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  1. #1
    Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim is offline Senior Member
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    Default The Grammar and the Lexicon

    The Grammar and the Lexicon
    The Grammar and the lexicon of a particular language go opposite directions. The more the vocabulary grows the easier the grammar will be. Do you agree? Isn't it happening to English?

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    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: The Grammar and the Lexicon

    Is that a causal relationship?

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    Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: The Grammar and the Lexicon

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Is that a causal relationship?
    What I want to say is there is some kind of relationship. Maybe lexical communication is easier than grammatical. I mean the two can't go the same direction to be become more complex. Communication would be difficult. We are witnessing a much more dynamic process in vocabulary than in grammar. New words are coined nearly on a daily basis. Does this mean the victory of lexicon over grammar?

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    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: The Grammar and the Lexicon

    In the case of English, I think the grammar will tend towards greater simplicity as it becomes more internationalised, and this may well require greater lexis to compensate.

  5. #5
    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: The Grammar and the Lexicon

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim View Post
    The Grammar and the Lexicon
    The Grammar and the lexicon of a particular language go opposite directions. The more the vocabulary grows the easier the grammar will be. Do you agree? Isn't it happening to English?

    There isn't a clear-cut answer to your question. One question that pops in my mind is: what is easy grammar (in a lingua franqua)? Easy to whom, or easier than what? Is English grammar easier than French? Language and culture are interdependent, a French beginner interprets the English language through their own culture-based grammatical patterns, and the 'easiness/simplicity' of the English grammar could be exactly what poses difficulties to their understanding. This is why expressing the English future through the present tense is often an issue with learners of English. Likewise, a whole complex phrase could be used by a foreigner to translate one single English word, such as 'pride'.

    Arguably, the relationship between grammar and lexikon, as between thought and language, is a symbiotic one. Let's exclude cultural influences and see this symbiosis as stemming from within one and the same culture, since language is a culture construct. In this case, a word's semantic value depends on the convergence between modifiers, determinent, syntax and so on (ex: 'he wore black', 'the black' , 'black-market'...). A grammatical pattern is, in turn, vaucuous without the significance embedded in nouns. Words alone often make little to no sense without flexible grammatical structures, which sometimes make up for the absence of a particular word or phrase due to the "grammatical ambiguity" in language. In other words, with few words one can express deep thought and convey various meanings for the sentence as a whole (ex: 'Do you play cards' - can mean different things). There is always an answer to the limitation of language - when words are not enough, grammar often compensates for that lack, and viceversa. A famous linguist, Whorf ,was amazed that the Hopi language has no words for past, present, and future. However, they have a sense for the continuum of time despite having no words to specifically describe past, present, and future.

    Not to mention the aesthetic answer to the limitation of language (tropes such as: 'time is money' - with three words you say a lot). Also, a single word's semantic field can be expanded in various ways (conversion and so on) to meet our need for expression. So, how can we readily infer that the expansion of the E lexikon is imperative for an effective communication?

    With English becoming the medium of expression in a worldwide "society", both grammar and lexikon are subject to change: different grammar patterns converge, new words will be coined, borrowed from other cultures, other words will become obsolete. Just like with dialects in a language, culture-based grammatical distinctions may have a more or less strong impact on the English language, on the way the word is thought of - and on the evolution of grammar. My question is: is English going to be one single worldwide language, or will it develop into a medley of Englishes (English for trading purposes, English.com, youth English, local Englishes or 'dialects' based on national particularities). How is this going to affect the grammar and lexikon of the English language as we know it? On the other hand, there can be considerable social pressure on people worldwide to conform to the 'standard' English dialect. People can have trouble getting jobs, get poorer marks in school, etc. all because they speak a different dialect, and people judge them harshly because of their speech. Black English, for instance, has the "double negatives" and the "missing be" (zero copula) - which are major but stubborn deviations from the mainstream E grammar. The need for individuality of expression makes models and rules impossible. As it is now, OED (the Oxford English Dictionary) is losing ground, and other (American?) linguistic institutions come to the fore.

    I know, Dr. Jamshid, that you believe in the dictatorship of the majority.
    How are these social phenomena going to affect the evolution of E grammar and lexikon in the long run, across generations?
    Last edited by bianca; 25-Jul-2007 at 10:02.

  6. #6
    Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: The Grammar and the Lexicon

    How are these social phenomena going to affect the evolution of E grammar and lexikon in the long run, across generations?


    Of course Bianca there is grammar in vocabulary still consider:
    1. The loss of grammatical gender
    2. The loss of verb endings except s TPS: he comes
    3. The list of irregualr verbs have indeed become smaller especially in American English: dreamed vs dreamt
    4. English lexicon has undergone more changes than grammar recently.
    5. BBC English and AmE are now giving way to a global version: Globish. Mixing all English versions.
    6. Lexically speaking English is said to be the richest in the world now.

    To meet the needs of a global language some standard English will continue to be the medium of communication I believe but of course new dialects or registers as you mentioned will develop. The question is: how far can E lexicon develop independently of grammar? Are we going to have a lexical English?

  7. #7
    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: The Grammar and the Lexicon

    I think that English speakers have always been quick to "steal" a good word when they hear one. If there is no handy word to steal, they are also quick to come up with new ones or mangle old ones until they suit their purpose. This makes English a highly versatile language, perhaps a "lexical English" as you put it (unlike other languages that try to block foreign influences, such as French). But I am not sure how grammar will withstand the test of multiculturalism.

    It seems to me that, when speaking of grammar, you refer to verbs and tenses alone. Isn't grammar also about semantic change, about the system of inflections, phonology, morphology and syntax, and word formation? If so, word formation as an approach to building the lexicon is an attribute of grammar. I see lexicon and grammar as two inseparable siblings, or a relationship of duality between them (rather than dichotomy). People do not just blurt out isolated words, they combine them into phrases and sentences, in which the meaning of the combination can be inferred from the meanings of the words and the way they are arranged. If grammar is going to become simplified as you mentioned, I doubt words alone through their increasing number will compensate for this simplification and still be able to create meaning in language. Words are the building blocks in a language, they are not themselves language.

    bianca
    Last edited by bianca; 27-Jul-2007 at 08:23.

  8. #8
    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: The Grammar and the Lexicon

    Why discuss changes in grammar and lexikon as though language change is strictly about this?

    We can shed light on these two aspects of language but adding a new dimension to it: speech versus thinking. Effective communication is also an attribute of thinking and speech. We think faster than we speak, we can easily understand speech at double speed, and we can surely scan a page faster than we read it aloud- that is why we expect language to become more simplified, because we are in a hurry to get our 'thoughts' across. I remember reading somewhere that 'language kills the thought', in other words our system of articulation (speech) is to blame for the slowliness in conveying our thoughts. If so, do you agree that our speech will have to become more "compressed", i.e. we will assume our hearer to understand us and infer the meaning from the context, instead of repeating ourselves or using more words than actually needed? What I mean is that the pressure for simplicity is counterveiled by a pressure for transparency and expressivity.

    Some such changes on the road to expressivity could include:

    -using (shorter) words for more frequent meanings - etymological changes?? (see how the word "salt" has developed its meaning since the Roman era.)

    -skipping information which can easily be inferred from the context (saying much within a short period of time). We use synonyms interchangeably, but synonyms are not words with the same meaning, but closely related semantic variants. One can be more or less explicit/expressive depending on their choice of words in a certain context. We sometimes use many words because we cannot pinpoint the word we are looking for. Misunderstanding often occurs due to un unfit relationship between a word and its referent, between signifier and signified. Shakespeare is famous also due to the enormously rich vocabulary of his entire work - he knew how to strike a cord with his audience by relying on the power of words. He sure had a way with words.

    In other words, I am thinking about future changes in lexical semantics, such as polysemy, metaphor and metonymy in the context of multiculturalism (how will authentic English metaphors, idioms or puns survive, when a Chinese sees the world with through his own language? "Birds of a feather flock together" may have a totally different meaning for him, and he will have his own "English equivalent" for the same proverb/idiom and so on. The world of signs is infused by/ or infuses culture.)

    The question remains how to define simplicity.
    My belief is that, although the E lexicon is 'on the increase', this does not necessarily mean that more words will be needed for effective communication. Some 'old' words and phrases will probably no longer meet a certain need for expression and thus become the 'lexicon' of yesterday, while a new 'vocabulary' will fill that need. Language does not become more expressive in arithmetic progression with an increasing repertoir of words and phrases. It moves to signals denoting simpler, more general meanings, while grammar and vocabulary are tools to make this happen.



    This is my theory, and of course it is arguable.

    bianca
    Last edited by bianca; 28-Jul-2007 at 19:11.

  9. #9
    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: The Grammar and the Lexicon

    sorry for being so "wordy"...

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    Default Re: The Grammar and the Lexicon

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    In the case of English, I think the grammar will tend towards greater simplicity as it becomes more internationalised, and this may well require greater lexis to compensate.
    Well, it could go the other way. The langauge could become more complex, integrating L2 interference errors that are accommodated by the rules of English grammar, and thereby generating new rules--creolized.

    As for the amount of new words entering the language, I don't see a connection to how the rules of the grammar should or would change. English has had this history of making borrowed words and neologisms its own by applying its rules to those new forms; e.g., pizza, pizzas; taco, tacos; e-mail, email, emails.

    Jamshid, the statement the grammar and the lexicon ... go in opposite directions is a new one for me. Could provide the article where you got it? I'd like to see what it is exactly the author is referring to.

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