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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: August ::
Words, words, words - Hamlet II.2
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1686  Wednesday, 27 August 2003

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <
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 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 26 Aug 2003 07:29:06 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1678 Words, words, words - Hamlet II.2

[2]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 26 Aug 2003 19:49:19 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1678 Words, words, words - Hamlet II.2


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 26 Aug 2003 07:29:06 -0400
Subject: 14.1678 Words, words, words - Hamlet II.2
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1678 Words, words, words - Hamlet II.2

Lighten up, folks: the whole point of this post is that English is a
nightmare for those who learn it as a second language. Those who have
nitpicked it to death didn't learn those sophisticated linguistic
explanations until they were in graduate school: pray tell, what did you
all think the "past imperfect" tense was, when you were in high school?

Personally, I couldn't see how it was any more flawed than the others .
. .

Carol Barton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 26 Aug 2003 19:49:19 +0100
Subject: 14.1678 Words, words, words - Hamlet II.2
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1678 Words, words, words - Hamlet II.2

Sam Small <
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 > writes,

>Very amusing, Thomas.  Actually all the apparent inconsistencies can be
>explained in English.  I'm no professor of the subject - there are far
>better than me on this list.  But to take an example.  English began
>more than 1200 years ago amongst the competitive tribes including
>Angles, Saxons and Jutes who invaded Celtic Britain.  They had quite
>different Germanic dialects.  The Angles, who lived on the eastern part
>of England (now called East Anglia) used 's' to denote plurals - hence
>'plants', 'trees', 'clouds'.  The Saxons used 'en' for plurals hence
>'oxen', 'children' - an possibly 'men' and 'women'.  However, in the
>social and political struggles the Angles were triumphant and the
>language became Angle-ish with a few Saxon leftovers.

Um ...  Well, no, Sam.

The various Germanic dialects weren't that differentiated at the point
that they dumped on Romano-Celtic/Brythonic "Britannia".

The "-en" forms ("ox"/"oxen", etc.) derive from weak-declension nouns,
and lost out to the predominant strong-declension nouns which
(ultimately) formed plurals in the stone/stones form.  The result is
that the current norm is the "-s" plural form, with Vestigial Remnants.
(I'm skipping over the various minor declensions that give us mouse/mice
and sheep/sheep.)

It's a process of semiotic rather than sociological survival of the
fittest.

Robin Hamilton

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