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Wednesday 30th of January 2008 10:46:28 AMProse and Languages:
So I just started my Pre-AP English class in high school. My teacher Miss Dewitt asked us a curious question, What is literature? After some intense pondering we concluded that Literature is any expression of an author that is a written work. This whole discussion got me thinking about Literature...
English has more words than almost every language on the planet. My question for you is do you think it is easier to express things in English than in say Russian, Chinese, Spanish, etc.
For example my previous phrase could be written:
After some intense pondering we concluded
After doing some thinking we decided
Thinking hard we came up with
We concieved the notion that
We considered the question and replied
We reckoned that
After regarding the inquiry we anylyzed our ideas
Gathering our opinions we reasoned that
We collected our thoughts and determined that
I'm sure there's even more I could've come up with but I think you get the point. Should language in literature vary so greatly? Be the same? Is writing going too far when it bores us or gives us a headache? What are your opinions?Danial
Wednesday 30th of January 2008 02:14:17 PM
Hi Kenny :)
First of all, great topic!
Personally I agree with the conclusion. I think that's exactly what literature should be.
Now answering your question: As a native of English it IS easier for me to express things in English than in the foreign languages I'm studying like French or German... because the "grammar-intensity" (lol, I've just invented a new word :p) in them is much more than English, especially with all those conjugations and declensions. I can go completely blank in these two languages sometimes whenever I have to speak. The written part is okaaaaay, I guess.
Even if I weren't an English native, I'd still say that English is still easier to use (only after you've mastered a certain level of fluency) because you'll have to use it to communicate with those that do not speak your native languages and that there are PLENTY of ways to express the same thing in English than your own language.
But like you said, the English language is notorious for its atrocious amount of synonyms and expressions. So, it's waaaay easier to play "word games" (or even innuendos :p) in English than other languages. (think Scrabble! lol) But it is the diversity of words in this language that makes English one of the few most beautiful language (well... in my opinion at least).
Personally, I think that, the more words that you can utilise in a language, shows your level of intelligence. For example, EVERYDAY words in English are mainly of Germanic origin. For example, "to see", is definitely has its roots from some Germanic language. Whereas, you can still say "to observe" which conveys the same meaning but usually used in a more slightly formal situations and has French/Latin origins. Utilising words French/Latin origins gives some sort of "higher class" or "finesse" to your language. Mainly because during the 1000s in ENGLAND itself, the working language of the higher classes was French, which would explain the high level of French/Latin borrowed words in English itself. (Which also explains why I can learn big French words pretty fast where else I'm still struggling to do the same in German)
As for literature itself, what I've read is that EVERY piece of literature has one common theme. That is CONFLICT. (You can trust me on this since I got an A in both "English Language" and "Social Studies + Literature in English" exams for 'O' Levels (kinda which is somewhat like your AP exams) hehe... EGOOOOOOOO :p) which wasn't easy at all, since it was set by REAL British examiners and marked by them too, since we had to send our papers AAAAAALLLLL the way to the UK just to be marked by the University of Cambridge! So I DO know what I'm talking about :p )
ANYWAYS, for me, I've read MacBeth and Romeo & Juliet and it's easier for me to understand Literature in English than Literature in Malay because, I've actually heard/read people using those "BIG WORDS" in English, and used a fair amount of those big words too myself. Whereas for Malay speakers here, we use fairly basic words that most kids would know by 10 for a typical conversation, whereas we switch to English back and forth when encountering a complicated expression (unless of course it's a strictly Malay conversation like a debate and etc... )
Just my opinion...
P.S. I LOVE Literature in English, although I'm not the type who likes to read books. Dominick_Korshanyenko
Wednesday 13th of February 2008 10:39:45 AM
Thanks for the input Danial. About big words... :D
My English teacher is starting to use words I've never heard before in my life (and I once went to state in the National Vocabulary Challenge :D ). It's worth it though I think by the time I graduate high school I'll be able to make sentences that if I posted them in my signature people would think it's a foreign language. :pdjr33
Wednesday 13th of February 2008 11:20:40 AM
Seems to me that clear and precise diction goes beyond one's language.
Having more tools means there are more to use, but also more to learn and more to convey. I love my precise control of the English language when I want to say something, especially if I want to say it for a certain purpose, such as to answer a question in a way that would allow for it to be a correct answer, even with two possible actual answers.
Ambiguity, poetry and creativity are helped greatly by many words, but it also makes it harder not only to learn initially, but to control in a way and, especially, to make clear to the masses. English has many, many more words than other languages, but that's also partly a myth in that of those 800,000 or so we only use a minuscule fraction for every day use, and only a handful in any technical conversation, those beings the words of that field. The thing to realize is that English is the language spoken in many of the world's pioneering countries in medicine, science and other research, so a new word, such as for some remote strain of bacteria, must be created. These words simply don't exist in other languages. However, they aren't really part of "English", only "medicinal English"; also, very importantly, these words aren't actually missing from other languages people will just use them. The word "computer" is now part of many languages across at least Europe, and some elsewhere, to where it really is part of Italian, or German. English is currently the king of the languages, so it makes sense that it would have more words because it's used for formal studies and as an international language: if you are a geologist studying rocks in Africa, you'll speak English, not Swahili, and there may never come a need to translate the terms into Swahili anyone who wants them will know English anyway in order to communicate with others in the field.
And consider that in a way literature is a field, like those I mentioned above, but it exists in all languages. So poets or novelists, whether writing in Arabic or Finnish, have the words they need because those words must exist in the language because writing, and before that oral stories, are an integral part of communication. Creative expression has existed since near the beginning of language, I'd propose, and I don't think the Greeks or [ancient] Chinese had any trouble there.
Each language has its own poetry and ways to communicate complex ideas. I think English and other languages with a large vocabulary have some advantages, but it's not a finite advantage.
If you know your/a language well enough, it's possible to craft a sentence that should fit.
By the way, it is true that language can be limiting in a way. Some languages exist in which there are no true numbers, just words for (in addition to the concept of "nothing", I'd assume) one, some and many. And people who speak these languages actually may have no idea how to understand the difference between "4" and "5" not that they can't see there is one more, but that it just doesn't matter... that's still "some" to them.
Hmm... also, if a language is devoid of a certain concept, an author will just make it up. Shakespeare added hundreds (thousands?) of words to the language. Thank him for your elbows, folks. Return to the MISCELLANEOUS Archive
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