LINGUIST List 9.845

Sat Jun 6 1998

Disc: Recent Change in English

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <martylinguistlist.org>


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  1. manaster, Re: 9.820, Disc: Recent Change in English

Message 1: Re: 9.820, Disc: Recent Change in English

Date: Wed, 3 Jun 1998 17:10:44 -0400 (EDT)
From: manaster <manasterumich.edu>
Subject: Re: 9.820, Disc: Recent Change in English

With all due caution (given my earlier warning that many of the
so-called "recent" changes may not be recent or even changes), there
is one change that I feel comfortable saying is relatively recent
(i.e., no earlier than 200 years' old at the most and perhaps more
recent than that). It is a rather obscure phenomenon, actually, but
to my mind all the more interesting for that. (It is also I believe a
phenomenon common to a number of languages not just English, which
perhaps makes it even more intriguing). This is the custom of giving
the names of royalty in their original form rather than in terms of
English (or whatever) equivalents. Thus, the kind of Spain is called
in English no less than in Spanish Juan Carlos, the Dutch crown prince
is called Willem-Alexander, his mother is Queen Beatrix, and so on.
This of course leads to paradoxes since earlier generations of foreign
royalty continue to be translated, e.g., the several earlier Willems
of Dutch history are called William in English-language history books,
earlier Juans and Carloses are all rendered as John and Charles, etc.
(The popes are exempt,so we have John Paul and not Johannes Paulus or
whatever.) I am reasonably sure that the same tendency exists in
several European languages, certainly Polish, but I know almost
nothing about its full extent (I seem to remember that it has not
effected Spanish, at least not as completely), its origin, or the
history of how it spread.

However, it is clearly spreading, although not always evenly. I
recall that in Polish within the last few decades, the queen of
England was (and presumably still is) 'Elz.bieta II' [where z. stands
for the Polish grapheme consisting of z with a dot on top, much like
the one in i), but the grand duke of Luxembourg was 'Jean' and not
'Jan'.

AMR
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