Re: Languages, "modern" and otherwise

Robert Snower (rs222@WORLDNET.ATT.NET)
Wed, 21 Aug 1996 14:27:59 +0000

At 12:48 PM 8/21/96 +0000, Ronald Kephart wrote:
>>rs wrote:
>> 1. In French, the child might well produce
>> "Is it that the cat t black on the couch?"
>Do you mean while speaking French, or while speaking English?

Speaking French: Est-ce que le chat noir est . . . ? (hope it is good
French--I put the t in the wrong place above) I am trying to show that in
French, unlike English, the "is" does not come out of the middle of the
sentence when turning it into a question.
>> 2. In "synthetic" languages such as classical Latin, and ancient Greek, the
>> order is not essential to the meaning at all. Doesn't that bear on the
>> argument for the innateness of the above?
>No. Classial Greek and Latin are fully modern languages. Do not be misled by
>the inappropriate use of the term "modern" to refer to languages still acquired
>as native languages today. There is nothing about the structure of Latin or
>Greek that separates them from any language spoken now.

Not responsive to my question. In your argument from Chomsky I thought you
were arguing that innateness was proved by an order, which I am suggesting
does not apply to the Latin and Greek, so cannot prove innateness.
>> 3. The change from such languages to modern analytic language in a matter
>> of less than 2000 years seems very great to me. Does anyone think this
>> great change is based on a genetic change? If it is all "cultural," does
>> that mean a modern child could as readily acquire one of these languages?
>> Or that an ancient Greek, transported through time, could acquire English as
>> readily as today's child? (If you decide to perform these experiments, let
>> me know.)
>Languages lke Latin and Greek, which depend more heavily on morphology than
>syntax, are still plentiful today. I am not aware of anyone who would argue
>that the evolution (I use the word loosely here!) of various forms of Latin
>contemporary Spanish, Italian, Romanian, etc. has anything to do with genetics.
>Children transported by time-warp from ancient Greece or Rome, or for that
>matter from the homeland of the Indo-Europeans 6,000 or more years ago, and
>almost surely from even further back than that, would be fully "modern" humans
>and be capable of acquiring any natural human language.
What is the consensus rationale for this great change? Or isn't there one?

Best wishes. R. Snower