Man, being a productive member of society sure cuts into my reading time.
That was the realization I had as I put my immensely engaging book back into my bag on the train after having read about 2 pages. The book is 1139 pages long. I sneak a few minutes in to see what happened after they crashed on the shores of Nazi-occupied Norway during the 3 stops between where I take Dutch classes and where I work.
I am enjoying these days though, each step of the day taken individually and enjoyed for itself, without thinking about all the other things I am not doing with my time. One of those not-done things is blogging, so before I warm up the rice and beans from last night’s burrito-themed dinner party (God I love guacamole) I’m going to throw some crud up here I’ve encountered lately.
I’ll pick…class. I am studying Dutch, and one of my favourite things about it is how much the language makes sense. I love English, and am tremendously glad that birth circumstance made me a native speaker (did you know there are roughly as many words in English as in the next three largest language combined? [according to my TESOL course, at least]). It is beautifully flexible, and richly textured…and makes no sense.
The pure quantity of inexplicable exceptions and random bits and pieces would frustrate the hell out of me if I was learning it. Like the word “up” which shows up(1) in a ridiculous number of places. You can look me up(2) in the phone book, though I might hang up(3) on you afterwards, if you can put up(4) with that. Be written up(5) for a rules violation. Hook up(6,7) a stereo or with that cutie in math class. Things are looking up(8) and throwing up(9) and calling up(10), hurrying up(11) and beefing up(12) then easing up(13) before backing up(14) and getting up(15) and blowing up(16) and waking up(17) and standing up(18) and showing up(19) and breaking up(20) being brought up(21) dressing up(22) and ending up(23) filled up(24) before giving up(25) and growing up(26). All before your computer can boot up(27).
Dutch has some of that, with bits of words kind of flitting around, but generally far more logically and consistently. And there is no chance for accidentally saying something is logicaler or consitenter. In English you are big or bigger, cold or colder, fat or fatter, but more excited, more enthusiastic, and more irritated. One might guess that short words take “-er” and long ones “more” but that explanation would be more fun if it was more fit to explain the phenomenon.
In linguistics classes in college I remembers studying something called the “Maximal Onset Principle” which basically says that a consonant in a word prefers to go at the beginning of a syllable, instead of the end. This explains why a popular word breaks into syllables the way it does. It is “po-pu-lar” and not “pop-ul-ar” like one might think. That second p wants to be in front of a vowel if it can.
This phenomenon is cute and fun and cross-linguistic and basically irrelevant.
But not in Dutch! In Dutch, they have long vowels and short vowels. So “bos” is a forest, and “boos” is angry. In order to not tell everyone that you are a forest today because way too many politicians in your homeland are soulless bastards (there are some benefits to being so busy, such as missing out on some of the actions of the Republican congress) you have to pay attention to the vowel length.
I don’t want to make this waaaay too long (English has long vowels sometimes too?) and it is all I can do to not go on a sizeable rant about defunding Planned Parenthood (seriously guys, what the fuck?!), but basically that Maximal Onset Principle comes into play in Dutch with the long vowels by grabbing consonants, particularly in plural forms.
(Note: a syllable that ends in a vowel is considered “open” which makes the vowel “long.” Ending with a consonant conversely, is “closed” and makes the vowel “short.”)
For example, “zon” is the sun, “zoon” is a son. You generally pluralize a noun by adding “-en” but if you have two sons you have twee “zonen” not twee “*zoonen” because the Maximal Onset Principle takes that “n” and pulls it into the second syllable, leaving the first syllable open, and thus long, so the second “o” would be redundant.
So then if you have two suns in the sky it would be twee “zonnen” because that second “n” is necessary to keep the vowel closed, and therefore short.
(I wish I knew how to make “two suns” a hyperlink, but since I’m html incompetent, here’s what I would have linked it to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/20/two-suns-twin-stars_n_811864.html?ref=fb&src=sp)
The point is that Dutch understands itself better than English. To have a linguistic theorem like the Maximal Onset Principle overtly reflected in the orthography of the language is impressive. We don’t need to go into English spelling, right? (Ask me about “ghoti”some other time.)
Did any of that make any sense? I would love to clarify it…but I gotta go to bed, got class and work and whatnot tomorrow.
Oh, and if you live in the US, go get screened for cervical cancer before the Senate has a chance to be as asinine as the House.