Accent question

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pster
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Re: Accent question

Post by pster » Fri Feb 08, 2013 12:43 am

Paul,

The gen. pl. fem. nouns always have circumflex. I'll mail you a Loeb of your choice if you can find anything "intuitive" about that fact. And I'll give you a year to do so! Now maybe there is a linguist or classicist out there who has a deep diachronic understanding of matters for whom it is intuitive. So if that is what you mean by "get into it", then I rescind my offer. But if by "get into it" you mean something that applies to regular textkit posters, the offer holds. I'd love to be proven wrong by the way. :mrgreen:

As for the accents being preserved, yes it is impressive. But don't forget we don't know what the grave accent means. So something central was not preserved.

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Paul Derouda
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Re: Accent question

Post by Paul Derouda » Fri Feb 08, 2013 11:25 am

Of course it's not intuitive in the way that I could make up a thumb rule to replace Mastonarde or whatever. I just meant we have mental processes that make language learning almost automatic with the right kind of exposure. The 'right kind of exposure' is the problem here, because the accents represent essentially sounds to which we are not exposed, or even sure of their exact nature (take the grave accent for instance), and thus the right connections in our brains are not activated - if we were exposed to spoken classical Greek, the accents would be the easiest part, not the almost meaningless dots we just have to learn by heart. My problem is that I've learnt to discard them unconsciously - my 'learning Greek' mental process is programmed to ignore them, rather than to pay notice to them subconsiously every time I read a Greek word. If, from the beginning, I'd had schoolmaster to hit me on the fingers with an ruler every time I make a mistake with the accents, no such thing would have happened. :)

Who says Finnish or Greek is difficult or illogical? It depends on your point of view. Take English. The writing system is essentially pictographic: 1) when reading a word, it's impossible to know how to pronounce it, 2) when hearing a word, it's impossible to know how to write it. With Finnish and classical Greek, 1 and 2 are both almost always false, while with most other European languages (French, German, Swedish, Spanish come to mind) 1 is false but 2 is more or less true. I've never been to an English speaking country - you wouldn't believe how many words there are I have no idea how to pronounce.

The reason gen. pl. fem. have circumflex is that they come from a contraction - e.g. τάων for the article. You probably know that. Nothing logical about that, I agree.

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Re: Accent question

Post by C. S. Bartholomew » Fri Feb 08, 2013 10:50 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:
Who says Finnish or Greek is difficult or illogical? It depends on your point of view. Take English. The writing system is essentially pictographic: ...
Paul,

You misunderstood my intent. I have been told that Finnish has a complex case system. A native speaker English in North America isn't aware of the few cases that still hang on to bits and pieces of the language. Case is a foreign concept. I didn't do well in German in High School for three reasons. I didn't get cases. The instructor was not fluent in English. Second language acquisition didn't exist as a concept back then.
C. Stirling Bartholomew

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Re: Accent question

Post by Scribo » Fri Feb 08, 2013 11:25 pm

I don't think accents are that hard, I tend to instinctively place them thanks to modern Greek but even so I still learned the rules. Incidentally yes the papyri of Homer preserve older features which has lead many to hypothesise that Alexandrian textual editors were working with proper rhapsodes. We also have the comparative evidence etc too, so we most certainly do know how the accent functioned.

For learning: Well most people I've met seem to have had success with Mastronade's basic rule of cotonation, failing this Philomen Probert has a book out which is supposed to help. All I can say is it just needs regular practice, just be patient and spent a few minutes each day for a week or so. It becomes reflex.
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Paul Derouda
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Re: Accent question

Post by Paul Derouda » Fri Feb 08, 2013 11:48 pm

CSB,

I think all languages have their complexities. What is difficult for someone isn't so much for somebody else. Probably a native Finnish speaker learns the Greek or German case system more easily than a native English speaker. On the other hand, Epic Greek 'tmesis' should be easier for an English speaker than a Finn, because it's a bit similar to an English phenomenon (and I suppose diachronically related to it) - I don't remember what you call these: 'write down', 'catch up with', 'put up with', etc. But all in all, I think yes, probably you're right if you say that knowing Finnish, a highly inflected language, is a better starting point than knowing English for learning Greek.

On the other hand, I think there's ample evidence children learn their first language at the same speed regardless of the language, so from that point of view, all languages are equally difficult. But I think this has really more to do with the fact that I think that grammar is really only a minor part of first language acquisition - children have to give names to everything in a whole world surrounding them. I really believe some languages are easier than others - namely, languages that are spoken by a lot of people and many non-native speakers tend to get simpler with time. This is what has happened to English, especially when Great Britain was succesively invaded (more or less) by Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, the French etc., and what has also happened to Chinese, Spanish etc. But really, the same kind of smoothing has happened to any language with millions of speakers, Finnish included. If you really want to learn something difficult, take a language spoken only by a small long-isolated group of hunter-gatherers. From those hunter-gatherers' point of view, Finnish and English will be about equally difficult, or maybe English just a very tiny bit easier.

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Re: Accent question

Post by Scribo » Sat Feb 09, 2013 1:41 pm

Well with English (being brought by the Angles, Jutes and Saxons) I believe a massive part of the loss of cases was redundancy, in that sentence structure became fixed and thus endings became irrelevant over time. It's been a while since I've studied this.

As for non native's taking over a language, there is something there about how substrate and adstrate influence is formed, sure, but we've sort of moved on from that sort of odd discourse of lesser speakers/races taking over a language and became more empirical. I mean look at modern Greek, it obviously has huge substrate influence from the Balkans and yet its fine. In English's case you have to deal with the fact that Celtic speakers possess a language arguably more complex, so...

Finnish is one hell of a language, I never really managed it, one of my class-mates was a Finn (though he swapped out of Classics and went into Philosophy, alas, post graduation) and I tried to learn some but woaw was it difficult. So pretty when sang though.
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Paul Derouda
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Re: Accent question

Post by Paul Derouda » Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:12 pm

Scribo wrote:Well with English (being brought by the Angles, Jutes and Saxons) I believe a massive part of the loss of cases was redundancy, in that sentence structure became fixed and thus endings became irrelevant over time. It's been a while since I've studied this.
I don't claim to be very knowledgeable about contact linguistics, I read book or two on the subjects several years ago. The explanation you're giving here is probably true, but I was thinking whether there's a more universal explanation for the simplification of widely spoken languages. I don't think that it's a coincidence that the world's most spoken languages English and Chinese (I don't know Chinese but so I've been told) are almost totally devoid of inflection.
As for non native's taking over a language, there is something there about how substrate and adstrate influence is formed, sure, but we've sort of moved on from that sort of odd discourse of lesser speakers/races taking over a language and became more empirical. I mean look at modern Greek, it obviously has huge substrate influence from the Balkans and yet its fine. In English's case you have to deal with the fact that Celtic speakers possess a language arguably more complex, so...
In the books I read the starting point was more or less creoles, i.e. extreme situations of language contact, where two different languages essentially merge. The typical situation was when slaves were taken from Africa to the New World and their children created a new language almost from scratch, essentially taking the grammar in a very simplified version from their own ('substratum'?) language and the vocabulary essentially from their masters' (adstatum?) language. But there was also an idea that a situation like this isn't completely different from the times of William the conqueror - English incorporating a lot of foreign (French) words and having its grammar simplified, in a time when the elite is speaking French.

Also, think about the situation where there were a lot of speakers of Old Norse in Great Britain, with intermarriages and other kinds of intense contact (pairs like shirt/skirt come from these times, don't remember which is English and which is Norse). In those times, Old English and Old Norse were not mutually unintelligible, but finesses would not be understood. Wouldn't this kind of situation also be likely to simplify the grammar?

Modern Greek has a case system and so has Finnish. But they are not spoken by a billion people, only a few million and only in geographically restricted areas. But both have undergone quite a lot of grammatical simplification compared to the situation a couple of millenia back; for example, both have lost the dual.
Finnish is one hell of a language, I never really managed it, one of my class-mates was a Finn (though he swapped out of Classics and went into Philosophy, alas, post graduation) and I tried to learn some but woaw was it difficult. So pretty when sang though.
Well, it's a bit different. But not so much, having been surrounded by speakers of Indo-European languages for millenia. We don't have ergatives or any really weird stuff!

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Re: Accent question

Post by Scribo » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:54 am

Bah it's easy to say that as a native speaker, sure, but it does have its difficulties and I will have to invest time appropriately for it.

Well skirt, shirt, shorts etc all come from the same ProtoGer root *skurt- (ijon?) and were just developed differently, shirt (scyrte) is our own English vs Norse skirt and either Dutch or Danish, one of the D-ones, shorts. I remember this example, ha.

Well yes I mean said mutual intelligibility was responsible for English's resultant fixed sentence structure, I just don't remember how. But again I guess it was more the redundancy of the cases after the fact that caused their loss rather than the fact of cases being intrinsically difficult. Especially when you have large groups of people speaking inflected, even related, languages.

With Creoles and Pidgins I'm not sure since my main study in this area has been on ancient languages (principally Greek but also Sanskrit and Latin) so more on influence than the creation of new tongues, I'm not really modern enough to cover that. I'm still struggling exactly with how I see language simplification occurring....I can't help but feel the way we look at it is too....determined by our odd Victorian grammars and not enough by more modern findings. I don't know, I'll have to look into it more.
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Re: Accent question

Post by Grochojad » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:25 pm

Scribo wrote:I'm still struggling exactly with how I see language simplification occurring....I can't help but feel the way we look at it is too....determined by our odd Victorian grammars and not enough by more modern findings. I don't know, I'll have to look into it more.
Could you expand a little bit on that Scribo? A few sentences on what you mean by "Victorian grammars" and their approach, because you got me really interested.

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Re: Accent question

Post by Scribo » Mon Feb 11, 2013 7:29 pm

Grochojad wrote:
Scribo wrote:I'm still struggling exactly with how I see language simplification occurring....I can't help but feel the way we look at it is too....determined by our odd Victorian grammars and not enough by more modern findings. I don't know, I'll have to look into it more.
Could you expand a little bit on that Scribo? A few sentences on what you mean by "Victorian grammars" and their approach, because you got me really interested.
Sure, not much there really, just two things:

a) Our Victorian inherited notion that languages decrepify in some manner, that is to say they worsen and simplification is evidence of this. I think we tend to take a more Darwinian approach - that is to say that languages don't so much worse as adapt to the ever moving bar of "fitness". With connotations of improvement either.

b) That language simplification is the result of inability and that this inability is the result of "lesser races" taking over the language. We may have lost the notion behind the second idea, but some implications still remain. There is no reason to assume a modern Greek souvlajis is less able to speak his language than Sokrates harassing poor innocent citizens.

I guess I see a more ambivalent relationship rather than just increasing easiness. I mean I don't think the modern Greek verb stem system is very much easier than the old system and in fact can occasionally be awkward to use, whereas no one could fail to slip in a /s/ for the future tense in centuries gone by.

I mean these are perhaps over flighty examples, but I guess this is another discussion far beyond "ought one to learn Greek accentuation?" (to which the answer is, still, yes!).
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