By Greg Hill “25 Maps That Explain the English Language” is a marvelously informative way to look at our mother tongue. It’s difficult to convey graphic maps in print, so a visit to the source, www.Vox.com, is worth the effort. Any description I attempt of Minna Sundberg’s gorgeous “Comprehensive Overlook of the Nordic Languages in Their Old World Families” is doomed to failure. However, the article incudes excellent textual information, too. For example, the maps cover the major evolutionary epochs in English’s development; some that you might know readily, like “The Anglo-Saxon Migration,” but others, such as “Danelaw” and “The Great Vowel Shift,” are less familiar. It was news to me that 4,500 Anglo-Saxon words are still in use, like “day,” “year,” “think,” “kiss” and “love,” which amount to about 1 percent of all modern English. Danelaw is the period of the Denmark-based Viking invasion of Britain under lamentably nicknamed Ivar the Boneless, beginning in the 800s. Norse terms that remain in the vocabulary include “law,” “murder,” and the pronouns “they,” “them” and “their.” But while “leg” and “husband” are Norse, “arm” and “wife” are Anglo-Saxon. William and the Normans arrived in 1066, infusing all sorts of fancy French words into our language. So while the coarse Anglo-Saxons “sweated,” the Normans “perspired.”
The Great Vowel Shift describes the striking evolution in pronunciation that occurred for unknown reasons between 1400, the age of Chaucer’s Middle English, and 1700, the time of DeFoe and Swift. In essence, English-speakers began pronouncing long vowels higher up in their mouths than their predecessors. The example given on the Geoffrey Chaucer page on Harvard.edu, is “Middle English ‘long e’ in Chaucer’s ‘sheep’ had the value of Latin ‘e’ (and sounded like Modern English ‘shape’)”. Not all words with those vowels shifted, and words with “ea” usually kept their old pronunciations. But you can blame the GVS for “steak” and “streak” not rhyming, and “mice” no longer being pronounced “meese.” It’s no wonder that Chinese speakers find English as difficult to grasp as English and Spanish speakers find Greek. Shakespeare wrote “It’s all Greek to me” in Julius Caesar, and some Spanish etymologists say that “gringo” comes from “hablar en griego,” meaning “to speak in Greek, or unintelligibly.” A recent WashingtonPost.com article on this said, “The phrase actually comes from a Medieval Latin proverb, ‘Graecum est; non potest legi,’ meaning ‘It is Greek; it cannot be read.’” The Language Log page on UPenn.edu provides a “Directed Graph of Stereotypical Incomprehensibility,” a title that ought to discourage most Chinese readers. It’s a flow-chart with circles showing the 36 major languages with arrows pointing out which languages are incomprehensible to the speakers of others. Arabic speakers, for instance, also find Greek enigmatic, and also Hindi. Persians find Turkish cryptic, while the Turks find French trying, French find Chinese mystifying, the Chinese find English puzzling; we also find Dutch troubling, the Dutch find Latin perplexing, and Latin speakers say the same about Greek. Nonetheless, a study released by Northwestern University last fall found that “Speaking more than one language is good for the brain” since “bilingual speakers process information more efficiently and more easily … The benefits occur because the bilingual brain is constantly activating both languages and choosing which language to use and which to ignore …When the brain is constantly exercised in this way, it doesn’t have to work as hard to perform cognitive tasks, the researchers found.” This is scary news for those of us who find all other languages challenging, because our sad crowd’s brains, for better or worse, are simply wired differently. Fortunately, our public library has a wealth of language-learning aides, including the wonderful Mango database, a slew of books and CDs, as well as foreign-language movies. Many of our greatest wordsmiths, like Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, and Winston Churchill, drew often on the Anglo-Saxon part of the vocabulary. The president’s friend William Jayne wrote, “Mr. Lincoln’s language and style were Anglo-Saxon; he was not a classical scholar, his words were English pure and clear … The common people understood his arguments.” Or as Mark Twain put it, “Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.” Greg Hill is the former director of Fairbanks North Star Borough libraries. Contact him at 479‑4344.
We've heard that Eskimos have 100 words for snow—a common way of expressing how language affects the way we see the world. Whether or not that particular example is true, cultural linguists have long theorized that the words a particular group of people have at their disposal influences how they categorize the world, emphasizing some values or activities over others.
In other words, languages shape the way people think.
Veritas discuss the coffee culture; Do you speak coffee?
Planet Veritas - Language News's insight:
What do you think? Do you find this new culture and its language fun? Easy? Silly? Confusing? While I wait for your responses, I will just finish off my tall, skinny latte with cinnamon (no whip) in my special mug. (Yeah – I have a special mug. Don’t even get me started on my coffee mug ‘collection’!)
A frustrated armed robber had to flee a Berlin supermarket empty-handed over his lack of knowledge of the German language. The unidentified man entered the store in the city's Mitte district on Tuesday, placed a rucksack on the counter, produced a
Planet Veritas - Language News's insight:
A robber in Berlin fails to get what he wants as he fails to make himself understood...
Have you ever wondered why people apply for linguistics courses? Studying languages extensively is interesting as you get to learn the language in context, the forms and meaning. Language helps people to communicate in different forms such as symbolic, verbal or numeric. It is a very vital tool that helps express oneself in terms of feelings and ideas. Language has a positive effect on culture as it influences the way we learn, think and socialise.
Therefore, we can point out that language has helped in culture development. This is because language is used to pass down a culture's legacy from one generation to the next. Language is used to teach people of the different cultures - the traditions and values of other cultures, and ensure customs are not lost. This helps maintain a community's pride and identity distinctively while offering the community a sense of belonging. It is evident that language is an integral element of different cultures.
People from different cultures need translation from one language to another for them to understand what is being discussed. Language translation helps people of different cultures interact by the help of a linguist. A linguist has translating skills to help ease in the translation of a dialect in an oral or written form. Language generally conveys how we perceive things, and it is extremely significant in our day-to-day living as it encourages people to engage in community activities. It is difficult to socially interact without a language.
A linguist is also able to interpret a dialect speech of different cultures orally. Speech interpretation helps different cultures to develop social bonds and have mutual project coordination. There are other linguists who are skilled in multilingual with amazing fluency. Such strong skills are an asset as they promote effective communication, and, therefore, important to know more than two languages. They help transmit a specific message from the complexities of a language accurately. Language has helped give meaning to the things we use, our thoughts, opinions, and feelings.
Language being the soul of cultures or symbol of cultural diversity helps unite people of all cultures as it acts as a point of contention. Language is a medium that promotes a democratic culture and democratic transition process. A language is of great importance to cultures, and it can help build economic relationships, cultural ties and friendship between cultures.
A language whether interpreted or translated can change through modification, evolution and innovation due to exposure to other dialects. Advancing from one dialect to multilingual can help a person attain a competitive advantage. A linguistics class will definitely help you learn how language is effective. It will also help you understand cultures subtle nuances.
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