Is English more than one language

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wayne
 
Reply Sat 20 Mar, 2010 11:41 am
I find it interesting that in speaking english, we often seem to be speaking many languges. Some persons are multi-lingual and are able to understand and speak in many different forms. Are these dialects? Entire languages?
The regional dialects aside, we often have difficulty understanding one another.
I really don't know anything about latin, but my impression is of a language more direct, less equivocal.

This is WIDE open to communication as a whole
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 20 Mar, 2010 12:00 pm
@wayne,
wayne;141613 wrote:
I find it interesting that in speaking english, we often seem to be speaking many languges. Some persons are multi-lingual and are able to understand and speak in many different forms. Are these dialects? Entire languages?
The regional dialects aside, we often have difficulty understanding one another.
I really don't know anything about latin, but my impression is of a language more direct, less equivocal.


There are different dialects of English (as you point out) but English is considered to be one language. A more interesting case is Chinese where (say) Cantonese and Mandarin are very different, and Cantonese speakers cannot understand Mandarin speakers. They are similar in writing, but very dissimilar in speaking. As much, say, as English and German. There are families of language, like the romance languages which are similar in many ways, but still different languages. I am not sure what the criterion is for individuating languages. It is something to look up.

Latin is said to be more exact, but it is hard to tell what that means. Maybe it just sounds that way to others.
 
wayne
 
Reply Sat 20 Mar, 2010 12:15 pm
@wayne,
I may look for some info about the hoopla on the ebonics issue that came up some time ago. This question may have been discussed at that time.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Sat 20 Mar, 2010 12:20 pm
@wayne,
wayne;141613 wrote:
I find it interesting that in speaking english, we often seem to be speaking many languges. Some persons are multi-lingual and are able to understand and speak in many different forms. Are these dialects? Entire languages?
The regional dialects aside, we often have difficulty understanding one another.
I really don't know anything about latin, but my impression is of a language more direct, less equivocal.
Godel Escher Bach. One of the key points he raised in that book is that there is an isomorphic comparison to be made between base mathematical elements and abstract composite theorems and the molecular elements like molecules, atoms, and proteins and complex composites such as the "I." Superficially different in many ways, but isomorphically equivalent. Much is the same with different languages and the elements which we use to convey it.

---------- Post added 03-20-2010 at 02:39 PM ----------

I just saw your post #3 and thought it would be neat to mention that when I was going through junior high (in northern California outside of San Francisco), I actually went to a school that offered a period of ebonics in place of Spanish. It did not last very long of course, but its neat to say I was there. LOL!
 
wayne
 
Reply Sat 20 Mar, 2010 12:43 pm
@wayne,
I really like the description of language use to discover the similarities between us. I probably knew that but didn't know it.
Along this same line ,I am becoming more aware of myself and my skills and weaknesses. I have long known some difficulty in expressing my self verbally. My mind is sometimes slow and plodding. I grow easily discomfited and this compounds the problem. I usually hear what is said, but not right away.
I am much better at using and hearing the written word though, I have more time to think, for one. Many people speak very well ,but have difficulty with the written word.
Waaaay back in high school I recieved high scores in english with little effort. Since that time life has been about other things and I have done little writing. I find it interesting that dusting off my pen has caused me to feel a bit more intelligent.
But I digress
Which form of communication is considered the higher, written or oral. Are they equal?
 
HexHammer
 
Reply Sat 20 Mar, 2010 12:49 pm
@wayne,
wayne;141613 wrote:
I find it interesting that in speaking english, we often seem to be speaking many languges. Some persons are multi-lingual and are able to understand and speak in many different forms. Are these dialects? Entire languages?
The regional dialects aside, we often have difficulty understanding one another.
I really don't know anything about latin, but my impression is of a language more direct, less equivocal.
Least in danish I remember at first having great difficulties with english, as all the gramma had opposit position of danish, thus directly translating an english pharse became kinda nonsens.

The way we uses a language isn't just knowing a few words, but speaking it are flavored by our personal traits, sayings, metaphors, national ways and customs ..etc.

I remember a trip to USA, and gazing upon a sign saying "Rest Room" ..what?
At some time in a restaurent, I would ask for the WC. The waiter would stare at me as if I was some vulgar caveman daring to spread my lingual trash in HIS restaurent! I tryed then saying ...toilet? He still would stand speechless and stare at me. I then tryed to put it in layman terms, I have to pee!!
The rest room is that way! Oo what the heck??

I later understood that americans like to synominize EVERYTHING remotely vulgar, whilst danes like to speak plain and straight language. Even on national TV we uses words like ass, allowed to swear and curse.
 
wayne
 
Reply Sat 20 Mar, 2010 12:55 pm
@HexHammer,
HexHammer;141641 wrote:
Least in danish I remember at first having great difficulties with english, as all the gramma had opposit position of danish, thus directly translating an english pharse became kinda nonsens.

The way we uses a language isn't just knowing a few words, but speaking it are flavored by our personal traits, sayings, metaphors, national ways and customs ..etc.

I remember a trip to USA, and gazing upon a sign saying "Rest Room" ..what?
At some time in a restaurent, I would ask for the WC. The waiter would stare at me as if I was some vulgar caveman daring to spread my lingual trash in HIS restaurent! I tryed then saying ...toilet? He still would stand speechless and stare at me. I then tryed to put it in layman terms, I have to pee!!
The rest room is that way! Oo what the heck??

I later understood that americans like to synominize EVERYTHING remotely vulgar, whilst danes like to speak plain and straight language. Even on national TV we uses words like ass, allowed to swear and curse.


Wonderful post Hex, it really focuses me on the assumptions we draw about another's inteligence , based on our own inability to understand.
I hope I will be more thoughtful in the future


Is there no category for philosophy of communication?
 
Twirlip
 
Reply Sat 20 Mar, 2010 12:57 pm
@wayne,
I've been inclined for a long time to think that any natural language consists (perhaps necessarily consists, in view of the way that languages are learned) of several inconsistent languages, at the semantic level. Ambiguity exists at the level of the language as a whole, not just that of individual words and phrases. Much philosophical disagreement seems to arise from this fact (if it is a fact).

I'll have to see if I can dig up any notes I've written on the subject (but I doubt if there are many, although I've made a couple of tentative attempts to raise the subject on the BBC Radio 4 message boards in the last year or so, and at least one attempt on Usenet a few years ago).

More interestingly, I would like to know what has been written on this subject by philosophers. (There is almost bound to be something, perhaps a lot, but I am not at all well-read in the field.)

But first, I had better check whether this old preoccupation of mine has anything to do with what the OP actually had in mind!
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Sat 20 Mar, 2010 01:10 pm
@wayne,
wayne;141639 wrote:
I really like the description of language use to discover the similarities between us. I probably knew that but didn't know it.
Along this same line ,I am becoming more aware of myself and my skills and weaknesses. I have long known some difficulty in expressing my self verbally. My mind is sometimes slow and plodding. I grow easily discomfited and this compounds the problem. I usually hear what is said, but not right away.
I am much better at using and hearing the written word though, I have more time to think, for one. Many people speak very well ,but have difficulty with the written word.
Waaaay back in high school I recieved high scores in english with little effort. Since that time life has been about other things and I have done little writing. I find it interesting that dusting off my pen has caused me to feel a bit more intelligent.

I identify with this as well. My pen is much more eloquent than my tongue, and also a lot more efficient. But all of this is practice and exercise. The more we converse with one another and try to hold ourselves to high standards, we can't help but get better at whatever we do.
wayne;141639 wrote:
Which form of communication is considered the higher, written or oral. Are they equal?

I tend to think that written forms of communication bear slightly more consideration that oral communication. Of course, both written and oral forms of communications still hold all of the same pros and cons associated with them. Rhetoric and oratory can be just as big a factor on the overall content of a speech in person as they can on a piece of paper. Honestly, to be impartial, they are both equal. But I think in the case of written communication (to be partial), you have more of an opportunity to understand that which was conveyed. Descartes said it himself (though applicable to a different notion the gist seems to be the same) that the will is infinite and the mind is finite, this is why we err. The limitations of the mind may be remedied by other means available to us, such as written communication. Oral communication may do the same thing, but written communication seems more efficient.
 
prothero
 
Reply Sat 20 Mar, 2010 02:23 pm
@wayne,
wayne;141613 wrote:
I find it interesting that in speaking english, we often seem to be speaking many languges. Some persons are multi-lingual and are able to understand and speak in many different forms. Are these dialects? Entire languages?
The regional dialects aside, we often have difficulty understanding one another.
I really don't know anything about latin, but my impression is of a language more direct, less equivocal.

This is WIDE open to communication as a whole

Language is the attempt to record and express elements of human experience. As humans we all have certain commonalties in the nature of our experience. So it would be expected that languages have certain commonalities in their structure and elements (nouns, verbs, objects, subjects, etc.).

Languages evolve and change over time as do human cultures and societies so modern languages all incorporate elements of the languages of previous societies and cultures. For example almost all the romance languages (Italian, Spanish, French and English) have many phrases and words in common many of which are derived from Latin. Anyone who has studied Latin knows there is an English word for most Latin words.

It seems languages also vary in the number of words they have for different elements of experience and the complexity of their structure and so it is difficult to literally translate one language into another and accurately retain the original meaning. Everyone who has had to translate from one language to another knows the literal word for word translation does not work and other forms of translation give varied results depending on the viewpoint of experience of the translator. Some languages have many more words for varied nuances (how many words for love for instance) of meaning and more complex structure which allows them to communicate more subtle elements of experience.

So English (a very complex and sophisticated language) is derived from many previous languages and could be said to be more than one language. All languages however are trying to communicate more fundamental human experiences many of which are common to all cultures and societies.

 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 20 Mar, 2010 03:30 pm
@prothero,
prothero;141657 wrote:
Language is the attempt to record and express elements of human experience. As humans we all have certain commonalties in the nature of our experience. So it would be expected that languages have certain commonalities in their structure and elements (nouns, verbs, objects, subjects, etc.).

Languages evolve and change over time as do human cultures and societies so modern languages all incorporate elements of the languages of previous societies and cultures. For example almost all the romance languages (Italian, Spanish, French and English) have many phrases and words in common many of which are derived from Latin. Anyone who has studied Latin knows there is an English word for most Latin words.

It seems languages also vary in the number of words they have for different elements of experience and the complexity of their structure and so it is difficult to literally translate one language into another and accurately retain the original meaning. Everyone who has had to translate from one language to another knows the literal word for word translation does not work and other forms of translation give varied results depending on the viewpoint of experience of the translator. Some languages have many more words for varied nuances (how many words for love for instance) of meaning and more complex structure which allows them to communicate more subtle elements of experience.

So English (a very complex and sophisticated language) is derived from many previous languages and could be said to be more than one language. All languages however are trying to communicate more fundamental human experiences many of which are common to all cultures and societies.



Just because a language has more vocabulary than another in a certain area, it does not follow that the other language is unable to express what the first language can express. That 100 (or how many) words for "snow" that eskimos are said to have does not mean that we cannot translate what they say about snow. That Whorfian hypothesis has been refuted.

Linguistic relativity - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
prothero
 
Reply Sat 20 Mar, 2010 05:58 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;141684 wrote:
Just because a language has more vocabulary than another in a certain area, it does not follow that the other language is unable to express what the first language can express. That 100 (or how many) words for "snow" that eskimos are said to have does not mean that we cannot translate what they say about snow. That Whorfian hypothesis has been refuted.

Linguistic relativity - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Well I do not claim to be any too knowledgeable or familiar with philosophy of language but with regards to snow and Eskimos it does seem to me that one could reasonable conclued that: with 100 words for variations of snow

1. Snow is important in Eskimo culture.
2. That they can say more about snow in shorter sentences
 
ughaibu
 
Reply Sat 20 Mar, 2010 11:54 pm
@wayne,
There are a lot of terms for snow and ice in english: Illustrated glossary of snow and ice (Open Library)
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 21 Mar, 2010 03:14 am
@prothero,
prothero;141735 wrote:
Well I do not claim to be any too knowledgeable or familiar with philosophy of language but with regards to snow and Eskimos it does seem to me that one could reasonable conclued that: with 100 words for variations of snow

1. Snow is important in Eskimo culture.
2. That they can say more about snow in shorter sentences


Yes, I agree........

---------- Post added 03-21-2010 at 05:15 AM ----------

ughaibu;141793 wrote:
There are a lot of terms for snow and ice in english: Illustrated glossary of snow and ice (Open Library)


Yes. The Whorfian hypothesis is just wrong.
 
HexHammer
 
Reply Sun 21 Mar, 2010 05:35 am
@wayne,
wayne;141643 wrote:
Wonderful post Hex, it really focuses me on the assumptions we draw about another's inteligence , based on our own inability to understand.
I hope I will be more thoughtful in the future


Is there no category for philosophy of communication?
Now you make me feel like the musician passing Siddharta sailing on a boat in a river. :phone:
 
jgweed
 
Reply Sun 21 Mar, 2010 08:07 am
@wayne,
We sometimes want to think that Latin or Greek have a precision not available to English or any modern language, but this might well be an illusion that depends on a very limited number of written examples retained by accident that limits the meaning of words now frozen for all time. At the same time, the very scarcity of examples (presumably only the very greatest writings were preserved, but one still wonders....) also brings with the language ambiguities that cannot be resolved.

We want to say that there is one language called English, and to the extent that its words carry the same meaning, this seems correct despite regional colloquialisms and differences in pronunciation usually so limited that they can be added to our individual dictionaries we carry about with us.

These personal dictionaries can be quite complex, allowing us to distinguish, for example, areas of discourse in which a word is used in a special sense (often a very precise one), or temporal areas where, since a language is historical in development, a word may have entirely different meanings depending on when it is used (e.g., "gay" in the 1800's and in 2010).
Perhaps a measure of intelligent is the size and breadth of these personal dictionaries that allow understanding all sorts of distinctions and special instances.
 
wayne
 
Reply Mon 22 Mar, 2010 12:16 am
@wayne,
The idea of an personal dictionary is a very good one. I use many words in my conversations with close friends that would mean something very different to any bystander , being unfamiliar with the shared experience defining their meaning. I learn ,each day, new definitions from other personal dictionaries ,as I develop new relationships and expand on the old ones.
Brings to mind our terms of endearment
 
HexHammer
 
Reply Mon 22 Mar, 2010 06:01 am
@wayne,
Also looking at languages from a different viewpont.

All western languages, share the same linage from latin, this is a stark contrast observed in WW2, when USA would use native americans with their unique form of language which shared no similar algorithms to any latin based language, thereby the natives didn't even have to speak in codes, but could talk directly.
 
ughaibu
 
Reply Mon 22 Mar, 2010 06:39 am
@HexHammer,
HexHammer;142147 wrote:
All western languages, share the same linage from latin, this is a stark contrast observed in WW2, when USA would use native americans with their unique form of language which shared no similar algorithms to any latin based language, thereby the natives didn't even have to speak in codes, but could talk directly.
The British used the Welsh language, in the same manner. Welsh is a Celtic language.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 22 Mar, 2010 09:27 am
@HexHammer,
HexHammer;142147 wrote:
Also looking at languages from a different viewpont.

All western languages, share the same linage from latin, .


I don't think that is true. Neither German nor the Scandinavian languages do. But all European languages do come out of the Indo-European family of languages (except for Basque, or Hungarian or, Finnish. I believe that Finnish and Hungarian are related, however). All the Romance languages do share a Latin lineage, however.
 
 

 
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