Re: Japanese/general issue of effect of "model" (status) languages

Message: 20787
Date: 2003-04-05


My elegant reply went to electronic heaven, so here's the short version. Although this list is not concerned with Japanese, I think the issue of the effect of model grammars (Latin on Germanic languages, for example, and specifically Latin on Finnish vs Chinese on Japanese in this case) is worth discussing. I was very disappointed in the IE linguistics course that I audited at UT last fall that no "formal" attention was given to this issue, or to the related issue of spoken vs written language, which is of huge importance to descriptive linguists.   

I do not hear the separation between noun and particle in spoken Japanese:  the fact that all Japanese syllables end in a vowel or "n", though, means that there's a syllable break in front of the particle anyway.  Also, Chinese writing DEMANDS that they be seen as separate entities, since the root is always a kanji and can't inflect, and the ending has to represented in Japanese syllabic script.  The analogy in IE would be the effect of the script on Hittite. I know that the IE-ness of Hittite can be studied through the lens of the non-IE script, but I don't know if anyone has looked to see what the effect of the script might have been on Hittite the language.   I studied English grammar in my youth as if it were a dialect of Latin (in fact, I had to study Latin BEFORE I was taught more than the rudiments of English grammar).   In formal English, even more so in formal German, the convergence between Latin and the written language of today (actually, 50 years ago would be safer) is obvious - so obvious that it didn't hinder the original historical linguists.  But I wonder if the extent of Greek grammatical influence on Latin is so well-understood (probably is), or of Etruscan on Latin (probably not), or the influence of Arabic on modern Farsi, etc., etc.  In the case of Japanese, just for interest's sake, it is really obvious.  For example inflection of native Japanese adjectives shows the tense of the sentence:  Ii desu = it is good, but  Iikatta desu = it was good (lit. "good-was is": - NOT "ii deshita").  Adjectives borrowed from Chinese, no matter how long ago, behave like the normal adjectives that we are all used to in IE languages).  The well-known equivalent in English is that educated people don't use double negatives, though every English speaker knows perfectly well what "I don't not know no-one who don't want no nine-inch nails" means."    A not so obvious one would be that in spoken Suffolk dialect there is a subjunctive formed with the auxiliary verb "do":  "Do it rain, it blah blah"  "It may rain, ..." or "If it rains, ..." - this would not be detectable if all we had to go on were the written records of English.  I have no idea where or how it arose, incidentally.  Makes for some inscrutible conversations "Doubt tha's gonna rain"  "Do that do, them ol' hodmedods'll git in the pightle".

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