Well, actually I got the idea of a language of perfect sytax and terminology out of my head back in high school in the late '40s, when Esperanto, Ido and I forget the third artificial language were still mentioned once in a while. None of them impressed me much, but I came to the conclusion that one didn’t always want precision; in fact, often one wanted exactly the opposite; so the need was for a controllably confusing language. And yes, zyada, later, in engineering school, I learned that redundancy is often good as a CYA tool. (Hey, but English Comp teachers often chastise you for it. And some English grammarians don’t even like ‘Dunno where it’s at.’ ) But most of the redundancy in English (and most other languages) is not of the sort that is helpful. There are so many ifs, ands and buts as to English word usage and formation, that any advantage from the redundancy is useless – as demonstrated by the exemplary phrase:
Time flies like an arrow.
As to Nickrz, well, one might say we both speak English, but. . .
. . .is there any communication going on.
And back to zyada:
While it may be true that “no cats are dogs”, it is also true that ‘no cat is a dog’. So we have to split on that one. Clearly, when it comes to zero, the English-language spirit doesn’t give a damn about number, but only that the subject agree in grammatical “number” with its verb. Well, I’m not very clear on the standing of the concept of zero at even any of the beginning of modern English, Anglo-Saxon, proto-Germanic or proto-European. Before the Hindus, through the Arabs, got the modern notion of zero as a number across to Europeans, or before they sat down and though so much about nothing, I suppose any such notion might not have been thought of in Europe (or anywhere, in those “proto-” times) as one of numericity, multiplicity or whatever.
Do hunters ever get in much trouble over plurals of game animals (at least in English)? I much doubt it. Ya seen one deer , ya seen all deer, right? No wildcat are prairie dog. . .or suh’m like that. Hunters only get in trouble when they equate ‘All game moves,’ with ‘All that moves is game.’ (But nobody ever said hunters were logicians.)
Well, I never formally check in with Latin, but German and Russian were bad enough. Spanish had a lot of nonsense, but of course, it’s much easier: Mi casa is su casa, pero no la que de sus gatos y perros, ni aun un solo gato o perro.
And to Terry:
Rather than grunting, wouldn’t simply a click on a Web page (mouse language) get the proper delivery?
And to the User of Beer:
Telepathy would solve our problems? Did beer tell you that. I don’t much like beer. Would telepathy make everyone drink beer? Look at what too much connection via the I’net has done. Keeps a lot of lawyers in business, I guess.
But the main thrust of this thread was supposed to be: Given all the uncontrollable influences on language, why did the supposed need for distinction between one of something and more than one of it evolve so universally? This language-enforced “need” is a royal pain today, and I don’t see why it ever wouldn’t’ve been. (E.g.: If the number put in the blank is ‘1’, the program should reach out and chop that ‘s’ off the following word. . .if it’s a regular plural. . .and if the chop shouldn’t be on some later word, etc.) One guy with a club: I knock the sh** out of him. More than one: I run like hell? Is that what it’s all about? I got the stigma, not from a trauma, of one scotoma of glaucoma. Then I got the stigmata, not from traumata, of many scotomata of, well, still only one glaucoma, so that that eye’s pretty well shot. If I ever get that sort of thing in the other eye, will I have two glaucomata? (Guess I can’t quite see what’s goin’ on here, so to speak.)
Ray (The plural of ‘nothing’ is ‘nothings’, which is/are good for more’n anything. Ain’t that something? No way(s).)