words for words and languages

Seth Jerchower sethj at POBOX.UPENN.EDU
Mon Feb 9 20:56:37 UTC 2004

Ad corrigendum, latine enim non latinam necque loqueri sed loqui dicitur.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Hopper" <ph1u at ANDREW.CMU.EDU>
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2004 3:37 PM
Subject: Re: words for words and languages

| Dear Colleagues,
| I can't shed any light on Yury Lander's question, but it made me curious
| about the idea of having a word for <a language> and for <name of a
| specific language>. Under what sorts of discourse circumstances might
| speakers find a need for such words? It would have to be in a bi- or
| multilingual context, wouldn't it? I would suspect that some kind of
| adverbial expression ("latine" rather than "Latinam" loqueri) or a verb
| meaning "talk in a way characteristic of another linguistic group" (e.g.
| schwaebeln "speak in Swabian dialect") would precede the concept of a
| "thing" that was being "spoken", and that it would take writing and even a
| grammatical tradition to enable such a way of thinking. Do nouns referring
| to <name of a language> or <a language> occur in any pre-literate
| societies, I wonder? A glance at C. D. Buck's "Selected Synonyms" suggests
| that the correspondences of <word> and <language> in the older
| Indo-European languages are not at all fixed, and even in modern languages
| we have to struggle to find the word(s) corresponding to English
| (French langue/langage/parole) and "word" (cf the two meanings that come
| light in the German plurals Worte/Woerter). So perhaps history isn't
| an awkward fact to be reckoned with, but an inseparable part of this
| question.
| Paul
| --On Monday, February 9, 2004 20:54 +0300 Yura Lander <land_yu at PISEM.NET>
| wrote:
| > Dear colleagues,
| >
| > I am looking for any counterexamples to the following claim
| > (for the sake of convenience I give two variants, but note
| > that they are equal):
| >
| > 1) If a language uses the same word both for .language.
| > and .word., then this language has not an obligatory
| > grammatical category of number,
| >
| > 2) If a language has an obligatory grammatical category of
| > number, then this language uses different words for the
| > notions .language. and .word..
| >
| > The reason seems to me rather transparent and is related to
| > the possibility of a kind of metonymic shift. On the other
| > hand, I do admit that historical change may lead to the
| > violation of (any version of) this claim. Yet I will be
| > very grateful to anyone who can give me information on this
| > point.
| >
| > Thanks in advance,
| >
| > Yury Lander
| >
| ---------------------------
| Paul Hopper
| Paul Mellon Distinguished Professor of the Humanities
| Department of English
| College of Humanities and Social Sciences
| Carnegie Mellon University
| Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA
| Telephone (412) 268-7174
| Fax (412) 268-7989

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