Monday, December 17, 2012

Primitive and Sophisticated Languages

Okay, you know how people are always telling you that their language is more sophisticated than English, because English is so primitive? Primitive is, of course, defined as not having a complex case system. The truly bewildering set of verb tenses doesn't seem to count.

What, people never tell you that?

We clearly move in different circles.

This is what you say:

"You know, supposedly on a historical level languages are actually getting simpler over if you think about it, that really means that English is more highly evolved."

Then watch the reaction.

I bring this up because the Slovak pulled this on me the other day, just trying to get a rise out of me. Sometimes that man will say anything!

The Slovak was just being silly, but the first time I had this conversation, with someone else several years ago, the person was totally not joking and totally did not like this idea. She also didn't like when I mentioned that to a native English speaker, it sounds "primitive" and caveman-like to speak without definite and indefinite articles (Slavic languages, at least the ones I'm familiar with, don't have them). It's all about perspective.

Whether the premise that languages are getting simpler over time is actually true is debatable, but it doesn't really matter. You have to fight pseudo-science with pseudo-science!

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