Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 25th May 2012 14:55 UTC
General Unix James Hague: "But all the little bits of complexity, all those cases where indecision caused one option that probably wasn't even needed in the first place to be replaced by two options, all those bad choices that were never remedied for fear of someone somewhere having to change a line of code... They slowly accreted until it all got out of control, and we got comfortable with systems that were impossible to understand." Counterpoint by John Cook: "Some of the growth in complexity is understandable. It's a lot easier to maintain an orthogonal design when your software isn't being used. Software that gets used becomes less orthogonal and develops diagonal shortcuts." If there's ever been a system in dire need of a complete redesign, it's UNIX and its derivatives. A mess doesn't even begin to describe it (for those already frantically reaching for the comment button, note that this applies to other systems as well).
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pklausner
Member since:
2009-07-23

> English has few big rules,
d'accord! In other words: its grammar is simple.

> but many small ones, e.g. regarding different meanings for words, which you point out.
Double, triple, quadruple overlapping meanings are staple with *every* language.
And so are the per-word grammar twists. As the base grammar is that simple, there is not much complexity there neither.
Empirical test:
compare a Latin and an English dictionary of equal physical size. Compare the number of words listed on the cover. Latin will be approx one fourth! I.e. each entry is four times as long, with exceptions for this case, that sub-phrase, those prepositions. A nightmare. Only manageable, because no one really tries to *speak* that.

The complexity of English comes from
1.) incredibly crappy spelling a.k.a. inconsistent pronunciation rules
2.) sheer raw size of vocabulary; by whichever way of counting at least twice the size of the next biggest corpuses (yeah, corporis) which are French and German.

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