"Nouniness" LO24163

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Date: 03/13/00

Replying to LO24146 --

Dear Organlearners,

D. P. Dash < dpdash@ximb.ac.in > writes:

>I have some familiarity with the Sanskrit language (which is
>an eminent member of the Indo-European language group).
>In Sanskrit, almost every noun is derived from a root verb.
>I understand this is also the case with Latin. Could someone
>throw some more light on this please?

Greetings DP,

As you I would like some more light on it too.

I wish I knew Latin better. From the little which I know, it seems to me
that nouns and verbs are differentiated by the endings given to a
stem/root word -- a sort of one-to-two-mapping. Each of these two basic
endings are then further changed to differentiate between various cases
for each -- a sort of one-to-many-mapping. For nouns this
one-to-many-mapping ("many" = 6) results in declensions and for verbs
("many"=4) it results in conjugations. I wish I had a good book on the
etymology of Latin and Greek themselves in terms of earlier languages.

As I wrote in LO24151, my own mothertongue Afrikaans has two "layers". It
has a bottom layer to which Low Franconian (forerunner of modern Dutch)
and Low Saxon (forerunner of modern English) contributed most. The
grammers of Franconian and Saxon were simplified very much to become
together the grammer of Afrikaans. Many linguists believe that Afrikaans
is a pidgin, or worse creole, language because of this simplification. But
these simplifications were in germ already present in Franconian and
Saxon. What actually happened is that to serve people from vastly
different cultures (African, Asian and European), Franconian and Saxon had
to adapt together (Complex Adapative Systems -- CAS) and the resulting
system became Afrikaans.

Whereas the "bottom layer" of Afrikaans is Germanic, the "top layer" is
Romanic (Latin and Greek). It is much the same as in English. In
Afrikaans the "bottom layer" is much thicker than in English while the
"top layer" is somewhat thinner. But Afrikaans has all the grammatical
rules to make the top layer as thick as in English. These rules are
similar to those of English, Dutch and German.

The reason why I refer to Afrikaans, is that as the youngest fully fledged
language in the world, some novel patterns have emerged in it. I have
discussed a couple of these patterns in LO24151. But the comments of prof
Dash above reminds me of a third peculiar pattern which also has emerged
in the "bottom layer" of Afrikaans. (It is made possible because
Afrikaans has so little declensions and conjugations.) We have thousands
of words in the bottom layer which can be used without any change in
spelling or ending as a noun or a verb. The meaning of the sentence
determines which case it will be. This one-to-two-mapping of the same word
as noun or verb is not possible in the "top layer" since here the endings
of the Romanic derived word has to be changed.

The major portion of scientific communication in Afrikaans happens in the
"top layer" as a result of adapting to the "globalisation" of the
scientific subject. But in the learning (and thus teaching) of such a
subject it becomes much more complex. Teaching and learning only in the
"top layer" go much faster, but also with much more failures. The reason
is that the "top layer" is less powerful to articulate for the first time
what is already tacitly known. So what I do when teaching, is first to
help students in articulating their tacit knowledge in terms of the
"bottom layer". Thereafter I help them to articulate once again the their
tacit knowledge in terms of the "top layer". Both articulations take much
more time, but the failures are significantly less and the understanding
of topics much deeper.

Afrikaans is the youngest language in the Indo-European family. Sanskrit
is one of the oldest members in the Indo-European family. It would now be
very interesting to know whether Sanskrit already suggest in
principle/germ/gene this "one-to-two-mapping of the same word as noun or
verb". I am thinking in analogy of DNA. Not all the DNA is used to
differentiate between cells when they are formed. The differences arise
because in one kind of cells in the body (say in the heart) some DNA
regions are "switched on" by activators (enzymes and hormones) whereas in
another kind of cells in the body (say in the liver) other DNA regions are
switched on by different activators.

I am asking this question because I am thinking of the following very
important question. How much "switcing on" rather than "radical
constructing" has to be made when any organisation has to emerge into a
LO? In the case of "switching on" some latent properties on a high level
only have to be activated. But in the case of "radical constructing" some
novel constructions at a very low level has to be made.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@gold.up.ac.za> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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