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Obviously, language does change rapidly -- but it also stays the same.

Taking the "language changes" ball and running with it (too far), you ought to reach the conclusion that there are as many variants of English as there are individuals speaking it. It's a little different for all of us. No wait... I don't speak the way I used to... Each of us actually speaks a few variants in a lifetime. But then, with nothing in common between us, there is no shared language to speak of at all.

That obviously isn't right.

Nor is it right to say languages don't change. But it might be more helpful to recognise that langauge diversifies -- and rather quickly. New technologies and social systems, new slangs, new pronunciations, more communication channels requiring more varieties of language styles to suit their purposes... But all the old ways of speaking still count as valid forms of English. The dictionaries couldn't cite any archaic English words otherwise!

It depends on the "level of magnification" you're using as to how static or dynamic you consider the language to be. Harper is talking about the grand scale: everybody in the English-speaking world can understand every other, across large expanses of space and time. Of course there will be cases where accents, slangs and so on cause difficulty, but they can be overcome by speaking slowly, choosing your words, dropping your jargon, writing it down... that sort of thing. (Changing your use of language to suit the hearer in order to be understood.)

But with a foreign language, no amount of putting yourself in the other person's shoes will help: you just don't speak the language. [Excepting, of course, that some times, with a closely related language, you will find a form of words that is recognised by the other. And there are yet more cases where you'll know what the other person is saying from his body langauge and gestures. All of this is fine detail, not relevant to the current argument.]

How we determine the point at which ancestral English speakers could communicate this freely with ancestral German speakers is another matter...

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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 79 Doug 03-Apr-03 22:44
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 105 M J Harper 03-Apr-03 23:39
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 79 Nobody 04-Apr-03 00:16
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 76 M J Harper 04-Apr-03 00:29
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 106 Nobody 04-Apr-03 01:07
Cymri 196 nonconformist 04-Apr-03 04:59
Re: AOM: Anomaly One 93 nonconformist 04-Apr-03 03:31
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 97 M J Harper 04-Apr-03 04:17
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 108 nonconformist 04-Apr-03 05:20
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 93 Doug 04-Apr-03 06:47
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 122 HectorChico 04-Apr-03 10:26
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 97 M J Harper 04-Apr-03 12:56
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 113 DPCrisp 04-Apr-03 13:27
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 107 HectorChico 04-Apr-03 14:58
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 113 M J Harper 04-Apr-03 16:30
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 69 AOM-Presenter 04-Apr-03 16:31
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 130 nonconformist 05-Apr-03 02:15
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 117 AOM-Presenter 05-Apr-03 04:57
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 126 nonconformist 05-Apr-03 08:56
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 117 M J Harper 07-Apr-03 02:24
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 96 nonconformist 07-Apr-03 07:17
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 108 AOM-Presenter 07-Apr-03 15:00
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 72 nonconformist 08-Apr-03 00:27
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 99 M J Harper 08-Apr-03 01:01
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 116 nonconformist 08-Apr-03 03:50
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 94 DPCrisp 08-Apr-03 13:52
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 65 M J Harper 08-Apr-03 15:05
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 102 nonconformist 10-Apr-03 02:10
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 144 stickler 10-Apr-03 10:09
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 99 DPCrisp 10-Apr-03 10:59
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 88 stickler 10-Apr-03 12:32
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 116 AOM-Presenter 10-Apr-03 16:01
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 119 DPCrisp 10-Apr-03 16:47
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 116 stickler 10-Apr-03 17:26
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Re: Spellinge 106 stickler 10-Apr-03 15:50
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Re: Pronounciation 110 stickler 10-Apr-03 17:33
Re: Pronounciation 108 AOM-Presenter 10-Apr-03 18:35
Re: Pronounciation 121 DPCrisp 11-Apr-03 09:39
Re: Spellinge 87 DPCrisp 10-Apr-03 16:34
Re: Spellinge 131 stickler 10-Apr-03 17:34
Re: Spellinge 105 DPCrisp 11-Apr-03 09:47
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 105 M J Harper 10-Apr-03 14:29
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 105 AOM-Presenter 10-Apr-03 15:16
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 93 DPCrisp 11-Apr-03 11:35
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 89 nonconformist 11-Apr-03 22:19
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 111 nonconformist 11-Apr-03 22:33
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 94 Doug 12-Apr-03 08:21
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 84 Doug 08-Apr-03 17:20
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 102 M J Harper 08-Apr-03 18:10
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 87 Doug 08-Apr-03 21:23
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 84 M J Harper 08-Apr-03 22:23
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 106 M J Harper 10-Apr-03 14:10
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 86 stickler 10-Apr-03 15:39
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 81 M J Harper 10-Apr-03 16:30
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 107 stickler 10-Apr-03 17:52
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 81 M J Harper 11-Apr-03 22:37
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 111 nonconformist 12-Apr-03 03:46


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