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https://www.duolingo.com/BastouXII

Why is English so weirdly different from other languages [article linked]

BastouXII
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Many of you might have noticed it, English is quite different from all other languages, even the ones from its own family : Indo-European languages, and more specifically Germanic ones.

I've found a very interesting essay about the topic, and it covers much of the history of the English language while being simple and entertaining enough.

Enjoy!

2 years ago

16 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/pseudocreobotra

In my experience, native English speakers often vastly over-exaggerate the "weirdness" and sometimes even their difficulty of their own language... And this essay is another example of it.

I mean, sure, the spelling is a tad weird and a few constructions are not usual... But so do other languages, they just have different features. Sure, it's funny how English dropped so many typical Indo-European language features but is abolishing genders altogether really more weird than merging three genders into two?

English is pretty close to German and Dutch (only logical since they are all West Germanic languages) and I can assure you that I (a native German speaker) was able to guess MANY words because there are so many similarities in the vocabularies of these languages. Anyway, if you're looking for a REALLY similar language - how about Scots? It's even closer related to English than Frisian (which is not really one language but a group of languages anyway).

Other languages don't even have any "big" languages related to them! Try Japanese (only Japanese and the endangered Ryukyuan languages in its family) if you want to see prime examples of "spelling and pronunciation are not related at all" and "no-one can understand it without training". Learning Japanese made me appreciate the straight-forwardness of alphabets.

This: http://idibon.com/the-weirdest-languages/ is an interesting approach towards language weirdness that doesn't rely on the subjective feeling of a native speaker. Sure, the results are still debatable but I feel as if they are at least a bit more objective.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/hivemindx
hivemindx
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I think you have quite a good point that the weirdness of English is often a bit overstated. The French forums has plenty of posts asking why French doesn't follow the rules in X, Y and Z case and claiming that it is stupid and illogical to do this that and the other.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PeaceJoyPancakes
PeaceJoyPancakes
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To me more interesting than the weirdness claim per se is the range of source languages and waves of external "language-time" washing over the language, adding new elements and removing old ones, contributing in a non-linear fashion to the overall gestalt. It's a fascinating story, in any case.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheQueenZerelda

You know, a small percentage of my motivation for learning a second language was because I didn't want to fulfill the stereotype of Americans being monolingual (which has turned out to be a stereotype) but the more I learn about other languages the more proud I become of my accent and native language. It's good to have articles like this though, giving some perspective, because it makes it easier to understand how other languages work. If it turns out that I was born with six fingers, that fine by me, but it's nice knowing why everyone else can wear gloves. (Weird metaphor, but I think it serves it's purpose.)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/aaditsingh8
aaditsingh8
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Same! I read about these things only to respect my Indian English accent more where once I used to imitate the British variant. One's language decides one's identity. Actually. And how one says "speaking another language is adopting another perspective" is so true. So true. When I speak Hindi, my native language, I tend to be more Indian, more close to a 'welcoming nature', but speaking English makes me have a more... 'international' ideology (for the lack of a better word).

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Super-Svensk
Super-Svensk
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I read a really interesting book by John McWhorter called "Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue". It was a fascinating read, and I would highly suggest it!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/NukuchAjau

Haha, I'ma see if they have an electronic version! I would like to give a crack at it.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/hairai
hairai
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https://www.duolingo.com/BastouXII
BastouXII
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I've just noticed that the article I linked was actually written by the very same John McWhorter.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AureliaUK
AureliaUK
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Taking this sentence cited in the article:

Wraþmod wæs Ving-Þórr/he áwæcnede

If you defocus your mind and look at the shape of the words, you can see the following:

Wrath-mood was Ving-Thor/he awakened.

Many modern English speakers know and understand the word wrath even if they wouldn't use it themselves - The Grapes of Wrath anyone?

Mod was about the mind - thought, feelings - hence the modern mood.

áwæcnede to awakened is no leap at all once you look beyond the change of spelling.

A curiosity for you: did you know that native English speakers still use the Old English genetive singular every week? It's there in Wednesday, instead of Wedensday. We say "Wedensday" (or simply Wennsday") but the spelling retains the archaic grammar.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sueefo

I'm all for reforming the spelling of "Wednesday" because every time I have to spell it I have to think about it: Wed-nes-day. "February" too.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Duan
Duan
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Interesting. How do you pronounce "February"? Because I'm a native speaker and pronounce it how it's spelled.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sueefo

I'm also a native speaker and I pronounce it "Feb-yoo-ary" as though that first "r" isn't there. That's why I have to think about it when I spell it.

The other day I had to write a check for three thousand dollars and I wondered if kids today have to learn to spell the numbers.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Eikoopmit

I was actually quite surprised at how they said that "do" was strange. Then again, if you look at which languages I have more than 2 xp on the reason should be readily apparent.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mwyaren
mwyaren
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my thoughts exactly. 'but that's perfectly normal, Welsh and Irish do the same! ...oh.'

2 years ago