Monday, September 3, 2018

Why are Languages Different?

They have different words, right? English has "gloves" and German has "Hand-Schuhe".

Words that are "same word" are pronounced differently, right? "Hand-Schuhe" is composed of "Hand" = "hand", but it is pronounced "hunt" and of "Schuhe" = "shoes" ... wait, the stem is pronounced the same ...

And endings are different ... plural of "shoe" is "shoes" - add an -s, while plural of "Schuh" (same pronunciation as "shoe") is "Schuhe" as just mentioned, add an -e.

If this were all, learning a foreign language would be more straight-forward than it is ... here is one real thorough difference, namely basic grammar, sentence building, we study English and Latin, for four clauses in Genesis 11:1-2.

Genesis chapter 11: [1] And the earth was of one tongue, and of the same speech. (1) [2] And when they removed from the east, (2) they found a plain in the land of Sennaar, (3) and dwelt in it. (4)

Geneseos caput 11: [1] Erat autem terra labii unius, et sermonum eorumdem. (1) [2] Cumque proficiscerentur de oriente, (2) invenerunt campum in terra Senaar, (3) et habitaverunt in eo. (4)

And now for the clauses in English and in Latin:

1 Eng
and [conjunction comes before]
the earth [subject which comes before]
was [finite verb which comes before]
of one tongue and of the same speech [compliment]

1 Lat
erat [finite verb is in singular]
autem [conjunction can be tucked in after first word!]
terra [this noun could be nominative, and if so singular, so is probably subject of the finite singular verb]
labii unius, et sermonum eorundem [and here is a compliment which is not in nominative - though after erat it could have been]

2 Eng
And when [conjunctions come before]
they [subject which comes before]
removed [finite verb which comes before]
from the east, [compliment]

2 Lat
Cumque [conjunctions are joined]
proficiscerentur [subject in plural is understood from finite verb in plural]
de oriente, [compliment in non-nominative]

3 Eng
they [subject - neutral "they" indicates identity of subjects with previous - comes before]
found [finite verb which comes before]
a plain [compliment of accusative]
in the land of Sennaar, [while prepositional compliment could have been preposed ...]

3 Lat
invenerunt [finite verb in plural indicates subject in plural, no subject stated implies same subject as previous]
campum [compliment of accusative is an accusative]
in terra Senaar, [prepositional compliment in Latin also could have been changed as to position, but it's not a unique privilege, so could "campum" since marked by accusative]

4 Eng
and [conjunction comes before]
[subject omitted, as per identity with previous subject]
dwelt [finite verb comes before]
in it. [prepopositional compliment - neutral "it" indicates identity with previous compliment]

4 Lat
et [conjunction comes before! yeah!]
habitaverunt [finite verb includes subject, and no subject stated implies same subject as previous - as long as number and person are the same]
in eo. [prepositional compliment - masculine "is, eius, ei, eum, eo" indicates identity with "campus" which is masculine]

If you have been taught dancing, you may say "English and Latin do different dance moves" ... and that is summing it up very well.

If you have ever wondered why you were taught grammar in your own language, despite understanding it, well, in some complicated sentences being able to parse them actually helps, in any language, but mostly : it is so you shall be able to learn a foreign language, especially Latin or Greek. And this last, well, Latin and Greek are the languages a lot of the terms come from, so your grammar terms are best adapted to learning these and similar ones.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
Pope St. Pius X

1 comment:

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

[conjunctions are joined] = [conjunctions are joined, the main one, for clauses 2, 3 and 4 being tucked in as second word, while the closer one, the subordinating conjunction for just 2 stands as first word]