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Re: Planet of the New Papers

Various and sundry claims that I think should be addressed in public...

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jerry D. Harris" <jharris@dixie.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 4:13 PM

who knows, in another few decades, we could be arguing about whether
French, German, or Spanish should be the universal communication language.

In those few cases where the EU uses a single language (I can only think of the European Central Bank), that's English...

More than that, it's fairly widely recognized that English is one of the
hardest languages on Earth to master for non-native speakers;

As probably always, that depends. Many linguistic Europeans, myself included, find most of it quite easy -- it works mostly along the same lines, but has less declension and conjugation.

Believe you me, after you've had to grade papers where
students actually use text-message-speak in their answers, you'll realize
how poorly the natives grasp their own language.

That's spelling, not language, and there's no question that English has the worst orthography of any language that uses an alphabet or syllabary. http://www.xibalba.demon.co.uk/jbr/ortho.html Suuuure, it does have rules -- and they apply over 85 % of the time http://www.zompist.com/spell.html. Oh, wow.

   I have absolutely no sense of how foreign languages are perceived
outside the U.S., but it does seem to me that Americans are singularly
adverse to learning foreign languages;

Well, over here we don't get the possibility to be adverse to learning at least English. It's a compulsory subject starting about at age 10 or earlier, depending on the country. :-)

and I have spent ungodly quantities of
time poring over Chinese papers with dictionaries to try and extract tiny
tidbits of information...

Oh yeah, I will never forget the "hole bird"... The dictionaries I found in the university library ignored all surnames, so it took a lot of time till it dawned on me that I was looking at the vernacular for *Confuciusornis*.

But believe
me, if an opportunity to learn Chinese comes along, I'm taking it.

There are plenty online. All it seems you need is time and Google -- lots of time.

Too bad Esperanto never caught on... 8-P

I disagree. http://www.xibalba.demon.co.uk/jbr/ranto/ (long version) http://www.xibalba.demon.co.uk/jbr/ranto/_.html (short version) :-Ã

----- Original Message -----
From: "T. Michael Keesey" <keesey@gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 9:58 PM

On 8/21/07, john hunt <john.bass@ntlworld.com> wrote:
There are, I believe, a number of Chinese languages with Mandarin the most
used and this is undoubtedly the most used native language

Actually, Cantonese has more native speakers.

By a factor of under 0.1? :-} Wikipedia claims 867.2 million native speakers for Mandarin and 71 million for Cantonese. Or have you found a sufficiently narrow definition of Mandarin?

But, anyway, this
doesn't matter, since all of the Chinese languages are written the
same (one of the benefits of using a logographic system in conjunction
with an isolating grammar).

Untrue. Of all "Sinitic languages", only Mandarin (or rather the somewhat artificial standard version of Mandarin) is written to any significant degree, with the occasional Cantonese exception. The languages have separate vocabularies and separate grammars; indeed, lots of new characters have been created for Cantonese words that lack Mandarin equivalents and therefore characters. It's as if almost all writing by speakers of Romance languages were done in French.

----- Original Message ----- From: "Mike Taylor" <mike@indexdata.com> Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 10:50 PM

Even if the technical problems were solved, I don't
see anyone in the next ten years building the knowledge base necessary
to translate Janensch's high technical papers from their obsolete
dialect of High German.

As I mentioned before, Janensch's papers are written in what was at the time considered good scholarly style. Their language is modern... well, almost modern Standard German; it's not a dialect. High German is the cover term for those dialects (plus the standard) which are spoken in the center and south of the German-speaking area, where the country is high, as opposed to Low German which is spoken around sea level. High German is subdivided into Middle German (which includes the dialects closest to the somewhat artificial standard) and Upper German.