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M J Harper wrote:
> You are surely placing the burden of proof on the wrong
> side. Myself and Ishmael are arguing that languages are
> unchanged for long periods of time.

You need only consult a dictionary and flip through a few pages until you come across a word with obs or archaic preceding the definition meaning that the term is obsolete, no longer used, means something different today. Languages are NOT "unchanged for long periods of time." and there is abundant proof of this which you may find easy to ignore for the same reason that people who espouse the orthodox view easily ignore your suppositions. Paradigm shifting is a difficult thing to practice well. Now, If you'll forgive my waxing philosophical for a moment:


Philosophy's purpose is to illuminate the ways our soul has been infected by unsound beliefs, untrained tumultuous desires, and dubious life choices and preferences that are unworthy of us. Self-scrutiny applied with kindness is the main antidote.
- Epictetus

So, do you really mean to say "languages are unchanged for long periods of time," unchanged?

You think the burden of proof is on me? Here's just one example off the top of my head.

word "let" : Definitions

v. tr. (transitive verb)
1. to give permission or opportunity to; allow.
2. to cause to; make.
3a. used as an auxiliary in the imperative to express a command, request or proposal.
3b. used as an auxiliary in the imperative to express a warning or threat.
4. to permit to enter, proceed, or depart.
5. to release from or as if from confinement.
6. to rent or lease.
7. to award, especially after bids have been submitted.
8. Archaic to hinder or obstruct.

You'll find that hundreds of words used as recently as 100 years ago are no longer used today or the meanings of the words have changed. Words change their meaning (although it would be more accurate to say that individuals in subequent generations mean different things when they use the word previous generations used.)

Meanings become more generalized. For example, the word "dog" once meant to refer to a specific type of dog but now when people use it, they mean to refer to dogs in general.

Meanings become more specialized. "Hound" used to be the general term used to refer to all dogs, not when people use the term, they mean to refer to a specific type of dog.

These are just a few examples of changes that have occured IN ENGLISH over a relatively short period of time.

But change is a fact of living languages. They don't go "unchanged for long periods" or even for short periods, though the changes, as I said before, are so slight from generation to generation that they often go unnoticed.

> Every piece of evidence
> you quote from Edison phonographs through the printing press
> to Latin show languages that haven't much changed

Now you're saying "haven't much changed" when you said before "unchanged for long periods of time" before. What has... changed?

> (my own
> best example is the French of the tenth century still beng
> recognisably the same as modern French).

Not the same, but recognizable to speakers of Modern French. Granted, it has changed little over the centuries, but It HAS changed.

There are all sorts of factors involved here. One, the French are fanatic about preserving their national language. They see neologisms and borrowings as a corruption and likely have from the time they began to assert themselves as a separate nationality. They have resisted change since the time their spelling conventions became fixed. Two, the Old French that you are referring to was likely a standardized version of the language just as Modern French is a standardized version of the native language each Frenchman grew up with. In Europe, there is this linguistic duality that Americans find it difficult to comprehend. Each generation grows up learning to speak their native dialect as well as the standard form of their languag. And quite often they are required to learn the standard version of the languages in neighboring countries. And they've been doing this for centuries. So an average German could probably recognize Old French.

Lastly, the fact that there are dozens of non-standard French dialects many of which are not mutually intelligible suggests that their French has changed from what it once was when their ancestors were living in some other location.

> Now it is for orthodoxy (or you) to demonstrate that these
> are special cases and that languages can in fact change in
> amazingly short periods.

No. Orthodoxy maintains that Anglo-Saxon changed rapidly into Middle English and then Modern English in a very short period of time. It's up to them to prove that such a thing happened. I'm with you here. It doesn't seem reasonable because according to current linguistic theory (orthodox linguistic theory) languages don't change that rapidly in that short a time span. The idea that Anglo-Saxon rapidly changed into Middle English goes against orthodox linguistic theory. Languages don't change that way.

Whoever came up with the thory that Anglo-Saxon developed into Middle English in that short a time span was either not aware of current linguistic theory or conviniently ignored it due to the Anglo-Saxon heritage paradigm.

> Unfortunately the only cases they do
> cite of this phenomenon is a) Anglo-Saxon turning into
> English in about 300 years and b) Latin turning into Italian,
> French, Spanish, Portuguese etc in abut the same time-frame.

Anglo-Saxon turning into English in 300 years is not a case that linguists cite to demonstrate that languages change rapidly, if anything, it's a contradiction that linguists ignore. And no linguist claims that Latin developed into French, Spanish, Portuguese,e tc., in a time frameof 300 years. Where did you get the idea that I suggested that?

What I did say in a previous post is that 2,000 years ago when Latin was spoken as a native language in Rome, there were most probably various dialects of Latin spoken in Spain, Franch, Portugal, etc. All of these dialects including the Latin of Rome were derived from a single language spoken perhaps 500 to 1,000 years previous.

> Equally unfortunately, and for some reason orthodoxy never
> makes clear, both these 300-year spans are precisely when the
> continuous record breaks down.

Prior to about 1400 AD there was no continuous record. There were records, but they were not continuous because they discontinued for a long period before resuming again at the beginning of the Renaissance. Furthermore, those ancient records can't be trusted because, since writing was a time consuming laborious job, it was probably only a very standardized ("dead" or relatively unchanging) version of the language used. It is only since the invention of the printing press that we begin to see a continuous record of the non-standard dialects spoken by the vast majority of people.

> So we have the fascinating case that, according to orthodoxy
> a) Ango-Saxon/English has a continuously recorded history for
> the whole period c 600 AD to 2000 AD except for the crucial
> three hundred hiatus

hiatus means not continuous.

> b) Latin/French has a continuously recorded history for the
> whole period c500 BC to 2000 AD except for the crucal three
> hundred year hiatus.

Not only was there a break in continuity here, but even according to the orthodox historians Latin and French are completely separate languages. There was no hiatus here according to orthodox historians. There were records of Latin spoken during the height of the Roman Empire after which Latin "died," became fixed, discontinued, and there was a French dialect for when we have no records whatsoever (as far as I know) until probably around the tenth century AD, about the same time El Cid was published in one dialect of Spanish which, like Old French, can be recognized but must be translated into modern Spanish for the average Spaniard to really enjoy it.

> Even you must smell something fishy there. Actually I don't
> mean "even" you but I appreciate it is a big step.

The only thing fishy I smell is the idea that Anglo-Saxon went from what it was 1100 AD to Middle English in 1400 AD. I'd never thought to really scrutinize that particular issue before hearing about your book, but yeah, That really looks fishy. It goes against even the orthodox view of linguistic change, and the only thing I can say in defense of linguists who have written so much based on this Anglo-Saxon to English assumption is that their worldview blinded them to the contradiction.

What seems more in line with modern linguistic theory is that either the degree of divergence of English from other Germanic languages suggest that it split off from them farther back in time than Spanish, French, and Portuguese split off from each other, that is, well over 2,000 or even 3,000 years ago. This means that the Anglo-Saxon language of 500 AD could not have been the same language as the English of the people who were then living in Britain.


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AOM: Anomoly One 137 AOM-Presenter 03-Apr-03 16:39
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 79 jameske 03-Apr-03 20:02
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 78 Doug 03-Apr-03 22:44
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 104 M J Harper 03-Apr-03 23:39
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Re: AOM: Anomoly One 105 M J Harper 10-Apr-03 14:29
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