was probably closer to a speaker of Modern English reading the Canterbury Tales than to one reading Beowulf.

To a certain small extent, having an elementary knowledge of Italian helped me in regards to Old Spanish grammar. Here is an example from the beginning of the poem (note: the spelling, including spaces between words, has been somehow simplified. I read a more conservative version closer to the original manuscript. The original manuscript had no diacritics and spelled adverbs with "mientre" as two separate words, among many other differences):

De los sos ojos tan fuertemientre llorando
tornava la cabeça e estávalos catando,
vio puertas abiertas e uços sin cañados,
alcándaras vazías, sin pielles e sin mantos
e sin falcones e sin adtores mudados.
Sospiró mio Çid, ca mucho avié grandes cuidados,
fabló mio Çid bien e tan mesurado,
-Grado a ti, Señor, Padre que estás en alto,
esto me an buelto mios enemigos malos.-
Allí piensan de aguijar, allí sueltan las riendas,
a la exida de Bivar ovieron la corneja diestra
e entrando a Burgos oviéronla siniestra.
Meçió mio Çid los ombros e engrameó la tiesta,
-¡Albriçia, Álbar Fáñez, ca echados somos de tierra!-


If you're curious as to how this might have sounded, here is a pretty good rendition.

Edited by getreallanguage on 30 June 2015 at 8:23pm

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ScottScheule
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
scheule.blogspot.com
Joined 5101 days ago

645 posts - 1176 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: Latin, Hungarian, Biblical Hebrew, Old English, Russian, Swedish, German, Italian, French

 
 Message 37 of 38
30 June 2015 at 8:57pm | IP Logged 
Interesting that the adverbial ending should be -mientre in Old Spanish. It comes from the Latin word "mente" (lit. with a mind) and the Modern Spanish descendant is of course the same, -mente.

Reading online, it seems Old Spanish used both -miente and -mientre (with the source I read speculating that -mientre may have been formed by the influenced by demientre, the ancestor of modern mientras). So apparently there was a vowel breaking and then a smoothing that undid the original breaking. Something similar happened with -s- in Spanish. Started as [s] in Latin, then was voiced to [z] when intervocallic, but then devoiced back to [s] by the time of Modern Spanish.
1 person has voted this message useful



ScottScheule
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
scheule.blogspot.com
Joined 5101 days ago

645 posts - 1176 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: Latin, Hungarian, Biblical Hebrew, Old English, Russian, Swedish, German, Italian, French

 
 Message 38 of 38
30 June 2015 at 9:02pm | IP Logged 
Very interesting post on laismo, by the way.


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