Language Reflects the World

I’ve noticed several running themes in these lectures. One such theme is that people long ago tried to place the high structure and rule system of Latin onto an English languages that they felt poorly displayed this structure – McWhorter offers up examples and explanation over several lectures.

One interesting point I found was that often the mass vs count nouns aren’t consistent between languages. For example hair in French is a counting noun, while in English it isn’t. This causes confusion for adult learners of English when they add Ss onto words that they shouldn’t.

Another interesting grammar example are the two classes of intransitive verbs: ones that you are in control of (run, shout) and ones that just happen to you (melt, fall). These distinctions are often more apparent in other languages (notably the Romantic/European languages), and what’s interesting is that they reflect a real-world distinction.

Despite the tendency of some lines of thought to attribute the powers of distinction to language, any power that language does hold is separate from distinctions that do exist in our physical world. Language reflects the world more so than the opposite.

Link to the first post in this series is here.


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