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LeBrok
06-10-11, 22:11
I have asked myself a question, why grammar of many modern languages is simpler, sometimes much simpler, when compared to their root language?

English has a very simple grammar compared to its most influential source of Germanic family of Anglo-Saxon.

Romance languages are grammatically simplified form of Latin.

Maybe it means that Latin and Anglo-Saxon was for a long time a second language for people of conquered areas? There were no schools back then to teach young kids correct versions. The languages of conquerors became dominant, but because it was a second language and most of locals learned them from other locals who didn’t know the language perfectly, it became simplified. Latin became Vulgar Latin, Anglo-Saxon became Old English.

If I’m correct with this assertion we should be able to trace source of languages even if we don’t know history of it

I wonder how the situation pans for the whole family of Germanic languages. Can we trace the source of it to most influential country? Who has the most complicated grammar? Is it Danish, Swedish, or some places in Germany with some old difficult grammatically dialects?

Is it possible to do the same with Slavic languages? What can we get when we compare grammars of Polish, Bulgarian or Macedonian for example?


With Romance languages case is much easier. By historic records we can trace it to small area of Latin tribe.
Interesting is that when I’ve heard Basque language for the first time I thought that they were speaking Spanish. The melody, the pronunciation, the accents was very like Spanish. Mind that I don’t speak either, and my judgment was only audible.
Looks like in Spanish the vocabulary and grammar are Vulgar Latin but pronunciation and melody is area local, I guess. (Digression: Portuguese sounds different for me, sometimes similar to Slovenian or Slovakian with these very soft Č, Š, Ž. Maybe something to do with Galicia here and there? Old Celtic influence?)


Off course everything is based on assumption that original and long isolated languages had very complicated grammar. Plus some observation that spread of a language over none speaking population meant simplification of grammar.

What do you think guys?

LeBrok
06-10-11, 22:32
I don't know, I can't find, if any comparative complexity of grammars study was done by a linguist. It could be an interesting read, or at least conclusions of it.

Taranis
07-10-11, 00:27
Interesting question. Generally, I totally agree, regarding the Indo-European languages, the tendency towards greater simplicity exists across the board (with very few exceptions - the Baltic languages being very conservative for instance). On the flip side, few IE languages have such a simplified grammar as English has. As for comparative complexity, there are a few key indicators that I would suggest to make a rough comparison (at least, within the Indo-European system), such as the number of declensions.

Asturrulumbo
07-10-11, 02:06
Maybe it means that Latin and Anglo-Saxon was for a long time a second language for people of conquered areas? There were no schools back then to teach young kids correct versions. The languages of conquerors became dominant, but because it was a second language and most of locals learned them from other locals who didn’t know the language perfectly, it became simplified. Latin became Vulgar Latin, Anglo-Saxon became Old English.
But not necessarily. Though it is true that languages that are learned en masse as a second language lose their complexity (such as creoles), it is not always the case. For example, modern Irish is much less morphologically complex than Old Irish, and the same is true when comparing PIE to almost all its descendants.

LeBrok
07-10-11, 05:57
I've been going through Slavic countries grammar with emphases on noun declension. The countries with simplified Slavic grammar are Macedonia and Bulgaria. It would mean that according to my "complexity of grammar" (at least for IE speakers) hypothesis populations of Bulgaria and Macedonia were not originally slavic speaking people.


As such, it shares several grammatical innovations with the other southwest Balkan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balkan) languages that set it apart from other Slavic languages. These include a sharp reduction in noun inflections (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declension); most Bulgarian nouns and adjectives are inflected for number (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_(grammar)) and gender (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_gender), but have lost noun cases (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noun_case). Bulgarian also has a suffixed definite article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Definite_article), while most other Slavic languages (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavic_languages) have no definite article at all. Bulgarian has also lost the verb infinitive (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinitive), while otherwise preserving most of the complexities of the Old Bulgarian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Church_Slavonic_language) verb conjugation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_conjugation) system, and has further developed the proto-Slavic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-Slavic) verb system to add verb forms to express nonwitnessed, retold, and doubtful (irrealis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irrealis)) actions.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulgarian_grammar



Macedonian grammar (Macedonian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macedonian_language): македонска граматика, makedonska gramatika) refers to the morphology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morphology_(linguistics)) and syntax (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syntax) of the Macedonian language (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macedonian_language), which is, in many respects, similar to the grammar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammar) of some other Balkan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balkans) languages (constituent languages of the Balkan sprachbund (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balkan_sprachbund)) — especially Bulgarian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulgarian_language) and Serbian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serbian_language). The first printed Macedonian grammar is from Gjorgjija Pulevski (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gjorgjija_Pulevski), which was published in 1880 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1880).[1] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macedonian_grammar#cite_note-0)
Macedonian exhibits a number of grammatical features that distinguish it from most other Slavic languages (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavic_languages), such as the elimination of case declension (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_case), the development of a suffixed definite (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Definiteness) article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_(grammar)), and the lack of an infinitival (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinitive) verb, among others.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macedonian_grammar

With my very limited linguistic skills, and even with help of mister google, I can't find any major differences between grammars of other Slavs.

LeBrok
07-10-11, 07:39
But not necessarily. Though it is true that languages that are learned en masse as a second language lose their complexity (such as creoles), it is not always the case. For example, modern Irish is much less morphologically complex than Old Irish,

I don't think that I've identified a strict rule, it's more like a trend. It also might be the case that in 20th century Irish speaking, every day Irish speaking, population dwindled bellow minimum to sustain correct grammar?


and the same is true when comparing PIE to almost all its descendants.

Except most Slavic and Baltic languages. But surely there might be a natural trend in language simplification for some, like Germanic family. On other hand Hungarian/Magyar possibly got more complicated with time.

I wish I could do more, but this is it of my knowledge, even with help of mister google, lol.