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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Neolander
Member since:
2010-03-08

The human languages I know other than English (Japanese, Latin) are far more consistent and easy to learn than English -- uniform grammar, phonetic spellings, etc.

As a French person who has dealt with English, German, Swedish and Japanese in the past, I tend to disagree with you on this one. Of those, English is probably the easiest to learn, and by a fair amount.

That is noticeably because you English persons have been smart enough to deal away with most of the cruft that curses German and French. Common noun genders, abysmally complex verb conjugation, dozens of article cases and declinations, stupid amount of diphthongs, and other WTF rules that serve no other purpose than adding complexity such as mandatory noun capitalization or context-sensitive past participle terminations... Basically, the English grammar, although not perfect, is nice enough than it lets us foreigners focus on the challenging task of learning your vocabulary in which all common words seem to have at least two meanings, which in my opinion should be the goal of every language.

Modern Swedish tries to get rid of the cruft as well, but it has not went as far as English in some areas such as articles, and more noticeably has a much more complex pronunciation (particularly due to the strong difference between short and long vowels, and them fiendish sk and sj). Japanese is as nice as English from a grammatical point of view (easier in some areas, harder in others) and easier to pronounce, and I'd say that oral Japanese is overall a truly nice language, but then they ruin it by having a writing system that feels completely decorrelated from the oral language, effectively requiring one to learn vocabulary twice.

Edited 2012-05-26 08:31 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 7

Hypnos Member since:
2008-11-19

As with zifre above, we'll have to agree to disagree until we can get some hard data. I would define complexity as how many rules one has to know. English has few big rules, but many small ones, e.g. regarding different meanings for words, which you point out.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

True, but then in Japanese one frequently meets words that are pronounced in exactly or near-exactly the same way, and can only be differentiated by context or by seeing their written form. And then there are all the etiquettes rules concerning vocabulary use, most obvious of which being the half-dozen ways one can say "I" or "you" depending on the context.

I cannot discuss vocabulary peculiarities much, though, because I don't know well about those for the languages which I have only studied out of curiosity, without a serious attempt at speaking or writing them every day. In general, I hate the repetitive task of learning vocabulary no matter how simple it is ;)

Edited 2012-05-26 08:49 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

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.

Reply Parent Score: 1

ricegf Member since:
2007-04-25

Now if we could only find sane gender-neutral pronouns for English to replace she / he, him / her, and so on.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

Why not use the "it" family of gender-neutral pronouns that you already have ? ;)

It sounds strange to talk about someone using that word today, but give it a chance and maybe tomorrow it's he/she that will sound weird or derogatory...

Edited 2012-05-26 18:43 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

There's an easier way that's not contrived: all men use male pronouns, all women use female pronouns.

Problem solved.

Reply Parent Score: 1