Friday, December 8, 2017

Linguistics on Quora

Is it possible for someone to read and write in one language and speak and listen in another?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
I speak two langs, Latin and Germanic. In a few dialects.
Answered just now
If he reads and writes at all and is not deaf, it is even necessary.

If to me written Swedish and spoken Swedish are the “same language” this is because I have an acquired synaesthesia between the two languages.

It is partly but only partly an acquired synaesthesia for “this letter” and “this sound”. Some letters are pronounced differently due to context specific to Swedish and some sounds are also spelled differently in contexts specific to Swedish.

For instance, the letter G is pronounced as in Great Goose usually before consonants, and before certain vowels (A, O, U, Å), but it is pronounced like Y in Yarn before other vowels (E, I, Y, Ö, Ä). After such a vowel or after R or L, G may also be pronounced like Y in Yarn.

It is only the written language which has a same letter in both cases.

Gatans goda glada gummors gåta in the spoken language has one sound for each G.

Ger giftiga gymnastiker att göra med gästernas högda elghornsskedar in the spoken language has another sound for each G.

Similarily, this other sound can in the written language be spelled J instead of G only for one of the words (höjda is a more modern spelling of högda), while other words need it to be spelled J : just i Jultidens jobbiga jägtande jagande julklappsjagt.

Note that one of the J is where the normal rules would imply the spelling G for jägtande, except here the spelling rule is overridden by etymology.

I have here omitted other spellings of the J sound (several) and other pronunciation (only one more) of G (NG, GN, NK - two groups beginning with same sound after that sound spelled alone with both letters spelling it in the groups).

Since each speaker who is also a reader and writer has acquired one synaesthesia, he may obviously also acquire another one.

Two languages are often considered two dialects of same language, when each of the two spoken ones can coexist in synaesthesia with same written one. On the other hand one spoken language can coexists with two spellings, like American rhotic dialects of English are fairly similar or same North and South of Canadian border, but a certain pronounced word will be spelled “labor” on one side of the border and “labour” on the other side. And if elsewhere it is pronounced very differently, it is mostly not about how second vowel sound is pronounced, but how the letter R is, or isn’t.

The spelling of English - roughly fairly constant since 1350 - has coexisted with more than one spoken language. You just give the same text to a man from Ozark area and a man from Delhi, and you will see British spelling is coexisting with different English spoken languages - and therefore the British spelling, coexisting with either is identic to neither. Some more of it have been there since Chaucer.

And, in Ozark area, you let some other man used to the spelling bee write the text down after its pronunciation, and you will see the Ozark language is capable of coexisting with both British and American spelling. Therefore it is identic to neither and could theoretically coexist with even other spelling systems (and actually does so in Li’l Abner by Al Capp).

In other words, if someone was thinking of my considerations about French and Latin, with someone speaking in French and writing in Latin around 800 AD, actually there is not much of a problem. It is just that the relation between writing and speech would be as complex as in Swedish or English, not as simple as in Classical Latin.

Or, if someone was thinking of my writing “19th C” Swedish and speaking “21st C” Swedish, it’s like the Canadian border : a division in spelling that has no real bearing on how words are pronounced. 1906 was not a “development” in spelling, it was an administrative reform in it.

How do you find the origins of words?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
I speak two langs, Latin and Germanic. In a few dialects.
Answered 7h ago
Tolkien wanted to know the origin of the word “wasp”.

He believed in the IE proto-language theory. This means, if “wasp” is common to sufficient IE branches, it is derived from the proto-language. If it is not derived from it, it should show up in only one branch or if in more, in a neighbourly one.

If you believe that, you start studying what words meaning wasp, perhaps also bee and similar, but reminding of wasp in looks, look like in other branches.

Wasp and German Wespe are obviously the same branch. In Latin you have vespa, which could actually be the origin of German Wespe (but would be difficult to reconcile with a vocalism of wasp). French guêpe and Italian vespa will get you no further, since both derived from Latin vespa.

In Lithuanian you seem to have vabzdys and vapsvas (reconstructed from genitive plural vapsvų, before looking at dictionary). Sorry, vapsva. As to vabzdys, it seems to mean insect, in general.

In Polish you get osa - which could mean that it is derived from the word which in Lithuanian gets vapsva. PIE P would not be preserved at and of a syllable. PIE W could vanish between an S and a vowel. And short PIE A or O, while A in Germanic and Baltic, are O in Slavonic. An original PIE W would perhaps disappear before O, or by dissimilation with following w, before it disappeared.

An original WOPSWA would in Lithuanian be vapsva and in Polish either **wosa or - as shown osa. It would explain the English form waps.

An original WEPSWA could somewhere be remade by metathesis as WESPA and explain Latin vespa. Therefore also German Wespe.

And according to PIE theory, short O and E were sometimes interchangeable, so, one could get a word which was both WOPSWA and WEPSWA.

So, what Tolkien probably did put in the entry for that dictionary word was :

wasp, from waps by contamination with vespa, from IE *wopswa alt. *wepswa, confer Lith vapsva and Polish osa (or he might have used Church Slavonic or Russian or sth).

I say “probably”, because I have not actually read this entry.

Now, if one does not believe IE unity derives from one proto-language, one can still believe the word has one proto-form, and very possibly that one bandied around between early forms of above mentioned languages.

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