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M J Harper wrote:
> Actually my position is that rate of change is largely
> irrelevant. It is agreed I think that Shakespeare spoke and
> wrote in English and that that language has a continuous,
> real existence from his day to mine.

It is often agreed that the sun sets, but it is actually the earth rotating on it's axis. You are the one actually moving relative to the sun's position, you YOU are the one who "sets." When you say "the sun sets" you are not being accorate or precise. Of course, for the sun setting or the earth spinning on it's axis, such inaccuracies aren't very meaningful except to astrologers, astronomers and astronauts. But, if we were speaking of the motions of the planets in the solar system, it would hardly be irrelevant.

In your case, you are referring to language and you say that rate of language change is irrelevant. It IS relevant and by saying it's not, you are being both inaccurate and imprecise.

The term used to refer to the language that Shakespeare spoke is "English," and the term used to refer to the language that you speak is also "English," but it does NOT follow that the two languages are the same, only that the terms used to refer to them is the same.

I doubt, for example, that your mother taught you to speak English with all the "thee's," "thy's," "thou's" and "thine's," unless you're from Upstate New York or Ohio. And if she did, it was long after you had learned your native dialect of English and this learning was part of becoming an educated English speaker. Your mother didn't teach you to speak English the same way Shakespeare's mother taught him to speak English, therefore it would be inaccurate to say the language that you speak and the language that Shakespeare spoke are the same.

The term used to refer to the language that Shakespeare spoke is "English," but to be precise, we use the term "Middle English" or if you prefer "Shakespearean English," (Middle English is actually dated to a couple hundred years before Shakespeare was born, which wouldn't be too imprecise since the time span from 1400 to 1600 is less than the time span between 1600 and 2000, but we're trying to be precise here, so "Shakespearean English.") The term used to refer to the language which you speak is "English," but, again, to be more precise, we use the term "Modern English."

So, to be accurate, the language you speak is not the same as the language Shakespeare spoke. And to be precise, not even the term used to refer to the language that Shakespeare spoke is the same as the term used to refer to the language that you speak.

> So if I wrote a book that put forward the proposition that
> Shakespeare spoke English and that I spoke English and that
> therefore we both spoke the same language, I would be taken
> aback if critics argued

Be thou then taken aback.

> 1. I don't accept that: there are loads of words you use that
> Shakespeare didn't and vice versa or

One has to wonder just how much Shakespeare you've read. Have you taken any Shakespeare classes at a college or university? Most courses begin by assuming you've already studied the differences in vocabulary that you're going to encounter in the text of the play, but some courses begin with a quick review of vocabulary because, lo and behold, Shakespeare uses many words and expressions that are no longer commonly used or understood by Modern English speakers.

Shakespeare's vocabulary was exceptional. A word count shows that he used between 20,000 to 25,000 words, depending on what you consider constitutes a distinct word. A good dictionary has 400,000 to 600,000 or more entries, so there are definitely a lot of words that Shakespeare never used, most of them, of course, are of relatively new invention, technical terms, proper names, etc.

The vocabulary of an average English speaker is somewhere between 10,000 and 70,000 words, there's a lot of controversy surrounding the issue so the total is necessarily vague. A college graduate is suppose to be able to use 60,000 words actively and understand 75,000 passively. So, 135,000 words, and yet a good dictionary lists over 400,000 entries.

The whole reason we have dictionaries is because some people use loads of words that you don't use. And this is comparing only Modern English speakers. To make matters worse, each entry multiple definitions, sometimes dozens, so each word has a "fuzzy penumbra" of meaning. When Mum teaches you the meaning of a particular word, she teaches you only one or a few, and you may not comprehend that meaning the same way that Mum did, and there are still more meanings that other people's Mums taught them, meanings which they may also have miscomprehended.

This is the root cause of language change over time, meaning from generation to generation. I'm sure you've played the game where one person reads a paragraph of a story, then that person recites what he remembers to another person and you work your way through a dozen people or so until your circle reaches back to the original person who read the story. You right it down and compare stories. You get something different, and sometimes surprisingly so, when the story has made it's rounds from "generation to generation."

In comparison, genetic change is much more stable than linguistic change.

> 2. I don't accept that; the phonograph was only invented in
> the ninteenth century so we don't know how Shakespeare
> pronounced his words or

We can guess fairly accurately, but we don't have proof. If your assertion is that you can prove you know exactly how Shakespeare pronounced his words, then the burden of proof is on you. Prove it.

> 3. I don't accept that: Shakespeare came from the West
> Midlands, you are from London ad we know from many sources
> that the two dialects were markedly diferent or
> 4.I don't accept that: the "Shakespearean" English you are
> referring to was likely a standardized version of the
> language just as Modern English is a standardized version of
> the native language each Englishman grew up with.

Fine, you don't believe it. I could give you example after example of authors who speak one dialect of English and yet their writing proves to be of a more standard variety. If you think you can prove how Shakespeare pronounced his native dialect and that such pronunciation is reflected in the words he wrote, then I challenge you to prove it.

> All arguments advanced in opposition to my thesis.
> The rate of change only becomes relevant FOR ORTHODOXY who
> believe that Anglo-Saxon changed into English and Latin into
> French in a period of time time roughly analogous from the
> time that separates Shakespeare to ourselves.

It is true that the majority of historians and even linguists believe that English is derived from Anglo-Saxon and that the language changed drastically between 1100 AD and 1400 AD, but they do so in spite of orthodox linguistic theory which, more in line with what you maintain, claims that languages don't change that drastically in such a short time.

On the other hand, no linguist or historian (or at least no respected ones I know of) claim that the various Romance languages including French developed from Latin "in a period of time roughly analogous from the time tat separates Shakespeare to ourselves." If that was not a misunderstanding or prevarication on your part to say so, then it was a deliberate misrepresentation.

> Which reminds me that I have been reproved for a couple
> things that I honestly thought were Holy Writ. French,
> Spanish, Italian, Portuguese (and others) are called the
> "Romance Languages" because they came from Roman (i.e.
> Latin); Latin America is called that for the same reason. Now
> I am being told something different. I do address this in the
> book but if anyone wants to take issue here I'm more than
> willing to re-state the case.

You are mistaken here as well, first because it's not "Holy Writ" in any sense of the word, and secondly because Latin generally not considered a Romance language.


The Romance languages were languages that were related to Latin, not derived from it but like Latin derived from a previous spoken language (for which we have no records) at the same time that Latin was the official language of the Empire. It was the official language of the Empire and the native language of Romans who lived in or grew up in Rome (hence all of the letters written BACK to Rome from Romans in distant lands would likely have been in that dialect and NOT in the dialect native to that area.)

> And on the subject of Latin, Nonconformist's statement "There
> were records of Latin spoken during the height of the Roman
> Empire after which Latin "died," became fixed,
> discontinued..." is to put it mildly disingenous.

The term "dead" refers to a language that no longer changes. It no longer changes because it is not taught as a living native dialect but only as an official or standard dialect.

> We have records in Latin going back to the sixth century BC,
> we have records of Latin at the height of the Empire, we have
> records of Latin from the sixth century AD, we have records
> of Latin in the twenty-first century AD, and in all that
> time, it changed not one whit, not one jot, not one word, not
> one bit of syntax, not one bit of grammatical structure (OK,
> OK, Cicero introduced a rhetorical flourish or two and
> Gregory of Tours made an error or two but still...)

Now, this is what I, to put it mildly, disingenuous or hopelessly naive. I suggest you enroll as soon as possible in a class entitled something like "History of the Development of the Latin Language" at your nearest major university. The course may not be offered everywhere and it may not be offered every semester. You'll learn how the language changed from archaic times into the Classical Latin taught at most colleges and universities around the world and how that language changed into Ecclesiastical Latin in the Middle Ages. After that time, children were no longer taught that language by their mommies, although I suppose it's possible that one of the native dialects of Rome was derived from Latin.

A language is considered "living" only when it is learned as a native language (meaning in a native dialect) by children. Once Latin became the official language of the Empire, children who grew up having learned a different dialect had to learn the standard dialect at age. When everyone who learns the language learns it at age, the language no longer changes (because it's learning it as a child when the change occurs) and the language is considered "dead."

This happened in Rome some time after the Classical Latin dialect became the official language of the Empire. It was not necessarily the official language of all the mommies in the Empire so they continued to teach their children a non-standard version until, generation after generation, the standard version is considered a completely different language from any living languages currently spoken.

> All youse guys who've spent the last two days queuing up to
> inform me how languages change might ponder that and give me
> your explanation.
> Me, I have to explain nothing because in my book Latin was
> always a dead language, like Hebrew, like Sanskrit, like
> Classical Arabic, like Shakespearan English, that is used for
> purposes where being unchanged and unchangig is the point. It
> was never a spoken language in the ordinary sense at all, so
> certainly could not have given rise to French, Spanish etc.
> But I'm pepared to listen to your version.

Well, I'm having some difficulty understanding your point of view here. How do you define the difference between a "living" and a "dead" language? Whenever you write something down, it remains unchanged from that point on, but a few generations later, your descendants may think of it as archaic, and they may not understand parts of it. As time goes on, their descendants will understand less and less of it because their mommies were not your mommy and their mommies never taught them a "dead" langauge.


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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
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 105 Nobody 04-Apr-03 01:07
Cymri 194 nonconformist 04-Apr-03 04:59
Re: AOM: Anomaly One 92 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 96 M J Harper 04-Apr-03 12:56
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 111 DPCrisp 04-Apr-03 13:27
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 107 HectorChico 04-Apr-03 14:58
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 111 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 116 AOM-Presenter 05-Apr-03 04:57
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 126 nonconformist 05-Apr-03 08:56
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 116 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 101 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 115 AOM-Presenter 10-Apr-03 16:01
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Re: Pronounciation 108 AOM-Presenter 10-Apr-03 18:35
Re: Pronounciation 120 DPCrisp 11-Apr-03 09:39
Re: Spellinge 86 DPCrisp 10-Apr-03 16:34
Re: Spellinge 131 stickler 10-Apr-03 17:34
Re: Spellinge 103 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 110 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 101 M J Harper 08-Apr-03 18:10
Re: AOM: Anomoly One 86 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 110 nonconformist 12-Apr-03 03:46

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