[Scribus] Translation/language question: Standard Englishvs.American English

Christoph Schäfer christoph-schaefer
Thu Aug 4 20:32:09 CEST 2005

Hi John,

> As a stuent of linguistics (native of western US), permit me a few 
> observations.

Having done linguistics as a (minor) part of my studies, some short 

> 1) All languages have dialects and always will. The greater the 
> number of speakers of the language, the greater the number and 
> the degree of the variances.

Obviously true, but not every dialect will have its own spelling. Most 
dialects aren't even written, only spoken. For every speech community, a 
standard is necessary to enable reliable communication across dialect 
borders. If the Germans did not have Standard German, they wouldn't be 
able to communicate with each other at all, because the dialects are 
very different. A Bavarian or someone from Rhineland would have to learn 
many foreign languages to understand what people talk (and write) in 
other parts of the country.

> 2) Writing systems (graphemics) are a part of the dialect and there 
> weill always be variations.

That's mostly not true. Writing systems are compromises, and they 
weren't even planned as computer languages (artificial languages) are. 
The standards were made by people in the courts and the church 
(translations  of the bible), so a mixture of dialects finally became a 
"standard". And even this standard changed over time.

> 3) English sucks as an international language from many aspects. 
> First, English uses some phonetic sounds that are very rare among 
> the world's languages and, therefore, very hard for foreigners to 
> master -- e.g., the retroflex r, among others. Second, English has 
> some bizarre ways of creating questions (do insertion, wh- 
> movement) that are almost unique among the world's languages 
> and, therefore, extremely difficult for foreigners to master. Third, 
> because English is a bastard language with a germanic base and a 
> romance top layer, we have a morphology that is incomprehensible 
> to a non-native. For example, words of Latin origin can take only 
> certain suffixes and prefixes and words of Germanic origin can take 
> only other suffixes and prefixes. And  finally, the spelling system is 
> about 300 years past due for an update, not that it was ever close 
> to accurate from the beginning.

That's not a specialty of English. Every language has a long history and 
borrowed a lot from other languages. How do you explain the French 
Bordeaux? Four letters to describe one phonem!!!

> So when y'all bitch about color vs colour, you have no idea how 
> deep the problem really goes.

I think I have, but this doesn't help to answer a very pragmatical question.

> In the meantime, intelligent and educated persons worldwide 
> understand that diversity is the wealth of our species and rejoice in 
> our differences.

Of course you're right, and I think no one here will doubt it.

> And as a final note, one of my passions is spelling reform for 
> English. If I accomplish that, and nothing else, my life will have 
> been worth living.

In a word: DON'T. Don't even think about it. The people will change the 
language (and spelling) the way they think it is appropriate. We had the 
chance to see what happens if you try to reform spelling by command in 
Germany. It was a total disaster. Instead of becoming easier, spelling 
became harder and hardly anyone applies the new rules (they have for 
that reason mostly been retracted). Colour vs. color is a good example: 
Color is easier to write because it makes no sense to have the same 
(nitpicking: almost the same) phonem with two different combinations of 
graphems. The "ou" only reflects the French origin of the word. 
Consequently, in American English the "ou" is eliminated in most cases. 
But, and there's the rub, it's not totally eliminated. US Americans 
still write "delicious" and "conscious". Does this make spelling easier?

Despite having fun to answer your posting, all this doesn't help to 
solve the basic problem: We have an en_GB language file, but no en_US 
(yet). The docs are written in AE, whereas on the Wiki, we have mixture 
of both. Once some pages on the Wiki have matured they may become part 
of the scribus documentation, which would be inconsistent as a consequence.

Maybe it's just me being picky, but it's the same as having German 
German and Swiss German or Flemish and Dutch mixed up in one document. 
You will always stumble across different spelling variancies in one text.



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