Interesting post by Francis Miville. I definitely don’t agree with some of what he wrote, and I’m not sure about some of the rest, but its nice to have a nice, fresh view of matter, even if via a provocateur.
I especially hate two languages that have contributed most to the concept of humanity as being not only adequate mathematically but positively and adorably as such: English and French.
In English all words mean more or less the same thing or are at least quite easily amenable to mean the same thing if that is what you want to do with them. Lewis Carroll stated it very well.
French is even worse. Every single word of academically correct French is a lie. If your sentence or clause doesn’t make it a lie, it is jarringly incorrect, or at least it sounds incorrect, peasant, argot, creole. The truer your French, the more it is subject to ridicule and disgust. It is immediately qualified as nauseating (nauséabond) and unacceptable.
Even in phonetics French is remarkable. Correct French sounds, especially vowels, are as unnatural as the phonation organ can make them. Each of them demands unnecessary energy and effort to make it recognizable and acceptable.
They have no close equivalents in any other known language. There exist easy approximations of these sounds that you can use, but if you do, you will most loutish or pedantic.
For instance the French u is an awfully difficult and forceful combination of mouth positions that contradict each other (it is as rounded as closed o, as extremely fronted as long i or ee, and as closed-lipped as ou or oo, plus other nuances).
On the other hand the Swedish u is more easily described as a central closed-lipped vowel. The u‘s in both language seem quite close to each other at first.
But with the French u, the difference is that it is unfit to be used by a diva pitching her voice high. I ends up sounding like two microphones neutralizing each other into a kind of sound inaudible beyond one meter. This has the result that French opera songstresses are told to sing ee instead, incorrect though it is.
In the French u the sound of the vocal chords can’t connect to the air outside, a thing only the Klingon language strives to do at times to sound inhuman. Swedish u on the contrary is perfectly cantabile and especially agreeable through its mysterious inward echo that also resonates outwards.
French short è is strictly incantabile when followed by a consonant (as in bec) with the result that a French songstress must try to keep the consonant silent, even though this is not common usage in the language. On the other hand, it does explain why so many final consonants in French are unpronounced.
What is most remarkable is that the French phonetic system has no symmetry, most contrary to a very general law of linguistics. For instance deep long o is frequent but deep long e doesn’t exist. Short final open è without following consonant is frequent, but short open o without a consonant doesn’t exist.
In English all vowels tend to be the same: the “uh” or schwa sound. No one is sure whether “year” rhymes with “pear,” “peer,” “pair,” “peahr,” or “per.” The distinction between these words depends more on the social class dialect than on any rule. For instance, there is no sure rhyme for the word “sure.”
The same can be said about shades of meaning. In English there ain’t any shades of meaning generally except whatever shade that the pen of a particular author, his public, and publisher have chosen for the word.
Generally the privilege of having control over the shade of meaning of a word is very sternly refused to the commoners outside the received literary gentry. This holds true no matter it is classical or pop. The latter word means produced by corporate decision only for the greatest statistical number of consumers with no single popular voice having any say in the matter.
Words mean all the same thing except that they suffer from time to time from various cancellations forcing their replacement by an equivalent euphemism – this has been the history of English since Alfred. In that condition the word humanity means nothing or anything, especially since it is not an etymologically natural part of the language but a Latinism.