Saturday, 22 October 2016

Some Linguistics on Quora (III, still fun)

1) Some Fun on Quora, I · 2) Some Fun on Quora, II · 3) Some Linguistics on Quora (III, still fun) · 4) Creationism vs Evolutionism on Quora, IV, still fun · 5) Medieval Related, Mostly, on Quora (part V)

What language did they speak in the holy Roman empire?

Latin and German.

Latin both in Ecclesiastic and in Provençal versions. German both in “High Dutch” and “Low Dutch” versions.

I’m supposing you mean Ottonian and not Byzantine or Russian claims of being Holy Roman Empire.

Why are ancient and modern Greek so similar while Latin split into several languages?

I am not sure that modern Greek is really more similar to ancient Greek than Italian or Romanian to Latin.

As to split into several languages, I think Modern Greek, Pontic and Tzakonian are three languages, probably as far apart as Spanish and Portuguese from each other.

That said, lots of Greek words do retain the same spelling (with a very cnhanged, itacistic etc pronunciation). This was done with Latin too up to Alcuin. In Gaul.

Then Alcuin imposed on Liturgic Latin pronunciation a change, nearly as if Greek Church had started using Erasmian pronunciation. Difference, Erasmus had reconstructed by reasoning, Alcuin was heir of the way Latin was pronounced by Italians of four centuries earlier (perhaps some simplifications too), since that is how Latin had been taught as a foreign language among the English.

THEN this new pronunciation of Latin was not understood, sermons were introduced in order to translate one kind of Latin (the liturgical and grammatically correct one) into another kind of Latin (the spoken one). THEN priests started preparing for the sermons, and sound-letter correspondences used in simpler liturgic pronunciation were reused in trying to write how popular Latin of Gaul was pronounced. THEN this gave rise to Provençal and French and THEN the example was followed further south.

Note that Greek has been keeping a middle register between extreme Dhimotiki and totally pure Katharévousa, while this middle register was lost in the process above described.

Could someone tell of the differences/similarities between polysynthetic and agglutinative languages?

I would say all polysynthetic languages are either agglutinative or flexional. And I’d say all flexional languages are at times agglutinative.

So the difference is between a particular type of agglutinative language and other ones.

The “synthetic” of “polysynthetic” refers to precisely same thing as agglutinative, namely putting together morphemes. The “poly” refers to how many you can put together in one word.

One way of seeing it would be that if you can “glue together” (what agglutinative means) or put together (what synthetic means) ten or more morphemes in a single word, your language is polysynthetic.

However, that would make Sanskrit and Turkish polysynthetic, which is not how the word is usually used.

A more useful way is saying that if the verb can include the morpheme for its object nouns (for what is its object noun in translation) you are dealing with polysynthesis.

For instance, in certain Amerindian languages, a noun can simply be inserted into a slot of the verb matrix.

Or in Greenlandic and presumably other Esquimeau-Aleutic languages too, a noun stem can be stem of a derived verb, which adds a verb ending to the noun stem, and that verb ending does not exist as an independent verb.

Example : build a house or build an igloo is a verb which begins with the stem for igloo and adds an ending meaning “make” or “build” to that stem, which ending with the word is then a new word meaning “build an igloo”.

There are also nominalising endings, so there is a noun which means “material for building an igloo” or “snow fit to build an igloo with”, derived from previous verb.

And then there is a verb ending which means “look for”, which can be attached to either igloo or this longer noun which means snow fit to build an igloo with.

So, if you are tired, you can say “I am looking for an igloo” (igloo+looking for+verb endings corresponding to “I am”). But if you are homeless in Greenland, you can say “I am looking for snow to build an igloo with” (igloo+build/make+material+looking for+verb endings corresponding to “I am”).

I’d say Greenlandic is THE great example of polysynthetic grammar, just as Chinese is THE great example of the opposite. If the possibilities of derivation remind very much of Greenlandic, its polysynthetic.

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