a breakthrough in sound


Syntax and semantics are essential parts of learning a language.  Syntax is the structure of language, and is the more arduous of the two tasks. Learning syntax is memorizing the basic set of rules.  It doesn’t always make sense, but thats how it is.  Comme si, comme ca.   Some of these rules are an entirely new concept for me, as English is not a Latin language. I don’t have to think about structuring English sentences, but I do have to think about French grammatical structure.  Of course, there’s something to be said about thinking before speaking.

Semantics is so much more fun. Semantics is logical meaning behind the word.  Words are build upon and evolve from a proto language and into an entirely different form.

I certainly fall under the classic way of understanding my surroundings.  I’m no good at purely memorizing the language, I like to know and understand the entire concept.

Semantics allows me to build my vocabulary.  As I have mentioned, French and English words are quite similar, and I am often able to guess French words.  I like to consider the sounds of the English word to guess and guess its origin.

I find that words which request the use of the front of the mouth, such as “perception” or “constitution,” are probably Latin in origin, and therefore is the same or similar word in French.  In fact, pretty much any word ending in -ion probably has a French cognate.  As if to prove its own point (as it was pointed out to me), the French call cognates  “mots transparents”, transparent words.

English words with a Germanic origin Words which sounds require the back of the mouth, such as “dollar” or “friend.” These words are not useful for my current purposes, but perhaps at another juncture.

For now, I have been having fun guessing English words of French origin.  I play with pronouncing English words with a French accent, and it actually gets me pretty far.  I’m definitely becoming fluent in Franklish.

There are, of course, heteronyms (words w/ the same sound but different meanings) between French and English.  For example, the French word “chauvinisme” does not really equal its English counterpart “chauvinism.”  The French word “chauvinisme” means blindly patriotic.  In English the word “chauvinism” technically means the same thing, but its really used only in the context of male perceived superiority.  This meaning is synonymous with the French word “macho.” Its interesting how when words are separated, they evolve into different meanings.  The common origin is prevalent, but the decedents drift apart.

Isn’t it wonderful how systems show symptoms of convergent evolution?



A side note on the word chauvinism: I would have guessed that the word “chauvinism” is a very old word. When I think of the phrase “chauvinism is dead,” I imagine knights clad in armor opening car doors for their women with pointy hats.  But actually, the word originates from the 19th century and was named after the extreme French patriot Nicholas Chauvin.


3 thoughts on “a breakthrough in sound

  1. Lili
    As always your blogs are interesting and informative. I wish I had an aptitude for languages. I hear someone speaking another language and I so long to be able to understand what they’re saying. I guess it’s a communication thing for me…kinda goes with the whole Liberal Studies/Arts thing.

  2. Pingback: bookshelf « Lili Snyder

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