demoncracy

Jason Gurtz jason at tommyk.com
Tue Aug 17 13:42:05 PDT 2004


On 8/17/2004 14:56, Matthew Burgess wrote:

> [...]  I'm sure other languages are susceptible to it, but I find
> it fascinating how easy it is to "read between the lines" with English,
> and interpret almost any passage in more than one way.

I was more than amused this past weekend when I read a letter, published
in a "reader opinion" column in a crappy local advertising newspaper,
from a "English Major" at the top state collage here in CT.  What was
amusing was that it was a response to a letter that had flamed about the
lack of grammatical correctness and so on in that reader opinion column.
 The writer was trapped by the word "read," which in the context she
used it in could easily have been either "I read in the past" or "I read
now."

IMO, English is a horrific language.  In particular, the way tense, an
object's sex, and the way adjective/adverb context is handled opens up
hundreds of traps for the writer to fall into.  Some duplicitous
meanings really just can not at all be gotten around with out making the
sentence (or paragraph even!) needlessly wordy.

In defense, I suppose English does allow for a greater breadth of
written style than many other languages.  However, I have to ask myself
if a languages purpose is to successfully and succinctly communicate or
is the purpose such that it must be art as well, the latter at the
expense of clarity?

I really feel for those people that strive to learn English as a second
language.  It must be really, really bad.

Then again I'm not really multilingual though I find that I can
interpret meaning out of written German and Spanish fairly quickly and
correctly with an appropriate dictionary at hand.  I'm not so sure that
a non-english speaker could do so as readily whilst attempting to read
English

Cheers,

~Jason

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