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Old 2020-02-28, 17:12   #20
Dr Sardonicus
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Feb 2017

53·67 Posts

One reason often given for the prospects of a Latin revival being dim is, Latin grammar is complicated. And so it seems. I have heard people complain about grammar being difficult, and they were complaining about English grammar. As my education progressed, I developed the attitude that, if someone thought English grammar was complicated, I knew a sure cure: German grammar!

German is an "inflected" language, with declensions for four grammatical cases, three grammatical genders, singular and plural. And of course, tenses. Mark Twain, in The Awful German Language, complained that "It is as bad as Latin." But Latin has more grammatical cases than German. Never mind number and the tenses...

This got me to thinking: Why is it that older languages seem to have more complicated grammar than newer ones? A bit of searching on line turned up discussions on this topic.

One thing I failed to find was any mention of the fact that a lot of older languages arose in pre-literate ages. Before written language was invented, people were, as one of my uncles liked to say, "just as smart and just as capable as we are today." But their living circumstances, and the fact the language was not written, in my opinion, caused them to think differently than we do today. Perhaps the kind of distinctions they needed to make were different than the kinds that are most useful to us today. And whether a language is written down surely influences its structure.

I recall one of James Burke's PBS series (The Day the Universe Changed, "A Matter of Fact"). He described one of the consequences of the printing press by saying it "took away our memories." Before things were written down, he said, people remembered things by making series of unlikely associations. It is perhaps possible that languages which arose before writing contained features which reflected this way of remembering.
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