English is the JavaScript of spoken languages.

Just think about it:

- it's extremely wide-spread for historical reasons;

- it is a somewhat random mash-up of at least three other languages;

- as much as all languages have their idiosyncrasies , it tends to have the more confusing ones.



- If you block English in your browser, the Internet seems like a somewhat empty place.

Though, more seriously, I'll add with my linguist-hat on, in terms of its linguistic properties, English isn't particularly weirder or more idiosyncratic than any other language. (Orthography aside, which isn't itself language but a language "add-on".)

@emacsomancer ah now you're cherry-picking.

The fact that one cannot reasonably clearly think about how a word is spoken based on how it's written (or vice-versa) is a huge deal. And I am ready to die on that hill! 😉

@rysiek Most of the history of human language, there has not been written language, and this is still true for numerous languages. Orthography is very clearly a separate system which is not, itself, language.

Though it's certainly true that orthography has very real psychological effects on literate speakers. (Spelling pronunciations being but one minor example.)

Orthography started, at least in Germany, as a convention of typesetters. And a lot of somewhat crazy usecases are just due to technical needs: Schiffahrt (compound of Schiff and Fahrt), with two f, usually set as ff ligature, but Sauerstoffflasche, set as ff ligature followed by single f, because high probability of a line break.



@wauz There was a long history of German scribes before the typesetters, so there would also be conventions they inherited.


Well, it changed a lot. First, you needed an accepted language standard. Dr. Luther founded that by his translation, which considered both upper and lower German language use.
Next step were Austrian and Prussian chancel standards.
Afaik, the Austrian/Habsburg Reich had a template book, which set a standard in administration.
This was as revolutionary as double bookkeeping and bilances.

@wauz Administrators, interestingly, play a big role in the shape of standard German, which is, to a certain extent, a sort of administrative koiné (there was (and of course, still is, to a certain extent) a lot of variation between different regional German language varieties).


Sure, dialects are still strong in some parts of society. I myself regard Suebian as my native language, and I still speak it though living longer in the north. There, I aquired some Platt (Lower Saxon), which is also one of four German official languages.
Now I live in Bavaria. My wife is of Suebian descendence, but has Bavarian as native language bc of being born here.
We are.actually a bilingual couple.

Sign in to participate in the conversation

A Mastodon instance for programming language theorists and mathematicians. Or just anyone who wants to hang out.