Author Topic: A Loan-free version of the English Language  (Read 5510 times)

Offline swills

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A Loan-free version of the English Language
« on: January 14, 2014, 11:14:14 AM »
English has since the aftermath of the Norman invasion in 1066 incorporated many lexical elements of French origin along with Greco-latinate technical terms, which together make up the majority of etymology in NE (modern English). It has also acquired words from other sources like Dutch - during the Boer Wars in the 19th century - and from limited amounts of many other languages.
 What would today’s English resemble had it not acquired any loan words at all and had built its lexicon purely upon Old English roots?
 It is possible to reconstruct a loan-free version of the English language, by replacing words of foreign extraction (or part of there inner structure: affixes or root words only) by words of English origin:

 atling = intention   archaic revival
 bookfell = parchment   synonym
 shears = scissors   dialectical
 givle = generous   Old English revival
 farseeer = telescope made up word
 earth farrow = aardvark   calque 

http://www.thehwa.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,4391.msg8366.html#new
http://www.feedaread.com/books/A-Loan-free-version-of-the-English-Language-9781784070281.aspx

Offline Daniel

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Re: A Loan-free version of the English Language
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2014, 11:27:13 AM »
This is certainly possible, but why?

It would also be possible to remove all words that have the letter "m" and replace them with other words, but, again, why?

It may be an interesting intellectual exercise in looking at Anglo-Saxon roots, but I have trouble seeing this as anything more than a word game. Only with external social interpretation or etymological analysis do the words "belong to" other languages-- whether or not a word came from French or Anglo-Saxon is irrelevant in its daily use. For example, "bank" and "bench" are actually cognates from Proto-Germanic, "bench" through Scandinavian and "bank" through Gothic>Romance. But I don't see any fundamental difference between these two words that would make me want to change either of them.

Certainly regularizing the spelling of English would be a practical thing to do and it is often discussed (but not implemented because that would be difficult with dialectal variation and make all existing writing inaccessible!), and I'd even be fine with removing obvious awkward borrowings like escargots or fiancée which are clearly not native words even to the average speaker, but beyond those words that just don't fit*, I don't see an advantage-- which would you rather have-- bench or bank? Does it matter?

[*In time, if they do survive, they'll end up feeling more like natural English anyway. Languages change.]

If you remove all of the loans from English, you'll be removing a major part of what makes the language English in the first place. Why not just speak German, Dutch or Swedish instead?
« Last Edit: January 14, 2014, 11:29:14 AM by djr33 »
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Offline swills

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Re: A Loan-free version of the English Language
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2014, 01:55:28 PM »
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This is certainly possible, but why?

- the transparency of word meaning by their morphological composition

- a prosodical difference, depending on the reader's sensitive level of perception 

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If you remove all of the loans from English, you'll be removing a major part of what makes the language English in the first place.

Why so?

Offline Corybobory

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Re: A Loan-free version of the English Language
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2014, 03:06:47 PM »
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This is certainly possible, but why?

- the transparency of word meaning by their morphological composition

- a prosodical difference, depending on the reader's sensitive level of perception 

I don't know about old English, so therefore these words that you suggest are less transparent!

I don't understand what you mean by prosodical difference - yes they're different, they're also spelled different too!  But why does this matter?  Is it better somehow?

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If you remove all of the loans from English, you'll be removing a major part of what makes the language English in the first place.

Why so?

Because they are English words!
« Last Edit: January 14, 2014, 03:09:15 PM by Corybobory »
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Offline Daniel

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Re: A Loan-free version of the English Language
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2014, 11:41:56 AM »
Old English and English are simply different languages. Rather than trying to reimagine modern English, why not study and perhaps learn Anglo-Saxon itself? There are many resources available and even some modern usage--
http://ang.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C4%93afodtramet
You could certainly contribute there.

And there's still nothing wrong with creating an artificial version of English, but I don't personally understand the motivation. There are lots of constructed languages out there, so one more doesn't hurt. It might even be interesting for some people.

I can imagine one practical use: as an illustration of the foreign influence on English. Often Old English is used for this purpose, but it could be changed so it's modernized except for not having foreign words. This would probably surprise many people.
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Offline swills

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Re: A Loan-free version of the English Language
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2014, 02:14:40 PM »
Though even without the norman influence, Modern English would be no different than its current form:
ie. would no-longer resemble Old English

www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQhqzRIJCjk

 
« Last Edit: January 15, 2014, 02:18:43 PM by swills »

Offline Daniel

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Re: A Loan-free version of the English Language
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2014, 05:05:08 PM »
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Though even without the norman influence, Modern English would be no different than its current form:
That's untrue-- there are aspects of English in all domains from phonetics through semantics that are due to Norman and other influence. We didn't just borrow words from other languages, although that's the most obvious area: less than 40% of words are "original English". (But all of the words are certainly now English!)

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ie. would no-longer resemble Old English
Icelandic, the most isolated of the Germanic languages, is remarkably similar to Old Icelandic (basically Old Norse).

There's no question that it would look a lot more like Old English without Norman influence. But certainly there would be changes as there are in all languages.

One major question to ask is whether some of the radical simplification of morphological paradigms is partially caused by language contact. McWhorter's (2007) Language Interrupted certainly claims so. He argues that modern English looks as it does specifically because of the effect of adult L2 learners simplifying it.
While that may be controversial, it is not possible to simply dismiss foreign influence as only some kind of dilution of the vocabulary. There's a lot more going on. In fact, one might even go as far as to call modern English a creole (mixed language), though that's an extreme claim. But however we phrase it, Modern English is what it is because of contact, at least to a substantial degree.

I believe that there are three major differences that cause Old English to be unintelligible for speakers of Modern English:
1. Lexical changes. Unquestionably caused by contact.
2. Simplification of morphological paradigms (such as subject-verb agreement being all but lost and the loss of nominal case except minimally for pronouns). (This also then lead to more rigid word orders, which is another fairly major change, although it doesn't make OE all that hard to interpret if you read it slowly and know everything else.) Possibly caused by contact (cf. McWhorter).
3. The Great Vowel Shift: this is the main reason why our words sound different from Old English words (but not the only reason). This started less than 300 years after original contact with French and during continued contact. It probably wasn't directly caused by contact, but it is certainly the result of restructuring after that contact based on the state of the lexicon at that time.
(The orthography is also somewhat different, but that's not a factor for spoken language and it's not especially hard to read Old English if you know the rest. I don't consider that a major change, and even so it is partially caused by contact with French [and other languages] and mixing of several spelling systems.)

So in summary, most of what makes Modern English "modern" is actually contact with other languages. While ME wouldn't look just like OE regardless, it would probably look different in other ways and overall quite a bit less different-- it would probably be something like Old High German and Modern High German. English would, in short, look something like Dutch. Contact with Celtic, Scandinavian, Latin and  French is specifically why English is not very much like Dutch today. (Actually, it would probably look a little more like Frisian than Dutch, but close enough-- it wouldn't be very different from either.) Within Germanic, English is very weird because of this. In many ways it just doesn't feel Germanic (though it does sound mostly Germanic overall).

Further, Germanic itself is probably how it is due to contact (with probably Finnic, Celtic and Slavic languages, among others). Consider Grimm's law (Spanish pes and English fish where p>f, and many other similar consonant shifts)-- to truly eliminate all traces of contact we should go back to Proto Indo-European. But of course that must have been in contact with other languages too!



So again this is an interesting thought experiment but completely artificial. In fact, it would be simpler to eliminate all Germanic words from English, although that would be a problem for some of the most basic words like "to be" with no obvious substitute. We can almost do that intelligibly right now though with "fancier" borrowed words used in place of common Germanic roots-- consider "nasal cavity" or "nasal appendage" for "nose", which is a little unusual but completely intelligible. (And we'd have to decide what to do with the core function words that are entirely Germanic.) Doing the reverse is near impossible without substantially supplementing the ME vocabulary with resurrected archaic words from OE and coining new words from Germanic roots.



I tried to check out the video but Youtube says it isn't available (as if it was removed by the author or for copyright reasons or something like that).
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Offline swills

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Re: A Loan-free version of the English Language
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2014, 11:56:30 AM »
I was refering to David Cowley's insight* http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/book1.htm

* recommended by Prof. David Crystal

Offline Daniel

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Re: A Loan-free version of the English Language
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2014, 01:04:46 PM »
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Agriculture – earthtilth
Butcher – fleshmonger
Chapel – bedehouse
Debate – wordwrestle
Epilepsy – fallsickness
Frivolity – lightmoodness
Genuflection – kneebowing
Human race – earthkin
Indigenous – inlandish
Jaundice – yellowaddle
Lethally – deathbearly
Market – chapstow
Nautical – shiply
Obstinacy – onewillness
Pedestrian – footly
Quality – suchness
Refuge – frithstowe
Satisfactory – enoughsome
Treasury – goldhoardhouse
Unreliable – untruefast
Verbose – wordful
Some of those are relatively clear and arguably valid words today-- I like "wordful" for example, which I'd be more than happy to hear (and perhaps use) in a conversation. But many of the others are very awkward and do not belong in modern English because they don't sound right (expectations of word structure were significantly altered by the contact and borrowing!). Some particularly bad ones are "enoughsome" and "yellowwaddle".
It's possible that English might actually look like that, but it's also possible that it would simply look very different in other ways.
Looking at some of these etymologies is interesting for those interested in etymology, but I don't see a bigger picture than that.

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Belonging to the ‘What if’ school of history,
Yes, it does. And it's nothing more than that. What-ifs are interesting for many people, but there are no rules, no certainty, and also therefore limited reliability of the implications.
In short, it's fiction. There's nothing wrong with a good fiction novel! But it's hard for me to take this as a kind of research. If that's not how you intended to present it, my mistake. I'm happy to see this as a creative writing piece about a make believe world of English, and I'm also happy to see this as a way to educate the unaware about the real history of English.
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this is a fascinating
Sure. For someone interested in etymology. I find it somewhat amusing to look at the words. On the other hand, I am interested in etymology and I can't imagine really reading 266 pages on it. Perhaps this is for the casual reader, not a linguist who already knows the history and effects of borrowing-- if so, that's fair enough.
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and highly educational book
Of what? As a serious question, what does this educate? Does it explain how English is by comparison with what would have been? That's fine if so. It's just another way to understand modern English for what it actually is. In fact, I'd imagine this is the real purpose of the book: to question and understand Modern English, not to replace it or actually take the word list very seriously. It's a message "hey, look at these major changes that happened", which is a good thing. For someone who doesn't know the effect that French had on English, that would certainly be fascinating!
« Last Edit: January 16, 2014, 01:07:10 PM by djr33 »
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Offline swills

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Re: A Loan-free version of the English Language
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2014, 02:11:50 PM »
But would the array of hypothetical terms exposed suggest the above?
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Though even without the norman influence, Modern English would be no different than its current form:
ie. would no-longer resemble Old English

There is also a video on YouTube providing further explanation - which the link was meant to provide.

Offline Daniel

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Re: A Loan-free version of the English Language
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2014, 02:29:26 AM »
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But would the array of hypothetical terms exposed suggest the above?
They don't do anything. They're fictional, though interesting. There's no reason to think that if the French hadn't invaded that English would look like that-- perhaps the Germans would have invaded, or Icelanders, or whoever. Or English might have simply died out. Or it might look exactly like Old English. Or, sure, it might look something like that fictional version. But, no, the fictional words don't suggest much at all-- they're possible, but not in any way I can see probable. That's just not the kind of thing we can predict. For example, I can't tell you what English would look like in 100 years if Chinese speakers invaded the US or UK, or for that matter even if that doesn't happen. In the same way the "what ifs" are purely fictional, if interesting.

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    Though even without the norman influence, Modern English would be no different than its current form:
    ie. would no-longer resemble Old English


There is also a video on YouTube providing further explanation - which the link was meant to provide.
I see. Well, if you do find another link please do post it.
As for the main argument, I can't imagine any reason to make such a claim. Under the "all things being equal" argument, sure, but that's circular in this case-- that's what's being said. If the loanwords were related to any broader changes (see my post above!) then English today might look very much like OE. In fact, that may be precisely why modern Icelandic looks like Old Icelandic!


By the way, thanks for posting the link that includes a couple paragraphs of comparison. I'm now planning to mention that in one of the lectures for my Language History course this semester-- I'm sure the students will enjoy seeing the significant effect of borrowings on English!
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Offline swills

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Re: A Loan-free version of the English Language
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2014, 11:22:04 AM »
Here is the video: https://www.google.co.uk/#q=how+we'd+talk+if+the+english+had+won+in+1066

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But many of the others are very awkward and do not belong in modern English because they don't sound right (expectations of word structure were significantly altered by the contact and borrowing!). Some particularly bad ones are "enoughsome" and "yellowwaddle".

I advise: A Loan-free version of the English Language ;) 8)
« Last Edit: January 17, 2014, 11:35:49 AM by swills »

Offline Daniel

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Re: A Loan-free version of the English Language
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2014, 05:40:57 PM »
Ok. So what's the real purpose of this? Is it just a word game? Is it meant to be something more?

Quote from: video
We should think about claiming some of our words back.
That seems silly and ignorant to me. Unless you simply hate the French, what's the logic behind that?

The idea that "preserving" words are good reminds me of this post:
http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003871.html

Languages change based on the needs of their speakers. Anything else is artificial and therefore necessarily unnatural.

There's certainly nothing wrong with studying etymologies (or history), nor is there anything wrong with clever fiction. But beyond that, I honestly just don't get it. Is there some problem that this is meant to solve? Is it meant to solve the Norman conquest in 1066, nearly 1000 years later, via language? ...why?
« Last Edit: January 17, 2014, 05:49:04 PM by djr33 »
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Offline freknu

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Re: A Loan-free version of the English Language
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2014, 03:16:54 AM »
The problem here is that modern English is so "far gone" that any attempt to "counter" this will inevitably come across as foreign and strained. Your language is no longer modern English, it becomes a language of its own, one that is foreign to speakers of modern English.

If you are concerned about archaic vocabulary, why not learn Scots? That would not require any contrived effort reconstructing a hypothetical language, it's an actual living language.

Offline swills

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Re: A Loan-free version of the English Language
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2014, 06:51:39 AM »
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That seems silly and ignorant to me. Unless you simply hate the French, what's the logic behind that?
:o ---There's no animosity towards anyone---


The reasons are well highlighted here and on the video.

Where is the need to ignore the fact that by simplifying word particles, we simply arrive to a better interpretational understanding of the word meaning:
foretell >> fore/tell - predict ??
book/ly - literary
ever/lasting - infinite (among hundreds of other examples)

- it is also a way to discover old terms that have regretfully fallen out of use or have failed to evolve into their modern English form (in the case of obsolete Old English words) and to examine to what extent the amount of inkwell terms have been replaced by inkhorn counterparts

and to plan on bringing back and to reintroduce many of these words in different contexts*

One could also plan on writing the same book for any other language, even-though English given its sizable amount of loan terms is a specifically interesting case-study.

* without denying the fact that many greco-latinisms tend to provide a certain flexibility and malleability rendering them more suitable to technical, scientific contexts etc. than their loan free English counterparts
« Last Edit: January 18, 2014, 07:45:27 AM by swills »