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  1. #21
    Gotta catch you all! Blackmail!'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Athenian200 View Post
    Her description of English seems to match my hunch about what sort of language English is, but I'm not certain about the other two.
    As a matter of fact, what Nin is describing here are rather cultural biases at the times where she lived.
    English is not "cold" nor analytical. It is a very blurry and confusing language, it lacks accuracy and precision, especially compared to, let's say, German or French.

    For instance, thanks to the French Grammar (which is derived from Latin more than any other Romance language, since it has retained most of the original cases), the verbs and tenses are able to convey exact informations about how an action occured, when, why, and how. This is not possible in English, or at least, not with that accuracy.

    For instance, a sentence like "Il aurait fallu qu'ils eussent fait" is not really possible to translate in English. Not only because of the impersonal or passive pronouns -also a great difference-, but also because it describes the possibility of an action that should have occured if...

    ------

    Hence, I'd gladly agree when thealchemist said that French is a much more methodical language ("mathematical" also fits). While on the other hand, English seems tailored for poetry and rendering vague, soft or subtle nuances of emotions or impressions.

    I have always had the vague feeling that English was a somewhat "cold" language compared to the Romance languages, though I can't really say why it should seem colder even when expressing emotions, since it can clearly evoke them.
    Depends of what you define as "cold". Analytical French is much more colder than analytical English.
    Heinrich Heine once said French was the language of politeness, politics and diplomacy, especially compared to his native German, and I fear he was just right about it.
    Thus if you think being polite and sometimes somewhat hypocritical is a "warm" attitude, then... yes. But I do not think any other Romance languages are like this, and able to convey double-speak as easily.
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  2. #22
    Protocol Droid Athenian200's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackmail! View Post
    As a matter of fact, what Nin is describing here are rather cultural biases at the times where she lived.
    English is not "cold" nor analytical. It is a very blurry and confusing language, it lacks accuracy and precision, especially compared to, let's say, German or French.
    Is that why I find myself and others often creating long, meandering sentences and using a ridiculous number of commas and parentheses (not to mention dashes and slashes), especially when discussing something in detail?

    After I studied Latin, I also noticed that whenever I'm describing something complex or abstract, I end up using so many Latin-derived scientific words that I sometimes am left with the feeling that I'm basically trying to articulate a very diluted form of Latin within the context of a Germanic grammar. I always assumed that this was because Latin was the language of scholarship in Europe for so long.

    It's rather ironic that I hear so many people describing English as an especially pragmatically-structured language, then. I'm not sure why I hear that so often. Perhaps it just reflects the fact that people think of the English as reserved and pragmatical people? It wouldn't surprise me.
    For instance, thanks to the French Grammar (which is derived from Latin more than any other Romance language, since it has retained most of the original cases), the verbs and tenses are able to convey exact informations about how an action occured, when, why, and how. This is not possible in English, or at least, not with that accuracy.

    For instance, a sentence like "Il aurait fallu qu'ils eussent fait" is not really possible to translate in English. Not only because of the impersonal or passive pronouns -also a great difference-, but also because it describes the possibility of an action that should have occured if...
    Interesting. When you say that it cannot be translated, you mostly mean that the sense of it as a single sentence cannot be translated, right? If one were to use 5 or 6 sentences in order to express the meaning of one sentence, I would assume they could convey the meaning in a far less concise format, with all the connotations spelled out clearly, and all the subtly lost.

    There is at least one feature of English which I find annoying, though. The fact that we've dropped the distinction between "you" and "thou." Now we have to use awkward constructions or regional slang in order to clarify whether we're talking about a group of people, or a single person. The same pattern is occurring with the word "they," as it is coming to replace "he" and "she" quite often in sentences.

    For some reason or other, it seems that many English speakers disregard the need to distinguish between an individual and a group.
    Hence, I'd gladly agree when thealchemist said that French is a much more methodical language ("mathematical" also fits). While on the other hand, English seems tailored for poetry and rendering vague, soft or subtle nuances of emotions or impressions.
    Strange, I always heard people say that Japanese and Arabic were the ones suited to that. I suppose it all depends on your perspective.

    Depends of what you define as "cold". Analytical French is much more colder than analytical English.
    Heinrich Heine once said French was the language of politeness, politics and diplomacy, especially compared to his native German, and I fear he was just right about it.
    Thus if you think being polite and sometimes somewhat hypocritical is a "warm" attitude, then... yes. But I do not think any other Romance languages are like this, and able to convey double-speak as easily.
    LOL. I suppose I was mostly fooled by cultural stereotypes, just as Nin was. It's far too easy to associate a language with the character of its people, especially since that character will influence the phrases you see used on a regular basis.

  3. #23
    Superwoman Red Herring's Avatar
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    My suspicion is that there is a bias to consider one's own language to be especially analytical.
    My native language is German which is stereotypically considered ugly but precise. My Dad always used to say it was like a scalpel. He always thought of English as too vague, the words have too many nuances of meaning, etc. That may sound exaggerated and sure enough, he only knows a little bit of English and no other foreign languages, so he has no real comparison.
    But the possibility to create new words on the spot to fit exactly what you want to describe and immediately have others understand them is a definitive plus.

    From a German perpective, English lends itself to jokes and puns (so many homophones!) and everything sounds more informal in English, but that might also be cultural (it's a chicken and egg thing, really). French, once again from this subjective perpective, offers elegance and decorum. It is a very esthetic language that (as my French teacher couldn't stress enough) contains many irregularities just because it sounds nicer that way. Also, if you translate a German or English text into French or Spanish, it will become about 20% longer because these languages are so, for lack of a better word, voluminous and voluptuouse or whatever you want to call it. And for a long time, people made their children learn Latin because "to learn Latin is to learn to think logically"! I guess that referred mostly to learning the very neat (consequential) and (by comparison) more complex grammar of a dead language.

    It might be hard to tell apart cause and effect though. Does a language lend itself to a particular use or has it been adapted to fit cultural preferences of its speakers?
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  4. #24
    Senior Member Synapse's Avatar
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    I learned Italian when I was young and probably forgot, I learned a bit of Chinese too and a tinsy bit of Hungarian though its forgotten too. I was always confusing the consonants and vowels of English with Slovakian and some of the letters. I couldn't say anything starting with R like the pronunciation of the letter rrr properly in English and some other words that sounded softer syllables with the accent. And then the variences seemed limited instead of a or o to create a male and female sound it was plural like she and he. And then those words, they, their and they're.

  5. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Athenian200 View Post
    What do you believe is the impact of speaking a particular language on the way that you think and process reality?
    I think learning and using Japanese influenced my thinking a lot. Language is influenced by the culture and mindset of people. And the culture of NZ is a lot different to Japan. Don't ask me to explain, I just tried to figure out a good way to put it into words and couldn't.

    It really did expand my understanding and give me a wider viewpoint learning Japanese.

  6. #26
    Ginkgo
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    I took Japanese in highschool and it definitely gave me a platform for understanding my native language. For instance, people tend to say things without really saying them; in Japan, this is particularly the case when saying "Yes", or "No". You may dine in at a restaurant, order a plate at the restaurant's inconvenience, to be politely rejected without anyone even remotely saying "No". The implicit nature of language is so soft, yet so powerful; I believe it was Rousseau who theorized that men first started to derive words from tones of feeling.

    One thing I don't like about English is that it's set up for an either/or way of looking at things. We have the words "and", and "or", but neither suffice to hold two or more ideas as possibilities. I frequently tack on "or all of the above", or "both", when I'm spouting off possibilities to someone, to which people are sometimes set off balance when recognizing how things aren't as mutually exclusive as they had cemented in their minds.

    It's fun to spot when a person is extending a single-case trait to a whole set of others by checking their plurals for consistency.

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