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Doug wrote:
> Orthodoxy says that English was influenced not just by
> Anglo-Saxon but also by the Norse/Danish and Scandinavian
> invasions.
> Harper admits his is a work of assertion. He fails to
> describe the 'orthodox' positins accurately and sets up
> strawmen. He doesn't even bother to tackle the real
> linguistic arguments.

Yes, I noticed this as well. Shame on him.

Strawman is a rhetorical tactic unworthy of scientific investigation. It involves the oversimplificaton of an opposing argument for the purposes of ridicule. It's easier to burn an effigy than a person. By describing the orthodox position inaccurately, you create a false image of the opposing argument which is easier to lambast. The audience, if they aren't attentive, thinks you're addressing the opposing argument and so they think you've won. Meanwhile, you haven't really addressed the opposing argument at all.

In an earlier post, Mr. Harper dismissed the linguistic evidence rather flippantly. I believe his words were "more art than science," and while there are aspects of linguistics which are more art than science, there are other aspects which are more science than art. The field of linguistics straddles the boundary between soft and hard science. By labelling the entire field as an art, oversimplifying, Mr. Harper is able to dismiss any linguistic evidence that doesn't support his claim, and there is, in my opinion having some expertise in the field, very little which does.

Mr. Harper has certainly introduced a novel idea into the History of English and England which demonstrates the ability to think outside the box and challenge orthodox theories which are quite often incorrect or incomplete, and he ought to be commended for that, but for his theory to be considered seriously, the linguistic evidence must be dealt with seriously.

Languages naturally change slowly over time, and different languages change at different rates depending on a wide range of different circumstances. Icelandic has changed relatively little from generation to generation due largely to the relative isolation of it's speakers. Other languages can change and have changed very rapidly from one generation to the next, such as in the case of pidgin languages.

Pidgin languages emerge when people who speak different languages come into close contact with each other for a period of generations. One of the parent languages is usually drastically simplified in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary, while vocabulary, pronunciation and sometimes aspects of grammar from other parent languages is included in a lingua franca that the parent generation uses to communicate with anyone who doesn't speak their native language.

Next, the subsequent generations learn this pidgin as their native language, or at least one of their native languages. The new pidgin language is no longer the drastically simplified lingua franca of the parent and grandparent but a full blown and complex language of it's own. In this way a language can change dramatically within a few hundred years to the point of being incomprehensible to speakers of the mother language (if any still speak it.)

My understanding of the orthodox view is that prolonged close contact between the West Germanic Anglo-Saxons in the south and the Scandinavians in the north led to the development of a Germanic lingua franca which after a few generations developed into a full blown Germanic based language, English.

That view is backed by a mountain of linguistic evidence, to which some contributors to this forum have alluded, and which Mr. Harper is too quick, in my opinion, to dismiss out of hand.

He doesn't make a strong case for his claim.


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Subject Views Written By Posted
AOM: Inertia 400 AOM-Presenter 25-Apr-03 13:28
Re: AOM: Inertia 274 Doug 25-Apr-03 16:56
Ignorance is Bliss 216 AOM-Presenter 25-Apr-03 17:54
Re: Ignorance is Bliss 242 Doug 25-Apr-03 19:52
Re: Ignorance is Bliss 258 hera 25-Apr-03 20:10
Off-hand Comment 276 AOM-Presenter 29-Apr-03 16:44
Re: Off-hand Comment 253 hera 29-Apr-03 17:35
Apologies 255 AOM-Presenter 29-Apr-03 19:26
Re: AOM: Inertia 232 M J Harper 25-Apr-03 18:38
Re: AOM: Inertia 275 nonconformist 26-Apr-03 20:05
Re: AOM: Inertia 194 M J Harper 29-Apr-03 17:42
Re: AOM: Inertia 225 DPCrisp 29-Apr-03 18:14
Re: AOM: Inertia 294 Dr. Sunil 29-Apr-03 18:29
Re: AOM: Inertia 238 jameske 29-Apr-03 18:51
Indus Valley Seals Deciphered 1431 Astikapati 29-Apr-03 21:44
Re: Indus Valley Seals Deciphered 391 Dr. Sunil 30-Apr-03 13:52
Re: AOM: Inertia 279 nonconformist 30-Apr-03 04:09
Re: AOM: Inertia 310 BrianAmbrose 30-Apr-03 10:46
Re: AOM: Inertia 250 Doug 30-Apr-03 13:15
Re: AOM: Inertia 345 M J Harper 30-Apr-03 15:40
Re: AOM: Inertia 213 Doug 30-Apr-03 17:22
Re: Stupidity vs Ignorance 245 Doug 25-Apr-03 21:20

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