Your Guide to the Language
[A work in progress -- hope to add comments from time to time; please feel free to make suggestions -- corrections, additions, improvements.]
=== Introduction ===
Welcome to the land of lovers of logic and language!
In particular, Canadian English.
It is my hope that visitors will find the information here helpful in understanding the reasoning behind the language and share a dedication to an agreed standard for this international language of communication. As a Canadian, who has lived in, among other places, the US, UK, Australia, and South Africa, my efforts will be to walk that middle path Canadians walk with influences pulling them in different directions. New words and change are most welcome -- as long as the language doesn't lose its precision, logic, and subtlety.
It is obvious the UK influence has waned over the past 50 years all over the world with the growing dominance of the world economically and militarily by the US and more importantly through communication: films, TV, and the Internet. As the English-speaking country the closest to the US, naturally our English has been affected most -- full blast at close range (the Quebecois benefit from a linguistic moat).
There will be a section on grammar, not just with what is correct but also with an explanation. It will have common grammar 'goofs' or grammar gripes -- tell me what grates you and the correction with reasons can be included on the site. The correct spelling of commonly misspelled words will be listed. There will also be a section on pronunciation, giving the correct one for words often mispronounced. Since punctuation plays a role in clarity of expression, it will be included. And no doubt, the Vancouver Sun's having asked me to do a review of Lynne Truss's book on punctuation (Eats, Shoots and Leaves) was the final nudge pushing me to record my pet peeves -- and explain why English makes sense! [The full review is on this site as well###].
English's vocabulary is particularly rich. English is a bastard language, one that has borrowed easily, quickly, and widely, and this has given it a breadth, nuance, and flexibility not found in most languages. Its main pillars, Norman French imposed on AngloSaxon, give a double heritage, a richness most other languages lack. Clearly the result of William the Conqueror's Battle of Hastings (1066, a pivotal date) was that the words of government (gouvernement) and law (loi) were imposed on the conquered, and sometimes added a layer or gradation. Also, the 'fancier' words are from the Latin and French. Some pairs are: freedom and liberty, work and labour, bloom/blossom and flower.
Of course, there are Gaelic/Celtic words and roots as well.
The Dutch influence came with printer/printing.
German and Greek sneak in in science.
Every language is special. Each language has expressions unmatchable in others (or sometimes only conveyed by many words). There are studies showing that language affects our reasoning and how we think. One of the most glaring examples is portraying time. English has tenses involving many verb forms that indicate habit, emphasis, future, present (continuous just one of three kinds), past (definite and indefinite), subjunctive (but Spanish beats English hands down for active use of many subjunctive tenses), and flexibility whereas, for example, Chinese has one single word for the verb and has to add other words to indicate whether past or future. It is incredibly difficult to have to think in terms of time and sequence when using a verb just before speaking, to know the differences and choose correctly from I go, I do go, and I'm going. Choices are made automatically, almost subconsciusly, by native speakers.
Think about the letter S. It is an important marker in English for both verbs and nouns, but the sound doesn't occur in Vietnamese, and Chinese has no plural. That's why those speakers sometimes drop the S (they don't hear the sound and/or it has no significance for them), but we notice when an S is missing because some bit of information is lost, incomplete, or ambiguous.
With a degree in languages and as someone who has taught English to speakers of other languages, please bear with me when some esoteric linguistic asides creep in.