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comment by kleinbl00
kleinbl00  ·  449 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Teaching is Fulfilling: what TFG's been up to #3

ThatFanficGuy  ·  449 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Huh. So you aren't actually doing that much.

I find it hard to believe. I want to visit such a class personally, to see for myself.

kleinbl00  ·  449 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Less flippantly, a subject you never hear about in the United States is linguistic registers. These are effectively different modes of speech which may have different vocabularies, different grammar and - most importantly - different users.

English, so far as I know, has one register. That means that Americans are expected to know all of that shit without any acknowledgement that a lot of it is specific use. On the other hand, Thai (for example) has five registers and not everyone can write, speak, read or even understand all of them.

German has three genders. Spanish has two. English has one. The lack of inflections in English increases the vocabulary and the complexity of its use. etc. etc. etc.

ThatFanficGuy  ·  449 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Thank you for linking to that. I think I've found my thesis.

    The lack of inflections in English increases the vocabulary and the complexity of its use. etc. etc. etc.

I acknowledge that, but how do you figure?

kleinbl00  ·  449 days ago  ·  link  ·  

So take German. Ich bin, du bist, er sie es ist. Depending on the gender of the word, its conjugation is gonna go one of three ways, pretty much no matter what. Meanwhile, a foreign vocab word is much less likely to be adapted because it doesn't fit into the structure - Germans don't have carburetors, they have dopfelvergassers, a compound word made out of existing simple German words.

English, on the other hand, has pate and emoji and piroshkis and all sorts of other borrow words going back to Harald the Great and those words tend to get used the way they were in their original languages. And because there is no rigid structure to it, the plural of "potato" is both "potatos" and "potatoes", which caused a minor political scandal.

Counterbalance that with the fact that you clearly haven't been studying English for twelve years, yet your grasp of the language is impeccable.

ThatFanficGuy  ·  449 days ago  ·  link  ·  

It's a fascinating topic. Do you have any papers or books I could read on the matter? As a student of language, I can't take anecdotal evidence on such a topic into consideration if it isn't backed up by proper research.

    Meanwhile, a foreign vocab word is much less likely to be adapted because it doesn't fit into the structure

I get the feeling it's not about the structure. German has easily adapted die Dacha into common vocab - even keeping the original word's gender, when the tendency is to make it neuter, like das Handy. Why would they do it so comparatively intimately? Because there were, at a certain point, who worked and lived in Germany and had to bring the reality of their lives into the language. It's not that it was difficult for the structure to adopt the word: it's just some words aren't nearly intimate for the speakers to care enough about the original. Which is how you get der Fernseher when the word "television" was in use quite about the thing's invention already.

And English is damn international at this point. People use it all over the world and bring bits and pieces around all the time. emoji is fairly new, but pierogi dates back to at least 1930's, what with the mass fleeing of the population of Poland and the Soviet Union due to prosecution and the German threat. And what the hell else d'you gonna call it? "Pocket pie"? "Stuffed bread"?

kleinbl00  ·  449 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    It's a fascinating topic. Do you have any papers or books I could read on the matter?

I do not. I find the subject dry as dirt and the codification of language to be counterproductive. As such, I study it enough to piss off English teachers and leave it at that. I've been able to intuit proper structure my entire life and breaking it down into all this subject-predicate bullshit mostly pisses me off. But, counter-example:

Humbows, piroshkis, pierogies and pastys are all meat pies. But in English, all these are meat pies, but they don't get special names. Meanwhile, this is a pie:

but this is a pie:

and this is a pie:

...that's the sort of cultural collision you get when your language is used by many different ethnicities sharing space. and god help you if you mix up your pierogis and your piroshkis. Not only is one boiled and the other baked, but one is made by The One True People and the other is made by The Foreign Enemy. And if you don't want to find out which is which, best remember.

blackbootz  ·  448 days ago  ·  link  ·  

ThatFanficGuy Can I humbly submit this essay by Dave Foster Wallace up as one of the most interesting forays into language and register?

ThatFanficGuy  ·  447 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Thank you. I'll put it on the list.

Would you recommend Dave Foster Wallace as an author of interest otherwise?

blackbootz  ·  447 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I would heartily recommend DFW, and only with a few small reservations. He's stimulating and expressive and inventive with the English language. He's really smart, and he knows it. Sometimes this self-possession leaks into his writing and this rubs some people the wrong way (an example would be his tendency for verbose language where simpler may do, but to me this is a matter of style). But at the same time, he was incredibly hard on himself. He cherished the general reader, striving to respect her intelligence. Some of his writing is the most expressive I've ever read, nailing down thoughts, associations, and feelings that I chalked up as non-communicable, or that would otherwise require some sort of brain interface technology because those thoughts operate at a level beyond words or even pictures.

I roughly recall that KB thinks DFW dazzles with words rather than true insight. But I find DFW an enormous pleasure. He's at times irreverent then sincere, a-million-miles-a-minute and then slow and purposeful. I've never had to use a dictionary more than with Wallace. Or temporarily stop reading just so I could enjoy the sheer power of what I read.

For his fiction, my favorite short story of his Good Old Neon.

Edit to add: the original essay I linked, called Authority and American Usage, ranges all over everything you guys touched on in this thread. I can't imagine a more relevant essay, and from one of my favorite authors, so I felt very compelled to recommend it.