Comma Rules

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by wynn, Aug 13, 2011.

  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I think you got lost in the thread. That wasn't meant as an example of clumsiness. I was merely commenting on the reluctance of the German-speaking community to assimilate foreign words, which makes them very unusual among Europeans. Of course it must be noted that much of this was part of the German pride movement of the late 19th and early 20th century, during which the various kingdoms congealed into a very small number of nations (ultimately just Germany and Austria), the low point of which was the rise of Nazism. I don't think there is any government office today telling people that they can't use foreign words, but they're just not in the habit since German is almost as good as Chinese for building new words from old ones.
    "Glove homeland street?"

    The longest recorded word is probably Finnish lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas, "technical warrant officer trainee specialized in aircraft jet engines," which is in actual use in the Finnish air force.
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  3. OnlyMe Valued Senior Member

    The Fins don't have many speed readers do they? With words closing in on the length of a sentence anyway...
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  5. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    This is simply not true.
    A similar policy is in use in the Slavic languages, for example: "If a native word exists, do not loan from a foreign language. If a native word doesn't exist, make it based on existing words and word formation processes."

    Secondly, German and the Slavic languages typically have what is in effect a double vocabulary for many things.
    Which is why we have a special type of dictionaries: Fremdwörterbücher.
    In English, this type of dictionary does not exist. (And I have found that it is very difficult to explain to the English, esp. to Americans, what a Fremdwörterbuch is.)

    That is, for many things, we have both a native word and a loan word (usually of Greek or Latin origin), whereby the use of the loan word is connotated (usually they are used in special settings, such as in medicine, science etc.).
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  7. Walter L. Wagner Cosmic Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    I was under the impression you were giving examples of a reluctance to adopt newer terminology to replace clumsier original terminology.

    Why would/should a language adopt 'newer' terminology adopted from a foreign language, if the original terminology is as good as, if not better than, the adopted terminology even if used in many other languages? That was what I thought you were commenting on.

    In those examples you used, the German word is/was as good as, or better than, the 'newer' replacement word commonly used in several other languages (English, etc.) Perhaps English should adopt those words? Nah. However, I'm sure there are examples where they (Germans, or others in the same type of language situation) stick to an awkward word, rather than adopt a newer word, hence the need for a foreign word dictionary pointed out by Signal.
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Not at all. In many cases the native-language terminology has a certain charm that a foreign borrowing does not. If only because the elements from which a word is made up are recognizable in the native language. The Chinese word for "petroleum" is shi you, which means "stone oil," exactly the meaning of our Latin/Greek coinage but easily understood by Chinese people.
    Forgive me for not expressing myself clearly if I gave that impression. I don't think they should necessarily do either of those things, just whatever works best. There are other alternatives, such as acronyms like "laser."
    As I noted, indeed perhaps better. Fernsprecher (far-speaker) means something to a German, just as dian hua (electric speech) does to the Chinese. Of course the people who coin words like "telephone" and "petroleum" went to college and learned a little Latin and Greek so those words do mean something to them, but to the other 95% of the population they're just strange new words to be memorized.
    The Scandinavians do in many cases, since the structure and wordstock of their languages are much closer to German than ours is. Vitenskap = Wissenschaft = "science." For us it would come out something like "witship."
    Chinese has only a handful of foreign words, for phonetic reasons. By the time you eliminate the sounds Chinese doesn't have, the consonant clusters, and the syllables that don't end in a vowel, N or NG, in order to conform to Chinese phonetics and be pronounceable, you've got a word that's both really long and almost unrecognizable. One of the rare exceptions is "vitamin": wei ta ming, "only it gives life."

    Japanese has the same problem (although the two languages are unrelated): McDonalds becomes ma-ku-do-na-ru-do.
  9. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    I'm going to go out on a limb here and finally show off my awesome reading of "Eats, Shoots and Leaves": that's a yob's comma.

    A yob's comma has either no syntactical value or is so serialized in a sentence that it takes away from it.

    "Humphrey Bogart, at the end of Casablanca, said, famously, but not before becoming famous, rather, of course, after attaining the fame that he had, which is why he has famously said the following and not paled away into history, "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

    The comma is superfluous, as if the writer has lost sight of his writing and is lost gulping for air trying to gather his thoughts.

    Like a yob.

    A yob's comma. This is what makes Henry James sound so pretentious.

    It reads much better as:
    At the end of Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart famously said "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
  10. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    Hear, hear.

    There's a movement in some Indian village or other to revive Sanskrit.
    And since an ancient language needs ways to describe new things from old words, it gave us this awesome word for physics: bhautasastra

    Its means "idiot science"
  11. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    But as I noted earlier: Can you say something famously? You can say something loudly, or quietly, or angrily, for example. But famously?

    This is also about understanding the syntax of the sentence.
  12. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Interesting choice.

  13. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member


    Well, let's see here: another definition for famous is "excellent" or "well done". "Famous" can be used in much the same way we use "rich".

    The statement "Aging gracefully is the ultimate faggotry" could be said to be famously stated. No?

    You're getting stuck on the formal use of 'famous'.

    I've addressed this.
  14. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    And by the way, your thread should be "Commas Rule".

    They do, you know.

    That Tadpole Looking Thing is what decided the putting a blazing hot rod up King Edward II's anus, thereby killing him.
    I think of them as enzymes or little lumps of alchemy.
  15. keith1 Guest

    "I think...beautiful friendship" - H. Bogart
  16. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

  17. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Of course.
    The traditional example is that ascribed to an Old Greek Oracle:

    You will go you will return never in war will you perish.

    With the Latin version:

    Ibis redibis nunquam per bella peribis.
  18. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member


    Humor me, will you?

    I've never seen that one before and could use more examples like those in my writing. Where do the commas go?
  19. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    That's the thing with oracles: They formulated their declarations in an ambiguous way, so that it was not clear what it was they meant.

    Traditionally, the oracle was not doubted; only the person for whom the propecy was made.
  20. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    Forgot about those.

    I'm writing an article on language due by December's issue. That's exactly what I needed.

    Want to hear the one about King Edward? There's a scalding rectum in it for you.....
  21. keith1 Guest

    Resist the overuse of commas. They do not rule.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 26, 2011
  22. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I don't see why not. If that uttering became famous, then why should it not have been famously uttered? Of course this is an adverb that can only be added in retrospect, since we have no way to predict which utterances will become famous. Only a hopeless egotist would tell us, "Tomorrow I am going to famously announce my plans for the coming fiscal year."

    As I noted earlier in this thread, the dictionary doesn't even define "famously." It just lists it as the adverbial form of "famous" with no comment, expecting us to have no trouble figuring it out.
    That usage is not just informal, it's slang. I'm not sure I've ever heard it, and I'm positive I've never seen it in writing. When people say "famous" they mean "widely renowned," unless you're talking to teenagers or people who speak like teenagers, such as pop stars and those who write about them.
    It's not famous around here. None of my nearby coworkers ever heard it, nor have I. I'd guess that it's at least sixty years old and British.
    I think you're confusing "informal" with "slang." But I see that the dictionary agrees with you.
    The Latin version works. It's not cluttered up with pronouns and auxiliary verbs, so it's succinct and flows smoothly. I'd guess the original Greek was similar, since it too is a highly inflected language that can express much in few words.

    But the English version is very cluttered with those tiny words, which we use to avoid having to memorize a paradigm of inflections the size of the Motor Vehicle Code. By the time we get to the fourth word, "You will go you," the sentence has already ceased making sense.

    We can say it aloud, because we put pauses between certain words and/or modulate our tone of voice to navigate the grammar. But if we were to write it, we would separate the clauses with commas.
    Hew to the guideline that the basic purpose of a comma is to represent a pause in speech (or a shift in tone serving the same grammatical purpose), and you won't go too far wrong.

    Punctuation is (often) non-verbal communication.
  23. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    The point is that the meaning of that sentence depends on where we place the commas: place the comma elsewhere, and the sentence means just the opposite.

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