On Thu, 9 Aug 2001 23:48:02 -0500, Thomas R. Wier
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>I am aware of this, but this begs the question of how you're defining the
>difficulty of properties in the first place.  Are you definining it by its
>to appear across all languages typologically, or are you asserting that the
>number of speakers of a language has is in some way related to its
>properties? If the latter, there are no studies which in any way show such
>a correlation. Note also that four of the six languages you mention are
>European;  how could this possibly be a representative sample?

Since the original posting by Danny Wier made the hipothesis of a causal
relation between the spread of English as a second language and mental
illness prevalency, I suppose the number of people involved in each
particular change from [each other language] to [English] is relevant; if
it could be proved that it is easier to the speakers of Somewherestanese to
learn English than it is to speakers of Elsewherestanese, and we had data
indicating that mental illness prevalency was lower in Somewheristan than
in Elsewheristan, Danny's hipothesis would be corroborated.

I don't believe that the number of speakers of a language is related to its
structural properties, though I think that there are some studies that
claim this to be true.

>> I am certain that Castillian does not have a lax/tense
>> opposition.
>That's true, but it does have a voiceless interdental fricative [T], which
>is one of the other supposedly difficult sounds you mentioned.

Yes. Still, I am not absolutely certain, but I have the feeling that a
foreigner mispronouncing "azucar" as "asucar" would have better chances of
being understood than a foreigner mispronouncing "think" as "sink".

>What does a language's tonality have to do with having a tense/lax
>distinction in its vowel inventory?  The two are entirely different:  tone
>is a supersegmental property, while tenseness is a segmental one.

Just that, for my personal difficulty of getting both tonality and
tense/lax opposition, I would find it very difficult. I believe that I
would tend to mispronounce all high pitched vowels as tense. Of course, I
am aware that the speakers of this language would find a language without
these features probably very difficult too.

>You seem to be confusing two different things here: schwa is a particular
>vowel (a particular arrangement of vocalic properties), while tenseness is
>a possible property of vowels.

Yes. My question is: how many different lax vowels are there in English?

>Don't Icelandic and Danish have the voiced interdental fricative [D]?
>Certainly, Mexican Spanish* regularly shifts intervocalic** voiced stops
>to their fricative counterparts:
>    /abogado/ 'advocate, lawyer'  --> [aBoGaDo]
>*(This regional dialect of Spanish has close to 100 million speakers, not
>matters typologically; it does say that "most foreigners" may be a much
>category than you think, though)

But is the distinction between /d/ and /D/ phonemical to them, or are they
just allophones? This could make things even more difficult. For instance,
Portuguese has only one post-vocalic rhotic phoneme. But it can be realized
as almost anything, according to the regional dialect (for instance: like
Castillian "r" in Rio Grande do Sul, like English (retroflex) in Sorocaba,
like French "r", like Castillian "j", English "h", German "ch"). This means
that a language that makes a phonemic opposition between post-vocalic
retroflex /r/ and post-vocalic aspirated /h/ will be more difficult (in
this particular issue) for a Portuguese native speaker than a language that
has only one post-vocalic rhotic, though different from all those usual in

>> Most of the remaining excerpts weren't written by me, but by the original
>> poster, Danny Wier, whose ideas I was criticizing.
>I also realize this.  I didn't see the original post. Can't I criticize
along with you?

Certainly, I think that this is the idea. But my posting was made to tell

1) I don't think English is a particularly difficult language;
2) I don't believe that the superceding of a native language by a foreign
one can be related to mental illness issues;
3) Even if 2) proved false, I don't believe English would have a stronger
impact to people's mental health than any other language.

So, I don't partake Danny's ideas on the matter, or, being more precise,
the ideas Danny stated on his original posting. Perhaps I am wrong, but I
got the feeling that you understood the opposite, and this is the reason I
answered to your post in a perhaps too much complaining way.

Luís Henrique