LINGUIST List 10.1290

Sat Sep 4 1999

Disc: Universal Word Order

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Peter T. Daniels, Re: 10.1289, Disc: Universal Word Order

Message 1: Re: 10.1289, Disc: Universal Word Order

Date: Sat, 04 Sep 1999 07:38:23 -0400
From: Peter T. Daniels <>
Subject: Re: 10.1289, Disc: Universal Word Order

LINGUIST Network wrote:

> Date: Sat, 04 Sep 1999 02:32:18 KST
> From: "Sean Witty" <>
> Subject: Re: 10.1283, Disc: Universal Word Order
> Watch out folks, Dan's gonna tell us how it is...

Given the tone of Witty's response to Moonhawk, the below will not be
out of line.

> Not at all Dan, you missed the point (go figure). There is no universal
> word order because all "true" word orders are universal. From what I have
> found from analyzing languages, rather than spending my time reading and
> criticizing other peoples ideas, the closest thing to a universal word order
> is SV, and the O is in consequential. For those who acknowledge VSO as a
> "true" word order, which I don't, add that to you pantheon of universal word
> orders. In short, searching for a single all encompassing word order is a
> fruitless endeavor.

(Did you ever try studying Arabic?)

> >[moonhawk]
> >
> >I must have missed the article or book demonstrating that the Roman
> >alphabet is simpler and easier to master than a *syllabary* for >speakers
> >of simple-syllabic languages. Can you provide a cite? >Otherwise, this just
> >seems to prefer what you are used to.
> Actually Dan, I'm used to three alphabets these days, eight or nine if you
> want to count variants of the Roman alphabet. Let cite an example from
> Korean, if Dan will allow me to do so without getting anal about page
> numbers and book titles. Before the 15th century, the Korean language used
> the Chinese script as its orthographic system. During the reign of King
> Sejong, the current phonetic alphabet was invented so that writing would be
> made easier (if you could pronounce it, you could write it).
> Similarly, the Roman alphabet is simpler than the Northern Semitic syllabary
> because, although both are phonetic, the Roman alphabet represents sounds at
> smaller units (thereby requiring the momorization of fewer characters to
> have the same orhtographic effect). This is a simpler and more efficient
> system, not because I sue the Roman alphabet everyday, but because,
> according to Bodmer, it just is.

Are you aware that Korean writing incorporates a considerably body of
Chinese characters, which are used for the extensive Sino-Korean
component of the vocabulary? Are you aware that, however much North
Korea claims to do without them, they are taught in school so the
children will understand how the alphabetic script represents them?
(Hannas, Asia's Orthographic Dilemma)

There is NO SUCH THING as "Northern Semitic syllabary." I can give YOU
the page number where Gelb asserts that there is, but I defy you to
produce any page numbers where he presents *arguments* in support of the

For many languages, a syllabary is more suitable than an alphabet.

> >[witty]
> >
> >Many people attest to changes in language, but our languages really >do not
> >change -- simply our usage of them. In almost all cases of >linguistic
> >change, the new form represents a simplification of the >older form (for
> >example, enclitic mutation, pictographic vs. >phonetic writing systems, and
> >metathesis). Without any advantage to >be gained, a clumsy linguistic
> >system that is antithetical to the >cognitive process would quickly become
> >extinct in favor of a less >complicated, more convenient language.

There is NO SUCH THING as a pictographic writing system. All writing is
necessarily phonetic to some degree. (DeFrancis, The Chinese Language:
Fact and Fantasy; Visible Speech)
Peter T. Daniels
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