Page 4 of 6 FirstFirst 1 2 3 4 5 6 LastLast
Results 31 to 40 of 54
  1. #31
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
    Frank Antonson is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Posts
    1,151
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    I think so.

    The loss is hard to accept if one has never had the option of using what has been lost.

    The shift in German from using "Sie" to using "du" is a social step to take. I can imagine how one might blush if that person thought that the shift had been taken too soon.

  2. #32
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    2,585
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Suppose then that the distinction was indeed serviceable. Under what circumstances might the English nonetheless have discarded it?

    It seems strange, for instance, that a linguistic feature that could very efficiently express social inferiority / superiority should have begun to disappear at a time (the 17th century) when traditional hierarchies were still well established.

    Or was it that the consolidated "you" was even more serviceable than the distinction, and provided a net gain?

    MrP

    Not a professional ESL teacher.

  3. #33
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
    Frank Antonson is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Posts
    1,151
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    WHY that happened is quite another question.

    I think that some of the earlier "decay" (in, say, case endings and gender) occurred because of the collision of Old Norse and Anglo Saxon prior to 1066.

    Frankly, I have never thought very hard about the WHY. I have such thought about the loss (something that I would not have appreciated had I not learned to speak languages which retain the distinctions within their pronoun systems).

    Do you have any possible explanation of WHY?

  4. #34
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
    Frank Antonson is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Posts
    1,151
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Oh, also, I don't think the distinction that I understand is as much one of superior/inferior as it is strange/familiar. There is a matter of intimacy.

  5. #35
    NikkiBarber's Avatar
    NikkiBarber is offline Junior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Academic
      • Native Language:
      • Danish
      • Home Country:
      • Denmark
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Posts
    93
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Antonson View Post
    Oh, also, I don't think the distinction that I understand is as much one of superior/inferior as it is strange/familiar. There is a matter of intimacy.
    I agree. In Danish I would address anyone not previously known to me (except for young children) with the 2. person plural pronoun. It wouldn't matter if I was talking to a homeless person or the Queen.

    Historically I'd be very interested to know why the distinction disappeared from the English language when it did, but I couldn't even begin to guess.

  6. #36
    NikkiBarber's Avatar
    NikkiBarber is offline Junior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Academic
      • Native Language:
      • Danish
      • Home Country:
      • Denmark
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Posts
    93
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic View Post
    That's interesting. I know that I've sometimes caused (or suffered) momentary confusion as a result of "you = 2nd person" vs "you = one", but I don't think I've found number problematic.

    MrP
    Of course using "you" only as a plural pronoun wouldn't help you single out four people in a group of six, but at least it distinguishes individuals from groups. Haven't you ever found yourself speaking to one person among several others and been understood as if you were addressing them all? Or vice versa? It might be a minor point, but since I consider the ability to make that distinction useful, I see the inability to do so as a loss.

    "You=one" is another problem for me. In my first language we have another word for "you" when it means "one." I don't know if there ever was a distinction in English, but if there was then I would consider its disappearance to be a loss as well.

    Maybe I am taking a pessimistic view of this, and I don't consider all developments in a language as losses, but some changes either aren't practical or are made for reasons that don't make sense. When the definition of a word is suddenly replaced with its former antonym simply because a lot of people used it wrong it is bound to cause confusion. I am not aware that this has happened recently to any English words, but it has happened to several in Danish and a change like that is another thing that I would label as decay.
    Last edited by NikkiBarber; 19-Jan-2011 at 08:32.

  7. #37
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
    Frank Antonson is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Posts
    1,151
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    I am more able to accept sudden changes in a word's definition than changes in grammatical structure.

    Fairly recently in Black English the word "bad" has taken on the meaning of "good". A word like "nice" through the years has been all over the place in its meaning.

    Slang is fine with me.

  8. #38
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    2,585
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Antonson View Post
    Do you have any possible explanation of WHY?
    I wonder myself whether the question is more circular than it seems. In effect, we are asking why "thou" disappeared from standard modern English; but it might be said that "thou" never had a place in standard modern English in any case, except in its religious and poetic uses.

    Or to put it another way, perhaps "thou" had its place in various forms of English as a working 2nd sing. till (say) the end of the 17th/beginning of the 18th centuries, at which point standard English began to establish itself. The latter continued to develop thou-lessly, while "thou" persisted in e.g. dialect forms (it can still be heard in some parts of the north of England).

    That seems to leave us with the question of why standard English had no real use for "thou"; but perhaps the kind of distinction "thou" represents was redundant, in the kinds of situation where standard English might be used.

    MrP

    Not a professional ESL teacher.

  9. #39
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    2,585
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by NikkiBarber View Post
    Haven't you ever found yourself speaking to one person among several others and been understood as if you were addressing them all? Or vice versa? It might be a minor point, but since I consider the ability to make that distinction useful, I see the inability to do so as a loss.
    I admit, I have no recollection of problems of this kind. That might simply be an error of memory; but on the other hand, I do remember that sometimes the "you/one" ambiguity has caused momentary confusions. If I remember the latter, I would have expected to remember the former, had they ever occurred.

    MrP

    Not a professional ESL teacher.

  10. #40
    5jj's Avatar
    5jj is offline VIP Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Posts
    28,167
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Mr P's last post raised a few questions that I can't begin to answer. My own feeling (and I stress the word) is that we have lost something in the disappearance of 'thou' rather similar to the loss we have in the replacement of 'Mr/Mrs/Miss X' by first names.

    When I worked in Germany in the 1960s and 1970s, the ritual(s) of moving from the equivalent of 'you' to that of 'thou', and from the equivalent of 'Mr X' to 'Jed' were important. When I returned to England in 1975, I missed the former; somewhere between 1970 and 1985 I noticed, with regret, the disappearance of the latter.

    The change is sociolological/psychological as much as linguistic, but I feel that we have lost more in the area of 'language as a useful sign of relationships' than we have gained in 'language as a pretence that we are all equal'.

Page 4 of 6 FirstFirst 1 2 3 4 5 6 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. [Grammar] Can we omit "is","am","are" in spoken english?
    By DEBASIS1983 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 24-May-2010, 12:42
  2. The English Future Tense: Progress or decay?
    By sveta774 in forum General Language Discussions
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 22-Jan-2010, 03:55
  3. Replies: 2
    Last Post: 08-Sep-2008, 08:27
  4. confusing words "expressed" or "express" and "named" or"names"
    By Dawood Usmani in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 26-Oct-2007, 19:33
  5. Grammar "related to" versus "relating to"
    By Anonymous in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 21-Jan-2004, 21:14

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •