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Historical Linguistics / Re: Romance languages not descended from Latin.
« Last post by Daniel on November 12, 2018, 05:33:21 AM »
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The point I want to make is that Proto-Romance and Vulgar Latin are two different concepts.
The "Evening Star" and the "Morning Star" (=Venus) are different 'concepts' but still point to the same thing. That could also be the case here.

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Proto-Romance is a “language” constructed by linguists based on what is known of Romance languages.
No. Proto-Romance, as a concept, is the ancestor to the Romance languages, nothing more or less than that. There are additionally many (sub-)hypotheses giving various levels of detail about what it might have looked like as a language. Those two different levels must be distinguished, because the detail-oriented hypotheses can be falsified by details, whereas the more general hypotheses that some language existed can only be falsified by showing that the alleged daughter languages are not related. In the case of Proto-Romance, our understanding of the details certainly has changed and will continue to change, but the likelihood that there was no common ancestor to the languages is basically zero. I think of "proto-languages" like variables, say "X", in algebra: it's there, to be found, and by studying it, we can learn more about it. One particular proposed value may not end up being the right solution, but there still is, in principle, some value that will fill in that blank.

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It is incomplete because the written record of some of the languages does not go as far back as it does for others.  If there is an intermediate stage between something called Latin and the things variously called French, Spanish, Italian etc then calling it Proto-Romance means you are giving the same name to two different things, one hypothetical and the other real. If you call the intermediate stage Vulgar Latin you have the problem that this is also what you call the language spoken in antiquity. There is of course no reason why the same label should not be applied until we have significant differentiation, so long as it is understood that the Vulgar Latin well back in B.C. is not the same as the Vulgar Latin well into A.D. The problem seems to be that there is no name for the immediate precursor of the Romance languages, that is or something which would not be recognised as anything we label Latin, but not yet sufficiently differentiated to justify applying more than one label.
You're right that the names are not precise (and I'd say cannot be, even in principle).
At the same time, the real problem here is that Latin "split" in various Roman dialects dispersed across a large area well before any of those dialects were mutually unintelligible with each other. Trying to actually pinpoint an individual thing of "Proto-Romance" doesn't make sense, because it was already at the time a dispersed, complicated entity. "Vulgar Latin" can apply to all of those varieties (and as you say, across time as well as space), but "Proto-Romance" does not hold up as a simplistic reconstruction because it wasn't a single point in space/time to begin with. Yet there still was an ancestor to the Romance languages, which we can refer to as "Proto-Romance", and in effect is exactly the same as "Vulgar Latin" over a large span of time.

Your point about time is crucial: there was once a heated debate about whether Hittite was daughter of PIE or sister to it. And to me, that question makes no sense. PIE was a span of time, not a point, and in that sense, Hittite (Anatolian) simply was the earliest daughter, and the rest followed later. By adding in and recognizing time as a factor in all of this, it begins to make more sense, but also becomes more difficult to describe. To be expected, I suppose.

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There is a bit of a conundrum with labelling points on a continuum where the points at each end have different names. If you say that Latin and French are two different things then there has to be a point where Latin stopped being Latin and became French even if you cannot identify where it is.
Yes.
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If you say there is no such point because you cannot identify it then you are saying that Latin and French are the same thing.
Yes, indeed. This is the only possible conclusion. French is newer Latin, and Latin is older French. We can crudely say things like "people speak French today, and spoke Latin back then", but that's just a macroscopic view, and simplification. Old English didn't die out, it just changed into Modern English. And similarly Latin never died-- it just became Italian (and French, and Spanish, etc.). That's a fundamental truth, and any question or answer not assuming it will inevitably be misleading and end up in the contradictions you describe.

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If Latin had only developed into one language there would be no problem with labelling, apart from deciding where the boundaries are between Ancient, Middle and Modern Latin.
Languages have no inherent boundaries, especially not in cases like Romance where there is a clear dialect continuum-- similar at close ranges, more distinct farther. Neighbors always understand each other. There are social constructs of standard languages which can be reasonably separated from each other, but indeed Modern Latin is spoken in Spain, in France, in Italy, etc. It's a broad dialect continuum, not (entirely) mutually intelligible at the extremes of course. Recognizing this makes a lot more sense than applying arbitrary labels, like imagining that Latin died once French and Italian became mutually unintelligible. There's no such point (certainly not a specific one). The labels are just the boxes we'd like everything to fit in neatly today-- but they don't really hold up.
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Historical Linguistics / Re: Romance languages not descended from Latin.
« Last post by Forbes on November 12, 2018, 04:38:49 AM »
The point I want to make is that Proto-Romance and Vulgar Latin are two different concepts. Proto-Romance is a “language” constructed by linguists based on what is known of Romance languages. It is incomplete because the written record of some of the languages does not go as far back as it does for others.  If there is an intermediate stage between something called Latin and the things variously called French, Spanish, Italian etc then calling it Proto-Romance means you are giving the same name to two different things, one hypothetical and the other real. If you call the intermediate stage Vulgar Latin you have the problem that this is also what you call the language spoken in antiquity. There is of course no reason why the same label should not be applied until we have significant differentiation, so long as it is understood that the Vulgar Latin well back in B.C. is not the same as the Vulgar Latin well into A.D. The problem seems to be that there is no name for the immediate precursor of the Romance languages, that is or something which would not be recognised as anything we label Latin, but not yet sufficiently differentiated to justify applying more than one label.

There is a bit of a conundrum with labelling points on a continuum where the points at each end have different names. If you say that Latin and French are two different things then there has to be a point where Latin stopped being Latin and became French even if you cannot identify where it is. If you say there is no such point because you cannot identify it then you are saying that Latin and French are the same thing. If Latin had only developed into one language there would be no problem with labelling, apart from deciding where the boundaries are between Ancient, Middle and Modern Latin.
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The terminology of morphological linguisitic typology is not used consistently. I think it helps to distinguish two distinct but connected continua. One is how words are formed and at one end you have isolating and the other affixing. The other is how sentences are formed and at one end you have analytic and the other synthetic  - continuing if you wish to polysynthetic.

Without going into what a word is, a word consists of one or more morphemes. Morphemes are either free or bound. A free morpheme carries the meaning of a word. A bound morpheme is either inflectional, and changes the grammatical category of a word, or derivational and changes the meaning or part of speech.

In unfastened, fasten is a free morpheme, un- is a derivational morpheme (it reverses the meaning of fasten) and -ed is an inflectional morpheme (it changes the verb to the past tense). In fastener -er is a derivational morpheme (it converts a verb to a noun.)

An isolating language is a language which has a low ratio of morphemes to words. A completely isolating language would have no bound morphemes and no compound words (that is words with two or more free morphemes).

A completely affixing language has to be difficult to imagine because there are so many possibilities. When you think of all the different things that affixes do in the world’s languages no language could stand having all of them.

Since there are two types of bound morpheme there is the possibility of having a language with only inflectional morphemes and one with only derivational morphemes. (This is relevant when considering how analytic/synthetic a language is.) In practice languages tend to have both, though in different proportions.

An analytic language is one where how the words relate to each other is governed by word order and prepositions and similar words and (incidentally) meaning is often left to context. A synthetic language is one where how the words relate to each is governed by making changes to the words.

Since a synthetic language involves making changes to words it has to follow that it cannot be at the isolating end of the isolating/affixing continuum.

However, whilst a completely isolating language must be analytic, it does not following that a completely analytic language is isolating. That is because a language may be devoid of inflectional morphemes, but employ derivational morphemes and/or compound words.

A completely analytic language would be one without inflectional morphemes. A completely synthetic language, like a completely affixing language, is difficult to conceive as it would be too complex.

In practice languages do not fit into neat categories. In some languages the concept of a word starts to break down. In others, changes may be made to words not by affixes but by internal modification such as run/ran and that does not fit neatly into the isolating/affixing continuum.

English is highly analytic as it employs few inflectional affixes and uses word order and prepositions to convey meaning. It cannot be classed as highly isolating because it makes significant use of derivational affixes and compound words. It does though have isolating tendencies because nouns can become verbs and vice versa without the use of derivational affixes (though of course inflectional affixes are still needed according to the part of speech).
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Linguist's Lounge / Re: What do you think of people from Balkan?
« Last post by Daniel on November 10, 2018, 01:57:57 PM »
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Politics is the only important thing, everything else is idiotic.
Then go to a politics forum. This one is about linguistics, and your insults are not welcome. If you'd prefer that I ban you in order to help you move along, let me know.

Stirring up political controversy is not welcome here, especially when you are explicitly stating that's your only reason for being here (and your previous activity on the forum as well). This is your final warning. I'm closing this thread now.
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Historical Linguistics / Re: Romance languages not descended from Latin.
« Last post by Daniel on November 10, 2018, 01:52:27 PM »
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It is necessary to distinguish between Vulgar Latin and Proto-Romance.
... Labelling points on a continuum is arbitrary,
These two statements contradict each other. Certainly we can define them differently, and even arbitrarily make a distinction between the two at some point in time (or in society or in space, etc.), but since neither one is well-defined (e.g., by large amounts of texts), the distinction is relatively insignificant. That was my point above. I don't disagree with your points, but they are, as you say, arbitrary. Languages don't have historical boundaries, that's just our interpretation.
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but when the point was reached that what people were speaking was not what from today’s perspective what would be considered Latin, it cannot be considered to be Vulgar Latin.
There is no such point. It doesn't happen one day that a language becomes something else. Latin didn't one day become Italian (or Proto-Romance, or whatever). And more importantly in this case, the timing doesn't entirely match up: Proto-Romance must have been roughly contemporaneous with the Latin or Ancient Rome, because that's how far back the roots go.

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Since we do not know what this speech was like we have to reconstruct it and the hypothetical language is called Proto-Romance.
By definition "Proto-" languages are not attested. So in that very technical sense, we can only apply the term to something we don't have documented. But that would mean that we can never discover a proto-language (e.g., a new tablet somewhere) which is sort of an odd implication.
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Vulgar Latin was a real language with dialects and a history; Proto-Romance, which is reconstructed by working backwards from attested forms of Romance languages, is a hypothesis outside time and space and was spoken by nobody.
This is a misrepresentation. Proto-languages as reconstructed probably never existed as such, but there still was some real-world language that corresponds to the hypothesis (and varies in some details). Proto-Romance (in one form or another) certainly existed, in order for the daughter languages to share so many features. Various reconstructions have been proposed, and they may or may not be accurate-- but that accuracy is based on real history, whether or not we're able to actually ever check them against real data. For Proto-Romance it's actually relatively easy to reconstruct because we have so much data. But if you look at another situation, like with Proto-Indo-European, there is a lot more controversy (and less data), and that's a situation where we also still know there really was some language spoken at some time, at some place, by some people, but we don't know the details, neither sociolinguistic nor linguistic. Thus no one ever spoke our reconstruction of PIE exactly as reconstructed, but certainly someone spoke a language that was the ancestor to the related Indo-European languages. So the wording here must be very careful not to overstate things, in both directions.

Now, there is one way in which "Proto-Romance" probably does not hold up as a concept. That is because it did not develop at a particular place in time and space, and then "split" into all of the modern languages, in the exact way that reconstruction would suggest. There were some changes already in place for Proto-Romance, according to the reconstructions, that may have not been in place for Vulgar Latin. In that case, true Proto-Romance would have split earlier (e.g., during the time of Roman conquests) and not yet had all of the reconstructed shared features. How then did those shared features arise? Mutual drift. That is, some changes were already "going to happen" or "in progress" (in some sense) when Proto-Romance split, such that when we reconstruct it, it looks like they happened before the split, because it was consistent across the varieties. Regardless, this just means that our reconstruction is challenged by complex data, not that there was no such language. Reconstructions will never give us a perfect image of how languages sounded, but they do a reasonable job of telling us that there is a common ancestor and some things about it.

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However, when it is remembered that Latin was just one Italic language spoken in Italy in antiquity, it is interesting to speculate whether and to what extent the languages of Italy classified as Romance have descended from or been influenced by non-Latin Italic languages.
Maybe. But Latin itself was influenced by its neighbors, and most of the Romance languages developed outside the domain of the Italic languages, and after they were gone. So you might legitimately find some influences in the regional dialects/languages of Italy, but this does not seem to be the right way to explain Portuguese, for example (although other substrates elsewhere did have effects too).

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These languages are very poorly attested,  but it seems that some of them were closely related to Latin.
There are descriptive grammars available for several of them, so the situation is not that dire.

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Obviously as Rome expanded Latin came to dominate the non-Latin Italic languages.
But again, Latin spread beyond that region as well, and before (all of) the non-Latin Italic languages had disappeared. They're really separate things, neighbors, not just a situation of replacement.

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It can be imagined though that varieties formed which were some sort of amalgam of Latin and the local language from which present day languages of Italy are descended.
Yes, to some degree, as I mentioned above. However, standardization at the time meant that Latin mostly replaced the other languages there, and then during the development of the Romance languages they were sort of on their own course. Thus I don't think there was a substantial amount of influence, certainly not something like 50-50 mixing. I'm sure there's some research into the influence of the ancient Venetic language on Venetian (Italian dialect). But again overall this influence was not so strong. For example, the Romance languages outside of Italy certainly differ more (and indeed due to substrate influence!) than those within Italy, for the most part.
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It is often said that the languages of Italy classed as Romance differ more from each other than standard Italian (a partly created language) does from, say, Spanish.
Source? There may very well be some standard-influenced features shared in standard Romance varieties not found in dialects, but to say the Italian languages/dialects are more distinct than say Italian vs. French seems extreme to me.

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This may be due to the languages being clustered round a centre of origin, but the possibility of non-Latin Italic languages being involved cannot be ruled out.
Yes, it makes sense that, setting aside later contact and merging, dialectal variation within a nearby area (Italy) would be higher than variation farther away. Think of concentric rings of distance, then dialects clustering around social situations.

So I don't disagree that there may have been some influence, but your arguments here seem a bit too strong to me. I suppose one argument in your favor could be that the modern attestations of Italian languages/dialects are heavily mixed with standard Italian, obscuring and thus under-representing the regional influences. Yet there are cases where there is clear influence, such as Greek in southern Italy. There would need to be some explanation for why very clearly Greek features are preserved there, while there is less strong evidence for a direct effect of other non-Latin Italic languages. Perhaps the explanation would be that more distinct (e.g. Greek) features could be preserved while less distinct (e.g. non-Latin Italic) features might merge.

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Unless archaeologists come up with significant finds we shall never know.
Certainly some details remain mysterious, but have you looked into the better attested cases? We really do know something about many of the non-Latin Italic languages, and I'm certain that someone has looked into this influence. I haven't read that research myself, but I'm sure it's out there.
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Linguist's Lounge / Re: What do you think of people from Balkan?
« Last post by AGuyFromBalkanee on November 10, 2018, 01:12:06 PM »
I'd have posted this sooner if I was able to get the link to change my password, which I had forgotten, sooner.
Remember, nothing human exists, much less has value, outside of the state. Politics is the only important thing, everything else is idiotic.
Wars and famines are not a failure of scientists, they are failure of politics. It's much more important to be right about politics, than to be right about science.
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Linguist's Lounge / Re: What do you think of people from Balkan?
« Last post by AGuyFromBalkanee on November 10, 2018, 12:59:11 PM »
OK, I get it, this forum isn't for discussing anything that's not idiotic.
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Historical Linguistics / Re: Romance languages not descended from Latin.
« Last post by Forbes on November 10, 2018, 12:46:50 PM »
It is necessary to distinguish between Vulgar Latin and Proto-Romance.

Where there is no context “Latin” is more often than not taken to mean Classical Latin, that is the written language in use very roughly from the beginning of the first century B.C. to the end of the third century A.D. It was preceded as a written form by Old Latin and followed by Late Latin which merges into or is considered the same as Medieval Latin. Running parallel to the written form is a spoken form which is called Vulgar Latin. This was related to but distinct from the written. Little is known about Vulgar Latin and what the degree of diglossia was at any given time. It has a long history and must have varied over time and place like any spoken language. We do though know that over time the gap between written Latin and Vulgar Latin widened until it reached the point where Latin (as say used by clerics) was only intelligible to the learned. For a period people still said they spoke Latin, though they distinguished between the spoken and written varieties.

The Romance languages probably have the best attested history of any group of languages, but there is a gap. Labelling points on a continuum is arbitrary, but when the point was reached that what people were speaking was not what from today’s perspective what would be considered Latin, it cannot be considered to be Vulgar Latin. Since we do not know what this speech was like we have to reconstruct it and the hypothetical language is called Proto-Romance.

Vulgar Latin was a real language with dialects and a history; Proto-Romance, which is reconstructed by working backwards from attested forms of Romance languages, is a hypothesis outside time and space and was spoken by nobody.

*

If it is asked whether Latin is the parent of all present day Romance languages, the general answer is that it is, subject to all the outside influences which vary from place to place. However, when it is remembered that Latin was just one Italic language spoken in Italy in antiquity, it is interesting to speculate whether and to what extent the languages of Italy classified as Romance have descended from or been influenced by non-Latin Italic languages. These languages are very poorly attested,  but it seems that some of them were closely related to Latin. Obviously as Rome expanded Latin came to dominate the non-Latin Italic languages. It can be imagined though that varieties formed which were some sort of amalgam of Latin and the local language from which present day languages of Italy are descended. In this respect we know that when people learn a language similar to their own they may not learn it properly because they feel they already half know and get by without learning it correctly. It is often said that the languages of Italy classed as Romance differ more from each other than standard Italian (a partly created language) does from, say, Spanish. This may be due to the languages being clustered round a centre of origin, but the possibility of non-Latin Italic languages being involved cannot be ruled out. Unless archaeologists come up with significant finds we shall never know.
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Linguist's Lounge / hello all. i am serwesen
« Last post by Sooncep on November 09, 2018, 12:14:54 AM »
Hmm. Its me again. I am serwesen from Chinese.
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Semantics and Pragmatics / Re: The meaning of "some"
« Last post by Daniel on November 04, 2018, 03:26:20 PM »
That's basically right.

At some point, if there are many chairs, you would say "there are a lot of chairs". But that's emphatic, and it's technically true that "some" just means "more than zero" [more than one, if used in the plural] and probably "not all" (but that's a scalar implicature not a strict requirement).
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