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Scandinavians don’t notice similarities..

 Language Learning Forum : Skandinavisk & Nordisk Post Reply
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tritone
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reflectionsinpo
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 Message 1 of 20
11 July 2014 at 6:40pm | IP Logged 
When ever I come across Scandinavians, I always try to talk about languages, and spark up conversation about the similarities between English and Norwegian/Swedish/Danish. They never know what I'm talking about, and are usually unaware of English's relationship with other Germanic languages.

I ask things like "When you learned English, you never noticed any similarities with Norwegian?"

They say no, and I get confused faces.

Similarly Dutch people say that English has nothing to do with dutch.

Why is this?
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1e4e6
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 Message 2 of 20
11 July 2014 at 8:00pm | IP Logged 
English very often resembles no Germanic language, to me it is just a Germanic language
in name for purposes of taxonomy. Since you are a native speaker, you may have noticed
how different English is from most Germanic languages. In addition to its extreme
simplification, here is some common vocabulary in the Scandinavian and Dutch languages
compared to English that make it look quite different:

possible [EN] --> mogelijk [NL], möjlig [SV], muligt [DK], mulig [NO]

defence [EN] --> forsvar [DK], försvar [SV], forsvar [NO]

question [EN] --> fråga [SV], vraag [NL]

dog [EN] --> hond [NL], hund [DK], hund [SV], hund [NO]

dinner [EN] --> middag [NO], middag [DK], middag [SV]

hospital [EN] --> ziekenhuis [NL], sykehus [NO], sjukhus [SV], syghus [DK]

car [EN] --> auto/wagen [NL], bil [DK], bil [SV], bil [NO]

society [EN] --> samenleving [NL], samfund [DK], samfund [NO], samhället [SV]

citizen [EN] --> burger [NL], borger [SV], borger [DK], borger [NO]


which seems quite strange for a supposedly Germanic language (English}. Honestly the
list of vocabulary like this could continue indefinitely.

Add thereto lack of noun gender, T/V distinction, noun declensions according to
plural/singular and gender and definite/indefinite, decline in usage of pronomial
adverbs, decline in usage of distinction of movement and stationary (here/hither/hence)
and other aspects that English lacks but is present in Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, and
Danish.



Edited by 1e4e6 on 11 July 2014 at 11:39pm

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tarvos
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 Message 3 of 20
11 July 2014 at 9:03pm | IP Logged 
Dog = "hond", not "hund", in Dutch.

"Defence" = verdediging (NL)

Edited by tarvos on 11 July 2014 at 9:04pm

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Arnaud25
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 Message 4 of 20
11 July 2014 at 9:25pm | IP Logged 
Dear Watson, don't you know "The hound of the Baskervilles" ? :o)
In french, the word "bourg" is still in use for "village"/"little town".
It's surprising that Scandinavian don't see the similarities: they are striking.

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eyðimörk
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 Message 5 of 20
11 July 2014 at 10:01pm | IP Logged 
The Scandinavians (being one myself I know quite a few) I know see plenty of similarities between English and Scandinavian languages. But they also don't particularly care. And they also don't think English is particularly close to Scandinavian languages because they've also usually got exposure to either German, Dutch or Icelandic and know what actual closeness without all of that medieval French veneer looks like. (EDIT: not to mention the other Scandinavian languages - do you seriously expect to tell a Norwegian that English is amazingly similar to Norwegian and have said Norwegian marvel at this, when he has lived with Danish and Swedish as his neighbours, by comparison English is an alien)

That said, most Scandinavians probably haven't got a clue how very close English and their languages were once upon a time. But why would you expect them to? Good luck finding random native Anglophones who would even recognise Old English as English in any shape or form.

Edited by eyðimörk on 11 July 2014 at 10:05pm

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1e4e6
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 Message 6 of 20
11 July 2014 at 11:40pm | IP Logged 
N.B.: I just did an Internet search about English and Germanic language, and it gave me
results about people, almost always native Anglophones, querying if English is a
Romance language. So many Anglophones are not even sure if English is Romance or
Germanic. However, that makes sense, as anyone who has attended primary and/or
secondary school in an Anglophone country knows that the amount of times that it is
said, "If you want to improve your English vocabulary and writing, learn Latin and/or
French/Spanish/Italian/Portuguese/other Romance language" would probably be enormous. I
highly doubt that Dutch or Scandinavian native speakers would learn
Latin or Spanish in order to improve their Dutch or Norwegian vocabulary and syntax. To
me, it would be like saying, "If you want to be a chemical engineer, learn
Shakespearean literature and Renaissance history", or, "If you wish to enter medical
school, it would be best to review your astrology and nuclear physics". But really, if
Anglophones cannot even know if their own language is Germanic or Romance, then I doubt
that Dutch or Scandinavians would be familiar with more details.

How is this stark contrast:

dentist [EN] --> tandarts [NL], tannlege [NO], tandläkare [SV], tandlæge [DK]

If I were Dutch or Scandinavian, I would wonder how "dentist" possibly could be a word
in English, a supposedly Germanic language, after being surrounded by the above four.

Edited by 1e4e6 on 11 July 2014 at 11:56pm

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tarvos
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 Message 7 of 20
12 July 2014 at 12:04am | IP Logged 
Not really. I don't think most people consider
or even care about those implications. As for
the world, plenty words are also the same... I
could make an equally large list. Don't
exaggerate.
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Henkkles
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 Message 8 of 20
12 July 2014 at 1:18pm | IP Logged 
1e4e6 wrote:

possible [EN] --> mogelijk [NL], möjlig [SV], muligt [DK], mulig [NO]
defence [EN] --> forsvar [DK], försvar [SV], forsvar [NO]
question [EN] --> fråga [SV], vraag [NL]
dog [EN] --> hond [NL], hund [DK], hund [SV], hund [NO]
dinner [EN] --> middag [NO], middag [DK], middag [SV]
hospital [EN] --> ziekenhuis [NL], sykehus [NO], sjukhus [SV], syghus [DK]
car [EN] --> auto/wagen [NL], bil [DK], bil [SV], bil [NO]
society [EN] --> samenleving [NL], samfund [DK], samfund [NO], samhället [SV]
citizen [EN] --> burger [NL], borger [SV], borger [DK], borger [NO]


These words are not at all well picked for examining linguistical relations. They are almost all nouns that have come to use in the last three hundred years or so. Direct translations don't even matter at all, linguistical relations are established on basis of cognates. For example, "dog" is not cognate with "hund" but "hound" is. The Scandinavian word hospital is just a compound composed of "sick" and "house", both of which are still in every day use in the English language. As for "car"... well I shouldn't have to point out its utter uselessness in establishing linguistical relations, it is a loanword in probably 99,99% of the world's languages.

Words that are actually useful for establishing linguistical relations:
hand [EN] - hand [SV]
house [EN] - hus [SV]
deer [EN] - djur [SV] (lit. 'animal')
fish [EN] - fisk [SV]
tree [EN] - trä [SV] (lit. 'wood')

As in, words that have something to do with the surroundings of the people who spoke the common ancestral language of both compared languages. I would say with relative certainty that the proto-germanics of old had hands, houses, fish and trees, but I'm not so sure about cars or hospitals.

Besides, the Swedish "fråga" is a Low German loanword, the old word is "spörsmål" or less commonly the gerund of the verb "spörja" which is "spörjning".


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