> precise... imprecise... precise... precise... accurate... precise...
This is simply not the level of precision Harper is talking about.
There is a Family Resemblance relationship between all English speakers. There is no one thing that all English speakers have in common. They are all slightly different, but all basically the same. Each person overlaps with other people. The differences can even change for each individual.
But English speakers are nevertheless all clumped together in a group that is close to, but distinct from, say, German; and both of those are very far removed from Japanese, for instance. (There are Family Resemblances between whole languages, too.)
We're not talking about the micro-level differences; we're talking about the macro-level differences.
Linguists wouldn't have jobs if they didn't recognise this difference because the micro-level is, by definition, not fixed long enough to describe or study. When they do talk about the history of the language over, say, a few centuries, they talk about THE language, not a string of languages.
> > 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.
You've got the wrong end of the stick here. The 4 points that follow are "All arguments advanced in opposition to my [Harper's] thesis." Harper didn't say the things you argued with.
Actually, you've proved the case yourself because "be thou then taken aback" is old-fashioned, not foreign!
> This is the root cause of language change over time, meaning
> from generation to generation.
But natural languages are self-regulating systems. They exist as the shared practices of the community of users. Despite being invented by human beings and operating by agreement/convention, they are objective social/cultural conditions for every individual. You are not free to do whatever you like and still be speaking the language. (You are fee to do some things your way.) You can only understand or misunderstand parts of your own language because there is an objective fact of the matter, a correct meaning or grammar. Languages are highly stable because what each person learns is what went before. It's no coincidence that the language we use instinctively is understood by the people around us.
> 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.
It sounds like you're not really arguing at all then. But what's their excuse? They must be wrestling with a faulty paradigm - that has already blinded them.
> 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...
> ...Latin generally not considered a Romance language.
Then why is my dictionary chock full of etymologies citing Latin then French as precursors?
> ...it's learning it as a child when the change occurs
That's funny, because my son has picked up the patter of his chosen peer group, but as a child spoke the way he was taught.
> 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.
But how long will that take, bearing in mind that (as we have just seen) Chaucer is not that hard to read? (I find the fact that it is poetry to be the biggest hurdle, not the English he uses.)