Is there a "best" language?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Michael, Dec 10, 2008.

  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    It just sounds that way because it's so different phonetically. Four adjacent syllables can have four different pitches. (In Mandarin; it could be twelve in Shanghai.) That rarely happens in English so it makes it sound like they're talking faster. I've studied Chinese and can carry on a rudimentary conversation. I can assure you that it's spoken more slowly than English, which makes it a dream for a foreign student. I can actually pick the words I know out of people's speech who aren't talking carefully for my benefit. Try that in Spanish or Czech!
    You must not be an artist because many people find Chinese characters beautiful. In fact calligraphy is considered an art in the Orient and they hang up beautifully painted quotes by professional artists on their walls like paintings. Again, it's one of those things that you get a new perspective on with a little study. There's a certain amount of logic to the composition of the characters, and the way the brush strokes flow is very graceful. As for efficiency, it's certainly not efficient to write by hand, but as far as I can tell computer software puts it on a par with English. And as I noted earlier, there is evidence that Chinese people read faster than we do.
    This is the Linguistics subforum. We're all recoiling in horror and making the sign of the cross at you. Begone, evil spirit!

    More seriously, each language comes with its own way of thinking, because our most important thoughts are almost all formed in words. The more different the language, the more different the thinking. Being multilingual is a tremendous advantage.

    Just give the U.S. economy and culture a few more decades to collapse and see how many people still find it useful to learn English.
     
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  3. Sciencelovah Registered Senior Member

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    I love reading all your posts in this thread, Fraggle, thanks for the comprehensive review. :thumbsup:
     
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  5. John99 Banned Banned

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    Fraggle, i am an artist. Finding chinese character beautiful is one thing but when they are all over a page its just a mess. I dont mean to offend anyone but lets forget about political correctness and think about the future of humanity.

    And if i was a bullshitter everyone would love me. What you say about different ways of thinking is very telling and i never thought of it that way but i think that is a major problem facing humans. We cannot think differently and expect to conquer challenges that willk arise in the future. We need to get on the same page and this is holding us back.

    Pay no attention to the spelling because i am using a different browser and typing very fast.
     
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  7. w1z4rd Valued Senior Member

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    I speak four languages. English, Afrikaans, isiZulu and isiXhosa. English being my primary language, Afrikaans being that dutch hybrid we have here and Zulu and Xhosa being pretty similar (but not the same) bantu languages.

    From what I have seen with languages, its pretty Darwinian. What makes English pretty powerful is its vast range of words and ways to express yourself. What it doesnt have it absorbs from other languages. Whats also helping it out has being the advent of the information age and how it is the primary language on the internet and on massive amounts of the worlds air and tv shows.

    Take a country like Nigeria for example.. dozens of different languages are spoken there, but the only official language (it might have changed now under Islamic control) is/was English (or so the local Nigerians tell me).

    In South Africa... with over a dozen official languages, the primary language is English. Even the President address`s the nation in English.

    I guess right now its the most useful language to know and communicate in at the moment.
     
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Legions of people said the same thing about the paintings of Picasso, the writings of Faulkner and the music of Lennon and McCartney, all of which are now revered as milestones in the history of civilization. Don't set yourself up to be tallied with the people who were booing at the premiere of Ravel's "Bolero."
    No one is seriously advocating logograms as the world standard for written communication, even if the unpredictable course of history elevates Chinese to the status of the Wal-Mart World Language. As I have opined consistently, based upon the "achievements" of the PRC government, it's inevitable that they will mandate the adoption of a phonetic writing system---either their own syllabary, which is derived from Chinese characters like Japanese kana; or the Pin-yin system used by the rest of the world, which is the Roman alphabet with diacritical marks and a few ambiguities such as the city name Xian: one syllable or two?

    But before they can standardize written Chinese they have to standardize spoken Chinese. As of today something like one-third of the population do not speak Mandarin as their native tongue and about half of those people are not functionally fluent in it. Those people can read "written Chinese" because it's a fictitious language that only exists on paper, with thousands of logograms precisely transcribing more than 95% of the words of formal speech regardless of the way their pronunciations have diverged into disparate languages (not dialects) over the past three thousand years. They will not be able to read Mandarin words transcribed phonetically by any system, because they cannot understand those words when spoken.

    Step One: The Mandarinization of the country. (The morality of this, from the standpoint of culture, even with the odd wrinkle that the various Chinese languages use largely identical vocabulary and syntax, is a topic for another thread.) Step Two: Conversion to a phonetic writing system.

    Step One will be complete in two more generations. Step Two will probably take about the same amount of time.
    You misunderstand me and the clue you missed was my emphasis of multilingualism as a goal at the individual level, not as a barrier to progress and harmony at the tribal level. When you learn a second language you learn a second way of thinking. This provides you with a significant second perspective for critically reviewing your own thoughts. Studying Chinese tremendously improved my writing (something at which I now earn a living). When I put together a sentence, a little critic in my head is organizing the same thought in Chinese syntax (even though it doesn't know all the words) and chiding, "Couldn't you straighten that out and eliminate all the meaningless words to make it clearer and give it more punch? Why specify the gender and number of all those people and the time at which all those actions take place, when there is no real constraint on them? Couldn't you describe those relationships a lot more precisely by not relying on that pathetic set of Stone Age prepositions?"
    It is at exactly the same level as Chinese on this.
    Chinese accomplishes the same thing by having a more powerful word-building engine, like German only without the cumbersome need to respect grammatical rules within a compound word. English has been doing this on the sly by building compound words out of Latin and Greek roots (e.g. "television" comes from both languages). But lately we have started using more of our own wordstock, with an explosion of new compounds like cost-effective and industry-standard that don't require a Latin/Greek dictionary to decipher the first time you see them; we're doing it the Chinese way.
    As I said, that's an accident of history. French, Latin and Aramaic (as well as several others) were once the universal language of Western civilization and anyone who wanted to consort with it. Even after the nation of the language's origin lost prominence or actually disappeared (e.g. the Aramaeans), the language hung on for centuries through sheer inertia. Even if the sun finally sets on the Anglo-American Empire, English may continue to be the international language for a while, if only because of that mountain of software documentation.

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    But if we've learned one thing from history, it's the aphorism, "This too shall pass."
    And the winner of the World Language award will have nothing to do with how "good" a language it is.

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    The same is essentially true of India with its enormously larger population. While Hindi is also a language that is taught in virtually all schools and publications in Hindi probably outnumber all other Indian languages combined, it is still the language of one ethnic group and as such is rejected for both everyday and official discourse. Of course this leaves the country in the bizarre position of embracing the language of its only recently overthrown conquerors.
     
  9. John99 Banned Banned

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    FR,

    Best thing to do is make some slight changes to English. I can think of a few ways to streamline and simplify it. Most obvious would be near elimination of punctuation from the written form. One example would be eliminating commma's or substituting them with the 'dash' as seen here-after the colon and before the period: -.

    Then we need a new word for colon because it is now used to name a body part. These small changes would also allow keyboards and programs to be somewhat backwards compatible but by 2012 the keyboard will look different than the one we use today.

    Enough changes and it can be re-named, which will be crucial.
     
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    I was about ready to tell you that English doesn't work that way, but I see you mean only the written language. Orthographic standards can be changed if they're adopted by the government, universities and the influential newspapers--in both the USA and the UK. Changes to the spoken language can only be made democratically.
    But punctuation is not an arbitrary or obsolete convention. Most punctuation marks are transcriptions (although approximate and standardized) of actual phonetic (but not phonemic) elements in speech. Commas, periods, dashes, quotation marks, slashes, exclamation points, colons, semicolons, question marks, italics, etc., represent various specific pauses, length, pitch and volume of syllables, and static or dynamic combinations of them. In speech they impart meaning and/or help parse the sentence and the corresponding punctuation does the same thing. An exception is the period used after an abbreviation, which alerts us to the need to expand the abbreviation, although the Brits omit it in the most common and recognizable cases such as Mr and etc.

    The apostrophe in the possessive (e.g., Mary's) could be eliminated with no misunderstanding, but there are very few others whose absence would not impair comprehension of a written sentence.
    Both of those words go back a long way. Neither is a recent development and they've coexisted peacefully for centuries. The O in the name of the punctuation mark is Greek omega, a long O. The other one is omicron, the short O. Adolescents giggle over this coincidence as they giggle over so many things. Nobody else cares.
    What can be renamed? The English language? Just its name in English? Or are you also going to find a substitute for Italian inglese, Czech anglicky, Mandarin ying-wen, Hungarian angol, Japanese ei-go, etc.?
     
  11. tim840 Registered Senior Member

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    that sounds like a terrible idea... i love my punctuation marks. periods, apostrophes, commas, colons, semicolons, hyphins, elipses, all of them are unique and important - though i understand that you wouldnt appreciate this (note the misuse of your apostrophe in "comma's": apostrophes are for possessive forms, not pluralizations). But if you know how to use punctuation properly, it is a great tool.

    What does sometimes confuse me, though, is placement of punctuation near quotations and parentheses; other than that, its just fine the way it is.
     
  12. draqon Banned Banned

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    tim840...speaks the best language. Every time tim840 is around, my heart beats faster and faster because of the beauty in tim's words...so much passion...so much love...poetic and beautiful.
     
  13. tim840 Registered Senior Member

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    :huh: :wtf:

    lol
     
  14. Enmos Valued Senior Member

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    Is this Draq's coming out ?

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  15. draqon Banned Banned

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    Enmos, is that you, sweety?

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    I now see it...all along...Netherlands' language is the best language there is...
     
  16. Enmos Valued Senior Member

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    Thanks babe !

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  17. draqon Banned Banned

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    huh? :bugeye: What kind of man do you think I am!

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  18. Enmos Valued Senior Member

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    Draq queen ? :shrug:
     
  19. draqon Banned Banned

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    Im straight...

    I was just complimenting the language of Netherlands. nothing more.

    what did you think I was doing?!

    what?!!

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    no way....

    if I am thinking what I am thinking....

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    no....

    that just cannot be true....
     
  20. Enmos Valued Senior Member

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    Whatever you say, honey bunny

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  21. John99 Banned Banned

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    tim, thanks for pointing my mistakes out. You spelled 'hyphen' wrong.

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  22. tim840 Registered Senior Member

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    aww dang...

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    thank you for pointing out my mistakes

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  23. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    happy holidays

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