At 9:13 pm -0500 10/3/01, Nik Taylor wrote:
>David Peterson wrote:
>> And, of course, classifications such as "older" and "younger" do
>> apply. Things like "more or less conservative" are total judgment
>What? If you're talking about synchronically, then "older" and
>"younger" ARE judgment calls,
Quite clearly they are. At what point did continental Saxon become Old
English? When did Old English become Middle English? when did old
British become Middle Welsh? When did Middle Welsh become Modern Welsh?
>even more so than "more" or "less"
>conservative, which simply means "exhibiting fewer or more changes".
Which, of course, is measurable!
One can, e.g. take the Katherevousa version of modern Greek & the Demotic
version and compare features with Attic Greek of the 5th cent. BC. It can
easily be shown (and quantified) that Katherevousa has markedly more in
common with ancient Attic than the Demotic has; the difference can be
demonstrated quite objectively.
If one compares modern Icelandic with Old Norse, and compares modern
Norwegian with Old Norse, being able to demonstrate whether modern
Icelandic is more or less conservative than modern Norwegian is not exactly
difficult! The criteria are objective.
>say that a language is older than another, you have to decide what point
>counts as the "beginning" of that language. When did "English" start?
>Old English is traditionally dated from the Anglo-Saxon Invasion in AD
>450, but it's not like they suddenly stopped speaking a dialect of West
>Germanic and began to speak Old English at that point!
Of course not; and you can bet your bottom dollar that people living at the
periods somewhat arbitrarily chosen as the traditional dates for these
diachronic "beginnings" weren't aware of this at the time. No one woke up
one day and said "Hey, I'm speaking Old French now, but only the other day
it was Gallo-Romance!"
A mind which thinks at its own expense
will always interfere with language.
[J.G. Hamann 1760]