Plus, we all know that the real reason English is so weird is because of the Chadic substrate.

Pete Bleackley
The Fantastical Devices of Pete The Mad Scientist -
Emily Semantic Recommendation -

-----Original Message-----
From: "J. 'Mach' Wust" <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Thu, 19 Nov 2015 6:27 pm
Subject: Re: [OT] McWhorter on why English is weird

On Wed, 18 Nov 2015 12:26:13 -0800, David Peterson wrote:

>It's a pop piece aimed at non-linguists for a very specific purpose.
>There are a number of points that, as a result, have been
>simplified. If the net gain is a positive one vis-à-vis its intended
>audience/purpose, though, that's fine in my book.

Not in my book. I have no issue with simplification. To the contrary,
I think expressing a complicated matter in simple terms is a high
art. However, simplification does not mean inaccuracy.

On Thu, 19 Nov 2015 13:15:44 +0100, BPJ wrote:

>Actually English is somewhat unusual in being so poorly mutually
>intelligible with its closest relatives. Basque and other isolates don't
>have any close relatives which they could be or are known to have been
>mutually intelligible with; English does. I'm tempted to guess that at
>least in writing English is as closely interintelligible with French as
>with Dutch and the Scandinavian languages, if not more.

I don’t know. As you have said yourself, another example of a
language that lacks interintelligibility with its closest relatives
might be French. Or German – I for one normally do not understand any
spoken Dutch (there have been rare exceptions, but then again, I have
had quite some knowledge about Dutch). But from what I understand,
English is in many aspects similar to a creole. Therefore, the
interintelligibility of English and its closest relatives should not
be compared to any pair of closely related languages, but to pairs of
a creole and its closest relatives.

On Thu, 19 Nov 2015 16:07:03 +0000, R A Brown wrote:

>More accurate would be to have pointed out that while all
>our neighbors will just have two words for "John is
>singing", we have to have three.  Then he could have
>explained that the inclusion of "is" is due to 'Celtic'
>(Brittonic) habits (Mae Ieuan yn canu), and have coupled
>that with the use "do" also as an auxiliary.

Celtic influence? German has a similar construction: «John ist am
Singen» – though it is not grammaticalized to the same extent as it
is in English.