While I agree that the pitch or musical accentuation of Ancient Greek makes it distinctive in the Indo-European branch of world languages, nearly all modern languages in the Sino-TIbetan language group, spoken by nearly one third of the population of the planet, use pitch accents.
savarez wrote:The philosopher Martin Heidegger said: "Greek language and it alone is logos."
easternugget wrote:Though I am glad English isn't a woman. Boy, she would be UGLY!
atticusg wrote: Most bold of all, is that Voltaire dubbed Greek "le plus beau langage de l’univers"*--not just the best language in Europe, not in the World, but in the UNIVERSE
Amadeus wrote:That might be true, but isn't the pitch accent of Ancient Greek something of recent (re)discovery? I doubt Voltaire and Churchill knew anything about it.
Essorant wrote:English would be a likeness to Scylla or Charybdis, that was originally a beautiful nymph, but, alas, eventually turned into a monster!
Nonsense. A language like English is like a violin; it can be used to make the most beautiful music, or horrific screeching sounds. It all depends on who plays it.
easternugget wrote:Actually, I will admit I am fine with English. I just like Greek better!
Lex wrote:And I must admit that I prefer the language I feel most confortable with and fluent in, which for me definitely means English.
Lex wrote:Nonsense. A language like English is like a violin; it can be used to make the most beautiful music, or horrific screeching sounds. It all depends on who plays it.
Essorant wrote:I agree. But I think that is more generally true for all languages, rather than special to English itself.
(I would also change "It all depends on who plays it." to "it depends on the skill/manners of who plays it". As long as you play it with good skill it shall play well, regardless of who you are.)
Lex wrote:Your first statement is appropriately PC, but I'm not sure one way or the other whether it's true. It's possible that some "primitive" languages do not have the ... richness ... that makes the eloquence and nuance possible that is possible with English. Most modern languages that have a respectable literature, though, sure.
As for the second statement, I agree completely. That was what I was going for.
thesaurus wrote:I've never heard linguists say anything except that all languages are inherently capable of the same expression. A language adapts to the requirements of its users, so if they're in the mood to philosophize or write poetry, they'll fashion their words appropriately.
Even though I've argued that the Greek language isn't magic, I cannot believe that some languages are not in a real sense more or less primitive than others. As you know, English is a river fed by many streams; Anglo-Saxon, Middle French, Latin, Greek. This wealth of resources is what gives it its power and subtlety. Some languages are more like streams than rivers; they don't have as many resources. As Saul Bellow said, "Where is the Proust of Papua? When the Zulus have a Tolstoy, we will read him."
thesaurus wrote:I admit there is a problem of invention that needs to take place in some languages to develop their literary repertoire. The question, I think, is not whether Zulu lacks the ability to produce great works of literature, but whether an author with significant creativity/genius has emerged over time, or even whether the Zulu society has advanced enough to allow for the economic and social conditions that facilitate the production of 'high literature'.
But maybe the questions you bring up are intertwined. Maybe no Zulu literary genius has arisen precisely because it would take such an incredible amount of genius to produce a great work of literature in the Zulu language, given the limitations of the language? And maybe the language is limited because the Zulu society is backwards? Yes, yes, I know all this is terribly politically incorrect, but that doesn't mean it's not true. (Of course, I could be wrong. I have zero knowledge of the Zulu language. I'm just playing devil's advocate.)
thesaurus wrote:Thanks for those useful sources, CB, although I am unable to view the chapter in question.
I think it's important to distinguish between a dearth in the language's expressive/technical vocabulary, the so called egestas, and some kind of systemic problem inherent in the language itself. That is, it is undoubtedly true that at certain stages Latin lacked the means to easily express Greek (and other) ideas; it seems that this was mostly due to vocabulary differences. Latin is said to have preferred concrete expression over the abstract. However, over time, writers began to coin new words, adopt Greek ones, and expand the meaning of the existing lexicon to facilitate the desired range of expression. Cicero was clearly a big player in this move, as he expanded and adapted the Latin language for philosophical purposes. If Latin had never successfully managed to express philosophical ideas, then there would have been reason to say that Greek is inherently more flexible/useful.
The important thing to recognize is that Latin writers changed their language so as to express everything they wanted to say. There were awkward "gap periods," in which writers had to expand Latin's repertoire, but the language itself was sufficiently flexible and useful for the intended purposes.
I continue in my belief that all languages are equally flexible and useful means of expressing human thought. Whether or not they are all equally suited to all purposes at a given time is besides the point.
Lex wrote:Some languages are more like streams than rivers; they don't have as many resources. As Saul Bellow said, "Where is the Proust of Papua? When the Zulus have a Tolstoy, we will read him."
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