Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 27th Oct 2009 00:37 UTC
Features, Office In the comments on our editorial about language purism and the Psystar case, it became quite clear that language is a subject almost everyone has an opinion on - not odd if you consider that language is at the very centre of what makes us "human". Since this appears to be a popular subject, let's talk about the influence computing has had on two very minor aspects of the Dutch language.
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Funny Quotes in Word
by drstorm on Tue 27th Oct 2009 01:07 UTC
drstorm
Member since:
2009-04-24

My native language is Serbian, and we use the same kind of „quotes” as the Dutch. The truth is most people don't really care about the matter so the English style quotes go unnoticed in most cases.

Still, most formal documents use traditional quotes. I have written a number of such documents in Word myself and I must say, I had no trouble at all. Word automatically replaced the left high quote with the low one every time. The trick was to set the document language to Serbian.

If it does not work for Dutch, it's probably some kind of misunderstanding of the Dutch orthography on Microsoft's part...

Reply Score: 5

RE: Funny Quotes in Word
by Savior on Tue 27th Oct 2009 07:08 UTC in reply to "Funny Quotes in Word"
Savior Member since:
2006-09-02

Same here -- I am Hungarian, and we also place our left double quotes at the bottom. And lo! so does Word and OpenOffice, if you set the language to Hungarian. Which, according to my experience, is how computers of non-geeks are set up most of the time. So I wouldn't blame word processors for that.

I think it's a more recent development, but definitely computer-related. Chat applications, text editors, etc. use only "". That and with all this English text around us, it's no wonder people are more accustomed to the English style double quotes. Too bad.

That's the price you pay for globalization. It's actually a cheap one, compared to some other cultural aspects. One that really blows my mind is when international chains advertize their Christmas sales/menus/etc. with Santa Claus. Who is this Santa Claus guy anyway? And what does he have to do with Christmas? Go back to the US, we don't need you! Dammit! ;)

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Funny Quotes in Word
by drstorm on Tue 27th Oct 2009 11:39 UTC in reply to "RE: Funny Quotes in Word"
drstorm Member since:
2009-04-24

First of all, greets to the neighbor. ;)

About the Santa, in Serbia the same looking guy brings presents on New Year's Eve. He has nothing to do with Christmas and we call him Grandpa-Frost (Deda-Mraz in Serbian).

Despite the globalization, Grandpa-Frost prevails and I like it. Christmas should really be about Christ. Besides, members of every religion can appreciate Grandpa-Frost. ;)

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Funny Quotes in Word
by Laurence on Tue 27th Oct 2009 12:55 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Funny Quotes in Word"
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

First of all, greets to the neighbor.

About the Santa, in Serbia the same looking guy brings presents on New Year's Eve. He has nothing to do with Christmas and we call him Grandpa-Frost (Deda-Mraz in Serbian).

Despite the globalization, Grandpa-Frost prevails and I like it. Christmas should really be about Christ. Besides, members of every religion can appreciate Grandpa-Frost.


The problem with Christmas is it's actually a Pagan end of year festival that Christians hijacked in order to convert more to their religion.

Christ was actually born some time mid year.

So in a way, globalization has already corrupted Christmas - though obviously it was called something different by the Pagans.


Laurence

PS I post this as a Christian myself. I just wanted to state that as I didn't want my post to sound like I was trying to stir up an anti-religion flame-war

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Funny Quotes in Word
by Kroc on Tue 27th Oct 2009 13:41 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Funny Quotes in Word"
Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

Yup, and no encyclopaedia, no historian, and neither the church themselves deny this fact. It’s basically a commercial holiday that even the church acknowledges since it will at least get them some attention. Nobody even cared what Jesus’ birthday was up until the second century when paganism spread into Christianity. (The idea of a birthday being significant is a Roman idea, based on their gods and beliefs)

Reply Score: 1

I liked this article a lot
by csasso on Tue 27th Oct 2009 01:18 UTC
csasso
Member since:
2007-02-27

Title says it all ;) chris

Reply Score: 2

Keyboards
by Delgarde on Tue 27th Oct 2009 01:24 UTC
Delgarde
Member since:
2008-08-19

It's not specifically computers affecting the language, as keyboards, since I assume the same factors would apply just as much to an old 1930's typewriter as to a modern laptop.

It comes down to practicality - you can only have so many keys on a keyboard, and so you have to simplify. Separate keys for open and close quotes, single and double? Nice, but not strictly necessary - little readability is lost by merging the two symbols. And the same argument elsewhere. Another example for you is a tendency to drop accents from characters, as they're hard to enter on a standard US keyboard...

Interestingly, computers actually improve the matter a little, as they can be a bit smarter about things - automatically turning straight quotes into their curly counterparts, allowing combination keystrokes to enter accented characters, etc.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by neticspace
by neticspace on Tue 27th Oct 2009 01:35 UTC
neticspace
Member since:
2009-06-09

Computers also changed the Korean language a lot. Now we have a new verbal ending that is ONLY spoken among young people. For some Koreans, this is quite creepy.

Edited 2009-10-27 01:53 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by neticspace
by cefarix on Tue 27th Oct 2009 04:12 UTC in reply to "Comment by neticspace"
cefarix Member since:
2006-03-18

Oh, really? I took a Korean class one and can read Hangul. What is this new ending?

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by neticspace
by neticspace on Tue 27th Oct 2009 05:56 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by neticspace"
neticspace Member since:
2009-06-09

It's a nominalized ending of '-se'; hence '-sem'.

Origin: It was popular among "casual" elementary school students (AKA 'choding') to use this unorthodox verbal ending in internet forums. Now this unique ending is used in real life occasionally among youths.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by kaiwai
by kaiwai on Tue 27th Oct 2009 03:03 UTC
kaiwai
Member since:
2005-07-06

I personally think it is great from the point of view of getting rid of cruft in the language - does it matter that a table is male/female? It reminds me when I was learning French, pointless parts of the language that added nothing in terms of content to the discussion - it was only there because, well, it is just there. I kept asking questions to my teacher (French himself) as to the purpose of it - why? what does it serve? the absence of that results in something lack in the content being transmitted?

On the good side, this year the Macquarie Australian English dictionary has added 5,000 new words to the official lexicon of Australian English. Language being created by the unwashed masses and making its way into the official language. As more words are added, the more exact one can express one self - rather than having a single word with multiple meanings (in the case if the doctrine of Ismah (based on the verse of purification) in Islam where the one word has 16 equivalent English words with no one I know being able to know whether the verse refers to sins, transgressions, faults, mistakes - it could mean anything you want it to mean). So the language becomes more rich, colourful and expressive which is a good thing (tm)

Edited 2009-10-27 03:05 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by kaiwai
by merkoth on Tue 27th Oct 2009 03:20 UTC in reply to "Comment by kaiwai"
merkoth Member since:
2006-09-22

French is awesome. It probably has the weirdest way to say eighty and ninety I've ever seen:

[70]
English: Seventy.
Spanish: Setenta.
French: Soixante-dix (sixty [and] ten)

[80]
English: Eighty.
Spanish: Ochenta.
French: Cuatre-vingt ("four [times] twenty")

[99]
English: Ninety-nine.
Spanish: Noventainueve. ("ninety [and] nine")
French: Cuatre-vingt dix-neuf ("four [times] twenty [and] nineteen")

I only took a few classes, but this really looked weird to me ;)

Reply Score: 5

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by impulse on Tue 27th Oct 2009 04:18 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by kaiwai"
impulse Member since:
2009-10-27

In Belgian French you have 'septante' for seventy and 'nonante' for ninety. These are used in Swiss French as well and they might even use 'huitante' for eighty, and i use it too since it makes more sense. Once upon a time there was an 'octante' for eighty too.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai
by JayDee on Tue 27th Oct 2009 04:29 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai"
JayDee Member since:
2009-06-02

In Belgian French you have 'septante' for seventy and 'nonante' for ninety. These are used in Swiss French as well and they might even use 'huitante' for eighty, and i use it too since it makes more sense. Once upon a time there was an 'octante' for eighty too.


I was just about to point that out :-) Although I thought eighty was octante in Belgium. Wikipedia says otherwise though.

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: Comment by kaiwai
by Kalessin on Tue 27th Oct 2009 19:22 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai"
Kalessin Member since:
2007-01-18

That kind of stuff tends to vary by region. I know that in Switzerland, some places use the "normal" French numbers while others use one or more of septante, huitante, and nonante. It's quite probable that it's the same in Belgium. So, you could easily have quatre-vingt, huitante, and octante all being used depending on where you are and who you talk to.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by sphexx on Tue 27th Oct 2009 08:08 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by kaiwai"
sphexx Member since:
2005-07-06

We have that in English too, though not often used, as in:
80 = Four score
90 = Four score and ten

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by jal_ on Tue 27th Oct 2009 08:40 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by kaiwai"
jal_ Member since:
2006-11-02

I only took a few classes


That shows, it's "quatre", not "cuatre" ;) .


JAL

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by TasnuArakun on Tue 27th Oct 2009 10:09 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by kaiwai"
TasnuArakun Member since:
2009-05-24

I can never get used to the Danish way of counting. It's almost as bad as the French.

[50]
Swedish: femtio (five [times] ten)
Danish: halvtreds (half third [times twenty], where half third = 2.5)

[60]
Swedish: sextio (six [times] ten)
Danish: tres (three [times twenty])

[99]
Swedish: nittionio (nine [times] ten [and] nine)
Danish: ni og halvfems (nine and half fifth [times twenty])

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai
by coolvibe on Tue 27th Oct 2009 11:56 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai"
coolvibe Member since:
2007-08-16

I like the finnish way of counting. It's quite simple, but numbers transcribed to words get scarily long. Some examples:

[1] yksi
[8] kahdeksan
[10] kymmenen
[11] yksitoista
[18] kahdeksantoista

So allright, that looks simple enough, but wait until we get to higher numbers:

[20] kaksokymmentä (not that bad)
[21] kaksokymmentäyksi
[39] neljakymmentäyhdeksan (could be worse)
[1337] yksituhatkolmesatakolmekymmentäseitseman (uuh...)
[31337] kolmekymmentäyksituhattakolmesatakolmekymmentäseitseman (argh)

No wonder the Finns don't talk that much. ;)

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai
by akavel on Tue 27th Oct 2009 13:35 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai"
akavel Member since:
2009-10-27

[99]
Danish: ni og halvfems (nine and half fifth [times twenty])


8-O ... no way! ... man, that's wicked....

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by Zifre on Tue 27th Oct 2009 11:27 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by kaiwai"
Zifre Member since:
2009-10-04

Spanish: Noventainueve. ("ninety [and] nine")


Wouldn't that be noventa y nueve? As far as I know the i is only used for numbers in the teens and twenties (and even then, it is not used in some places at all). However, I am not a native Spanish speaker, so you could be correct.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai
by merkoth on Tue 27th Oct 2009 12:04 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai"
merkoth Member since:
2006-09-22

"Spanish: Noventainueve. ("ninety [and] nine")


Wouldn't that be noventa y nueve? As far as I know the i is only used for numbers in the teens and twenties (and even then, it is not used in some places at all). However, I am not a native Spanish speaker, so you could be correct.
"

No no, you're right. I shouldn't stay up so late :-P

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by akavel on Tue 27th Oct 2009 13:30 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by kaiwai"
akavel Member since:
2009-10-27

I've also learnt French a bit, and thus I will let myself point out, that 99 is even slightly more awesome than what you wrote: because 19 = "dix-neuf" means literally "ten [plus] nine", so finally it goes as:

99 = "four twenty ten nine" ;)

when I think about that from time to time I still get a feeling that someone who created this world must have been joking ;)

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai
by Kalessin on Tue 27th Oct 2009 19:25 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai"
Kalessin Member since:
2007-01-18

The funny thing is when you talk to French people and they think that how they deal with 70+ is normal, and you have trouble explaining to them why it's odd. Many are just so used to it that they don't think about how 70+ follow a different pattern from the rest.

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: Comment by kaiwai
by yopmaster on Wed 28th Oct 2009 01:00 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai"
yopmaster Member since:
2009-10-28

Why ? Is there anything weird ? When you are native (I'm French), you do not ask yourself whether your language is strange or not ;)

And by the way I also speak Japanese which has a lot of funny "features" too. One of my favorite is the fact you have to use different words to count things: depending on what you are counting, the word for the number changes. For instance:

- two people: "two" is "futari" (hito futari) - for people
- two dogs: "two" is "nihiki" (inu nihiki) - for pets
- two letters: "two" is "nimai" (tegami nimai) - for flat things
- two bottles: "two" is "nihon" (botoru nihon) - for small cylindric objects

And there are a lot of them ! It appears it enables to give a lot more information than just a number, especially in the context of a shop (on word for oranges, one for rice, one for tofu ...)

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by kaiwai
by AnyoneEB on Tue 27th Oct 2009 04:26 UTC in reply to "Comment by kaiwai"
AnyoneEB Member since:
2008-10-26

I personally think it is great from the point of view of getting rid of cruft in the language - does it matter that a table is male/female? It reminds me when I was learning French, pointless parts of the language that added nothing in terms of content to the discussion - it was only there because, well, it is just there. I kept asking questions to my teacher (French himself) as to the purpose of it - why? what does it serve? the absence of that results in something lack in the content being transmitted?

Gender on inanimate objects can be useful: it lets you talk about more than one object with only pronouns like in English you can easily talk about a male and a female using only pronouns without being confusing, but talking clearly about two distinct objects using only pronouns is usually impossible in English. On the other hand, in French, they might have different genders, and therefore get different pronouns. Gender is one of the ways languages get more than one third person / a fourth person (not really sure on the terminology here) ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_person ).

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by kaiwai on Tue 27th Oct 2009 04:40 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by kaiwai"
kaiwai Member since:
2005-07-06

Gender on inanimate objects can be useful: it lets you talk about more than one object with only pronouns like in English you can easily talk about a male and a female using only pronouns without being confusing, but talking clearly about two distinct objects using only pronouns is usually impossible in English. On the other hand, in French, they might have different genders, and therefore get different pronouns. Gender is one of the ways languages get more than one third person / a fourth person (not really sure on the terminology here) ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_person ).


But you haven't explained *WHY* it is important - what extra information does it provide to me in my understanding of the information you're transmitting to me. If you say that the table is blue with tongue and grove top and french style table legs - telling me that it is female or male is going to add what benefit to me? If you want to talk about more than one object then say, "I have 4 objects, the first object is.... the second object is .... and the third object is ....."

As for an addition person - I'd love to know where I'd need to use it. I'm not attacking you but every argument I have seen as been the defence of the fluff of old than a robust defence to an otherwise useless piece of syntax sugar.

Edited 2009-10-27 04:43 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai
by siride on Tue 27th Oct 2009 05:06 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai"
siride Member since:
2006-01-02

It doesn't. But that's not his point. The reason French still has genders is because Latin had them (and way back when, there was a time when they actually meant something) and the morphological syncretism of Romance and Old French was not enough to erase the distinction between masculine and feminine, so they are still around. But they are also still around because they aid in referring to multiple things in one sentence without having to use extra clarification.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai
by Boomer on Tue 27th Oct 2009 06:17 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai"
Boomer Member since:
2009-10-27

As an undergrad in linguistics, maybe I can help.

People have the notion of gender in language backwards. It isn't that there are languages that actually consider a table to be a female and spoons a male, it's that there are two different noun classes in which Indo-European languages (ie, likely most, if not all, of the languages you have heard of) places biological sex. However, noun classes don't always correlate to biological gender. Some languages have noun classes for animate and inanimate objects - in these, men and women would both be treated similarly. Other languages make distinctions based not only on animacy, but shape or even function. Luganda of Uganda is a language that has not just two or three noun classes, but 17!

As to why some languages have gender and others, like English or American Sign Language don't, that's a much more complicated question. It may be an issue of history, where the language used to say something like "two head of cattle" instead of "two cows", and over time that first form shortened into a single lexical item with a morphological identity referring to animate objects. It may also be an issue of how the human mind works. Chomsky had proposed a system in the mind that is composed switches. When one feature of a language is turned on, like gender or zero anaphora, other features are then turned on or off.

I could go on, but the point is that it's not a matter of a good idea or a bad idea. Languages don't have feature sets like an operating system does, they have much more subtle features of expression that convey more information per sentence than we give ourselves credit for. Grammar is never invented, it just happens.

Reply Score: 6

RE[4]: linguistics vs rePAIR vs rePARE
by pg--az on Tue 27th Oct 2009 08:01 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai"
pg--az Member since:
2006-03-15

As an undergrad in linguistics..


If you go to www.hotforwords.com and type REPAIR into the search box, it's interesting how REpare and PREpare actually DO derive from the same root, just a case of "Linguistic Entropy" hmm ( I like that book "Genetic Entropy", wonder about the details on these "mutations" ).
Also on the same site, OXYMORON has an interesting derivation - according to Marina, ( OXYMORON = oxys + moros ) is ITSELF an oxymoron, to computer people this is the kind of recursive-tail-chasing which blows up computers on Star Trek.
So you see I actually remember these interesting facts, although peripherally I was mainly watching the babe, in this case the medium managed to get a message across, too.

Edited 2009-10-27 08:12 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: Comment by kaiwai
by Kalessin on Tue 27th Oct 2009 19:34 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai"
Kalessin Member since:
2007-01-18

Grammar is never invented, it just happens.


Well, unless you're talking about languages specifically created like Esperanto, Elvish, or Klingon. But even then, given enough real usage, they'll start to drift. If a language is static, it's dead. And once it starts drifting, it definitely starts to fall into the "just happens" category.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai
by Coxy on Tue 27th Oct 2009 09:07 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai"
Coxy Member since:
2006-07-01

You should try learning a language other than American and then maybe you would understand. English doesn't really have a case system any more, if it did you see why it is useful.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Comment by kaiwai
by kaiwai on Tue 27th Oct 2009 11:48 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai"
kaiwai Member since:
2005-07-06

You should try learning a language other than American and then maybe you would understand. English doesn't really have a case system any more, if it did you see why it is useful.


And if you used your brain and visited my profile, I am from New Zealand.

For the Americans out there, New Zealand isn't located in Europe. I wish it were, but it isn't.

I also know another language than English; I took Maori when I was at college.

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: Comment by kaiwai
by voidlogic on Tue 27th Oct 2009 13:15 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by kaiwai"
voidlogic Member since:
2005-09-03

"For the Americans out there, New Zealand isn't located in Europe. I wish it were, but it isn't."

Is there really a need to be pointlessly offensive? Being impolite in public discourse only demeans your own intelligence.

Reply Score: 2

RE[6]: Comment by kaiwai
by boldingd on Wed 28th Oct 2009 21:12 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Comment by kaiwai"
boldingd Member since:
2009-02-19

He was kinda provoked; Coxy was a little caustic. At least, he seemed to be to me.

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: Comment by kaiwai
by Coxy on Tue 27th Oct 2009 15:57 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by kaiwai"
Coxy Member since:
2006-07-01

Try using yours, stop associating Noun gender with biological gender, learn about languages, and then you'll see why noun genders are useful.

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: Comment by kaiwai
by David on Tue 27th Oct 2009 21:08 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by kaiwai"
David Member since:
1997-10-01

Yes, as an American, I take offense! I, for one, know that New Zealand is in Middle Earth.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Comment by kaiwai
by JacobMunoz on Tue 27th Oct 2009 15:29 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai"
JacobMunoz Member since:
2006-03-17

... if it did you see why it is useful.


Really?

Me Og. Me speak good.


Sorry, I just saw
language other than American
and had to point out how bad your "American" is.

:P

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Comment by kaiwai
by BluenoseJake on Tue 27th Oct 2009 15:45 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai"
BluenoseJake Member since:
2005-08-11

There is no language called American, Americans speak a slightly modified version of English, and they call it...wait for it...English

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: Comment by kaiwai
by Coxy on Tue 27th Oct 2009 15:53 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by kaiwai"
Coxy Member since:
2006-07-01

Na klar... nur weil du an Amerikana bist. Schau mal hier:

http://dict.leo.org/ende?lp=ende&p=8x2Ml3&search=amerikanisch

In manche Sprachen gibts "American" ;-). In England sagte man auch 'American'.

First you need to learn language before you know something like that... and I don't mean c# :-)

Reply Score: 2

RE[6]: Comment by kaiwai
by JacobMunoz on Tue 27th Oct 2009 16:39 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Comment by kaiwai"
JacobMunoz Member since:
2006-03-17

First you need to learn language before you know something like that... and I don't mean c# :-)


Was that supposed to be witty? It wasn't. Sorry.

Please, translate that into "Amerikana" for the rest of us.

Jerk.

Reply Score: 2

RE[7]: Comment by kaiwai
by Coxy on Tue 27th Oct 2009 16:42 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: Comment by kaiwai"
Coxy Member since:
2006-07-01

Thanks for replying Jerk,

is that really your name? How unfortunate, must have been awful for you at school.

I knew someone at school. Wayne, Wayne Kerr. Maybe he is a cousin of yours, no?

Reply Score: 2

RE[6]: Comment by kaiwai
by BluenoseJake on Tue 27th Oct 2009 20:15 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Comment by kaiwai"
BluenoseJake Member since:
2005-08-11

I don't know what you mean, but I do know that Google tells me that you said:

Sure ... just because you're on Americana. Look here:

In some languages gibts "American" ;-). In England they also said 'American'.


I'm Canadian, and I speak English. English comes from well, England. The US dialect is a bit farther from the original British English, with greater modifications on spelling, eg. color instead of colour.

Edited 2009-10-27 20:15 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[7]: Comment by kaiwai
by boldingd on Wed 28th Oct 2009 21:21 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: Comment by kaiwai"
boldingd Member since:
2009-02-19

I'm Canadian, and I speak English. English comes from well, England. The US dialect is a bit farther from the original British English, with greater modifications on spelling, eg. color instead of colour.


I'm not entirely sure that's correct. I've been told that US English -- especially the more rustic varieties, amusingly -- is actually closer to the English that was spoken at the time the colonies where founded than what's spoken in England today; it's actually British English that's changed more dramatically. Whether that's correct or not, I don't know.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai
by Biff on Tue 27th Oct 2009 12:35 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai"
Biff Member since:
2009-10-27

Which sentence do you like to hear ?

Hey, you have a really pretty girlfriend!

or

Hey, you have a really handsome girlfriend!


Pretty and handsome have the same meaning and still the sentences above have a complete different meaning.
When I tell you the second sentence in your face, I'm sure I'm ending up with a black eye.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by kaiwai
by cefarix on Tue 27th Oct 2009 04:42 UTC in reply to "Comment by kaiwai"
cefarix Member since:
2006-03-18

Well, for one thing, it enriches the expressiveness of the language. It's also a very natural, human thing. My native language Urdu, also has male and female genders for all nouns and verbs are modified according to the gender of their subjects and objects. In fact, in Urdu, and many other languages, its not possible to say something without a gender involved.

To remove gender from say, French, would be as wrong as saying "Me hot" instead of "I am hot" in English.

Why is it there? Because that's how the French language developed: it was there in Latin, and it was there in Proto-Indo-European, and beyond that, we don't know.
What purpose does it serve? It conveys information, just like any other part of speech.
Does its absence result in something lacking in content? Yes, indeed.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by Loki_999 on Tue 27th Oct 2009 08:02 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by kaiwai"
Loki_999 Member since:
2008-05-06

It was also there in old English as well... but we got rid of the crap only keeping it for some things such as referring to ships as "she" instead of "it" which is just anthropomorphizing rather than really keeping the old rules around.

Not saying English doesn't have its own issues, after all, it is also an evolved language, not a perfect language.

When people ask me about the history of the English language i usually say something like:

"Well, first we were invaded by the Romans while we were speaking early Gaelic/Germanic type languages around the regions, then we got invaded by the vikings, then the church influenced the language, France invaded us and we had a French Royal family but we got our own back and invaded France and gave them a British Royal Family for a while..... basically English has been modified over the years by everyone who invaded us or who we invaded to the point that Old English is barely recognizable to a current inhabitant of the British Isles."

And this I think, is a good thing. Because of all this English is a very flexible language and many students find words from their native languages in English due to cross-pollination.

Cant remember the words now, but over the last couple of years was even amazed to discover some words of Russian origin in English. Also, if you learn a but of Russian then some of the words in Stanley Kubrick's - A Clockwork Orange, are instantly recognizable.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by JoeBuck on Tue 27th Oct 2009 18:49 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by kaiwai"
JoeBuck Member since:
2006-01-11

The fact that so many languages make it so hard to write anything in a gender-neutral way is often a big problem. My 11-year-old daughter is very sensitive to sexist language and assumptions lately; if her native language were not English, things would be much worse.

Douglas Hofstadter of Gödel, Escher, Bach fame wrote an interesting essay about what life would be like if we used a different human attribute than gender to make language distinctions:

http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~evans/cs655/readings/purity.html

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai
by cefarix on Tue 27th Oct 2009 20:52 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai"
cefarix Member since:
2006-03-18

Well, I would have to disagree. Having genders, plurality, politeness, tenses, etc in language enriches it and lets us communicate in a richer way. Language represents human communication, so it's no surprise that it contains very human concepts in its grammar, such as gender.

A language containing grammatical gender has nothing to do with a piece of literature in that language being demeaning to either men or to women. Such a piece of literature can also be written in a language in which gender is less ingrained into the grammar. In other words, sexism != grammatical gender.

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: Comment by kaiwai
by JacobMunoz on Tue 27th Oct 2009 22:16 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai"
JacobMunoz Member since:
2006-03-17

I would add that while grammatical sugar is nice, it doesn't necessarily always take the form of endings, punctuation, case, etc. English is renowned for it's abusability.

See?

... abusability...
Almost makes me feel guilty of something. Linguicide?

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai
by ari-free on Tue 27th Oct 2009 23:20 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai"
ari-free Member since:
2007-01-22

Mailperson? isn't that specieist and offensive to carrier pigeons and other non-persons that deliver the mail?

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by kaiwai
by sakeniwefu on Tue 27th Oct 2009 09:08 UTC in reply to "Comment by kaiwai"
sakeniwefu Member since:
2008-02-26

I agree. Hallowed are the computers!

The reason we all use n+1 stupid conventions is that French and Americans exist. If they didn't, everyone else would just standardize on one option and forget about obsolete local alternatives.

The Universal Coordinated Time is called UTC which doesn't stand for anything because the French were all like "uh non non sacre bleu".

And then the Americans are all like "it was all like 100 degrees outside".

Maybe on Venus.

yyyy-mm-dd is a standard now, I am taking bets on what century they will accept it.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by strcpy on Tue 27th Oct 2009 09:14 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by kaiwai"
strcpy Member since:
2009-05-20


yyyy-mm-dd is a standard now, I am taking bets on what century they will accept it.


No, it is not. Where I come from, our grammar quite clearly states that the accepted format is DD.MM.YYYY.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai
by Beta on Tue 27th Oct 2009 10:05 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai"
Beta Member since:
2005-07-06

"
yyyy-mm-dd is a standard now, I am taking bets on what century they will accept it.


No, it is not.
"
Technically, it is - ISO 8601 - I cannot see countries moving to it for every day use soon, but I could easily see official documents, legal papers, etc, adopting it.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by kaiwai
by flynn on Tue 27th Oct 2009 14:31 UTC in reply to "Comment by kaiwai"
flynn Member since:
2009-03-19

I personally think it is great from the point of view of getting rid of cruft in the language - does it matter that a table is male/female? It reminds me when I was learning French, pointless parts of the language that added nothing in terms of content to the discussion - it was only there because, well, it is just there. I kept asking questions to my teacher (French himself) as to the purpose of it - why? what does it serve? the absence of that results in something lack in the content being transmitted?

If the French gender system provokes this much hostility from you, then I suggest you never try to learn Polish. Our gender system is much more complex and in addition to three genders (masculine, feminine and neuter), every noun is also identified by its personhood (person vs non-person) and animacy (animate vs non-animate). This is all in addition to the seven noun cases that a noun could fall into (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative and vocative).

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by kaiwai
by renox on Tue 27th Oct 2009 22:29 UTC in reply to "Comment by kaiwai"
renox Member since:
2005-07-06

>I kept asking questions to my teacher (French himself) as to the purpose of it - why? what does it serve? the absence of that results in something lack in the content being transmitted?

As a French myself, I can tell you, it has absolutely no purpose, which isn't surprising language evolved more or less randomly so it's not very surprising that the result isn't 'rational'.

Note that even minor proposal to simplify French such as replacing ê by é which sounds the same failed, so radical improvement such as adding a neutral gender are quite hopeless..

Reply Score: 2

New name for this site ?
by JayDee on Tue 27th Oct 2009 04:33 UTC
JayDee
Member since:
2009-06-02

Although I really like the content of this site, I feel it isn't always very aligned with the name OSnews as this article really has nothing to do with Operating System's. Don't get me wrong, I love this article. I just don't think the site's content fits it's name anymore. Just a thought...

Reply Score: 3

RE: New name for this site ?
by cefarix on Tue 27th Oct 2009 04:34 UTC in reply to "New name for this site ?"
cefarix Member since:
2006-03-18

Yup. It's turning more into Thom's personal blog...

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: New name for this site ?
by JayDee on Tue 27th Oct 2009 04:46 UTC in reply to "RE: New name for this site ?"
JayDee Member since:
2009-06-02

Yup. It's turning more into Thom's personal blog...


I wouldn't really say that. It's just that a lot of content of this site is more generalized now. Take for example the articles on the Wall Warts and alarm systems written by David. Then you have reviews of geeks.com products and graphics software from Eugenia. When you add that to articles like this, I feel this site is going into a different direction. It's giving news that geeks like :-) (To Eugenia, David and Thom, please do not take this as an insult as that's not what I wish to do. I actually like your articles)

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: New name for this site ?
by Kroc on Tue 27th Oct 2009 09:42 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: New name for this site ?"
Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

We’re not experts in real time operating systems or the inner workings of the Linux kernel, nor the finer details of a UNIX mainframe. We need you peeps to contribute news, articles and opinion to make the spread more diverse than just 90% Thom and 10% the rest of the staff.

Look, I don’t mean to be rude about this, but how can you complain about the content of the site when, if you scroll down the homepage, 90% of it is Thom’s, volunteered free. He’s really not being helped here, and if he stopped, OSnews would come to a grinding halt.

The reality is simple, if you don’t like the homepage lineup, start writing, you can change it into something you’d prefer ;) If the homepage were 90% contributed articles from across the spectrum of users, and 10% the staff, wouldn’t that be better? We need the help; it is for all intents and purposes Thom’s blog, but that’s hardly his fault since he’s the one keeping the ship afloat by filling in all the blanks.

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: New name for this site ?
by JayDee on Tue 27th Oct 2009 14:41 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: New name for this site ?"
JayDee Member since:
2009-06-02

You know what, you're right Kroc. I was not complaining and I tried to make sure it didn't seem like it. It's my fault for not trying to submit anything to the site and for not making any suggestions. I will keep my mouth shut from now on.

Reply Score: 1

RE[5]: New name for this site ?
by Kroc on Tue 27th Oct 2009 18:35 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: New name for this site ?"
Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

I was adding to the thread, coming from the OP, not you specifically. No need to overreact.

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: New name for this site ?
by boldingd on Wed 28th Oct 2009 22:28 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: New name for this site ?"
boldingd Member since:
2009-02-19

The thing that keeps me from trying to submit something is that I'm not sure I have any real chance of being given the time of day (well, that and that I have nothing of value to say...). Basically, extracting from the conduct of the staff so far, I would expect that, if I submitted anything that wasn't in-line with you guy's opinions and views, it would never get published. If the site's staff are in general unashamed to push their own personal views on thing when they create content, why would I expect them to suddenly become neutral facilitators when I offer a submission?

I don't mean to be rude or ungrateful. I do realize that you guys, and Thom in particular, do a lot of work for free here, and I do appreciate it. It's just that, if you ask, that's why I, for one, don't take your submission request too seriously. If you really want to see more submissions, maybe you should first convince us that you're really, honest-to-God serious and ready to accept them?

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: New name for this site ?
by Thom_Holwerda on Tue 27th Oct 2009 10:24 UTC in reply to "RE: New name for this site ?"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Yup. It's turning more into Thom's personal blog...


It's been turning into my personal blog for 6 years now, according to some. Is this process ever going to be finished? It kind of feels like dividing a number in half for all eternity - you never quite reach zero.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: New name for this site ?
by Kalessin on Tue 27th Oct 2009 19:50 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: New name for this site ?"
Kalessin Member since:
2007-01-18

What would we ever do without good ol' Zeno and his paradox...

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: New name for this site ?
by akavel on Wed 28th Oct 2009 09:55 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: New name for this site ?"
akavel Member since:
2009-10-27

I, OTOH, do like the diversity of the topics covered by the site. It feels so Renaissance. Just my $.02, and I know that article's comments are not the best place to talk about such things ;) but if others do already talk, why wouldn't I join for a moment :]
Cheers to all and every contributor! ;)

Reply Score: 1

Comment by Anon9
by Anon9 on Tue 27th Oct 2009 05:32 UTC
Anon9
Member since:
2008-06-30

I like how English is pretty restricted in the characters it uses. Some weird exceptions are naïve and vis-à-vis.

I wish there was some book somewhere that discussed many different languages and the unique characteristics of them. It wouldn't have to work on vocabulary at all, just grammar and typography. For example, it could teach how to write in Arabic, which I think is right to left and possibly some letters affect how the next is drawn. Such a book would help in developing a text editor that could be designed to support many languages. Maybe such a book exists. Any recommendations?

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by Anon9
by TasnuArakun on Tue 27th Oct 2009 12:29 UTC in reply to "Comment by Anon9"
TasnuArakun Member since:
2009-05-24

Don't forget façade and crème brûlée. ;) How come only French words are spelt properly? Loan words from any other language usually have the diacritics removed. For example the Swedish word smörgåsbord.

Personally I think English would benefit from having a few more letters since the language contains almost twice as many phonemes as it does letters. Sure, it's convenient when you need to cram the letters into a limited amount of code points but spelling gets so much easier when you employ the principle "one sound – one letter". Take a look at some of the slavic languages like Czech. I think it's time to reintroduce some of the older English letters: þ, ð, æ, œ, ȝ, ƿ. ;)

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by Anon9
by Thom_Holwerda on Tue 27th Oct 2009 12:39 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Anon9"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Don't forget façade and crème brûlée. How come only French words are spelt properly? Loan words from any other language usually have the diacritics removed. For example the Swedish word smörgåsbord.


In Dutch, diacritic marks cannot be omitted. They change the pronunciation of words, so if you remove them, pronunciation changes (and maybe meaning, too - I can't think of an example, though).

We use all of them - accent grave, acute, cedilla, circumflex, and even the tilde.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by SJ87
by sj87 on Tue 27th Oct 2009 05:43 UTC
sj87
Member since:
2007-12-16

I read that the idiotic commas-inside-quotes rule of the US was introduced by bad typewriters not positioning commas well after a quotation mark. Although completely adapting to that is more because of a low IQ than "computers".

http://grammartips.homestead.com/inside.html

Reply Score: 1

Question and exclamation marks
by elmimmo on Tue 27th Oct 2009 06:41 UTC
elmimmo
Member since:
2005-09-17

Not few people in Spain have cell phones that do not allow for opening question and exclamation marks. ¿What is an opening question mark, you say? ¡Well, I just wrote it for you a sentence ago!

As a result (added to other causes, such as the ridiculous character limit on SMS or because sometime people are just lazy) many people are omitting them in Spanish far too often. A pity, because they are indeed handy, specially on long or multiline sentences. In fact, how come not every other language uses them?

Reply Score: 2

TasnuArakun Member since:
2009-05-24

That depends on the language. Some could certainly use opening question marks. In Spanish, if I recall correctly, declarative and interrogative sentences can sometimes only be told apart from their intonation. Others, like my mother tongue Swedish, uses another word order for questions and thus you know pretty much from the start that it is a question even in a written text.

Reply Score: 1

elmimmo Member since:
2005-09-17

I see what you mean. Japanese too, for example, uses a syllable (か ka) at the end of a question. And yet, the same as in Spanish —sometimes—, like you correctly pointed out, you can then add or not a question mark and still have it understood. In fact, I bet Japanese did not use the question mark before the Meiji Restoration (≈1860). No real idea about that, though.

In Spanish interrogative pronouns have tildes on them, so you can tell their nature also by that (while a redundant feature, not all questions start with an interrogative pronoun anyway, so the opening question mark is still useful). But yet, some of those same cell phones do not allow for some of those tildes either!

Reply Score: 1

RE: Question and exclamation marks
by kaiwai on Tue 27th Oct 2009 12:05 UTC in reply to "Question and exclamation marks"
kaiwai Member since:
2005-07-06

Not few people in Spain have cell phones that do not allow for opening question and exclamation marks. ¿What is an opening question mark, you say? ¡Well, I just wrote it for you a sentence ago!


What purpose does it serve? "I AM GOING TO ASK A QUESTION AND THIS MARK IS TO INFORM YOU THAT I AM" and then closing it being little more than "I AM CLOSING THIS QUESTION MARK BECAUSE YOU MIGHT GET CONFUSED" - now imagine a slightly over weight man screaming that at the beginning and end of that sentence to give you what a visualisation of what it appears on the page to the reader. Envisage the tango man doing it - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1jywlZG74o . To me it is an attempt to label the reader an idiot who can't seem to understand when a question is asked either that or I am just mad trying to bring about a metaphysical representation of my reaction when I see such oddities on a page ;)

Maybe I just have a hatred against needless syntax that ad no literary value beyond "it looks nice" but serving no functionary purpose. Boomer addresses why it is there based on historical reasoning but fails to address why it still exists today. Why not purge it out? it doesn't serve any real purpose, its a needless complication for people to learn the language and it simply adds fluff to an otherwise simple sentence.

As a result (added to other causes, such as the ridiculous character limit on SMS or because sometime people are just lazy) many people are omitting them in Spanish far too often. A pity, because they are indeed handy, specially on long or multiline sentences. In fact, how come not every other language uses them?


Why? why not use the wonderful comma? why not a series of questions one after another? if it is necessary, then how come other language can get away not using it? I hear examples but their reason for trying to work around crappy sentence structure rather than addressing why the sentence structure is crappy. Adding to the fact that there is a growing trend of people not reading the full sentence, paragraph or set of writing on its entirety and trying to pull out pieces in isolation rather than seeing the writing that should be viewed holistically. So if anything - maybe the solution is to get people to read and write properly than dropping in symbols to make up for craptastic comprehension and grammar.

Edited 2009-10-27 12:08 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Why? why not use the wonderful comma? why not a series of questions one after another? if it is necessary, then how come other language can get away not using it?


I have little to no knowledge about Spanish, but it could be that in Spanish, the sentence structure does not change based on whether the sentence is a question or not. If that's indeed the case (a Spanish speaker will have to confirm) then I can certainly see a use in starting a question sentence with a toppled-over question mark, because else you wouldn't know it was a question until you reached the end of the sentence - screwing up intonation, especially when reading aloud.

Reply Score: 1

javivi72 Member since:
2009-10-27

As a native Spanish speaker, I can tell that Thorn is right indeed. Even though some words can help you learn you are about to state a question or an exclamation (as elmimmo stated above), most of the time the only way to know it is through intonation. Without opening marks, when you get to the closing one it is way too late.

As a side note, I am pasting a rather amusing but totally true statement found in the "Spanish language" article in Wikipedia:
"An amusing example of the significance of intonation in Spanish is the phrase ¿Cómo, como como? ¡Como como, como! (What do you mean, how do I eat? I eat the way I eat!)." I assure you each and every one of those "como" are pronounced the same, but intonated differently.

Reply Score: 1

siride Member since:
2006-01-02

English frequently uses intonation alone to mark questions. Yet we get by without an opening question mark. You certainly don't need an opening exclamation point because neither language has special syntax for that (it is, in fact, entirely based on intonation and doesn't change the meaning of the sentence).

Reply Score: 2

javivi72 Member since:
2009-10-27

I will not talk about English intonation because it is still a mistery to me.

However, Spanish intonation for both questions and exclamations requires that you rise your pitch at the very beginning and ending of the sentence (well, more or less, but you get the general idea). As we usually do not change neither the words nor their order when using those constructions, you do need a clue while reading; that is what the opening mark is for. Even more so as we tend to use very long sentences, with the closing mark possibly out of immediate sight.

I do not wish imply that they are needed in every language out there, but in Spanish they certainly are.

Reply Score: 1

JacobMunoz Member since:
2006-03-17

I believe the reason is mostly caused by the word(s) "Por que":

http://spanish.about.com/od/writtenspanish/a/porque.htm

It's a horrible little pair of syllables that take the place of "why is/are", "because", "for what/which", "that", and sometimes "for the reason". It can be one or two words, with or without accent.

English is less compact and tends to make a question's syntax more obvious towards the end. I once had a Spanish teacher point out that English is also more suspenseful than most Latin-based languages and causes the reader to reach the end of the sentence before it can be fully digested by the brain. Alternatively, in Spanish you know the subject/noun first and adjectives come later, making the beginning of the sentence more significant - perhaps worthy of an upside-down question mark. But it's still ugly if you ask me.

English: "red rubber ball"
Spanish: "pelota de goma roja"

Reply Score: 2

elmimmo Member since:
2005-09-17

Funny, for me as Spaniard it was the closing question mark always that looked upside down (I do know the opening one is called "inverted", it just does not match my impression of it).

Reply Score: 1

becco Member since:
2006-08-02

In Italian it's like in Spanish, the structure does not change. But we don't use a reverse question mark.

BTW, Thom: I moved to the Netherlands 2 months ago and I'm struggling with the Dutch language. I'm taking a course, but man it's hard to learn! ;)

Reply Score: 1

elmimmo Member since:
2005-09-17

Calling all Spanish speaking people subdued by the idiocy of their language was nice trolling. So, knowing that what follows is a sentence before actually starting to read it has no purpose? Then I bet, say, opening quotation marks do not have one either.

I can perfectly admit that other languages can perfectly pass without opening question or exclamation marks. It was just a rhetorical statement. There are no absolutes, man. Of course the content of the text helps you understand the nature of it. Sometimes, though, it is handy to get a hint or two. Or you'll tell me you have never ever been in that situation when you realize your intonation was wrong all along until you got to the end, right?

And we are talking languages here. If you wanted math, it is the wrong thread. Why does the English 3rd person has a frigging s at the end in present tense? I see nobody claiming for getting rid of it.

Edited 2009-10-27 22:21 UTC

Reply Score: 1

Great article
by Loki_999 on Tue 27th Oct 2009 07:43 UTC
Loki_999
Member since:
2008-05-06

Thanks, i really enjoyed that. Also interesting that Dutch is slowly loosing its declenations (god... is that a word?).

For the last 5 years or so i've been trying to get some sort of grip on Russian and the thing that really drives me bonkers (being native English) is the way words change *all* the time. If i didnt need the language i would never have started.

Maybe time to move country... always wanted to live in the Netherlands.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Great article
by jal_ on Tue 27th Oct 2009 08:43 UTC in reply to "Great article"
jal_ Member since:
2006-11-02

Also interesting that Dutch is slowly loosing its declenations


Dutch lost its declensions a long, long time ago. In fact, they were already in decline in the Middle Ages. The reason for still having them around is that some pedantic Latinophiles thought Dutch would look better and more like latin with all those cases, and re-introduced them in written language and high vernacular. Really stupid.


JAL

Reply Score: 1

OK
by frajo on Tue 27th Oct 2009 08:00 UTC
frajo
Member since:
2007-06-29

or even a golden oldie like "okay"

Thom, you should know very well the origin is - again - Greek: Ολα Καλα ;)

Reply Score: 0

RE: OK
by siride on Tue 27th Oct 2009 15:03 UTC in reply to "OK"
siride Member since:
2006-01-02

No.

Reply Score: 2

RE: OK
by Kalessin on Tue 27th Oct 2009 20:07 UTC in reply to "OK"
Kalessin Member since:
2007-01-18

Read the wikipedia article that he linked. The actual origin of the word okay is unknown, and there are several popular theories. The one you mentioned is just one of the popular theories, and it's not even necessarily the most likely.

Reply Score: 1

Thom's wrong on language
by jal_ on Tue 27th Oct 2009 09:00 UTC
jal_
Member since:
2006-11-02

Although the article was entertaining, and as far as the discussion on quotes is concerned almost accurate, there are some factual errors on the Dutch language:

A long, long time ago, when computers did not exist and man still got around on horseback, the Dutch language was much more closely related to German than it is now. Back then, declension was a core part of Dutch, much like it still is in German today.


Dutch and German form a language continuum, back then and now still. Dutch once did have declensions, but started to lose them in medieval times (they were re-introduced later for the written language).

the genitive still lingers around, and gets used even beyond mere fixed expressions - especially the genitive of the definite article. One of my mannerisms is to say "dat is niet des [name]" ("that is not of [name]"), which is something I say whenever someone does something which he normally wouldn't do.


"des X zijn", is a fixed expression. Though the genetive may not be entirely dead, your example is exactly a fixed expression, and I bet you use it even when [name] is a female (and not "der X" in that case).

In Dutch discourse, the genetive inflection des often gets shortened to just s.


That's not in discourse, that's in fixed expressions. Noone says "de heer 's huizes", or the like.


JAL

Reply Score: 2

pedanticness
by nmalth on Tue 27th Oct 2009 09:05 UTC
nmalth
Member since:
2007-03-12

That's "pedantry". (We're here to help.)

Reply Score: 3

RE: pedanticness
by David on Tue 27th Oct 2009 21:16 UTC in reply to "pedanticness"
David Member since:
1997-10-01

Not to be confused with Pederasty. (also here to help)

Reply Score: 2

Missing the point
by strcpy on Tue 27th Oct 2009 09:17 UTC
strcpy
Member since:
2009-05-20

Interesting article, but unfortunately I think it misses the point badly, overemphasizing the role of computers in the evolution of languages. Things like slang etc. continue to have much more profound effect on languages.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Missing the point
by Thom_Holwerda on Tue 27th Oct 2009 09:51 UTC in reply to "Missing the point"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Interesting article, but unfortunately I think it misses the point badly, overemphasizing the role of computers in the evolution of languages. Things like slang etc. continue to have much more profound effect on languages.


You're the one missing the point. Where did I say computers have a bigger impact than other influences? I just posited two minor cases (I even called them minor in the article) where the computer DID play an important role.

Reply Score: 1

Guillemets
by MORB on Tue 27th Oct 2009 09:26 UTC
MORB
Member since:
2005-07-06

I just remembered reading this article that the proper french quotation marks have been kind of rendered obsolete by computers too.

It normally looks like double chevrons, called "guillemets", like this:
<< bonjour >> (I can't be arsed finding the right unicode character for those) but they're not on the french keyboard and we use the double quote instead (that we also call guillemets nowadays).

Reply Score: 2

RE: Guillemets
by Beta on Tue 27th Oct 2009 10:03 UTC in reply to "Guillemets"
Beta Member since:
2005-07-06

U+00AB «
U+00BB »
:)

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Guillemets
by Kroc on Tue 27th Oct 2009 10:16 UTC in reply to "RE: Guillemets"
Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

These are incorrectly called ‘Guillemots’ in the Unicode table, a typo. A truly subtle, but ingenious way to wind up the French ;)

Reply Score: 1

RE: Guillemets
by Loki_999 on Tue 27th Oct 2009 10:56 UTC in reply to "Guillemets"
Loki_999 Member since:
2008-05-06

Russians still use them in written form and email.

EDIT: And on the subject of numbers, and to bitch about Russian again, you really want to see the wierdness going on with counting years.

Normally to pluralize in Russian there is an 'e' or 'i' type letter added to the end with 'и' (ee) perhaps the most common.

But with years they go strange. First off when counting you use different forms between 1, 2-4, and 5+, so the forms change, but to top it off, with years the word changes!!!

1 год (god)
2 года (goda)
5 лет (lyet)

Now if that isnt a case of convention making a language more difficult i dont know what is!

Edited 2009-10-27 11:06 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Guillemets
by Lennie on Tue 27th Oct 2009 11:27 UTC in reply to "RE: Guillemets"
Lennie Member since:
2007-09-22

Eleven is a convention too, it's not like the other whatever-teen things, like: sixteen.

Reply Score: 2

Danish
by torbenm on Tue 27th Oct 2009 09:26 UTC
torbenm
Member since:
2007-04-23

In Danish, the official way to quote is to use the "geese eyes" characters, such as: Henrik siger »Goddag«. Note that this is the inverse of the French quotation marks, such as in «Bonjour».

These are not available on a Danish keyboard either, so we also here see the use of English-style quotation.

Microsoft Word has also made another, more serious change to the Danish language: In Denmark, we often join words, such as »morgenbrød« meaning "morning bread". The spell checker in Word can, however, not handle general word joining, so only the most common combinations have been added as explicit cases to the dictionary. The result is that, when someone writes a word correctly joined, Word complains about the spelling, but removes the complaint when you (incorrectly) separate the word. Hence, you everywhere now see words written separately that should rightly be joined.

Thankfully, our "special" letters Æ, Ø and Å are found on modern Danish keyboards, but before the ISO 8851-1 standard, there was no standard encoding of these letters in the ASCII character set, so you found nonstandard solutions such as replacing [\] by ÆØÅ (and {|} by æøå), which placed them right after Z/z (as they are in the Danish alphabet), so sorting would work. When the IBM PC came to Denmark, it used some of the characters in the 128-255 range for the Danish letters, but not the same that was later used in the ISO 8851-1 standard. So converting documents using the Danish letters between formats was always tricky (and still is, if one part uses ISO 8851-1 and the other UTF8).

Reply Score: 1

RE: Danish
by righard on Tue 27th Oct 2009 15:16 UTC in reply to "Danish"
righard Member since:
2007-12-26

In Dutch we join words like Danish too. Though at least the spell checker of OpenOffice handles this correctly.

Reply Score: 2

Lucky Europeans
by FealDorf on Tue 27th Oct 2009 09:47 UTC
FealDorf
Member since:
2008-01-07

Atleast you get to type in your language, leaving the punctuation aside... Indians, on the other hand, almost never have the luxury of typing in their language. The indic fonts are hard to get, and the indian keyboards are very rare. Most of the time my friends try to type telugu or so in english and it's awfully painful to read considering how I try to apply english pronuciations to those arbitrarily transliterated messages..

Reply Score: 1

RE: Lucky Europeans
by Beta on Tue 27th Oct 2009 10:01 UTC in reply to "Lucky Europeans"
Beta Member since:
2005-07-06

Atleast you get to type in your language, leaving the punctuation aside... Indians, on the other hand, almost never have the luxury of typing in their language. The indic fonts are hard to get, and the indian keyboards are very rare. Most of the time my friends try to type telugu or so in english and it's awfully painful to read considering how I try to apply english pronuciations to those arbitrarily transliterated messages..


Seriously? I may not be able to type it, or understand it, but I searched (google) around for enough Indic fonts to be able to view the various blocks in Unicode.

What OS do you use?

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Lucky Europeans
by FealDorf on Tue 27th Oct 2009 10:09 UTC in reply to "RE: Lucky Europeans"
FealDorf Member since:
2008-01-07

You have to understand that majority of my friends (indians) are laymen using XP loaded PC's. In other words majority if not all would get around searching for fonts or learning keyboard layouts they can't feel on QWERTY. Getting the indic font rendering to work in XP means that you needed the original CD, which is a joke in third-world countries anyway.
As for myself, I use Linux, XP, Vista, Win7, Mac OS X and Haiku. But the deal is that when I'm chatting with my friends the fonts are either absent or they're transformed into weird letters.
Do note that the indic keyboards is also an important issue here. Most of the software that render indic scripts can't be integrated and thus are rarely used. I tried using a AHK script to use IAST (which means that I'd just have to rely on good ol' QWERTY) but it gets changed to an unreadable font.
I'll admit that it's been a while since I started doing it again, but I don't recall Arial Unicode to be installed by default on XP systems (I believe it comes with Office?) and Yahoo Messenger turns the IAST into unreadable mess..

Reply Score: 1

inaccuracies
by Beta on Tue 27th Oct 2009 09:58 UTC
Beta
Member since:
2005-07-06

Thom,
please make it obvious that the English of which you are referring to in this article is American English, as Commonwealth English uses different quotations.
Of course, the situation in the articles repeats, British use has been affected as of late by the lack of any support from Microsoft.

I notice you missed commenting on decimal separator differences, I know a Slovenian who never knew that theirs was ‘,’, albeit she is a teen ;)

Examples:
‘this is a quote’
‘“this is a quote” quoting the above’
‘grocers apostrophe’s suck’

Reply Score: 2

If it's not on the keyboard
by TasnuArakun on Tue 27th Oct 2009 11:44 UTC
TasnuArakun
Member since:
2009-05-24

Ah, keyboard layouts and character encodings, one of my favorite topics. ;)

Here in Sweden we have it quite easy since straight quotes are perfectly fine. When we use curved quotes only the right high ones are used (”like this”). Of course, word processors would change straight quotes into curly automatically if you told it to. However in the past they were often hardcoded for english and would change the opening quotes into the left curled ones.

I'm a Mac user and I happen to know that on my Swedish keyboard I can type “, ” or „ by holding shift+alt and then type n, m or comma. But to most people, if it's not (visible) on the keyboard, it doesn't exist. I had a Spanish teacher that would add all the ¡, ¿ and ~ by hand to her printed texts since she didn't know and didn't bother to find out how to type them on her computer. When I studied some Chinese a few years later I remember we were given a special pinyin font that replaced ä, â, ë, ê… with the proper ā, ǎ, ē, ě… . *Brr*, such solutions make me shudder. A hint to those who deals a lot with foreign languages: check out the extended keyboards which contain most of the diacritics you'll ever need plus a ton of other symbols.

Another thing that's been influenced by enlgish and computers is the use of the decimal point versus the decimal comma (and subsequently whether to use commas or spaces as thousands separators). The decimal comma is used in all of Europe (except the UK). However many computer programs expect the input to be using a point. This has led to some younger people (at least that's what I've seen here in Sweden) having started to use the decimal point in other contexts as well and even stating that they prefer it.

Reply Score: 1

RE: If it's not on the keyboard
by james_parker on Tue 27th Oct 2009 21:56 UTC in reply to "If it's not on the keyboard"
james_parker Member since:
2005-06-29


Another thing that's been influenced by english and computers is the use of the decimal point versus the decimal comma (and subsequently whether to use commas or spaces as thousands separators). The decimal comma is used in all of Europe (except the UK). However many computer programs expect the input to be using a point. This has led to some younger people (at least that's what I've seen here in Sweden) having started to use the decimal point in other contexts as well and even stating that they prefer it.


Are there any standards, or barring that, reliable guides (preferably in English) as to what the various sets of rules are regarding the separation of digits? I inherited some software that has both "." for fractional separation and "," for digit grouping hard coded, and I would like to ensure that the correct form can be used globally. Our case is complicated because we have cases where we need to parse the local form to convert back to an internally numeric form as well.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: If it's not on the keyboard
by akavel on Wed 28th Oct 2009 14:18 UTC in reply to "RE: If it's not on the keyboard"
akavel Member since:
2009-10-27

That won't be exactly a response to your question, but I've once had issues with that - and then I stumbled into an article, which surprised me even more. It mentions that there are some countries where digit grouping is not done in groups of three at all!...

see: http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2006/04/17/577483.aspx

Reply Score: 1

Lane IJ
by righard on Tue 27th Oct 2009 12:55 UTC
righard
Member since:
2007-12-26

Another difference computers made to Dutch has to do with our ,lange IJ” (teasing Thom). In Dutch the 'ij' is one character. This character doesn't appear our US Keyboards though (it does on the Dutch layout and old typewriters I belief) so we write it as two characters i and j.

One small consequence is in counting; the word “zijn” has three characters, though computers think there are four. It's clearly one character in written Dutch, we're it is most times written as an y with dots on it. But because nowadays we type more then write most people think “zijn” has four letters.

Alphabetically sorting words containing a IJ is also difficult for computers, because the think the words start we an I. (Though the rules about sorting the IJ differed before computers.)

I heard that in Flemish the ij are two distinct characters, and are there for also capitalized as Ijswinkel (instead of our superior IJswinkel -:)

Edited 2009-10-27 12:55 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: Lange IJ
by Tuxified on Tue 27th Oct 2009 22:52 UTC in reply to "Lane IJ"
Tuxified Member since:
2009-10-27

The long and short "ij/ei" is still a mystery for me. I don't hear a difference for starters. Secondly, it's supposed to be a different character but have you ever chanted Dutch alphabet using that character? I haven't ;)
To me, it's something indoctrinated at young age and not a real character. (I was raised bilingual Dutch/Serbo-Croatian btw)

One thing that I miss in this article is the change of spelling in (mostly) youngsters typing. I've seen a lot youngster use "egt"-> "echt" or "lag"-> "lach" (mostly being the lack of spelling functionality in for example MSN Messenger).

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Lange IJ
by righard on Wed 28th Oct 2009 08:01 UTC in reply to "RE: Lange IJ"
righard Member since:
2007-12-26

The ij and eij used to be pronounced differently, and because some Dutch dialects still pronounce them different they are not combined yet. The same is true for the g and ch. In most parts of the Netherlands these are indistinguishable, but for example here in Brabant we use our (in)famous 'soft g' for g, and use the 'hard g' for ch.
(The pronounciation of our soft g is actually one of the most rare sounds of the world ;)

Officially the IJ is the 25th character of the Dutch alphabet, between X and Z. That's why we say “iks, ij, zet' instead of 'iks, griekse ij, zet'
(http://leespret.web-log.nl/mijn_weblog/images/2009/05/24/alfabet.jp...)

I think that youngsters use 'egt' and 'lag' because they think it's cool. I did not see it outside msn language much.

Edited 2009-10-28 08:03 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Your pet peeve?
by renox on Tue 27th Oct 2009 16:44 UTC
renox
Member since:
2005-07-06

I've looked at the previous subject and not that many comments were about language purity but apparently it's a subject you like..

I live in France so I've heard too many times about language purity debates..
I find them quite annoying in fact: language evolves in time, not so long ago people didn't go very much to school so it was really true evolution, why should we block language evolution now??
Because we have 'language tzars' who want to prove that they are important by managing language evolution and polititians who take an easy ride with nationalists by managing language 'purity'??
In an historical context it doesn't make sense.

Reply Score: 2

LaTeX!
by henno on Tue 27th Oct 2009 20:36 UTC
henno
Member since:
2009-06-25

I use LaTex partly for that reason: using babel packages we get all the quoting, apostrophes and even the -ij- right. Diacritics are no problem, etc. But not really a mass market solution, as most people are scared off by it... (also we can make a difference between -, -- and --- "hyphens", etc. Knuth is a language nerd too!

Reply Score: 1

RE: LaTeX!
by Doc Pain on Wed 28th Oct 2009 20:57 UTC in reply to "LaTeX!"
Doc Pain Member since:
2006-10-08

I use LaTex partly for that reason: using babel packages we get all the quoting, apostrophes and even the -ij- right. Diacritics are no problem, etc.


As an example: The german language has similar requirements as Thom mentioned, such as the correct use of single and double quotes, and very few uses of the apostrophe. LaTeX serves excellently here.

But not really a mass market solution, as most people are scared off by it... (also we can make a difference between -, -- and --- "hyphens", etc. Knuth is a language nerd too!


I'm using LaTeX only, because I consider a professional typesetting system to be a higher stage in evolution than a sloppy text processing program. :-)

Of course it isn't a "mass market solution", because it requires the user to be familiar with very few LaTeX technques (macros, document structing etc.). If you take the time to learn LaTeX (which isn't much different to learning HTML or C), you'll find the correct differentiation of content and form (note my "evolution" comment above) to be one of the strengths of this typesetting system. You don't have to care HOW things look, instead you tell LaTeX WHAT things are, e. g. a chapter caption, a footnote, or a quote. This makes it easy to design the process of creating the content as painless as possible. One of the means to do so is the absence of a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) style interface. Instead, a paradigm describable as YAFIYGI (you asked for it, you got it) is applied. So you don't end up in microformatting your documents (e. g. raising the font size and activating "bold" if you want something to be a headline). I know that many text processors offer the opportinuty to use predefined templates and styles for different "functions" of text, but most users simply don't use it; instead, they use microformatting as described.

Given those facts, LaTeX is not a "mass market solution" because it is a very professional tool. And as always, the worst solution prevails, so there's jut a "niche market" for LaTeX, mainly education and professional documentation, as well as very few writers. And because LaTeX isn't sold in shiny boxes on the shelf of computer shops, there is no "market" at all. At least "usage share" could count.

LaTeX is not as hard to use as its haters want everyone to believe. I started using it in school when I wanted my texts to be formatted accurately and searched for an easy means to import graphics and formulas. LaTeX can handle all this. And the learning curve is not that steep. When I was in school, there was no Internet that provided ready-made solutions, I had to learn it myself! :-)

One of the most advanced concepts of LaTeX is that even with all the fine character manipulations, graphics, formulas, tables and formattings, it is based on text files. You don't need LaTeX to create .tex files, and you don't need LaTeX and other tools to read (or modify) a ,tex file. Allthough there are macros in the text, you can read the content easily, it's much easier than reading XML stuff. Plain text is the most comfortable data format for interchange purposes between different operating systems.

Another fine thing is that you can easily turn your documents into PDF files that keep all your formatting intact.

Bottom line: Use LaTeX and get rid of all those silly problems. =^_^=

Reply Score: 3

From a native Dutch speaker
by Eddyspeeder on Tue 27th Oct 2009 22:54 UTC
Eddyspeeder
Member since:
2006-05-10

Nicely done, Thom!

I do believe this shift is also partly the influence of the English language on the Dutch language, so not limited to computers alone.

For example, many Dutch currently write:

WRONG: Dat is Peter's huis.

Akin to the English: That is Peter's house.

CORRECT: Dat is Peters huis.

(Note: I probably write the apostrophe in the correct form completely wrong... oh well :-P )

Reply Score: 1

RE: From a native Dutch speaker
by Thom_Holwerda on Tue 27th Oct 2009 23:15 UTC in reply to "From a native Dutch speaker"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

The genitive-s...

MAY IT ROT IN HELL FOR AL ETERNITY.

There. I hate that thing in Dutch. Remarkably inconsistent.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: From a native Dutch speaker
by Doc Pain on Wed 28th Oct 2009 21:04 UTC in reply to "RE: From a native Dutch speaker"
Doc Pain Member since:
2006-10-08

The genitive-s...

MAY IT ROT IN HELL FOR AL ETERNITY.

There. I hate that thing in Dutch. Remarkably inconsistent.


It's present in German, too, but much more interesting. The apostrophe is used to indicate one of the three things:
a) Attention! A "s" follows!
b) Attention! The last letter follows!
c) This is plural.
In most cases, the apostrophe is represented by a gravis or an acute.

Examples: Helga's CD`s sind nich't gut. (Helga's CDs are not good.) Finger weg, das ist mein's! (Fingers off, this is mine.) Ich habe nicht`s gesehen. (I have nothing seen.)

The only places where an apostrophe should be placed it is gently omitted.

Oh the joy of continuous newspeak spelling reforms! Imaginn iff I wott do thi`s to The englis languish wott you like, it? Surely not. :-)

Reply Score: 2

cavewoman
Member since:
2009-10-27

I know that a lot of French writers actually use Macs since it was nearly impossible to write correct French on a PC before the advent of Unicode.

The main reason was that PC "code pages" did not contain all the characters needed whereas Macs used the MacRoman charset.
http://geeks.free.fr/macroman/

In French we are supposed to use:
- left and right pointing double angle quotation marks: « »
- a couple ligatures: œ æ
- accented capitals: À É Ê…
- apostrophe: ’

And you will notice that I used the ellipsis char: … not dot-dot-dot ...

Even nowadays you need cumbersome keystrokes to get access to those on a PC (it's a bit easier on a Mac).

Reply Score: 2

Doc Pain Member since:
2006-10-08

The main reason was that PC "code pages" did not contain all the characters needed whereas Macs used the MacRoman charset.
http://geeks.free.fr/macroman/

In French we are supposed to use:
- left and right pointing double angle quotation marks: « »
- a couple ligatures: œ æ
- accented capitals: À É Ê…
- apostrophe: ’


All those characters have been present in the 256 byte ASCII set. And I was always able to enter them in Solaris, mostly due to the means of the "Compose" key, so the absence of many non-US characters or at least the easyness to create them seems to be quite PC-specific.

By the way, I seem to recognize the double angle quotation marks from my russian lessons in school, but I think I remember to have learned the form of »pointing to the center« there (Alt-Gr Y X here).

Even nowadays you need cumbersome keystrokes to get access to those on a PC (it's a bit easier on a Mac).


It's easy on a PC running UNIX and X, especially with a Sun USB keyboard, like ÉÀøæßöçéíýôÚ and other typographical attributes. :-)

Reply Score: 2

Simplest language
by Babi Asu on Wed 28th Oct 2009 02:21 UTC
Babi Asu
Member since:
2006-02-11

May be Bahasa Indonesia is the simplest language I know. Persistent pronunciation like Germany, no gender, no plural form, no tenses conjugation. Simple?

Reply Score: 2

French alteration
by LupusMichaelis on Wed 28th Oct 2009 03:35 UTC
LupusMichaelis
Member since:
2009-10-28

Typographic issues are more implied by imported typewritters and printing cost in the XVIIIth century than computers limitations : those come from typewriter legacy.

Althought, computers impact the vocable. The verb 'valider' for 'to validate' was not widely in use previously. The verb 'éditer' changed its meaning from printing a book to modify a file. That's due to the a simple fact : frenches have a bad foreign language skills.

As you can read ;) (But I do efforts, I swear)

Reply Score: 1

Still dont get it...
by Loki_999 on Thu 29th Oct 2009 06:21 UTC
Loki_999
Member since:
2008-05-06

Ive read a few comments now where people have said things like genders and cases enrich the language, but to my mind it still makes things more complicated than they need to be and also to my mind, don't add anything.

To take a simple example with Russian.

She said - она сказала
he said - он сказал

I don't get why i need the additional 'a' at the end of "she said". It doesnt bring anything to the table. I know in Russian you can cheat a bit often and drop the pronoun, and thus loose the ability to determine gender... but anyway i'm using gender (language) = gender (sex) here, and for things like pen, pencil, paper then there is no sex gender.

Another example focusing on the word cat.
cat = кот
give me a cat = дайте мне кота

Again... why change the word? Why not?: дайте мне кот

(PS: Sorry to all native speakers of Russian... my Russian is pretty crap).

So... how do these things enrich the language?

Reply Score: 1

RE: Still dont get it...
by WereCatf on Thu 29th Oct 2009 06:57 UTC in reply to "Still dont get it..."
WereCatf Member since:
2006-02-15

Ive read a few comments now where people have said things like genders and cases enrich the language, but to my mind it still makes things more complicated than they need to be and also to my mind, don't add anything.

Well, they DO enrich the language, but I do agree with you in that it doesn't add anything meaningful to it. It only serves to add confusion to any non-native speakers, and it takes a while to learn and memorize all the correct places where to use genders.

In Finnish we have no such thing, we use "hän" ("he"/"she", no gender associated) of people and "se" ("it") for everything else, and I don't feel like we're losing out on anything of value.

Anyways, merely wanted to add something to the discussion even if it is off-topic. Apologizes to anyone it may offend ;)

Reply Score: 2