On Wed, 8 Aug 2001 21:47:10 -0500, Thomas R. Wier
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>Actually, no.  German is spoken by some 128 million people, if you include
>second language speakers.  I believe Standard German has a three-way
>contrast between lax vowels, tense short vowels, and tense long vowels,
>but I can't think of a good minimal triplet at the moment.  (Henrik, are
>reading this?)

I stand corrected, at least until somebody else (Henrik?) disagrees with

>I'm sure there are also other widely spoken languages with a tense/lax
>distinction.  I gather that it's a fairly common distinction in Nilotic
>of Sub-saharan Africa.

I am sorry; when I wrote "widely spoken languages", I meant the "big six":
Castillian (Spanish), Russian, Arabic, Hindi and Chinese, besides of
English, of course. I am certain that Castillian does not have a lax/tense
opposition. Since Chinese is a tonal language, I am afraid even to think
what it would sound like if it had this distinction... :). I don't know the
other three, but AFAIK Arabic has only /a/ /i/ /u/, and Russian doesn't
have a lax/tense opposition.

In more detail about lax/tense, some posters seem to imply that ALL lax
vowels are schwas - but in this case, is there sense in talking about a
lax/tense opposition? And the unrounded back (as u in "bus"), is it a
schwa? or is it not lax?

>Mandarin Chinese and Hindi both have "cacuminal" (by this I take it you
>mean retroflex) /r/.  That accounts for about a billion people between
>I believe Bengali has one, too, which would move that figure up to about
>1.2 billion people.

OK. I was probably being westerncentric. Let me restate it as "th", "ng"
and retroflex /r/ are difficult form most foreigners in Europea or America.

>Indeed, usually the foreign diacritics are borrowed along with the
>word itself, until such time as the word becomes nativized.

Except for those whose keyboards don't support diacritics, of course.

Most of the remaining excerpts weren't written by me, but by the original
poster, Danny Wier, whose ideas I was criticizing. The main exception is
the following:

>> Or mental illness in Ireland can be caused by Irish government efforts to
>> reinstate Gaelic as a national language?

To which you answered:

>I don't see how one could characterize helping a dying language to be a
>example of 'mental illness'.  Naive, perhaps, if they think that the State
>can do something about it, but not mentally ill.

My point was, of course, a rethorical question made to underline precisely
the fact that English expansion and other languages retreat is not always
felt as an opressive thing by speakers of these latter.

In a few words, I agree with most of your criticism. My post intended to
state that I see nothing particularly crazy in English language; the
mention to the lax/tense opposition and to the four "weird" phonemes were
concessive arguments ("yes, they have these awful things, but, still...").
And if there is nothing specially crackpoted about English language, the
only way its expansion could relate to mental illness would be the fact
that it is actively replacing other languages - and in this case, we should
look for mental illness data for Ireland, Catalunya, Euzkadi and Galícia to
prove/disprove Danny's hipothesis.

And, for the records, I bet a poisson a la belle meuniére against a Big Mac
that there is nothing really wrong with mental health in these places as
opposed to regions where language issues are less traumatic.

Hope I don't sound like speaking Greek with Creek accent...

Luís Henrique