Download Language Interrupted: Signs of Non-Native Acquisition in by John McWhorter PDF

By John McWhorter

Foreigners usually say that English language is "easy." A language like Spanish is hard in its number of verb endings (the verb communicate is conjugated hablo, hablas, hablamos), and gender for nouns, while English is extra basic (I communicate, you communicate, we speak). yet linguists regularly swat down claims that sure languages are "easier" than others, because it is believed all languages are complicated to a similar measure. for instance, they are going to aspect to English's use of the note "do" -- have you learnt French? This utilization is counter-intuitive and tough for non-native audio system. Linguist John McWhorter consents that each one languages are complicated, yet questions whether they are all both complicated. the subject of complexity has turn into a sizzling factor in recent times, rather in creole reviews, historic linguistics, and language touch. As McWhorter describes, while languages got here into touch through the years (when French audio system governed the English for a couple of centuries, or the vikings invaded England), a great number of audio system are pressured to profit a brand new language fast, and this got here up with a simplified model, a pidgin. while this finally becomes a "real" language, a creole, the result's nonetheless less complicated and no more complicated than a "non-interrupted" language that has been round for a very long time. McWhorter makes the case that this type of simplification occurs in levels, and criticizes linguists who're reluctant to claim that, for instance, English is just easier than Spanish for socio-historical purposes. He analyzes how a variety of languages that appear basic yet should not creoles, really are easier than they'd be in the event that they had now not been damaged down by way of huge numbers of grownup freshmen. as well as English, he appears to be like at Mandarin chinese language, Persian, Malay, and a few Arabic types. His paintings will curiosity not only specialists in creole stories and old linguistics, however the wider neighborhood drawn to language complexity.

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Additional info for Language Interrupted: Signs of Non-Native Acquisition in Standard Language Grammars

Example text

Rountree 1972, 323) By Ham’s analysis, assuming that subjects are generated as the left branch under maximal projection IP with the verb generated in the rightward branch as part of I’, sandhi spreads from subject to VP because there is no intervening maximal projection. ) Nor is the system perfectly regular. , 322) There are also some words with inherent low tone impermeable to sandhi, such as past marker bi: [mi á bi lési], but *[mi á bí lési].

Meanwhile, there are morphophonological irregularities. The n-class prefix occurs only before d, g, j, and z, assimilates in some cases (mbu “mosquito”), but is absent in most (asali “honey,” tende “date”)—except that the prefix does occur (although possibly with assimilation) on all monosyllabic nouns (nta “wax”). Also, the n-prefix is invariable for number—albeit its corresponding subject concord prefix upon verbs is not invariable, and this prefix then varies according to animacy: i/zi for inanimates, a/wa (the prefixes for the human classes I and II) for animates.

1. Two Extremes The question we must be clear on, then, is the following: Is the sense that inflections tend to complexify a grammar based on a Eurocentric fetishization of boundedness as a mark of sophistication? Or, to put another spin on it, is the attention that I will pay to inflection due to an Anglophone’s exoticization of the declensional and conjugational paradigms so sparse in his native tongue? Questions such as these must be asked. They must also be answered, and thus it will be useful to compare a grammar with no inflections at all, Saramaccan Creole, with a heavily inflected language, Estonian.

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