[Ads-l] on the origins of the English language

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Wed Nov 18 20:17:09 UTC 2015


The similarity of modern Icelandic to Old Icelandic is overplayed. Icelandic went through a major revision in orthography and grammar in the 19th century where many of the changes in the intervening centuries were deliberately undone and walked back to more closely resemble medieval practice.

Many of the Old English inflections were in the process of being lost before the Danish settlements in England, so that route doesn't account for as much as McWhorter makes out, although it certainly was a factor.

"Skipper" is not from Old Norse. It's a later addition to English from Dutch/Low German. And the etymologies of "shatter/scatter" are uncertain; they are also later additions to the language and may be from Low German too. The initial sk- is not a reliable indicator of Old Norse origin. 

And the OE "Wraþmod wæs Ving-Þórr / he áwæcnede" is quite comprehensible to the modern reader once you get over the thorn. "Wrath-mood was Vingthor / he awakened."

There are also issues with his description of the "do + V" construction, which is a much later development in English. I've been told that while it exists in Celtic languages, it is a rather unusual construction in Irish and Scots Gaelic; it's more common in Breton and Cornish. And it's a later development in some Celtic languages too. (I don't know from Celtic, so I can't vouch for this.) So the construction doesn't fit with the narrative of Celtic influences on Old English. 


-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Joel Berson
Sent: Wednesday, November 18, 2015 1:36 PM
To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
Subject: Re: on the origins of the English language

Which specific examples, for example?

Joel

      From: Dave Wilton <dave at WILTON.NET>
 To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
 Sent: Wednesday, November 18, 2015 12:28 PM
 Subject: Re: [ADS-L] on the origins of the English language
   
This article gets it right on the major points, but many of the specific examples McWhorter provides here are just wrong. It's sloppy research, and uncharacteristic of him. Not his best work by far.


-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Geoffrey Steven Nathan
Sent: Wednesday, November 18, 2015 11:04 AM
To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
Subject: Re: on the origins of the English language

McWhorter is a genuine linguist, and his historical and linguistic facts are all right on. He knows a lot about a lot of languages, including the ones referenced in the article.

There are those who argue (vehemently) with his views about linguistic simplicity, and I won't start a fire here by opining myself, but there's nothing in his discussion I would disagree with. But John's a (distant) friend, so you may consider me somewhat biased.

Geoff

Geoffrey S. Nathan
Faculty Liaison, C&IT
and Professor, Linguistics Program
http://blogs.wayne.edu/proftech/
+1 (313) 577-1259 (C&IT)

Nobody at Wayne State will EVER ask you for your password. Never send it to anyone in an email, no matter how authentic the email looks.

________________________________________
From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Bill Mullins <amcombill at HOTMAIL.COM>
Sent: Wednesday, November 18, 2015 10:19 AM
To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
Subject: on the origins of the English language

---------------------- Information from the mail header
-----------------------
Sender:      American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster:      Bill Mullins <amcombill at HOTMAIL.COM>
Subject:      on the origins of the English language
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
---

I don't know how much to trust this article=2C but it was fascinating:
https://aeon.co/essays/why-is-english-so-weirdly-different-from-other-langu=
ages

                                          =

------------------------------------------------------------
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org



------------------------------------------------------------
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

------------------------------------------------------------
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org



------------------------------------------------------------
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
  

------------------------------------------------------------
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org


More information about the Ads-l mailing list