Why did  Italy, which was not even unified until the 19th century, and
suffered numerous invasions, not have the same  language developments that
English did?  I would think that a region broken into  bickering city states
which were specialists in foreign trade would have had even more accelerated
language change than England.

Rick Seddon
McIntosh, NM, USA
-----Original Message-----
From: Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Sunday, March 18, 2001 11:15 AM
Subject: Re: Dans le Restaurant and the Commedia: development of English

The reason English changed so much is that in 1066 the Normans
conquered the Saxons, and French became the language of the court while
the common people continued to speak Anglo Saxon.  The two languages
fused to become modern English.  Even the English of Medieval Court
poets is easier to read than other versions of English.  That is why Chaucer
is more or less readable with study, but the Pearl Poet is much much

Also, there were four dialects of Old English.  Mercian, which was the
language of the Midlands, developed into Middle English of the midlands,
while West Saxon and Kentish died out, and Northumbrian developed into
Modern Scots.  The vowel changes took place much more slowly and less
completely in the North, so Scots, for example, is closer to German than is
English today.  So a set of different "languages" in a divided set of
countries in which the court was--from 1603 on--in the English Midlands
developed in diverse ways and in ways that kept masses of French terms.
The result is that modern English is incredibly rich in synonyms, poor in
rhymes, and very difficult to learn because it is full of exceptions.
Moreover, the remnants of Germanic verb and noun forms are uneven and
erratic, so we have to learn irregular and regular verbs and differentiate
pronoun cases but not noun cases.  And lots of other oddities. Nancy

Date sent:      Sun, 18 Mar 2001 12:41:45 EST
Send reply to:  [log in to unmask]
From:           [log in to unmask]
To:             [log in to unmask]
Subject:        Re: Dans le Restaurant and the Commedia

In a message dated 3/18/01 7:43:59 AM Eastern Standard Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:

> My question was that I knew Dante's 1200 Italian was closer to modern
> Italian than Chaucher's 1200 English is to modern English but was it
> closer than Shakespeare's 1600 English.  He said yes.  Italian students
> of Dante do not have much trouble with the language or grammar although
> there are problems with some terms (I would guess on a parr with
> Shakespeare's "collier" for example.) Also there was trouble with some
> of the allusions and history.

Thanks, Rick, that's really interesting. Did he say why English has
changed more than Italian? Or maybe it just isn't known why.