I agree with David, it is obvious that it's directed at complete laymen --
perhaps even teenagers -- who can't be expected to know even traditional
grammar and it states what it is supposed to be an antidote to. Given those
preconditions it's rather well thought out. Perhaps he overdoes the idea
and style a bit, anxious to not come across as patronizing.

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.

Actually my main beef is that I think he understates the degree of mutual
intelligibility between Old English and Old Norse and blames OE/ON language
contacts for things which should be chalked down to loss of unstressed and
stressed vowel distinctions internal to OE itself. (After all people could
translate names like Óttarr > Ohthere, Ólafr > Ānlaf, Æþelstān >
Aðalsteinn, which means that at least linguistically gifted individuals
could grok the relatedness of the two languages. Others though mrely
transliterated Sveinn as Swegen /swejen/). It would have been pretty hard
to maintain gender distinctions when all inflectional differences were
lost. In Dutch and some Scandinavian dialects including standard Swedish
and Danish the grammatical distinction between masculine and feminine was
lost because of loss of inflectional distinctions. Nobody blames that on
language contact, although in the case of Swedish contact with Danish may
in fact be partially responsible, and the same seems to have hppened to
masc./neuter. in Romance. In fact I think m./f. wiuld have merged in French
if adjectives hadn't kept and even extended distinct f. forms in the

But would my very science-talented but linguistically uninterested
17-year-old bother to understand that? Certainly not! Would he understand
the message of McWhorter's essay? Certainly if the tone acrually is cheeky
enough to sustain his interest!

onsdag 18 november 2015 skrev David Peterson <[log in to unmask]>:

> Mark, you do not need to feel bad for sharing this link. Honestly, no idea
> why people are going nuts over this. Conlangers seem to have a rather
> selective memory and random spats of outrage.
> The author of this is linguist John McWhorter, who I'd think the older
> conlangers should remember. He's my former professor from Berkeley—the one
> who gave me the green light to do the pidginization experiment that led to
> Wasabi (the language birth class) and later Kele, now Kelenala. All of this
> has been discussed on the list. Most recently, he's the one who did this
> video on conlanging for TED, which I still think is a fine introduction to
> and defense of conlanging:
> Reading this article, everyone should be immediately aware after a couple
> of paragraphs what its purpose is and who it's aimed at. Specifically, it's
> aimed at people who think:
> -English is normal and foreign languages are weird, so why doesn't
> everyone learn English.
> -English is so much simpler than foreign languages, so immigrants who
> don't learn it must be lazy.
> 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. That's the whole point of a popular article written
> by a researcher—and it's worlds better than a "scientific" article written
> by someone who has no idea what they're talking about, like the recent
> article about how the Australian accent descends from drunkards.
> Sent from my iPhone
> > On Nov 18, 2015, at 11:54 AM, Mark J. Reed <[log in to unmask]
> <javascript:;>> wrote:
> >
> > ... ok then.  I'll just be going back to lurk mode over here...
> >
> >> On Wed, Nov 18, 2015 at 2:32 PM, R A Brown <[log in to unmask]
> <javascript:;>> wrote:
> >>
> >>> On 18/11/2015 18:17, And Rosta wrote:
> >>>
> >>>> On 18 Nov 2015 13:46, "J. 'Mach' Wust" wrote:
> >>>>
> >>>>
> >>>> On Sun, 15 Nov 2015 18:02:52 -0500, Mark J. Reed
> >>>> wrote:
> >>>>
> >>>> I think this is a nice layman's introduction to the
> >>>>> English language's checkered past:
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>>
> >>>>
> >>>> I don’t like it. It seems to me he is also “merely
> >>>> following in a long tradition of sunny, muscular
> >>>> boasts”.
> >>>
> >>> That was my feeling too. The one thing that piqued my
> >>> interest is the claim that English is highly unusual in
> >>> not having a sister language it's mutually
> >>> semi-intelligible with, so that the monoglot anglophone
> >>> experiences a far greater sense of isolation and
> >>> exclusion from the realm of other languages. But how
> >>> unusual is English in that regard? Hungarian, Japanese,
> >>> Greek, Albanian (unless Gheg and Tosk are only mutually
> >>> semi-intelligible?), Basque -- and surely there are many
> >>> others equally isolated.
> >>
> >> Yep - and all except Japanese are *European* languages - the
> >> author seems to concentrate on Europe.  So English not quite
> >> so highly unusual in this respect even within Europe.
> >>
> >> Outside of Europe, besides Japanese in Asia there's Ainu,
> >> Burushaski, Korean and several others, in Africa at least
> >> Bangime, Hadza and Sandawe and probably several others; in
> >> New Guinea alone there are many, as there are in north and
> >> south America.
> >>
> >> OK in some places people have not been content to remain
> >> monoglot.  But in many cases it is bilingualism in two such
> >> languages, e.g. Ainu and Japanese    ;)
> >>
> >> Also, unlike most (all?) the above examples, English is not
> >> exactly a "language isolate"!  Even a monoglot anglophone in
> >> France, e.g. will see many familiar words   ;)
> >>
> >>
> >> --
> >> Ray
> >> ==================================
> >>
> >> ==================================
> >> "Ein Kopf, der auf seine eigenen Kosten denkt,
> >> wird immer Eingriffe in die Sprache thun."
> >> [J.G. Hamann, 1760]
> >> "A mind that thinks at its own expense
> >> will always interfere with language".
> >
> >
> >
> > --
> > Mark J. Reed <[log in to unmask] <javascript:;>>