Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Athelwulf, Mar 30, 2007.
its not a matter of how short it is,its just that there seems to be a specific VERB for that action.
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Not quite. Chinese has just as rich a word stock. Since it's an analytic language people argue over the definition of a "word." But a quick inspection of the Fenn Five Thousand, a student dictionary considered to cover only an elementary vocabulary, shows an average of no fewer than five compounds for every root-word or morpheme. This means that every literate person is presumed to be familiar with 25,000 words. Counting han zi (kanji) that only scholars know, there are something like 75,000 single-syllable morphemes. At only two compounds each this would put Chinese modestly ahead of English. Adding in the explosion of new words both languages had to coin during the 20th Century, it's anybody's guess. But in my opinion Chinese and English have no serious competition for being the world's most adaptable and expressive languages.
And I give the vote to Chinese because it does it all without borrowing from other languages, something which is virtually impossible due to phonetics. Constructions like wei ta ming, "only it heals," for "vitamin," are so rare they would probably all fit on one page. The practice whose name escapes me, of following the formation pattern of another language using one's own vocabulary, is so much easier: shi you, "stone oil," for "petroleum" from the same words in Greek and Latin; dian hua, "electric speech," for "telephone," not quite the same formation as our Greek coinage but just as good.
Someone recently posted a translation of a news article from his native language into English. They had used the awkward construction, "make [something] fall from his hand," suggesting that the original language has no word for "drop."
In Spanish, you have to say color de café, "coffee-colored," for such a basic color as brown.
Red seems to have been the earliest color name adopted by our tribal ancestors. Many of the Indo-European languages have a word beginning with R, inherited from a common source named after the rose.
In Chinese, "older brother" and "older sister" are different morphemes than "younger brother" and "younger sister." Agglutinated with the morpheme for "cousin," they indicate "older male cousin," "younger female cousin," etc. The morpheme for "son" is easily agglutinated with a numeral to show the order of birth. Am I the only one old enough to have seen those quaint, racist Charlie Chan detective movies in which he kept refering to his "number one son"? That is just a literal translation of the more logical syntax of Chinese, like "Chinaman" and "Chinatown."
In Chinese, your mother's mother is "external grandmother," your grandmother from outside the family.
We are not knocking, we are discussing. Rather intelligently. What is surprising to me that certain BASIC words for simple concepts are missing from English, that are present in other languages. Cul-de-sac would be like one.
The number of words depend on circumstances. The eskimos have like 20+ different words to describe different snow conditions, it is rather obvious to see why. People who live next to the ocean have more words for winds and water conditions, than those who live inland. Etc.etc.
As it was mentioned, in English there are no special words for certain family relationships , and that is quite common in other languages....
Russian: есть - кормить, пить - поить. I.... As much as I grope for the logic in the word construction here, I fail to grasp it.
Someone here mentioned colors in English language. Those names for colors don't make sense to a good portion of English speakers. Dear gods, "fuschia" doesn't make sense to me.
The visible sprectrum of sun light is smoothly continuous. Thus its division into distinct colors is purely a man-made cultural division.
Consequently, you should not be surprised to learn that many cultures have done it differently from that common in the interacting global culture now dominating the Earth. A few cultures made no division, only had words for "light" and "darker" but almost all cultures had at least a word for one (or more) colors. Interestingly, in all cultures that have any color names, the color of blood, (red in English) always has a name, even if it is the only color word in the culture.
Many cultures did not have separate names for the colors we in English call green and blue. Some cultures had many more "primary color names" than we have in English. - I.e. a divison of the continuous solar spectrum as distinct (from their POV) as our green is from blue. Yellow is the most narrow color band/ division in English and this also seems to be the case in most cultures. I believe this has to due with the response curves of the three detectors in the human eye. BTW, gold fish and many insects see more colors than humans do. Gold fish have four different color receptor in their eyes - From their POV all humans are "color blind." Bees can see way out into the UV. All the flowers humans see as "white" have very unique colors to the Bee. (Presumably the ones currently giving nectar are the most "beautiful.")
It is probably hard for you to think of blue as the same color as green. - this just goes to show how strong language is on your ability to form concepts. If you are typical you think that blue is somehow very different from green, but it is only an artifical subdivision. Some other parts of the spectrum, you consider all to red (various shades), actually different in wavelengths by greater amounts than blue differs from green yet they are all "red" to you.
Basic simple concept??? I must have been 25 before I ever heard the term used and I had to ask what it meant. In America it's just a fancy-schmancy word for what had always been called a "dead end." It was coined as an advertising gimmick by real estate agents, because nobody wants to live in the house at the end of a dead-end road. Calling it a cul-de-sac raises the hope that you'll find a really stupid buyer and he'll pay more for it. However, regardless of what you call it, it's still the least desirable house on any street. You get headlights coming in your windows, the sound of cars braking, turning and reaccelerating, and the traffic activity right outside your front yard where your children and dogs are playing. It's similar to coining the term "sanitation engineers" for janitors. They're still janitors, and they still live in houses on dead ends.
It's a Venus-Mars thing. Women have names for all those colors and they can actually see the difference between Ecru and Navajo White.
If you spell fuchsia right, you can look it up. Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image! It's the name of a flower and the color of that flower, just like rose and violet.
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Also note that people in the US tend not to think horse meat is suitable meat to eat. We also do not like to eat "pig meat" but easily do so as we call it "pork" - Same as "beef", instead of "cow meat" is OK for eating. We lack a suitable restuarant word for horse meat, but the French do not. (I do not speak French, so can not tell it to you.) Thus the French eat much more horse meat in restuarants than Americans do.
Again, as in my last post, I am trying to show how the language you have controls your concepts and attitudes.
feed comes from food, so giving someone something to drink would mean we have to find a similiar word as food for drink.
We could say that we are watering someone (but that is more often applied to plants), which brings us to the question if there are any word that applies to what can be drinken, as for what can be feed (like food), well, we have drink, I made him drink we can say. "I drank him", would perhaps be the appropriate phrase? Or perhaps if we use the same technique for food as for drink, it might be "I draught him".
Dead end is just as good. Although I would rather call it sackstreet. It expresses exactly what it means, only one way in and out just like a sack (cul-de-sac, zsakutca).
Here is another expression, that is missing from English: Bon appetite!!
Most other cultures say something before starting to eat and I don't mean a prayer. It is basicly acknowledging that everyone is present and ready to start to eat. Even "Let's eat!" would do it.
Billy T: You assume that the French consider horse meat to be normal fare because they have a word for it.
Perhaps they have a word for it because they consider it normal fare.
BTW: It is interesting that many of the English words for the meat we eat are French derived, while the words for the animal are Anglo Saxon. It is evidence that a French culture conquered and ruled the Anglo Saxon culture. The household servants had to learn the Lord's name for the food he ate. They kept the words for the animals because the Lord seldom bothered with the raising and slaughter of the animals.
Everyone I know just says, "bon appetit." English is still a borrowing language. Everyone says, "bon voyage" too. People say skal, nazdar, prosit, lechaim, salud, and a dozen other foreign words before drinking, more often than "to your health." And "gesundheit" is almost as common as "bless you" for sneezing in the Eastern U.S.
Not quite so, at least not my intent to comment which came first: word or eating habits.
I doubt either was clearly "first". My point is and was that what we consider proper is made possible by incorporating suitable words. Without the words, it is much more difficult to have the concepts, ideas etc.
Switch to my color example. Without separate words blue and green, we would probably not consider them separate colors*, just different shades of one color (bleen? or some single word name). Words reflect out thoughts and ideas and greatly control them - I am not commenting on which comes first.
*Just as we consider more widely separated wavelengths all red, just different shades of red.
Not just English. As an Optometrist who speaks pretty good Spanish, I do a lot of exams on Spanish speaking patients.
For some reason, there does not seem to be a word for "squint" in Spanish. This is quite annoying and strange. Spanish speakers squint as much as everyone else, but have no word for it.
If there is one, it's definitely not in common usage as I've asked scores of bilingual patients how to say it.
PS When I was a kid, we called Cul de sacs "dead ends". "Dead End" is a perfectly natural word for a road with one end closed, although I usually expect a "cul de sac" to have an enlarged circular end rather than just ending.
FR: That is exactly the point, that you have to use a French word instead.
Here is a list of words, although I might not agree with all of them:
The French version of the OP's request would be:
saoulant : making one get drunk (or "tiring" in slang)
Do you have a word in English for hole in the ice?
Do you have a word in English for man-made hole in the ice?
Do you have a word in English for a hole in the ice made by animals?
Uh, no. The point is that we have taken the French word and made it an English word. Surely a member of the Linguistics Forum understands that our language's rich vocabulary is largely the result of taking words form other languages, rather than the evolution of our native Germanic wordstock. Pick a paragraph at random from any scrap of paper lying on your desk and highlight the words that are not of Anglo-Saxon origin. Here's mine:
Without our foreign words, we would still be in the Stone Age. Even fundamental, everyday words like "use," "very," and "question" are French. The French conquered England in 1066 and ruled the country for centuries. In fact, there is no discontinuity in that rule and it has been argued that today's Royal Family is simply the latest in an unbroken line of Anglo-Norman rulers. Somewhere along the way the ruling class began speaking English instead of French, but the structure of the society did not change abruptly. As a result, English overflows with words of French origin.
I realize that other languages do just fine without word borrowing. The Chinese are forced into it by phonetic incompatibility and the Germans do it out of sheer cussed chauvinism, but it works for both of them. But other highly respected languages do it our way. Japanese is full of Chinese words and even the Romans adopted entire glossaries of Greek words. I appreciate the structure of a language that allows its people to adapt to the changes around them by using their own vocabulary, but I'm only an amateur linguist and I don't know that a real linguist, much less an anthropologist or any other scholar, would agree with the importance I place on that ability.
The compiler of this list appears not to be a native speaker of English.
patte. We have the word "paw." It specifically refers to the last two joints in the front or rear foot of a mammal with real toes rather than hooves or flippers: the phalanges and the knuckles. Anyone who has ever owned a dog or seen a nature documentary knows this common English word.
gueule, bouffet. Someone will have to patiently explain to me why animals don't "eat" with their "mouths" the same as we do. I understand that Germans use fressen to mean "eat in the gross manner of an animal," but we're just not as fussy about table manners in America. The distinction is largely lost on a people who eat folded slices of pizza with their hands while watching TV. We use "wolf" as a verb, meaning "to eat large chunks of food hurriedly, as if to avoid sharing with scavengers." We talk about "the lion's share" of a limited quantity of food. We "pig out" when we eat too much because it tastes good. Amusingly, to "eat like a bird" means to eat very little, coined in an era when people didn't know that some birds eat three times their body weight every day. We have no shortage of words for eating taken from the animal kingdom.
gibier. Most of us go our entire lives without eating the meat of a game animal so this word is useless to us.
tartine has two syllables. "Slice of bread" has three. In context, such as in the kitchen, we can shorten it to "slice." What can the French do?
tartiner . . . ecoeurant. Yes, Francois, we all know that the French are obsessed with food and their language has a million words for growing, handling, stocking, selling, buying, mixing, blending, sauteing, braising, preparing, serving, eating, and criticizing it. Over here we just "scarf" pizza while we're doing something else. We make fun of Frenchmen because they talk about food the way we talk about women: "Save the whites, maybe you'll make a little meringue later on the side."
chaine. We call that a stereo, dude. Again, this person is not very familiar with American English.
telespectateur. Why are those five syllables superior to our five syllables, "TV audience"? Because it's one word? Try explaining that to a Chinese, for whom the whole concept of a "word" is a little fuzzy.
lunettes. "Replace the glasses of the glasses"? Where did he see that? In the instruction manual for a Japanese product, translated into English? That is just flat wrong! We call them the "lenses."
This list is bogus. There are too many errors, and even more lapses in knowledge. Perhaps this person knows French, but he does not know English.
That is not how any speaker of English would ever say it. Once again, this was compiled by someone who has only studied English in school and does not speak it conversationally. We say, "get him (or her) drunk." It's only three syllables. Perfectly concise.
The link provided by Syzygys is both interesting and basically correct, although Fraggle Rocker might be correct in his comments on a few of the examples. There is no doubt that French, with a far smaller vocabulary, has quite a few words with no single word translation to English.
Fraggle Rocker: I am not sure you are correct in your comment relating to paw for patte. Paw does not seem to be a translation for patte, which I assume refers to the entire limb and is applicable to animals which do not have paws.
BTW: Does French have words for paws and hooves?
Until I noticed the preface to the link provided by Syzygys, I accepted your assertion that Chinese has about the same number of words as English. Now, I am not so sure.
Is there some disagreement relating to what is actually a word in Chinese? For that matter, I assume that the word count for a language does not count plurals of nouns and all the tenses of verbs in the tally.
Since I did not understand some of your remarks about Chinese, I wonder if what you referred to as words are accepted by linguists in general.
Perhaps the author at that link is a chauvinist who does not think about oriental languages.
I encountered a missing expression in English while trying to order a sandwich.
The menu had multiple categories and supposedly I was to select a few of them. As an awfully inexperienced sandwich-orderer I had the gist of asking the sandwich-maker how in general to order a sandwich, but I encountered a stumbling block from which I was left with several options:
"How do people order a sandwich?" (awkward)
"How do I order a sandwich?" (embarrassing)
"How do they order a sandwich?" (who? where?)
In this context I think the Spanish se would be most aptly suited for this situation, such as "?Como se piden un (noun)" The pronoun se is completely generalized, a form I have not encountered or been able to successfully replace idiomatically or rhetorically in English.
Another contrast in which Spanish describes more accurately is the well-known case (at least among linguists) of the demonstrative pronouns, esto-eso-aquello. In English, this is roughly translated as this-that-"that one way over there." When speaking English people would have to resort to context, implicit references, mood, body language, etc. when referring to an object far removed from the interlocutors as opposed to one easily mistaken that is nearer. Occasionally humorous references have to be accompanied, but usually needs a first mistake on the receiver's end to realize, "oh, that." The presence of three levels of demonstrative pronouns in Spanish as opposed to two in English probably minimizes this ambiguity.
Regarding this first post, I tend to support Granty's "quench" as the closest word that comes to satisfying the analogy. But yes, it is not perfect, since quenching usually means to satisfy thirst rapidly, and would sound awkward if suddenly used generally.
Separate names with a comma.