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A little bit of grammar
#11  Rizla 06-11-2015, 04:47 AM
Quote Pulpmeister
Why shouldn't we split the infinitive?
English is not an inflected language. It usually changes cases by using additional words, such as "to", "on", "from", before the verb.
English is inflected. We add -ed for the simple past. Adding to, on, from etc removes tense and creates a gerund, which, like an infinitive, has no tense. As I understand it, using prepositions produces (and replaces) an effect similar to cases (word order) in German, and is a borrowing from French. I agree that we tend not inflect verbs, but use auxiliary verbs instead.
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#12  HarryT 06-11-2015, 04:51 AM
Quote Pulpmeister
In spoken English 'whom' is never used, not because spoken English is sloppy but because 'whom' is not necessary in speech.
I really must respectfully disagree. I use "who" and "whom" correctly in spoken English, and would consider it ignorant not to do so. "Who are you?" but "Whom did you see?" The distinction is clear: "who" stands in for the subject of a verb, and "whom" for the object.

Perhaps this is a difference between British and American English, though. Most educated British people I know would certainly understand - and use - the distinction between "who" and "whom".

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If you are a fiction writer who has a character using "whom" in direct speech, he or she must be a pompous ass. Han Solo would never use it.
Even if you choose not to use it in dialogue (and I completely understand why you may wish not to do so), as a writer it's absolutely essential that you have the ability to write good, grammatically-correct English in situations which require it, and that includes knowing when you should use "who" and when you should use "whom".

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Reminds me of an interview with actress Joan Crawford, who famously replied to a reporter's question with a freezing "Whom is kidding whom?"
I'm absolutely certain that Joan Crawford - an educated woman - would not have said anything so horribly ungrammatical. She would have said "Who is kidding whom?" (as I myself would, too).
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#13  HarryT 06-11-2015, 05:01 AM
Quote Rizla
You state that Latin is insensitive to word order. I thought Latin was big on cases (word order) in order to change meaning (like German).
"Case" means "the grammatical role a noun plays in a sentence", but it is not the same thing as "word order". English primarily uses word order to determine case; Latin primarily uses inflections. English still uses an inflection (adding an 's) to indicative the genitive (possessive) case.
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#14  HarryT 06-11-2015, 05:12 AM
Quote eschwartz
As far as I am concerned, well, I don't actually know a lot about grammar. I gave up on it and flew by in English class based on the strength of my vocabulary and because I was still smarter than most of my classmates.

I just don't get the silly rules at all. Having read a lot, I can speak quite well, thankyouverymuch, but I would be hard-pressed to name most of the rules behind why.

I still don't know what an infinitive is, and am studiously avoiding every opportunity to find out.
Knowledge of "formal" grammar is absolutely essential when you start learning other languages (as an adult, at least - children learn languages differently). I read a number of different languages moderately well, including Latin, ancient Greek, and ancient Egyptian. The people who always struggle on language courses are those who are not equipped with the vocabulary to understand how their own language "works", and hence are unable to understand how other languages achieve the same result.

I'm guessing that you can read Hebrew, echwartz; were you not taught that on the basis of the grammar of the language, or did you learn it by "absorption" as a child?
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#15  Rizla 06-11-2015, 05:40 AM
@Pulpmeister

The stuff on iambic pentameter is fascinating. I glazed over in school when it was mentioned. Thanks for your explanation.
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#16  HarryT 06-11-2015, 05:48 AM
Quote Rizla
@Pulpmeister

The stuff on iambic pentameter is fascinating. I glazed over in school when it was mentioned. Thanks for your explanation.
Has anyone actually mentioned iambic pentameter in this thread? I don't see it .
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#17  eschwartz 06-11-2015, 11:55 AM
Quote Rizla
English is like that. It's an easy language. Try writing in French. In any case, it pays to understand the nuts-and-bolts if you want to write in any formal capacity. Look at the horror that is so many self-pub authors who adhere to your reasoning. Then there are those who will tell you how to spell "potatoe." Amazon has a lot to answer for
And I am eternally thankful I don't live in France, although that is for different reasons.

Actually, I tend to get away with it, since I have seen enough proper grammar to know when something is off.
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#18  eschwartz 06-11-2015, 12:15 PM
Quote HarryT
Knowledge of "formal" grammar is absolutely essential when you start learning other languages (as an adult, at least - children learn languages differently). I read a number of different languages moderately well, including Latin, ancient Greek, and ancient Egyptian. The people who always struggle on language courses are those who are not equipped with the vocabulary to understand how their own language "works", and hence are unable to understand how other languages achieve the same result.

I'm guessing that you can read Hebrew, echwartz; were you not taught that on the basis of the grammar of the language, or did you learn it by "absorption" as a child?
The dirty secret of Jewish Hebrew studies.
Skill levels vary. Although I learn talmud and scripture, a large part of that involves discussing talmud, outside of reading it, in English. (Because we aren't silly enough to spend te entire day engaged in casual back-and-forth in a non-ntive language.)
Oh, I can read and understand a fair bit, but speak it? A whole 'nother story.

Interestingly, my Yeshiva has several Mexican students, and one of them who doesn't yet know much English is in my shiur. He learns with his chavrusa in Hebrew, because is something they both know.
It is mildly amusing to listen to, as neither speak it fluently.


Yeridas HaDoros -- the generarions get weaker. Once upon a time, the stupid students were the ones who only went through all of talmud once or twice, and didn't know the Maharam Shif by heart. Now we struggle with a few tractates and forget half of what we learned over the summer.
(Yes, back in the day it was fairly common for Jewish talmudical students to memorize whole tractates to the point where they knew it cold.
I suppose it could've been their work ethic...)
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#19  HarryT 06-11-2015, 12:39 PM
Quote eschwartz
The dirty secret of Jewish Hebrew studies.
Skill levels vary. Although I learn talmud and scripture, a large part of that involves discussing talmud, outside of reading it, in English. (Because we aren't silly enough to spend te entire day engaged in casual back-and-forth in a non-ntive language.)
Oh, I can read and understand a fair bit, but speak it? A whole 'nother story.

Interestingly, my Yeshiva has several Mexican students, and one of them who doesn't yet know much English is in my shiur. He learns with his chavrusa in Hebrew, because is something they both know.
It is mildly amusing to listen to, as neither speak it fluently.


Yeridas HaDoros -- the generarions get weaker. Once upon a time, the stupid students were the ones who only went through all of talmud once or twice, and didn't know the Maharam Shif by heart. Now we struggle with a few tractates and forget half of what we learned over the summer.
(Yes, back in the day it was fairly common for Jewish talmudical students to memorize whole tractates to the point where they knew it cold.
I suppose it could've been their work ethic...)
That's very interesting - thanks for explaining it!

Sounds like a similar situation to that of one of my work colleagues, who is a British-born Muslim of Pakistani heritage. He uses a bilingual version of the Koran - English and Arabic on facing pages - and knows enough Arabic to be able to follow along when the Koran is read, but when I try to practice my Arabic with him (my Arabic is far from fluent, but it's sufficient to get by with in Egypt for everyday stuff) he gets rather lost. But that's probably down to that fact that neither of us speak Arabic terribly well .
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#20  Pulpmeister 06-11-2015, 11:15 PM
Well, who/whom IS used in speech! Harry T is surely not the only person who does, so the Shorter OED got it wrong. The chances are I have indeed heard 'whom' in speech and not noticed, but I'm reasonably sure I have never used it myself (but who can be certain? In my longish life I must have spoken millions of sentences, if not hundreds of millions, and I'm sure I don't remember any of them verbatim.)

What triggered my OP was acquiring from Gutenberg a happy little tome called The Common People of Ancient Rome, by Frank Frost Abbott, published in 1911. It is a series of articles, the largest of which concerns the differences between written Latin and spoken Latin, and gave some clues as to how what is a very large difference came about.

It came as news to me (I did not study Latin at school) that Cicero, the noblest of Latin writers, used it in his formal works, but in his letters to his family and friends he used what is referred to as "vulgar" Latin; that is, the language of the people. Today "vulgar" has a different shade of meaning, so in my own mind I now think of the spoken language as Roman and the written language as Latin.

Abbott also makes the point, and from the text this is old news to him, that the Romance languages didn't evolve from Latin, but from what I call Roman. Indeed, the common language of the city Rome until quite recent times was Romanesco, which is now not much more than a regional accent and some unique idioms.

There is not an awful lot of text in Roman left, as the classical scholars were obviously more interested in the great works of the great Latin writers. There is enough, though, to show that the spoken Roman, when written, looks a lot more like Italian than Latin, notably in the frequent omission of the common ending -m. This something that the pedants of the times railed against. (In Latin, the region around Rome was Latium. Most likely in casual Roman use it was Latio; modern Lazio.)

The man in the street also used prepositions as a matter of course, rather than the formal Latin inflections. Abbot gives this example: magna pars de exercitu, in preference to formal magna pars exercitus. ("A large part of the army")

To me a telling, though throwaway, reference was to the fact that early Latin scholars, coming late to writing, looked to the Greeks, who had been literate for centuries, and Greek grammars, for guidance. The more things change...

It seems logical to me that formal Latin, which was the language of literature, temple, courts, and the ruling class, but not of the common people, died out as a spoken language around the time of the fall of the Roman empire, but the spoken language I call Roman continued unabated by evolving into the Romance tongues. Of course that is no doubt another thing I haven't got quite right.
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