Random DWJ discovery of the day

Colin Fine colin at kindness.demon.co.uk
Tue Mar 29 16:37:14 EST 2005

Having caught up with weeks of DWJ, I seem to be making a habit of 
quibbling at Dorian.
Dorian E. Gray wrote:

> Though for a really *sensible* language, of the ones I know German 
> takes the prize. It doesn't go in for different spellings for the same 
> sound, or different sounds for the same spelling; when it needs a new 
> word it calmly sticks two or more existing words together; a change in 
> grammar or word order is far more likely to produce an obviously 
> different meaning than a similar change in English (assuming said 
> change doesn't simply render the sentence meaningless)...German is a 
> very precise and orderly language. (A colleague of mine and I 
> regularly bemoan the fact that German is not the universal language of 
> technical documentation; it's far better suited to the job than 
> English is.)
Leaving aside that what you're talking about is orthography, which is 
really rather separate from the characteristics of the language itself, 
German is not as orderly and predictable as you might think.
'ȁu' and 'eu' are pronounced identically, as are '-ig' and '-ich' in at 
least some dialects; and 's' is pronounced differently if it precedes 
't' or 'p' in the same syllable (but not if they are in different 
As for sticking words together: we do that increasingly in English, it's 
just that we prefer to enhance legibility by leaving spaces between the 
items (look at most newspaper headlines). It's not really a much 
different process from German.
I'm not sure quite what you mean about changes to word order, but if you 
are right, it would seem to imply that you can get more subtle 
variations in English, which might be a strength.


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