Wednesday, November 27, 2013

... on religious fervour and the word "fruit" on a video on Language History

Video commented on:
TheUKMonarchy : HISTORY OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE - 2 English Goes Underground (doc series)
own comment to the linguist consulted:
Apple started to mean a very specific fruit after we got "fruit" from Norman French? No, I think that is not the case.

1) The real word for fruit before Anglosaxon had fruit was waestel. In German it was Obst. It was not apel or Apfel.

2) The story is plagiarised from the story of the word "pomme" - "mala" was the old word for apple and "poma" for any tree fruit. Whan "mala" = apple came to share pronunciation with "mala" = evil, the word was dropped. It was variously replaced in various Romance languages and in French in was "poma" which took over.

3) Apple would have primarily at least meant that very particular fruit, since that is also the meaning of German Apfel, Swedish äpple, and even outside Germanic of Lithuanian obelys and Polish jablko. All of which are cognates of apple.
Newer debates on my accuracy in part I.
Mary Kaye Waterson
Perhaps that was the case outside of England, where the Germanic language was developing differently. This is talking about ENGLISH, not German, Swedish, Lithuanian or Polish.
Hans-Georg Lundahl
My dear, in that case it would first have meant apple, then fruit, alongside waestel, and then apple again. It is more economic to suppose the linguist is simply wrong here.
Jorge Ivansevick
Hans-Georg Lundahl
Before seeing all of it: English borrowed a lot of words from French. Black Death decimated French speaking elites of England (as well as Latin speaking ones), and English speakers replaced them. Henry IV officially used English. Chaucer wrote it, and it had lots of French words in it.
Jorge Ivansevick
Marky G
+Hans-Georg Lundahl I like how you use "borrowed" it evolved because of all those influences (and more) you suggest- it's not like there was a common consensus or a conscious decision.- " hey should we 'borrow' these words from the French, etc ? Because we can hardly communicate with our current language can we, that would help us wouldn't it ? 'borrowing all these different words !? I find it funny when people almost take it personally on how a language has evolved because it's roots exist elsewhere. Its just the history of English (and England), nothing more and nothing less.
Hans-Georg Lundahl
Evolved is an extremely bad metaphor for what happened.

When words are borrowed, it is not because the borrowing language is incapable of communicating without it - there is no such language - but because someone first finds a word in another language cool, communicating a bit better, and then it spreads along people agreeing with, ultimately him, though he is usually forgotten and that is spreading it like a meme.

But EVOLUTION is a singularly misleading way of putting this or any other language change.

I do not know why Fruit ousted Waestel, when Frucht has not ousted Obst. One reason might have been that Norman French were using the word Fruit nobility is a coolness factor. Another might have been that waestel only worked in some dialects, notably West Saxon (I do not know in how many others it was the correct word), whereas Norman French were all over England and especially all over London and using the word Fruit.
Marky G
+Hans-Georg Lundahl I was being sarcastic in my example of "hey should we 'borrow' these words from the French, etc ?" To make a point that borrowed doesn't cover it (it's not like the words are ever going to be returned !? hehe) - I think it's a bit simplistic to say they found a new word from a different language cool and that somehow spread. French was dominate in England for 300 years... yet English isn't French nor is it old German (although it contains many French words and of course old German as well), so it evolved into something else.. modern English (eventually anyway- ok, with a few words from other languages as well).

When I use the word evolve, I obviously don't mean in the biological Darwin sense, etc. but in the sense of a "gradual process in which something changes into a different form" (English dictionary)- that seems pretty reasonable to me to describe the English language ? Absorption could be better actually.

Anyhow, the main point previously, was about "borrowed" and although perhaps not you, just some comments I've seen elsewhere with people getting on their high horse about older languages and so on (we all know about ancient Greek/Latin etc being very influential- but this documentary is just focusing on progression of the English language).
Hans-Georg Lundahl
No, gradualism is precisely what is wrong.

Each change of a language is exactly a meme that spreads more or less consciously.

Changing RD into THICK D (retroflex to be linguistic) is a meme that spread over most of Sweden down to the old Danish border.

Changing any R (that is still an R) from Italian R to French R (in Stockholm the Italian R sometimes approaches the English one) came from South of that border up to a few landscapes above it.

Now, there is no way to evolve an Italian R very gradually into a French one. It is physically impossible. The positions in between the two do not allow the making of an R at all. The only way an Italian R is changed to a French R is by choice. It may be a pretty passive choice, like a man who feels what he learnt from his father is insignificant against what he can pick up where he lives or with people he has to get along with. Or an active one, like the man who feels it sounds better.

And precisely so there is no gradual transition between the two words waestel and fruit. There is one three stage transition between saying only waestel and saying only fruit, and that is between the two you can interchange waestel and fruit. Obviously you can subdivide further, like a moment when certain people would say "the young men say fruit when they mean waestel" and a later moment when certain people would say "the real old greatgrandfathers say waestel when they mean fruit".

Having masters who were not natively English of course helped in many areas.

A Fitzgerald or any other Fitz would perhaps try to learn a bit of English, but he would probably find it easier to learn a variety which included the word "fruit" than one which included the word "waestel".

Or, on the other hand, such and such an English underling would learn some Anglo-Norman, and find it easier to use "fruit" in both languages than to shift back and forth between "fruit" and "waestel".

And in London where Englishmen were generally already free, they were getting along with French merchants in Petty France - as mentioned on this video also. That is where cockney got its lack of h and it older v for w from. And cockney very probably acquired a real w after picking up on the fact that saying v for w was done by German and Swedish immigrants into the United States. What killed the cockney v was thus probably "My name is Yon Yonson, I come from Visconsin ..."

That is very precisely how language changes work. Gradualism has nothing, nada, zilch to do with that. Precisely as there is no gradual transition between saying "zero" and changing it to "zilch".

+Marky G one more thing.

English is precisely like French a language unthinkable without the influence from Latin. Some words came in Anglo-Saxon, like priest. Some in the Renaissance and in Johnsonese.

But perhaps more importantly, Anglo-Saxon got along with pretty much two tenses and only later calked the 16 tenses you enjoy on the Latin system of ten tenses. Think of that next time you use a pluperfect!
to a later part of the video
Petty France?

Sounds exactly how Low Dutch speakers from the Hansa were installed in Stockholm and Visby.
i'm surprised Chaucer was able to get away with his poetry given the religious fervor of the times - especially the naughtier bits...
Hans-Georg Lundahl
What religious fervour?

Orthodoxy and fervour do not always go hand in hand.
may be so, but do we really need grown up people believing in silly fairy tales? the only difference between the fairy tales for children and the fairy tales for adults is that the ones for children are called "stories" and the ones for adults are called "religion". other than that - NO difference. a fairy tale is a fairy tale no matter what one calls it.
Hans-Georg Lundahl
A story can be true as well as false

We have reasons to believe Christianity is a true story and not a made up one.

Even if that had been untrue, a society (like Chaucer's contemporaries) which nearly universally believes it a true story does not need have even the degree of fervour seen in the least fervent of the Christians today who believe it in opposition to Atheists and Agnostics attacking it.

And even those - inhcluding me - may have far less fervour than you with your prejudice previously expressed may conclude from the fact of us believing without hesitation the stories in the Bible to be true.
actually, I think in Chaucer's time there was a strict "religious" code. and no - "christianity" is but a mere superstition like any other. it's based on older stories borrowed from other cultures.

and "religious" fervor does in deed exist. have a look at what's going in Africa to day be cause of "christianity" - which is just a bunch of fairy tales. once one be comes an adult, it's time to leave the fairy tales behind. adults who believe fairy tales are delusional. and delusional people can - and have - cause a great deal of damage.
Hans-Georg Lundahl
"adults who believe fairy tales are delusional"


"delusional people can - and have - cause a great deal of damage"

yes, that includes atheists

"and "religious" fervor does in deed exist. have a look at what's going in Africa to day be cause of "christianity" "

I did not say it did not exist. I said it is not the same thing as religious orthodoxy.

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