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Do you know why English language is superior to Spanish?


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Poll: Do you? (41 member(s) have cast votes)

Do you?

  1. Yes (12 votes [29.27%])

    Percentage of vote: 29.27%

  2. No (29 votes [70.73%])

    Percentage of vote: 70.73%

Did you answer no because you don't know or because you wanted to make the results look like English speakers do not consider Spanish as inferior?

  1. Because I don't know (21 votes [53.85%])

    Percentage of vote: 53.85%

  2. Because I think English is superior but I don't want public opinion to have a bad impression of English speakers. (4 votes [10.26%])

    Percentage of vote: 10.26%

  3. Furc you. (14 votes [35.90%])

    Percentage of vote: 35.90%

Vote Guests cannot vote

#61 cdoty   Members   -  Reputation: 452

Posted 14 June 2011 - 12:56 PM

Languages are tools, so how can one be 'better' in all cases?. English would be useless in a remote town in Mexico, for example.

English is a mix of a bunch of languages and it is full of special cases. From what I've seen of Spanish, it seems to have better structure, and rules.


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#62 cdoty   Members   -  Reputation: 452

Posted 14 June 2011 - 01:06 PM

Really??? My eight year old son understands the difference between your and you're (and so would most kids in his class). I think you underestimate native English speakers there.


I think this is more a matter of 'optimizations' our brains perform, rather than not understanding the difference. It's the same optimization that allows reading a completely misspelled paragraph:


Aoccdrnig to rseerach at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?

PS: Hwo'd yuo lkie to run tihs by yuor sepll ckehcer?

We pick the first word that matches the thought and 'your' is probably more common. I've done this plenty of times, and it's not from a lack of understanding the difference.

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#63 A Brain in a Vat   Members   -  Reputation: 313

Posted 14 June 2011 - 01:07 PM

Yes.

Or at least make finer distinctions between variations of the same concepts.

Generally, words of Norman derivation convey more finesse or refinement to a context than those of the Saxon/Danish. For example, in English we eat beef, pork, or poultry like Normans with our table cloths and fine silverware but we raise cattle, swine, and chickens like Anglo-Saxons mired in manure. Sure, beef and cattle are the same thing, but the different words convey subtly different meanings rooted in class differences.

Generally, all the nice things are Norman ("seduce") and the crass things are Anglo-Saxon ("fuck").

Those poor folk who speak only forn do not get this sort of richness.

Then I propose we immediately double the English language by instituting new forms of every single word. These new forms will have the implied meaning "I am underwater as I say this". We convey more information to the listener without having to have longer sentences in this way and thereby have a superior language!!

#64 Khaiy   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1342

Posted 14 June 2011 - 01:16 PM

Actually I suppose I misled you by saying Spanish was my "first language." I didn't mean to imply that I have only one native language. I learned English almost as early as I did Spanish and I use English at least as well as I do Spanish. An English speaker would never suspect I spoke Spanish and a Spanish speaker would never suspect I spoke English.

So, for what it's worth, which may not be very much, I can give the personal account of a person who is a native speaker of both English and Spanish. I do not find Spanish limiting with regard to word choice. I do, however, find Spanish much easier to read and especially write. That's not to say I have trouble with either -- the difference is noticeable, however. Moreover, I greatly enjoyed "English class" (which was grammar, spelling, etc) throughout my English-speaking school career, which was spread across many years, but it is a fact that I learned almost the entirety of what I know of Spanish spelling and grammar in one year (6th grade). English took me much longer.


I also enjoyed English class, because I enjoyed playing with grammar and experimenting with the connotations of words. But the courses themselves were not very focused on the rules, such as they are. It sounds like your schooling had a more rigid focus on those rules. They seem to have produced an excellent English writer. I don't know if that is necessarily a function of your education being focused explicitly on formal rules. But the fact remains that your written English, which is excellent, is at a higher level than most of the population. Your mastery, no matter how hard-won, falls more into the realm of elegance than pragmatism.

I certainly would prefer it if more American schools focused on effective use of English, and that might well be complicated and difficult for students. But my preference does not enforce a standard which reality does not care to meet. Excellent English does not appear to be required to be considered fluent in English.

I think it's erroneous to assume that the course a language naturally takes is the best path for it to take. By what logic do you derive this assertion? One problem this argument faces is that we lack an agreed upon definition of "best", but I don't think that assertion would hold for any definition other than "the one which followed the most natural path."

Even accepting that the natural path is the best for a language take, that would make English one of the worst in the world. We have so many words because of the Germanic and Latinate origins, as you know. This was not a natural course for a language to take. The Norman conquest of England can hardly be considered part of normal language evolution.

Furthermore, the vast majority of English words are unknown to most people. What good are these words that are unknown to most people? Granted, many of them convey ideas that rarely come up (whether because they're academic, or simply rare concepts, or other reasons) but should still exist. Wouldn't you agree that many are simply superfluous, though? Can't you agree that we don't need superfluous words?
begin (Germanic) vs commence (Latinate)
ask (Germanic) vs inquire (Latinate)
anger (Germanic) vs rage (Latinate)
bodily/corporal
dog/canine
leave/depart

I didn't think these up, I looked them up, but you can be sure that this list could be extended to cover hundreds, if not thousands, of synonyms. Why is it good to have the choice between "leave" and "depart"? Because it makes writing poetry easier? Same argument as before: if that's the case, let's just invent synonyms for every single word we currently have, thereby doubling the vocabulary, and we then will have a language that's twice as good! You keep on talking about this giant, aberrantly huge vocabulary as if it's a good thing. You feel that way because English is your native language. The rest of the world thinks it's idiotic, and I agree.


You're mistaken about natural language paths. English does not have any governing body like the Royal Academy of Language. The language changes because people adopt or adapt new words. I'm not asserting that a "natural evolution" of language is preferable to other approaches, but rather that there isn't an alternative for American English. English has a tradition of transforming itself through the common usage, which is itself informed by many other factors. You don't have to like it, but there is no top-down structure that can be enforced on English users. It's been tried, and thoroughly rejected in practice.

And it's not like languages are inherently pure. Spanish has some Arabic influence and various South American influences, depending on where you go. English is pretty promiscuous with taking on loan words, and tends not to bother "English-izing" them.

I might object to your use of the word "superfluous", as anything which is indeed superfluous is inherently defined as unnecessary, and therefore of course not needed. It's true that the functional vocabulary of any given person doesn't even approach the formal lexicon available to them. Words unknown tend to be words unused, unless some figure happens to find one useful or pleasant and re-popularizes it. But at any given time there are many words which are superfluous. You suggest getting rid of them. How would you go about doing so?

Besides, many of the examples you gave aren't superfluous in use. Anger and rage, while quite similar and both commonly used, are not strictly interchangeable; one suggests a lesser degree, for example. Canine is only ever used if a particular setting requires (arbitrarily) the presumed formality of Latin. Neither bodily nor corporal are much used in common speech, and when they are used at all corporal tends to imply deliberate punishment (as by an authority figure) while bodily suggests a detachment attempting objectivity, as in a police report. Commence is almost never used regularly, it exists in a largely traditional capacity. A lot of similarly defined words carry different meanings, even if only slightly, and many others are limited to specific fields or are legacy words-- basically dead today, but still appearing in older works.

I guess it doesn't matter what's in the list you provided, as there are undoubtedly words which share formal definition and usage, so there will be redundancy even in regular usage, though I think such correlation is rarer than you seem to. It's true that leave and depart are quite similar, but when is the last time you heard someone actually use the word depart outside of an airport? Depart may well be on its way out of the language. Not to mention that there isn't exactly a bright line for when something becomes so similar as to be redundant. Why have fracasar when you could have just no tener exito? Most words in any language will not be strictly necessary, and only become so as you want to express finer shades of meaning.

Your complaint that many words aren't used isn't one unique to English, even if English has the most. Nor does it say anything about the functional vocabulary of speakers. If the pool of words known by a speaker of one language is the same size as that of someone who speaks a different language, then the extra vocabulary is probably worthless. Same goes if the definitions and usages for all similar words are in fact the same. Doubling functional vocabulary does indeed increase the possible range of expression as long as there are differences between similar words. But words are created or adapted on demand, as people find them useful. I look at expanding my English vocabulary in the same way I look at expanding my Spanish vocabulary: I can express concepts more clearly and more artfully.


If you don't want to avail yourself of the fine distinctions English offers, you don't have to. But you can't assert that the distinctions never exist, nor demand that English should simply cull words. I could say that noun gender in Spanish offers nothing more than an arbitrary hurdle to learning, and doesn't offer any redeeming qualities except perhaps in writing poetry. Why doesn't Spanish just get rid of that?

Because we aren't building languages from scratch. If you want that, learn Esperanto. English has the burden of a legacy of permissivity on the part of language users, and unfortunately can't just shed its many, many issues. One of its few benefits when compared with other languages is the fineness of meaning that can be expressed without circumlocution. I don't know why that modest capability, so rarely employed, seems to offend you so deeply.

#65 A Brain in a Vat   Members   -  Reputation: 313

Posted 14 June 2011 - 01:17 PM

Then I propose we immediately double the English language by instituting new forms of every single word. These new forms will have the implied meaning "I am underwater as I say this". We convey more information to the listener without having to have longer sentences in this way and thereby have a superior language!!


Point being that this richness you speak of didn't come about through normal language evolution. It was artificially created, just as artificially as if we created the Underwater Tense.

#66 Khaiy   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1342

Posted 14 June 2011 - 01:31 PM


Then I propose we immediately double the English language by instituting new forms of every single word. These new forms will have the implied meaning "I am underwater as I say this". We convey more information to the listener without having to have longer sentences in this way and thereby have a superior language!!


Point being that this richness you speak of didn't come about through normal language evolution. It was artificially created, just as artificially as if we created the Underwater Tense.


So now you're onboard with natural linguistic evolution? The reason that we don't have an underwater tense is that it's not information which anyone has found it useful to convey. An underwater tense isn't much more ridiculous than a tense that indicates an action in the past which is still relevant in the present (I have taken a Spanish course vs. I took a Spanish course), except that people spend more time in the past than they do underwater.

You seem really angry about a large lexicon. Even if the OED has 500,000 words, a huge chunk of those will be field-specific (often Latin, and not any more English than "Famicom" is), and another massive chunk will be legacy words. It's not so crazy that an aberrantly large reference book like the largest possible OED (as opposed to Webster's desk reference) will go out of its way to collect words which are specifically not used anymore. If I'm reading a book from the 1850's, where else would I go to check the meaning of a word that is no longer part of the language? The largest possible dictionary does not represent the contemporary language.

You're cherry picking and misrepresenting information on the size of the English lexicon to make it seem absurd (even more absurd than a more accurate characterization would be, which would still be bloated). Then you're making a ridiculous demand that the language be expanded in an arbitrary, autocratic, and unnecessary way to characterize a process which expands the language as expansion is determined by its speakers to be useful. We don't need to create a new form of every single word because no one has found a need to differentiate between the meaning expressed by existing words and a meaning which is not yet succinctly conveyed.

#67 A Brain in a Vat   Members   -  Reputation: 313

Posted 14 June 2011 - 01:35 PM

If you don't want to avail yourself of the fine distinctions English offers, you don't have to. But you can't assert that the distinctions never exist, nor demand that English should simply cull words. I could say that noun gender in Spanish offers nothing more than an arbitrary hurdle to learning, and doesn't offer any redeeming qualities except perhaps in writing poetry. Why doesn't Spanish just get rid of that?

Because we aren't building languages from scratch. If you want that, learn Esperanto. English has the burden of a legacy of permissivity on the part of language users, and unfortunately can't just shed its many, many issues. One of its few benefits when compared with other languages is the fineness of meaning that can be expressed without circumlocution. I don't know why that modest capability, so rarely employed, seems to offend you so deeply.


I certainly can demand that English should cull words, and I do. :) I heartily agree that noun gender in Spanish is an arbitrary hurdle to learning and doesn't offer any redeeming qualities, and I demand that that be stricken as well!

I'm mostly joking. I like language, and I actually really enjoy the intricacies and peculiarities of English. I like learning about the strange etymologies.

That said, the conversation was about which language was "better", and I took that to mean "more utilitarian" rather than "more interesting". My opinion might be informed by the fact that I'm a programmer and therefore regularly deal with languages that exist only for very utilitarian purposes. It's not about pragmatism vs beauty either, because there's a certain beauty (to me, at least) to conciseness and precision. In my opinion a language that is more streamlined is a better language, but I admit it's entirely subjective.

I'd no sooner change the English language to make it more streamlined than I'd change a duck-billed platypus. I do, however, think that Spanish would be a more suitable World Language than English, should one have to be chosen, ignoring the preexisting pervasiveness of the latter. In fact I'd wager there are languages more suitable than Spanish, actually.

Anyway, we've beat this one into the ground, I think. Thanks for the interesting discussion. Sorry if I got a bit too fervent; I tend to do that.

#68 Bregma   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4823

Posted 16 June 2011 - 06:48 AM

You're mistaken about natural language paths. English does not have any governing body like the Royal Academy of Language. The language changes because people adopt or adapt new words. I'm not asserting that a "natural evolution" of language is preferable to other approaches, but rather that there isn't an alternative for American English. English has a tradition of transforming itself through the common usage, which is itself informed by many other factors. You don't have to like it, but there is no top-down structure that can be enforced on English users. It's been tried, and thoroughly rejected in practice.

English is an open source language. Maybe even free. Many other languages (French and Mandarin, fer shure, I don't know about others) are proprietary. Sure, there are English forks but they're pretty much all binary compatible.

This is the year of English on the desktop.
Stephen M. Webb
Professional Free Software Developer

#69 nilkn   Members   -  Reputation: 960

Posted 16 June 2011 - 07:22 PM

English, as a language, is horrible really; most 'native' speakers are unable to speak it correctly and most would certainly get the grammar wrong in its written form. Just look at the "your" and "you're" confusion which is common for example. Not to mention the two ways you can say 'the' depending on the content of the surrounding words.


The vast, vast majority of native English speakers definitely understand the difference between "your" and "you're." This isn't confusion. It's just an easy typo to make.

If anything, if there is genuine confusion, then it's confusion over spelling, not the actual grammar of the spoken language.




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