Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

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Woods
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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Woods » 2020-10-29, 9:52

linguoboy wrote:"Children learn any kind of spelling without question. As evidence, I offer up an anecdote about a 48 year-old I know with no details relevant to the question at hand."

Ah, no - I didn't mean this as proof relating to the statement in question. It was meant as illustration of what happens later on with people who have learnt non-etymological spelling in the beginning.


linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:English is the one that does it right - the grammar is simple, modern and as easy to handle as possible, while words keep their original spelling!

Honestly, this statement is so completely shot through with misconceptions about language that it feels like satire.

Explain what you mean cause I don't get it :)


Johanna wrote:My take on this discussion is that we should respell things so that they fit Swedish phonology.

I know :D

Actually is there anyone here who thinks like me indeed? :D


Did you check out that 18-century book I linked to in my topic from yesterday? The spelling looks so beautiful, if modern Swedish looked like that I would be studying it like crazy!


Johanna wrote:Honestly, you shouldn't have to learn the spelling rules of German, French and English just to be able to spell our most common loans.

Actually you should cause English is compulsory in Sweden (isn't it?) And you kind of need to know a little bit about how French works if you want to get this one right. I don't know anything about German loans in Swedish since my level is not that high in either, and they're both Germanic so I would have no idea whether the word is borrowed and which way, I would normally expect them both to come from the same place. Are there really that many loanwords from German and from English?


Johanna wrote:how are students of Swedish to know that in this system with strictly etymological spelling, race is from French and pronounced /rɑːs/, instead of from English and pronounced /rɛjs/?

by learning the spelling and the pronunciation at the same time, or both one after another. The former carries the meaning, the later also gives information about which language the word was borrowed from, and from there - you can also make a guess about when it happened, since borrowing from French was common before and now borrowing from English would be more likely. All this information would be lost if you respell it as "ras"! And as awrui pointed it and I have many times before - why not try to come up with a Swedish word?


Johanna wrote:Heck, in Danish, they had no idea how to actually pronounce it, so the -e isn't silent unlike in French.

The thing with the e is that it's not silent in French. It can be or not, depending on the speaker and how clear or formal or well-pronouncing they want to be. Danish does exactly the same with the e's at the end of their words, so it matches perfectly.


Johanna wrote:I'm talking about the noun that has to do with phenotype, which in Swedish applies to breeds of domesticated animals first and foremost. The noun that is about who traverses a certain distance in the least amount of time is still spelled like in its source language English, and pronounced accordingly.

Maybe because the first meaning entered the language earlier, when less people knew the original language, but now that everybody learns English, it's hard to keep this absurdity?

But I see words like "mejl" etc. (to which my first reaction is always to think there's something wrong with this country, and the second - to be so happy that there is Danish which I can resort to when I want to write something to a Swedish-speaking person).


awrui wrote:The finns do much better at PISA than norwegians, that's no secret.

It doesn't prove corelation.


awrui wrote:the names of some weird little foot bones have NOTHING to do with latin as a language. They're just words. You can as well use the swedish, aymara or chinese word for it, it really doesn't matter. Latin anatomy words are just a relict of time, preserved to make the profession feel special- there are similar phenomenons in any profession, really.

Well, it's good to have an international convention in such an important domain as of which language's names to use - imagine somebody used Swedish and then read a Dahish text and hop - a false friend, we cut off the wrong bone and killed the patient!


awrui wrote:if I was the boss, everyone would learn an non-indoeurpean language from grade 5, and another one from grade 8

Why?

I'd start with removing English as compulsory and leaving it up to the students what languages to learn and where and how (I had no English classes whatsoever till age 15 and then I could still skip them if I wanted to).


awrui wrote:I speak three germanic languages fluently, and have looked into some more. Trust me, the different spelling of some foreign words doesn't make any any difference.

Well, I don't think you should count English as a Germanic language for the purpose of this discussion.

Everything is important - spelling for keeping meaning and history, pronunciation for fitting into the new environment, grammar for making your sentence come through.


awrui wrote:I wish it would work like that

Me too.


awrui wrote:
Woods wrote:Well, I think it's also a good idea to know as much about which word comes originally from one's own native language, or its language family, and which one was borrowed, from where and for what purpose.

I agree. There is a time and a place for that- which is university, for people with special interest.

Unfortunately not everyone has extra five years to catch up on something that could have easily been explained during a decade of schooling, in order to make up for a broken writing system and dumb teachers.


awrui wrote:
Woods wrote:English is the one that does it right - the grammar is simple, modern and as easy to handle as possible, while words keep their original spelling!

Have you seen native speakers of english write in english? It makes my eyes bleed. :(

Uh... yeah? For some reason, all native English-speakers I've come in contact with spell everything wonderfully. Maybe your experience is different. The French have a huge problem with the grammar (cause five things that are pronounced the same are spelt in five different ways - but again this is the part that English does not have. The French also tend to spell the non-grammar related words fine. So I guess if French reforms the nonsensical spelling of the grammar and keeps nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs as they are, its speakers will also do just fine. And for the English-natives, if they have a problem as you're saying, maybe it comes from not learning enough languages? I guess it's something they should work on, for we don't know how long English will be number one and I don't think the United States will continue to dictate the rules worldwide for too long.

(I mean Trump doesn't want it, and Joe Biden will give free way to the Chinese to take over.)

By the way, I hope it does not come out as rude, but in English you should capitalise the names of languages and nationalities.

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby linguoboy » 2020-10-29, 18:46

Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:English is the one that does it right - the grammar is simple, modern and as easy to handle as possible, while words keep their original spelling!

Honestly, this statement is so completely shot through with misconceptions about language that it feels like satire.

Explain what you mean cause I don't get it :)

I'll try to take these one at a time:

1. There's nothing "simple" about English grammar. If you think otherwise, try writing rules for word order which will generate all sentences native speakers recognise as well-formed and none that they wouldn't. You could start just with sentence adverb placement. It's one of the most common things I see learners struggle with. Then maybe move on to prepositions, phrasal verbs, small clauses, and pseudo-clefts.
2. There's also nothing particularly "modern" about English grammar. That word really has no meaning in this context. Modern English grammar is "modern" insofar as it's spoken in the modern world; in other words, it's a tautological definition. All other languages currently spoken are equally "modern" in this regard. "Easy to handle" is also an impressionistic description with no real basis.
3. What you're probably referring to in both cases is the relative lack of inflectional morphology in English. But morphology is not grammar and analytic grammars are no more "modern" than synthetic grammars. We have evidence of languages becoming more analytic over time, but also more synthetic, and sometimes both at once.
4. Words don't always "keep their original spelling" in English. For many of the world's languages (though written in non-Roman scripts), this isn't even practical. You've basically got a false dichotomy going here between respelling and not respelling, when in reality every language is somewhere on a continuum between the two.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Linguaphile » 2020-10-30, 4:28

Woods wrote:How difficult is it to explain to them? "We write ph, my dear, because a lot of the words in our language come from Ancient Greek, which had a culture which has contributed a lot to our knowledge and understanding of the world. Whenever you see ph, just remember - it's word that has its origins in Ancient Greek." - Boom! We have a child that's now more intellingent and understands things. What a pity!

Here's the problem with this: as an adult, a lot of the new words I learn, I learn through reading. But that isn't true for children. Children have much smaller vocabularies than adults have and they learn new words primarily by hearing them first. So telling them "whenever you see ph, just remember it's a word that has its origins in Ancient Greek" is not as useful or easy for them; they hear the words phone, photo, alphabet, long before they start to read and long before they learn that they are spelled with ph. So maybe when they see they can remember that those are words from Ancient Greek but that very same child is probably going to go right on continuing to write fon(e), foto, alfabet when they have spell them. When they have to spell them there is nothing (other than rote memorization) that is going to help them remember "oh, those words are from Ancient Greek and spelled with ph!" when they want to write them. Learning that they are of Greek origin is no easier nor harder than learning to spell them with ph. It's just another, seemingly random, fact to memorize as far as the child is concerned. So it's not as simple as you seem to believe; it's actually one of the things that children struggle with.
There's a good reason that spelling bees are a "thing" in English-speaking countries and (as far as I know) not especially common or interesting in many other parts of the world, except occasionally for very young children (and for students of English).
Also, some languages convey etymological origins in ways other than spelling. In Spanish, words that end with -a are usually feminine, but there are many words that end with -ma which are masculine (again, an oddity to memorize) and these words are usually of Greek origin. This Greek etymology is not reflected in Spanish spelling, which is largely phonetic, but is reflected in the fact that these words break the rule of "words ending in -a are feminine" and take masculine articles, masculine adjectives, etc.

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Woods » 2020-10-30, 8:23

Linguaphile wrote:as an adult, a lot of the new words I learn, I learn through reading. But that isn't true for children. Children have much smaller vocabularies than adults have and they learn new words primarily by hearing them first. So telling them "whenever you see ph, just remember it's a word that has its origins in Ancient Greek" is not as useful or easy for them; they hear the words phone, photo, alphabet, long before they start to read and long before they learn that they are spelled with ph. So maybe when they see they can remember that those are words from Ancient Greek but that very same child is probably going to go right on continuing to write fon(e), foto, alfabet when they have spell them.


I get it.

However, learning to write comes with learning to read as well.

I could see myself telling my child: "the /f/ sound can be spelt "f" or "ph" in English - the latter because many words come from Ancient Greek, which had a fancy letter that looked something like p and h put together, so we, just like the French and the Romans, write all our/their words this way". I think it's a fun fact to know, just like a million other things that the child will learn, and not some heavy burden on them.

And I guess learning to spell phonetically doesn't make any sense in any language. Not even in Swedish (I was pleasantly surprised to find that the word "checka" (to check) was written with "ch", and not like in Danish with "tj". But this "ch" can also be pronounced as /k/ or just left unpronounced. I think it can also be pronounced /hw/ in words like /chans/ - a word which spelling has been adapted to the pronunciation halfways - as at the end we have "-s" instead of the original "-ce", but in the beginning we haven't put something like "sj" or whatever would have been chosen as the representation of the /hw/-sound.

So no matter what and no matter the language, the pronunciation will never match the writing and even if we cripple the orthography and strip the words from their etymology as much as we possibly can, there will still be discrepancies and also the language will evolve and start sounding like something else at some poäng, so we will have to do the effort to learn to read and write VISUALLY and not phonetically, and if we're going to do it anyway, why don't we do it all the way - in order to end up with a language that is easier to make sense of clearer to understand how it relates to other ones?

I am starting to think something different - can it be that some of the people here just enjoy learning new spellings, it makes them feel somewhat special if they understand the word also when it's written in a different way, unlike a person who hasn't learnt Swedish and wouldn't know that "poäng" is "point" - now they are one of fewer to understand! What do you guys enjoy when learning a foreign language? For me it's the sound, the meaning, the history, understanding the connection to other languages - maybe for you it's something else? And because these are the things I like, and I want to learn many languages, I don't like respellings - they are just extra information that doesn't contribute anything and gets in the way.

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby awrui » 2020-10-30, 10:59

Woods wrote:I could see myself telling my child: "the /f/ sound can be spelt "f" or "ph" in English - the latter because many words come from Ancient Greek, which had a fancy letter that looked something like p and h put together, so we, just like the French and the Romans, write all our/their words this way". I think it's a fun fact to know, just like a million other things that the child will learn, and not some heavy burden on them.


Again, I wish it would work that way. Children have to work HARD to learn how to write. They will forget it at once. Or you'll have to dedicate weeks of lessons for them to be able to remember this. Time is precious, and there are better uses than weird writing rules. An 8th-grader might remember this- but they already have a huge knowledge about language. Also, these kinds of facts are not fun for children. They want to learn fun facts about sharks and lions, things they understand, not something that it totally abstract to them (this is why school is boring for many people: they just don't care enought about these abstract topics that they don't fully understand (maths for me- oh god how much I hated it)).

Woods wrote:And I guess learning to spell phonetically doesn't make any sense in any language.

Yes, you can do it the wrong way- just look at Skolt Saami. Or you can do it in an totally abstract way, like Chinese- where adult people are not able to write any word in their language, only the ones they have actively learnt. I think the right way is to go as close to the spoken language as possible, while still having some rules, so it doesn't become too difficult again. So you always have to consider: does this rule make writing and reading easier or more difficult? The ph-rule makes it more difficult.
Automated decoding (reading visually) is a goal, but you have to get there through many steps, beginning with reading phonetically. Reading visually at a young age does usually mean that the reader has little knowledge of how language works, and is usually a rather bad reader and writer. Because they only remember the loose shape of the word, but not the actual phonetics of said word. That makes it very difficult for them to learn new words (short version. The "long short" version of this is six pages and I got an A on it. For the long version, there are a range of books avilable on this topic).

Woods wrote:And because these are the things I like, and I want to learn many languages, I don't like respellings - they are just extra information that doesn't contribute anything and gets in the way.

For me, weird foreign spellings are just extra information that doesn't contribute anything and gets in the way. I learn language trough using it- only the basics through reading, classes and dictionaries. It's so much easier to pick up a word through radio, conversation or TV and just know how to write it- the same way children and native speakers do. But I guess there is a difference if you want to use that language for written purposes only, or use it with speakers and as a written language.


Why children should learn non-IE languages: to think outside the box and outside of Europe. We are not the centre of the world, that view is very colonial. There are minorities (Basque, Saami, Hungarian in Romania and Austria, Greenlandic in Denmark, many in Russia) and other countries and continents we have to acknowledge. It opens the doors to the world- millions of people speak Arabic, Chinese, Swahili, Bahasa. We should learn the languages of our minorities and the peoples our governments have oppressed for so many years. Recognise what has been done in the past and offer them a hand, and end this "me and them"-way of thinking.
IE languages all work in the same way. Other families work differently. We are in an age where the focus changes: before, you had to blindly learn and remember as many facts as possible. Now you have to get a deeper understanding in order to form innovation. Learning many IE-languages is the first thing: you just learn more and more facts. Learning a non-IE language is the other: understanding a whole new system and break free from all the rules (which gives you a better understanding of the rules you break, and offers a whole new way of thinking).

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Linguaphile » 2020-10-30, 14:55

Woods wrote:I was pleasantly surprised to find that the word "checka" (to check) was written with "ch", and not like in Danish with "tj". But this "ch" can also be pronounced as /k/ or just left unpronounced

So, doesn't the spelling "tj" better reflect the pronunciation of the word? Think of it from the perspective of a native speaker of that language. If it is spelled "ch", you don't know if it is pronounced /k/ or /ch/ or something else; If it is pronounced /tj/, you don't know if it is spelled ch, k, kj or tj. It would be simplest if the sound pronounced /tj/ were always spelled tj; then when you see it you know how to say it, and when you hear it you know how to write it.

Woods wrote:And because these are the things I like, and I want to learn many languages, I don't like respellings - they are just extra information that doesn't contribute anything and gets in the way.

But again, you are thinking of it from the perspective of a non-native speaker trying to learn to spell words. You are not thinking of it from the perspective of a native speaker trying to learn to read and write. Again: if the spelling follows certain rules of that language, you end up with a respelling (which you don't like), but you also end up with a spelling that makes sense to native speakers. Ideally, it would be the situation I mentioned above: then when you see it you know how to say it, and when you hear it you know how to write it.
Of course, English is one of the exceptions, but not in a good way: English spelling often tends to not make sense to its native speakers, and of course the ideal that "when you see it you know how to say it, and when you hear it you know how to write it" does not apply. I know it's certainly not the only language for which that is true. But my point is that the respellings that you are complaining about at least are trying to get a bit closer to that ideal, by using a spelling that does make sense to its speakers.

Let's take an example from Hmong (a language from southeast Asia), which has a fairly phonetic spelling. Here's a word: thevnablasntsis. It means "technology" and it's a loanword from English. You're probably going to absolutely hate that spelling, aren't you? I suppose you'd rather they leave it spelled technology. But when learning to read and write Hmong one just learns the spellings for each sound and then can write any word. If it were spelled technology, a Hmong-speaker who did not know English would have no idea how to say it when they saw it written and would have no idea how to spell it unless they had memorized the spelling.
With the spelling thevnablasntsis, however cumbersome it may look to someone who hasn't studied the way the Hmong (RPA) alphabet works, anyone who has learned to read and write, native speaker or non-native speaker, immediately knows that this word is pronounced /tʰě ná là ᶯɖʐì/ which is the word "technology" modified to fit Hmong pronunciation rules. There is no other possible way to pronounce thevnablasntsis; there is no other possible way to spell /tʰě ná là ᶯɖʐì/. It is said that it is easily possible to learn to read and write Hmong (any and all words in Hmong) in about a week, and there are apps and videos out there claiming that you can learn to read and write Hmong "in five minutes" or "in ten minutes" and so on. Theoretically it is possible, if one were to be able to memorize all of the rules that fast. Once the rules are memorized, any word that is heard can be written, and any word that is seen can be pronounced. This is a huge benefit because it makes literacy in Hmong easy for its speakers. The only reason it is difficult for non-native speakers is because it is harder for non-natives to hear the differences in tone and the differences between some sounds that non-native speakers may not be accustomed to. For native speakers, whose ears and mouths are accustomed to those sounds already before they begin to learn to read and write, the spelling system makes perfect sense and is a one-to-one correspondence: one spelling for every sound, one sound for every spelling. When you see a word you know how to say it, and when you hear a word you know how to write it. Always.

awrui wrote:Other families work differently. We are in an age where the focus changes: before, you had to blindly learn and remember as many facts as possible. Now you have to get a deeper understanding in order to form innovation. Learning many IE-languages is the first thing: you just learn more and more facts. Learning a non-IE language is the other: understanding a whole new system and break free from all the rules (which gives you a better understanding of the rules you break, and offers a whole new way of thinking).

Yup, though I'd expand/clarify that to say: learning languages in a language family other than your own native one, whether your native one is IE or not.

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Woods » 2020-11-01, 12:33

Linguaphile wrote:you are thinking of it from the perspective of a non-native speaker trying to learn to spell words. You are not thinking of it from the perspective of a native speaker trying to learn to read and write.

Quite the contrary. I've never hated anything more than a French word respelt to match Bulgarian phonology.


Linguaphile wrote:Let's take an example from Hmong (a language from southeast Asia), which has a fairly phonetic spelling. Here's a word: thevnablasntsis. It means "technology" and it's a loanword from English. You're probably going to absolutely hate that spelling, aren't you? I suppose you'd rather they leave it spelled technology. But when learning to read and write Hmong one just learns the spellings for each sound and then can write any word.

I don't know about Hmong. Here in Europe English will always be a part of our culture, and so will be French, both by itself and as an inseparable part of English - making one third of it and having permanently defined the way it is and will be. Khmons (excuse me if I just went phonetic to meet my own uneducated English phonology :D) can do whatever they want with their language, but there is no way you can convince me that in iŋliś or any of its relativz wi śud kriäjt "fonetik" späliŋz. We are just doing a huge disservice to everyone who will study and use them.


Linguaphile wrote:This is a huge benefit because it makes literacy in Hmong easy for its speakers.

Crippling language to improve literacy is no good. It should be the other way around - educating people and keeping languages as sophisticated as they have come to be.

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby linguoboy » 2020-11-01, 15:09

Woods wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:you are thinking of it from the perspective of a non-native speaker trying to learn to spell words. You are not thinking of it from the perspective of a native speaker trying to learn to read and write.

Quite the contrary. I've never hated anything more than a French word respelt to match Bulgarian phonology.

Are you still "learning to read and write"? Or did you master those skills so long ago that you can't even remember what it was like to struggle with the arbitrariness of irregular spellings any more?

Woods wrote:Here in Europe English will always be a part of our culture, and so will be French, both by itself and as an inseparable part of English - making one third of it and having permanently defined the way it is and will be. Khmons (excuse me if I just went phonetic to meet my own uneducated English phonology :D) can do whatever they want with their language, but there is no way you can convince me that in iŋliś or any of its relativz wi śud kriäjt "fonetik" späliŋz. We are just doing a huge disservice to everyone who will study and use them.

1. It's hard to make predictions, especially about the future.
2. Any vocabulary which has been replaced once can be replaced again. Germany used to have many more French words than it does now; now when German-speakers want to signal that they are au courant--I'm sorry, "with it"--they use borrowings from English, not French. Will that still be true in a hundred years? What about a thousand?
3. Your "'fonetik' späliŋz" is nothing but a strawman. No one in the thread has suggested respelling how these languages represented native words.

Woods wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:This is a huge benefit because it makes literacy in Hmong easy for its speakers.

Crippling language to improve literacy is no good.

How does respelling words "cripple" a language? You've given no evidence that it does anything of the kind. How does, say, respelling English loanwords in katakana or han'gŭl restrict the use of Japanese or Korean (respectively) in any way?

Woods wrote:It should be the other way around - educating people and keeping languages as sophisticated as they have come to be.

Again, why is maintaining unphonetic spellings for foreign borrowings intrinsically more "sophisticated" than other options? Why do utilitarian artefacts like languages need to be "sophisticated" anyhow?

You have an aesthetic objection to respelling foreign loans. That's fine; people can have aesthetic opinions about things. The problem is that you keep trying to dress it up as something else, using loaded terms like "crippled", "sophisticated", etc., but without producing any evidence to support your strong opinions.
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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Linguaphile » 2020-11-01, 16:50

Woods wrote:I don't know about Hmong.
Khmons (excuse me if I just went phonetic to meet my own uneducated English phonology :D) can do whatever they want with their language

Well, the above is a great example of why a spelling system like we have in English (sometimes using native spellings and sometimes not) often does not work well and might not make the best model for other languages' spelling systems. Your "phonetic" spelling Khmons reflects such a misunderstanding. Did you think that Hmong was the native Hmong spelling, which would need to be changed if we were to use phonetic spelling in English? Actually Hmong already is the spelling adapted to English orthography. It is pronounced in English just as it looks: hˈmɔŋ. No need to respell it because it has already been respelled. More properly it should be /ˈm̥ɔ̃/ but we don't have those sounds in English or a consistent way to reflect them in our orthography.
It's also acceptable to simplify it to /mɔŋ/ and for it to be spelled Mong. Even in some varieties of Hmong itself, it is pronounced that way, and spelled without the h.
But there is no system in which it would be logically spelled Khmon. Maybe you were thinking of languages called Khmu /kʰmuʔ/ and Khmer /kʰmae/ or thinking it was related to the Mon-Khmer language family and would be pronounced similarly to those words. But they are unrelated to Hmong, and /kʰm/ (spelled khm in English) is a different sound from /ˈm̥/ (spelled hm in English). That's why in English it is spelled Hmong.
If we were to keep the native spelling for the word Hmong, in English we would write it as Hmoob or Moob depending on the dialect. If you want to get an idea of how English-speakers would feel about that, try googling to see people's reactions to finding "Hmoob" listed as one of the language options on ATM machines in the United States.

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby awrui » 2020-11-01, 21:13

Woods wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:you are thinking of it from the perspective of a non-native speaker trying to learn to spell words. You are not thinking of it from the perspective of a native speaker trying to learn to read and write.

Quite the contrary. I've never hated anything more than a French word respelt to match Bulgarian phonology.


Well, you're thinking from your perspective- not the one of an average 6 year old. It might have been different for you when you were small, but most children think differently about this topic.


Woods wrote:Here in Europe English will always be a part of our culture,

Oh god I hope not. The brits don't want to be a part of Europe? Fine! F them!


Woods wrote:It should be the other way around - educating people and keeping languages as sophisticated as they have come to be.

I think by this rule, you'll end up with something like latin- a dead language with no native speakers that rich people with too much time learn for status.

And again, this kind of stuff belogs to university- for people who are really interested. The average person - nurse, mechanic, kindergardener, peasant, engineer, whoever who does not work as a massive language nerd, - does not need this kind of knowledge in school.

I think the most important goal is litteracy! Without litteracy, the world goes to hell. Just look at european history, or countries nowadays where literacy is not available to all. It's far more important that the feelings of a language (which is a thing and has no feelings).

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Woods » 2020-11-03, 10:10

Oh, nice to wake up to so many reflections, and for the first time in two weeks in Helsinki there is sun :D


linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:you are thinking of it from the perspective of a non-native speaker trying to learn to spell words. You are not thinking of it from the perspective of a native speaker trying to learn to read and write.

Quite the contrary. I've never hated anything more than a French word respelt to match Bulgarian phonology.

Are you still "learning to read and write"? Or did you master those skills so long ago that you can't even remember what it was like to struggle with the arbitrariness of irregular spellings any more?

I've never struggled with that stuff as far as I remember.

And you can't convince me that a little bit of this "struggle" is not good for the kids.


linguoboy wrote:Germany used to have many more French words than it does now; now when German-speakers want to signal that they are au courant--I'm sorry, "with it"--they use borrowings from English, not French.

I think they like their French loans though. Everywhere I've been it's more cool to insert a word from another language different than English - the latter is just too common and almost everybody understands it, people want to stand out. But of course since English is everywhere there will be English words whenever they come handy. And it's super cool how the Germans pronounce them as they are pronounced in the original language, so that they can stand out as foreign not only in writing but in speech as well.


linguoboy wrote:Your "'fonetik' späliŋz" is nothing but a strawman. No one in the thread has suggested respelling how these languages represented native words.

Is "phonetic" a native word? Sorry, nobody mentioned that only foreign loans should be respelt either. All that has been said was about making the writing match the pronunciation.

And we have been talking about respelling native words. In our example Swedish, hvem has been changed to vem; a few days ago it was suggested in this forum that mig be written mäj.


linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:Crippling language to improve literacy is no good.

How does respelling words "cripple" a language? You've given no evidence that it does anything of the kind. How does, say, respelling English loanwords in katakana or han'gŭl restrict the use of Japanese or Korean (respectively) in any way?

Well, I already explained my view that stripping words from they etymology and historical spelling hurts the language by removing some of the meaning, blending native with foreign words, obscuring the link with othet relative languages etc.

I have no idea how Katakana works, so I can't say anything about it - we were talking about European languages, such as Swedish, English and French.


Linguaphile wrote:Your "phonetic" spelling Khmons reflects such a misunderstanding. Did you think that Hmong was the native Hmong spelling, which would need to be changed if we were to use phonetic spelling in English? Actually Hmong already is the spelling adapted to English orthography. It is pronounced in English just as it looks: hˈmɔŋ. (...) More properly it should be /ˈm̥ɔ̃/ but we don't have those sounds in English or a consistent way to reflect them in our orthography.
If we were to keep the native spelling for the word Hmong, in English we would write it as Hmoob or Moob depending on the dialect.

No, no. I have never heard of these languages and by respelling it, I just showed lack of care. Now that you explained to me more about these languages, I see why it's spelt Hmong and I will write it this way. In the same manner I would be happy to write "bureau" in Swedish, once I know where it comes from.

That's good, right? Now imagine I answered "you know what - I don't care about this language and its language family, I will spell it Khmon because it's more handy to me and I am already struggling to remember that there is such a language!


Linguaphile wrote:If you want to get an idea of how English-speakers would feel about that, try googling to see people's reactions to finding "Hmoob" listed as one of the language options on ATM machines in the United States.

I don't get the example - when will you see Hmoob as a language option in an American ATM? You should come up with a more realistic option - like finding French for example (Français). Then people will get it, because they'll be used to it. And isn't an entry in an ATM language menu supposed to be read and understood by the people who will actually use it? For that purpose, it only makes sense to use the original spelling and alphabet of the language.


awrui wrote:
Woods wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:you are thinking of it from the perspective of a non-native speaker trying to learn to spell words. You are not thinking of it from the perspective of a native speaker trying to learn to read and write.

Quite the contrary. I've never hated anything more than a French word respelt to match Bulgarian phonology.


Well, you're thinking from your perspective- not the one of an average 6 year old. It might have been different for you when you were small, but most children think differently about this topic.

Children eventually grow up and make sense (hopefully) of the things they've struggled with or have thought differently about.


awrui wrote:
Woods wrote:Here in Europe English will always be a part of our culture,

Oh god I hope not. The brits don't want to be a part of Europe? Fine! F them!

Yeah I agree with your last sentence completely, however, there is already so much culture and communication going on in this language, that I don't think this will ever change. And also for the reasons I am defending and all of you here are trying to defeat, English is the most convenient to be everybody's language.


awrui wrote:
Woods wrote:It should be the other way around - educating people and keeping languages as sophisticated as they have come to be.

I think by this rule, you'll end up with something like latin- a dead language with no native speakers that rich people with too much time learn for status.

Not if people use the language. And I don't think complication and sophistication were the reasons Latin fell out of use?


awrui wrote:The average person - nurse, mechanic, kindergardener, peasant, engineer, whoever who does not work as a massive language nerd, - does not need this kind of knowledge in school.

I think every nurse, mechanic, engineer deserves to get a taste of how languages work, to learn to read and write literature, to learn foreign spellings and foreign words. That's why we all go to high school - to learn a little bit of everything.


awrui wrote:I think the most important goal is litteracy!

I guess it depends on how we define this word. I heard somewhere that the definition used to be "a person who cannot read or write," but now it is "a person who is not able to quickly learn, unlearn and relearn."



@linguoboy, awrui:

And by the way I would like to see my native language Bulgarian return to its pre-1944 spelling. It will make it more complicated, but in line with how the language had been; aesthetically much more pleasing, and it will solve a huge argument about how what used to be one letter (ѣ) is to be pronounced. The so-called communists decided that half of the words would be pronounced one way (я /ja/), the other half another (e /ε/) - because it would be sooooooo bad if people could choose themselves and not everybody spoke exactly the same dialect! There came the argument that the population needed to be literate. But I think, everybody would be able to read that stuff, so replacing one letter and forcing one particular pronunciation over the other did not improve understanding. For writing, an extra effort was needed, otherwise misspelling might show that one is less well educated. The simplification came alongside another "sound" argument - the proletariat must rule over the upper class. I would be surprised if among the literary and intellectual circles there was any support. But shouldn't it be the people who are skilled at a certain thing (in this case language, literature) decide how it should be dealt with? If I'm bad at engineering, I'd rather have someone else design the train which I'm going to take, so that it doesn't crash in the middle of the ride.

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Linguaphile » 2020-11-03, 15:14

Woods wrote:I don't get the example - when will you see Hmoob as a language option in an American ATM? You should come up with a more realistic option - like finding French for example (Français).

It is a perfectly realistic option. I wasn't using it as an exotic example or something along those lines if that's what you're thinking; it's a genuine one. ("Hmoob listed as an option on ATM machines" is awfully specific to have been something I just made up... LOL.) No, it is real. There are many large Hmong immigrant communities in the United States and I have met dozens of Hmong speakers here. They are a minority in the United States, but still in many communities Hmong is a far more common language to encounter than French (and as a result, you will frequently see hmoob as a language choice in situations for which no français option is needed). That's why I suggested to try googling it to see peoples' reactions. It's something we do see, and there are interesting posts about it online from people who have seen it without initially knowing what it is and investigated it. It has introduced many Americans to the concept that some Latin-alphabet orthographies can work quite differently from their own.

Some blogs from a quick search:
Language Log: Do you wish to use Hmoob?
Hmoob?
Hmoob! And Russian Studies
My ATM Has Hmoob
Wells Fargo puts 'multi' in multi-lingual ATMs

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ImageImage
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Woods wrote:And isn't an entry in an ATM language menu supposed to be read and understood by the people who will actually use it? For that purpose, it only makes sense to use the original spelling and alphabet of the language.

Yes, it is. But now you are saying that using the original spelling and alphabet is appropriate on the ATM but not elsewhere, right? You don't think we should spell the word Hmong as "Hmoob" in English? If not, how is this different from what you have been saying about spelling words with their original spellings based on etymology? Hmoob would be the spelling based on etymology. Isn't your argument that these spellings should be preserved? And that you think English already does this quite well? Does your argument apply only to words of Latin and Greek (and maybe French and English) origin in Indo-European languages of Europe? And if your argument is that narrow... why?

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby linguoboy » 2020-11-03, 17:15

Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:Are you still "learning to read and write"? Or did you master those skills so long ago that you can't even remember what it was like to struggle with the arbitrariness of irregular spellings any more?

I've never struggled with that stuff as far as I remember.

And you can't convince me that a little bit of this "struggle" is not good for the kids.

And you haven't convinced me you know anything about what is and isn't good for kids. As far as I can tell, you have no real experience or expertise in this area. I don't have much beyond studying language acquisition as an undergraduate and helping my sister teach language skills to her kids (some of whom are dyslexic), but what I do know jibes with what awrui (who does have some real experience) is saying.

Woods wrote:But of course since English is everywhere there will be English words whenever they come handy. And it's super cool how the Germans pronounce them as they are pronounced in the original language, so that they can stand out as foreign not only in writing but in speech as well.

For now. Will this still be the case in a century or more? You yourself seemed to be suggesting earlier that the influence of English has already peaked and will be waning from here on out.

Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:How does respelling words "cripple" a language? You've given no evidence that it does anything of the kind. How does, say, respelling English loanwords in katakana or han'gŭl restrict the use of Japanese or Korean (respectively) in any way?

Well, I already explained my view that stripping words from they etymology and historical spelling hurts the language by removing some of the meaning, blending native with foreign words, obscuring the link with othet relative languages etc.

None of this "cripples" a language. I don't see how it "removes meaning"; borrowed words never have the same meaning in the destination language anyhow. (English is full of examples.) And why should there be a firm distinction between "native" and "foreign" words? A third of the "native" vocabulary of English is probably foreign to Proto-Indo-European anyhow.

Woods wrote:I have no idea how Katakana works, so I can't say anything about it

Same as any syllabary. The point is there's no real option not to respell words in the language and it copes just fine.

Woods wrote:we were talking about European languages, such as Swedish, English and French.

Sure, but I didn't think we were limiting the discussion to those languages. Your assertions have been pretty categorical, so why wouldn't they apply to languages outside Europe as well?

Woods wrote:
Well, you're thinking from your perspective- not the one of an average 6 year old. It might have been different for you when you were small, but most children think differently about this topic.

Children eventually grow up and make sense (hopefully) of the things they've struggled with or have thought differently about.

Or they get so frustrated they turn their back on those things and engage with them as little as possible. I'd rather they didn't do that with reading and writing.

Woods wrote:And by the way I would like to see my native language Bulgarian return to its pre-1944 spelling. It will make it more complicated, but in line with how the language had been; aesthetically much more pleasing

As I said, your argument seems to be first and foremost an aesthetic one. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just not very convincing to anyone who doesn't share the same aesthetic.

Woods wrote:The so-called communists decided that half of the words would be pronounced one way (я /ja/), the other half another (e /ε/) - because it would be sooooooo bad if people could choose themselves and not everybody spoke exactly the same dialect!

You won't find me arguing against standardisations that harm dialectal diversity. There are good reasons to have "cover letters" sometimes.

Woods wrote:I would be surprised if among the literary and intellectual circles there was any support. But shouldn't it be the people who are skilled at a certain thing (in this case language, literature) decide how it should be dealt with? If I'm bad at engineering, I'd rather have someone else design the train which I'm going to take, so that it doesn't crash in the middle of the ride.

That argument doesn't really make sense though, does it? The average person isn't trying to drive the train, they're only trying to ride it. So it should be constructed (and labeled!) in such a way that they can do that safely even if they have physical or mental disabilities, much less if they're just average people who don't understand how trains work.

There's something linguists such as Geoffrey Pullum and Mark Lieberman have warned against called "nerdview", which they define as "the use of an insider’s perspective and language in a context where messages are being addressed to a wider public". It happens to linguists when we use technical terms like "grammar", "voice", or "passive" disregarding the meanings these words have among non-specialists or when we assume others have the same understanding of language acquisition, parsing, translation, etc. that we have. It happens when engineers post warning messages that make no sense to ordinary people and even put them in danger or design interfaces expecting users to interact with them in one and only one way and not taking into account other possibilities.

You know a great more about language and languages than the average person. So connexions are obvious to you that aren't obvious to them and you enjoying making those connexions in a way many of them don't. You're like an auto fancier in a world where, to most people, a car is just a convenient contraption for getting from point A to point B and as long as it does that reliably, they don't really care who built or how many cylinders it has or what the torque is. Except even the percentage of people who use cars is much smaller than the percentage who use language.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Woods » 2020-11-04, 12:42

Linguaphile wrote:You don't think we should spell the word Hmong as "Hmoob" in English?

I do. It will be best to write it as Hmoob.


Linguaphile wrote:Does your argument apply only to words of Latin and Greek (and maybe French and English) origin in Indo-European languages of Europe? And if your argument is that narrow... why?

Nope, it applies to all languages. I don't know of we should introduce a two-way policy though and saction languages with highly unetymological spellings, as has been done to the Hmoobs :D

Okay, since you've been talking about this language - does b denote a nasal or how does it work?


linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:And you can't convince me that a little bit of this "struggle" is not good for the kids.

And you haven't convinced me you know anything about what is and isn't good for kids. As far as I can tell, you have no real experience or expertise in this area. I don't have much beyond studying language acquisition as an undergraduate and helping my sister teach language skills to her kids

Yeah, you see :)

Well, I've talked with some children and also gotten them more interested in languages. But not so much with really young ones. It doesn't matter - I can teach them better than most teachers. Don't tell me it's not obvious that most teachers are uninspired, boring, and almost blind to how things work. At least whete I'm coming from.

France same shit - the teacher just says something, whoever has understood it's their problem, then half of the students drop out.

Scandinavia - group works and stuff, no matter how stupid or smart you are you get ahead, but they restrict severely the opportunities of the students by limiting the number of available places for meaningful subjects (actually I have no experience with Sweden, but I've seen how it works in Denmark and a little bit in Finland).

I am expecting an attack by fellow forum members right now :D


linguoboy wrote:awrui (who does have some real experience)

Really?

awrui, have you been a teacher?


linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:But of course since English is everywhere there will be English words whenever they come handy. And it's super cool how the Germans pronounce them as they are pronounced in the original language, so that they can stand out as foreign not only in writing but in speech as well.

For now. Will this still be the case in a century or more?

How can I know?


linguoboy wrote:You yourself seemed to be suggesting earlier that the influence of English has already peaked and will be waning from here on out.

I guess it will be more concurrenced by other languages, but I don't see it going away soon.

I also suggested that it is the most fit for the job it has taken of all widely spoken languages.


linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:How does respelling words "cripple" a language? You've given no evidence that it does anything of the kind. How does, say, respelling English loanwords in katakana or han'gŭl restrict the use of Japanese or Korean (respectively) in any way?

Well, I already explained my view that stripping words from they etymology and historical spelling hurts the language by removing some of the meaning, blending native with foreign words, obscuring the link with othet relative languages etc.

None of this "cripples" a language.

Knowing what the word means in the original languages helps understand its meaning and nuances in the borrowing language tremendously. Usually when I learn a French word through English (e.g. a word which is not in common use in French anymore but obviously comes from there), I check the meanings in both languages to make my conclusions about what kind of word it is.

And since I intend to be a plurilingual person, I prefer to look at these words as units which are independent from the languages that have adopted them first, and only after that keep track of which parts of their meaning the borrowing language has taken.


linguoboy wrote:And why should there be a firm distinction between "native" and "foreign" words?

it's good to know where things come from


linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:I have no idea how Katakana works, so I can't say anything about it

Same as any syllabary. The point is there's no real option not to respell words in the language and it copes just fine.

I get that, but I can't have a stance about it since I don't know anything about it.

There was something called Romaji - do they ever insert Latin alphabet in their texts?


linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:
Well, you're thinking from your perspective- not the one of an average 6 year old. It might have been different for you when you were small, but most children think differently about this topic.

Children eventually grow up and make sense (hopefully) of the things they've struggled with or have thought differently about.

Or they get so frustrated they turn their back on those things and engage with them as little as possible. I'd rather they didn't do that with reading and writing.

I'd rather have them interested in writing with all its perks.


linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:And by the way I would like to see my native language Bulgarian return to its pre-1944 spelling. It will make it more complicated, but in line with how the language had been; aesthetically much more pleasing, and it will solve a huge argument about how what used to be one letter (ѣ) is to be pronounced.

As I said, your argument seems to be first and foremost an aesthetic one.

I've had many arguments and this is just one of them.


linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:The so-called communists decided that half of the words would be pronounced one way (я /ja/), the other half another (e /ε/) - because it would be sooooooo bad if people could choose themselves and not everybody spoke exactly the same dialect!

You won't find me arguing against standardisations that harm dialectal diversity. There are good reasons to have "cover letters" sometimes.

What? I did not understand you here at all.


linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:I would be surprised if among the literary and intellectual circles there was any support. But shouldn't it be the people who are skilled at a certain thing (in this case language, literature) decide how it should be dealt with? If I'm bad at engineering, I'd rather have someone else design the train which I'm going to take, so that it doesn't crash in the middle of the ride.

That argument doesn't really make sense though, does it? The average person isn't trying to drive the train, they're only trying to ride it. So it should be constructed (and labeled!) in such a way that they can do that safely even if they have physical or mental disabilities, much less if they're just average people who don't understand how trains work.

Yeah, cool, but they don't put only disabled places in the train just because it has to accommodate these people too!


linguoboy wrote:You're like an auto fancier in a world where, to most people, a car is just a convenient contraption for getting from point A to point B and as long as it does that reliably, they don't really care who built or how many cylinders it has or what the torque is. Except even the percentage of people who use cars is much smaller than the percentage who use language.

It does not do that reliably. Some people use language in a way that makes the educated person very uncomfortable listening. They need to be educated. Your argument is like saying that nobody should learn to drive and everybody should be carried in some public transportation vehicle without windows :P

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Linguaphile » 2020-11-04, 15:12

Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:Children eventually grow up and make sense (hopefully) of the things they've struggled with or have thought differently about.

Or they get so frustrated they turn their back on those things and engage with them as little as possible. I'd rather they didn't do that with reading and writing.

I'd rather have them interested in writing with all its perks.

What makes you think this system would do that? I have taught literacy to children (many years ago). Do you know that beginning texts for early readers in English tend to limit themselves to words that can be phonetically spelled plus a few key sight words that can't? It makes for very artificial-sounding text, but allows students to get a grasp of some phonics rules. (A language with a closer sound-spelling correlation has less need to do this.)
Parents from Spanish-speaking backgrounds sometimes thought we "weren't teaching reading at all" because we were not teaching the pronunciation of each syllable, the way it is taught in Spanish. The problem is that is not possible teach reading in English that way.
Many students really struggle with learning to read in English and a large part of that problem comes from the many different spellings that are used for a single sound and the many different sounds that can be presented by a single spelling. And reading disorders show up with more frequency among learners who are learning to read a language with a deep orthography (like English or French) in comparison to languages with a closer correspondence between spelling and pronunciation (like Spanish, Finnish, or Hmong). Your system - where basically each word will follow its own spelling rules depending on its etymology - would make it even more difficult to learn to read and, as Linguoboy mentioned, many students would get frustrated and discouraged, and avoid it as much as possible.
I'm coming to the conclusion that this discussion is pointless. Obviously we are not going to change the spelling systems of any language, and I am not going to convince you that your etymology-based spelling would create unnecessary difficulties, and you are not going to convince me that your system is better than the current one. We've had these discussions here and we've had them on the Saami languages forum. At this point we're just going in circles.

Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:Well, I've talked with some children and also gotten them more interested in languages. But not so much with really young ones. It doesn't matter - I can teach them better than most teachers.

:ohwell:

Woods wrote:Okay, since you've been talking about this language - does b denote a nasal or how does it work?

Double vowels indicate nasalization. Word-final consonants indicate tone. (Word-final b represents a high tone.)

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby linguoboy » 2020-11-04, 18:57

Woods wrote:Well, I've talked with some children and also gotten them more interested in languages. But not so much with really young ones. It doesn't matter

Yeah, it kind of does, because--as Linguaphile says--it's the youngest children who struggle the most with the inconsistent spelling conventions of deep orthographies.

Woods wrote:I can teach them better than most teachers. Don't tell me it's not obvious that most teachers are uninspired, boring, and almost blind to how things work. At least whete I'm coming from.

Forgive me if I don't simply take your word for it. :D

Even if we accept your premise that most teachers are "boring", there's no reason at all for us to assume that you're any less boring as a teacher. (This isn't an "attack", this is just Debate Logic 101.)

Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:But of course since English is everywhere there will be English words whenever they come handy. And it's super cool how the Germans pronounce them as they are pronounced in the original language, so that they can stand out as foreign not only in writing but in speech as well.

For now. Will this still be the case in a century or more?

How can I know?

You can't, which is why I think it's unwise for you to make statements like "Here in Europe English will always be a part of our culture."

Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:How does respelling words "cripple" a language? You've given no evidence that it does anything of the kind. How does, say, respelling English loanwords in katakana or han'gŭl restrict the use of Japanese or Korean (respectively) in any way?

Well, I already explained my view that stripping words from they etymology and historical spelling hurts the language by removing some of the meaning, blending native with foreign words, obscuring the link with othet relative languages etc.

None of this "cripples" a language.

Knowing what the word means in the original languages helps understand its meaning and nuances in the borrowing language tremendously.

Sometimes--and sometimes it actually misleads you. We have an entire long-running thread dedicated to faux amis--many of which are borrowed words--and another for "pseudo-Anglicisms".

Woods wrote:And since I intend to be a plurilingual person, I prefer to look at these words as units which are independent from the languages that have adopted them first, and only after that keep track of which parts of their meaning the borrowing language has taken.

Bully for you, but most people don't have a need to or an interest in doing that.

Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:And why should there be a firm distinction between "native" and "foreign" words?

it's good to know where things come from

Good for what?

Woods wrote:There was something called Romaji - do they ever insert Latin alphabet in their texts?

"ローマ字" just means the Latin alphabet. In English, "rōmaji"/"romaji" means a rendering of a Japanese word or words into the Latin alphabet in any context, and usually to Japanese words used in an English-language context rather than the reverse. (I've seen some use of individual Latin alphabet letters used in Japanese-language contexts, but not entire words.)

Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:Children eventually grow up and make sense (hopefully) of the things they've struggled with or have thought differently about.

Or they get so frustrated they turn their back on those things and engage with them as little as possible. I'd rather they didn't do that with reading and writing.

I'd rather have them interested in writing with all its perks.

I think that's what we all want. The disagreement is about what's the best way to do that. We've all tried to give you concrete reasons why maintaining a more complex spelling system will impair child language acquisition and, thus, later interest in reading and writing, but you just keep dismissing them out of hand.

Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:The so-called communists decided that half of the words would be pronounced one way (я /ja/), the other half another (e /ε/) - because it would be sooooooo bad if people could choose themselves and not everybody spoke exactly the same dialect!

You won't find me arguing against standardisations that harm dialectal diversity. There are good reasons to have "cover letters" sometimes.

What? I did not understand you here at all.

What part didn't you understand? From what you're saying, it sounds like ѣ is a cover letter, one which represents different phonemes according to the dialect of the particular speaker. Most languages with any significant dialectal variation have these and they're very useful.

Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:That argument doesn't really make sense though, does it? The average person isn't trying to drive the train, they're only trying to ride it. So it should be constructed (and labeled!) in such a way that they can do that safely even if they have physical or mental disabilities, much less if they're just average people who don't understand how trains work.

Yeah, cool, but they don't put only disabled places in the train just because it has to accommodate these people too!

But a train that can accommodate disabled passengers can accommodate everyone else as well. The converse is not true, however. If you make a train that only the fully-abled can ride safely, then you'll end up excluding wide swathes of society.

It's worth keeping in mind that we will all be disabled at some point in our lives. Children do not have the full set of skills and abilities we assume from mature adults; on the other end, if we live long enough, our bodies and minds start failing. And any of us can be temporarily or permanently disabled by an accident or illness. So it behooves us to try to accommodate the broadest range of human abilities possible if we want the full participation of everyone in society.

(Getting back to my experience with my nephews: a couple of them are dyslexic, which means they're more negatively impacted by inconsistent and unintuitive spellings than other learners.)

Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:You're like an auto fancier in a world where, to most people, a car is just a convenient contraption for getting from point A to point B and as long as it does that reliably, they don't really care who built or how many cylinders it has or what the torque is. Except even the percentage of people who use cars is much smaller than the percentage who use language.

It does not do that reliably. Some people use language in a way that makes the educated person very uncomfortable listening.

How is that the problem of the person using the language and not the "educated person" who is listening to them? Getting used to dealing with a certain amount of discomfort around others is a pretty basic skill for living in human society. If you can't do that, then I question how "educated" you are where it matters.

Woods wrote:Your argument is like saying that nobody should learn to drive and everybody should be carried in some public transportation vehicle without windows :P

Can you demonstrate how?

Standard languages really are more comparable to public transportation than a private car anyhow. Their entire purpose is to facilitate communication among the broadest possible number of people. There's nothing stopping you from hopping into a private car that fits your own personal aesthetic and exploring some country roads on your own. But, sooner or later, you need to come back and travel on the same routes as everyone else.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby linguoboy » 2020-11-04, 18:59

Linguaphile wrote:
Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:Well, I've talked with some children and also gotten them more interested in languages. But not so much with really young ones. It doesn't matter - I can teach them better than most teachers.

:ohwell:

Careful with your attributions, please.I didn't write the quoted text above; Woods wrote it in response to a quote from me.
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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Linguaphile » 2020-11-04, 19:06

linguoboy wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:
Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:Well, I've talked with some children and also gotten them more interested in languages. But not so much with really young ones. It doesn't matter - I can teach them better than most teachers.

:ohwell:

Careful with your attributions, please.I didn't write the quoted text above; Woods wrote it in response to a quote from me.

Sorry about that. I knew it was Woods who said it and didn't mean to attribute it to you. It looks like something happened with the quote headings and I just didn't notice. It's hard to quote portions of text when they are nested; I must have deleted a tag somewhere.

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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby linguoboy » 2020-11-04, 19:16

Linguaphile wrote:Sorry about that. I knew it was Woods who said it and didn't mean to attribute it to you. It looks like something happened with the quote headings and I just didn't notice. It's hard to quote portions of text when they are nested; I must have deleted a tag somewhere.

No worries, I've done this before myself. (I was pleasantly surprised to see no stray tags when I previewed my last long response to Woods--which probably means there are some and I just overlooked them. :lol: )
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Re: Why is Swedish so messy and complicated

Postby Woods » 2020-11-05, 9:24

Linguaphile wrote:I have taught literacy to children (many years ago). Do you know that beginning texts for early readers in English tend to limit themselves to words that can be phonetically spelled plus a few key sight words that can't? It makes for very artificial-sounding text, but allows students to get a grasp of some phonics rules. (A language with a closer sound-spelling correlation has less need to do this.)

How difficult is it to teach them to think of the words visually and not phonetically?

Actually here's an interesting question to me: do you native English speakers represent the words somewhat phonetically in your heads when you write? Coming from a native language with a rather phonetic spelling, I was doing something like that when I was learning French, because nobody taught me how to do it properly. I had two voices in my head: one pronouncing /fi'nis/, the other one /fi'nissεnt/, until the word "finissent" appeared on the paper. I may be still doing it with the -ent ending, because it just doesn't make any sense to me that it's there (we're not talking about etymology of meaning-bearing words here, but about writing grammar that that doesn't correspond to the actual grammar as spoken - I haven't seen anything like that in any other language.) But I wouldn't do the same with the ph in phonetics foor example. It just looks like another very natural way to write the /f/ sound. I don't see why it would be a problem to have two ways of writing one sound and learn which word has which. Sure it's an extra thing to learn, but compare for example the with learning to write traditional Chinese characters. It's insanely more complicated and yet kids in Taiwan do it and become literate. I even envy them for the incredibly interesting and thousand-year-old writing system. And I think we could have five a tiny part of that in European languages by writing more etymologically.


linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:Children eventually grow up and make sense (hopefully) of the things they've struggled with or have thought differently about.

Or they get so frustrated they turn their back on those things and engage with them as little as possible. I'd rather they didn't do that with reading and writing.

I'd rather have them interested in writing with all its perks.

I think that's what we all want. The disagreement is about what's the best way to do that. We've all tried to give you concrete reasons why maintaining a more complex spelling system will impair child language acquisition and, thus, later interest in reading and writing, but you just keep dismissing them out of hand.

Well, you just can't convince me that the end result is less important than the initial struggles.

If say 10% of Americans were illiterate because of complicated spelling as opposed to 0,01% of Swedes, I would probably take a more deep thought about it. But there is nothing like that!

At the end, would you rather have learnt English as it is or with some sort of phonetic rather than etymological spelling like Swedish? Again, thinking from the perspective of the final result? Would you give away all the knowledge you've acquired through this "deep" spelling system?


linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:The so-called communists decided that half of the words would be pronounced one way (я /ja/), the other half another (e /ε/) - because it would be sooooooo bad if people could choose themselves and not everybody spoke exactly the same dialect!

You won't find me arguing against standardisations that harm dialectal diversity. There are good reasons to have "cover letters" sometimes.

What? I did not understand you here at all.

What part didn't you understand? From what you're saying, it sounds like ѣ is a cover letter, one which represents different phonemes according to the dialect of the particular speaker. Most languages with any significant dialectal variation have these and they're very useful.

From the way you're saying it it sounds like you're contradicting yourself. I think you meant that you wouldn't support this standardisation (i.e. removal of the ѣ letter), but it sounded like you meant the opposite. Look at what you wrote :)

This is also the first time I hear the term cover letter used in that sense. Do you know examples from other languages?


linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:
linguoboy wrote:The average person isn't trying to drive the train, they're only trying to ride it. So it should be constructed (and labeled!) in such a way that they can do that safely even if they have physical or mental disabilities, much less if they're just average people who don't understand how trains work.

Yeah, cool, but they don't put only disabled places in the train just because it has to accommodate these people too!

But a train that can accommodate disabled passengers can accommodate everyone else as well.

Not quite. If you had only disabled places, it would be able to board less people. There's always a trade-off!

That's why it's designed for people who can walk in and stand, but there's a ramp so that people with difficulties can access (and also get help if needed). Not everybody has to walk in in a wheelchair because some people cannot do it in another way.

And now imagine there was a way for those disabled people to walk up and walk in just like everyone else. Which in the sense of our metaphor there is - by extra schooling from good teachers.


linguoboy wrote:Standard languages really are more comparable to public transportation than a private car anyhow. (...) There's nothing stopping you from hopping into a private car that fits your own personal aesthetic

Oh, no - I love public transport! You can't tell me to go use a private car if I don't like it - I will always demand better trains for everyone!



@everyone:

Okay, I think we went far enough - not that it's not interesting, but I noticed I spend too much time on this thread and this is not really where I should be focusing.

And as Linguaphile put it we're not deciding the future of English or Swedish here and they are staying as they are regardless of our opinion. I will hate Swedish respelling and it will keep me from learning the language regardless of how much I'd like to speak it otherwise; and you are both free to use less English and more Swedish :D

I was wondering if there is any support for more etymologically correct spelling for Swedish among its educated speakers (of which there seems to be a fair amount here), but aparently there isn't. I would instinctively attribute this to the fact that Sweden is a rather-well functioning democracy and at such places people tend to agree on conventions more and question things less. The overall support for phonetic respellings at the expense of etymology among speakers of other languages that have traditionally done otherwise surprised me.


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