Monday, January 17, 2011

And Yet It's English

In presenting some linguistic history of the English language, I pointed out to my students that languages in the same language family are not clones of each other; indeed, there may only be a faint resemblance. English and German are both in the same language family branch--the Germanic languages. I don't imagine that any of us would ever confuse the two languages.

How did they get to be so different? Time, circumstances and geography for a few things. In many cases languages change form as their speakers begin to pronounce certain spelled letter combinations in different ways. Sometimes we change our spelling of certain words to conform to this new pronounciation, and sometimes we don't. The word knight is a case in point. We've kept the old spelling but our pronounciation is a whole lot different from the original pronounciation of the word. Today's German speakers don't pronounce that word the same way that today's English speakers do.

And then we have kindergarten. Yes, this is the preferred spelling, although kindergarden will be seen in some instances and also appears in the dictionary. NY State officially refers to its pre-school program as kindergarten. However, people saying this word pronounce it as "garden" not as "garten." One lawmaker wanted the state to change the spelling of the word to reflect American English. In his speech to fellow delegates proposing the change, his only change was going to be from a "t" to a "d." When I read about this I couldn't help but laugh. So we're going to Americanize the word and make it purely English by changing only those two letters? Uh huh. And just what English word is kinder if you please?


Anonymous said...

I agree. Changing it from "kindergarten" to "kindergarden" just accommodates those who don't want to learn to spell.

Abba's Rantings said...

"just accommodates those who don't want to learn to spell"

oh please. do you still use clay tablets and write in cuneiform?

writing, including it's orthographical aspects evolves. and yes, one reason is to make it simpler.