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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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 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 Parent Score: 5

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by impulse on Tue 27th Oct 2009 04:18 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 Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by sphexx on Tue 27th Oct 2009 08:08 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 Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by jal_ on Tue 27th Oct 2009 08:40 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 Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by TasnuArakun on Tue 27th Oct 2009 10:09 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 Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by Zifre on Tue 27th Oct 2009 11:27 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 Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by akavel on Tue 27th Oct 2009 13:30 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 Parent Score: 1

RE: Comment by kaiwai
by AnyoneEB on Tue 27th Oct 2009 04:26 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 Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by kaiwai on Tue 27th Oct 2009 04:40 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 Parent Score: 2

RE: Comment by kaiwai
by cefarix on Tue 27th Oct 2009 04:42 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 Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by Loki_999 on Tue 27th Oct 2009 08:02 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 Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by JoeBuck on Tue 27th Oct 2009 18:49 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 Parent Score: 2

RE: Comment by kaiwai
by sakeniwefu on Tue 27th Oct 2009 09:08 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 Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by strcpy on Tue 27th Oct 2009 09:14 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 Parent Score: 2

RE: Comment by kaiwai
by flynn on Tue 27th Oct 2009 14:31 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 Parent Score: 1

RE: Comment by kaiwai
by renox on Tue 27th Oct 2009 22:29 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 Parent Score: 2