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Plurality of words/help

Forum > English only || Bottom

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Plurality of words/help
Message from again57 posted on 13-10-2013 at 14:52:49 (D | E | F)
Hello everyone,

I'm writing this topic, because I'm wondering something about the English language. Even if this post can seem funny, the question is really serious. You know, I noted that every time I look up a definition for an English word, often you can find a word that sounds like a French word. But, in fact you have also some synonyms which are completely different from these close French words.
For instance, if you look up in a dictionary a definition for "intelligent", you find "intelligent", but also "clever".
If you look up "ponctualité", you find "ponctuality", but also "timekeeping", if you look up "financer", you find "to finance", but also "to bankroll"... and you have so many examples like these ones.

So, what I'm wondering, is why we can have a kind of English which is so close to French, in fact. If you consider all the words close to the French language, you could speak English just by taking the English accent with French words. Let's be realistic, when a French speaker speaks, often it's what happens. Moreover, this strange thing actually when you want to learn English, you often have to deal with this problem. In fact, it's true if I look up in my dictionary how to translate 'Financer" into English and I see "Financer" or "Bankroll" It's obvious I choose the simpler one which is "Financer" and not "Bankroll", but is that the right choice? That's the question?
And what about you? What do you think about that?

Many thanks for your answers.

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Edited by lucile83 on 13-10-2013 15:11


Re: Plurality of words/help from lucile83, posted on 13-10-2013 at 15:31:43 (D | E)
Hello,

Here are links about the origins of the English language.
Link

Link

When you learn a word you have to learn its synonyms as well, to widen your vocabulary but also to sound perfectly English, or quite good at English.
I am sorry to tell you that, but I understand now why your English sounds so... French.I had noticed that before and you have just given me the explanation.
Try to widen your vocabulary with synonyms and you'll improve your way of speaking English.



Re: Plurality of words/help from again57, posted on 13-10-2013 at 17:09:25 (D | E)
Hello Lucile,

Thank you for your answer. Don't be sorry to tell me that my English sounds too French. Actually, I know it. But, I'm not sure that the reason is my poor vocabulary, but I think that's more because I always need to build my sentence by reference to something. Here it's my mother tongue. But, you know, after reading of your link, it seems that real English words like (clever, bankroll...) are new enough. Indeed, according to this link where I took an extract from, it's until Late Modern English that French words were used and only since 1800 to now appear some real English words like clever which replaces intelligent for instance.

Late Modern English (1800-Present)

The main difference between Early Modern English and Late Modern English is vocabulary. Late Modern English has many more words, arising from two principal factors: firstly, the Industrial Revolution and technology created a need for new words; secondly, the British Empire at its height covered one quarter of the earth's surface, and the English language adopted foreign words from many countries



Re: Plurality of words/help from simplicius, posted on 13-10-2013 at 19:02:42 (D | E)
Hello again,
Words like clever, go, shirt, are much older English words than words like finance, mutton; English was born with them, inherited them from proto-germanic, the common mother tongue of all germanic languages (well, some came through Danish, such as take). Words of French origin were introduced into English after the Conquest, that is, not before the eleventh century. Their massive introduction coincides approximately with the end of the Old English period, and the beginning of the Middle English period. Part of the words which appear to come from the French actually come from Latin.

Words of French (or Latin) origin have often been felt to be more refined, and consequently were probably preferred by many authors for a long time; but the words belonging to the old germanic stock have always been here. In Chaucer you find words of French origin and of Old English origin happily mingled.
If you use mostly words of French origin, even if you use them correctly, you'll be likely to sound like a 19th century novel, rather than like a 21st century human being.
Cheers, S.



Re: Plurality of words/help from again57, posted on 14-10-2013 at 09:47:08 (D | E)
Hello Simplicius,

Thanks for your answer, but in fact, I prefer to live in the 21st century ... But, actually, the question was, why does it exist so many French words in English and can we use it. Because,when I can, I try to learn vocabulary. However, it often happens I watch something in English and I learn some words. Once I've just learnt the definition of these ones, I look watch another video and I note that to express the same idea, French words are used. It's what to That disturbs me, not to know which word of the two has to be used.

-------------------
Edited by lucile83 on 14-10-2013 10:11



Re: Plurality of words/help from lucile83, posted on 14-10-2013 at 10:24:18 (D | E)
Hello,

The links I added in my previous message tell you all about it.
Here are a few French phrases used in English:
Link

And stop worrying; if you say 'intelligent' instead of 'clever' everybody will understand you.



Re: Plurality of words/help from violet91, posted on 14-10-2013 at 11:30:27 (D | E)
Hello ,

Roman Britain( province Britannia) / ' Engles ' or Angles and the Vikings ( West ) = the Danes / new wave of Danish invasions and Anglo-Saxons / Norman Britain : 4 centuries of French at the English Court and law courts - 1066-> early XVth century...Old English and Middle English has its origins in Anglo- Saxon ( poet William Langland , Wyclif(fe)'s Bible 1384-, poet Chaucer- the 1390s ) ...up to late modern English .
True that when somebody uses words whose origins are Greek ( hypocrisy , hierarchia, thesis ..., medical terms , philosophy ..) , Latin ( a circumscribed text ) , and which logically look very much like French in everyday conversations or practice of English for/by a foreign student , natives may find you old-fashioned , 'posh ' or/and too infellectual , difficult to understand . Moreover , certain ' French ' words have really turned their meanings and become ' faux-amis' , false cognates ( both words coming from Latin , by the way ) = prejudice, injury.. Any English language student is advised to use Anglo-Saxon words mostly when he / she has a choice in the dictionary and and supposed to speak English fluently ( generally , a test ) when wishing to register at a UK university.
Adding to lucile's first link which already makes it very clear :
Link

Have a nice day .



Re: Plurality of words/help from simplicius, posted on 14-10-2013 at 16:29:17 (D | E)
Hello,
Actually, intelligent and clever don't convey exactly the same meaning. I'd say cleverness is a practical, pragmatic form of mental agility, whereas intelligence is more like an intellectual quality. The coexistence of the old germanic vocabulary and the French or Latin loan words enhances the expressivity of the language, words being seldom interchangeable. They may express different nuances in meaning, or belong to different levels of speech (ranging from the colloquial to the very formal). You can learn to appreciate thoses subtleties by reading a lot... Cheers, S.



Re: Plurality of words/help from again57, posted on 15-10-2013 at 15:35:41 (D | E)
Hi everybody,

Thanks for your answers. But, in fact it's true that I wondered why there are all these words. But, my first problem is, indeed, to know which one to learn. Because, when you know learn a foreign language, especially when you aren't in the country, it's difficutlt enough to know what register a word belongs to. And, what I often ask myself is if I learn the right word or not.
Thanks again for your time.

-------------------
Edited by lucile83 on 15-10-2013 15:41



Re: Plurality of words/help from lucile83, posted on 15-10-2013 at 15:45:19 (D | E)
Hello

How can you choose to learn this word and not that one?
As I wrote in a previous message, you have to learn a word and its synonyms.



Re: Plurality of words/help from simplicius, posted on 15-10-2013 at 17:46:35 (D | E)
Hi again,
I don't know how you learn English, but you should not worry about the origin of words (unless you have an interest in etymology). When you learn a word, you must learn its precise meaning(s) and also its speech level, and how it's used. You can find all that in a good dictionary. And you'll see, for instance, that clever and intelligent don't mean exactly the same thing. Each word has a whole range of meanings, sometimes they overlap (like intelligent and clever) but most of the time different words have a different range of meaning. As Lucile said, you should be able to say the same things in different ways, using different words, and be aware of the effect your way of putting things produces. These are abilities you'll acquire if you work well, and long enough, and reading English texts and books helps a lot.
Cheers, S.




Re: Plurality of words/help from again57, posted on 15-10-2013 at 17:55:17 (D | E)
Hello Lucile,

Thanks for answering and sorry for my mistakes in my previous messages (Know instead of learn, look instead of watch...). I don't know why I mix all the words now.
But, actually, if I wonder which word to learn, it's because of as in French, some words are not used anymore or used in another context. For instance, if you look up the word "Financer", you have at least these four definitions: To finance, To fund, To pay for, to bankroll... and I'm sure they are not the only ones, if you have a look in another dictionary. The difficulty comes to pick the right one to put it in the context which you look up this word for.

Thanks again for your reply.



Re: Plurality of words/help from lucile83, posted on 15-10-2013 at 18:04:06 (D | E)
Hello,

Well, your main problem is that you don't use an English dictionary to read about the different meanings and uses of one word.
You can use an English-French or French-English dictionary but you have to use an English dictionary, such as this one for instance:
Link

You have to get used to that.



Re: Plurality of words/help from again57, posted on 15-10-2013 at 18:05:28 (D | E)
Hello Simplicius,

Thanks for your reply, our messages met. Indeed, I took back my English book from the shelf to keep reading it. But, even if it's interesting, it's true that it's not exactly the vocabulary I need.
Actually, I'm learning English for pleasure, but also to for work. Because in my field, English is a real necessity and even more. Consequently, I would have to read some Financial stuff rather than Harlan COBEN, but I'm sure it can also be useful to read it.

-------------------
Edited by lucile83 on 15-10-2013 19:55



Re: Plurality of words/help from again57, posted on 15-10-2013 at 18:12:20 (D | E)
Hello again Lucile,

Yes, in fact, I'm used to looking up on Wordreference. But, I've just had a look at your link and it seems good. I'll try to use it in the future rather than Wordreference, which, indeed, doesn't give any examples or bad incomplete ones.
Thanks Lucile

-------------------
Edited by lucile83 on 15-10-2013 19:53



Re: Plurality of words/help from simplicius, posted on 15-10-2013 at 22:57:48 (D | E)
Hello,

There's a nice tool called wordweb: it's a free English/English dictionary which you can install on your computer (you don't have to be online to use it), it is very concise but provides examples, synonyms and antonyms, as well as pronunciation; I find it very user-friendly and useful. (I wish such a tool existed for Spanish or German, but, alas, there's no such thing as palabra tela nor Wortnetz).
But if you have doubts, or if you need more detailed information about a word, you need a true English-English dictionary.
Cheers, S.



Re: Plurality of words/help from violet91, posted on 16-10-2013 at 01:03:45 (D | E)
Hello angel again

On the whole , as I said in my post above , when you have two words proposed for the same meaning , you' d better choose the Anglo-Saxon one ; roughly said , frequency of them ~ 70 % against 30 % ) . If you still have doubts, open your 'Concise ' and check up the meaning . Thesaurus is another very good tool ( on the web ) : it gives you synonyms and antonyms .

I don't know about wordweb , but if you want to have 'the best' tool for definitions , the 'Oxford Concise' is THE reference indeed . A real paper book with real paper pages most students are advised ( or asked) to buy ...it is neither big nor expensive . It would be a good thing for you to get it . ( second-hand or not )

Good night .

-------------------
Edited by lucile83 on 16-10-2013 07:26



Re: Plurality of words/help from again57, posted on 16-10-2013 at 10:18:45 (D | E)
Hello everyone,

Thanks for your answers. So, I succeeded to put the Oxford link from Lucile on my toolbar. About Wordweb, I downloaded it on my computer, but in fact it's not deep enough in definitions. I mean, if you look up the word wait for, it doesn't know it. Webword suggest only "wait" without the preposition "for". About the Oxford Concise, as I downloaded the link towards Oxford dictionary, I think I can use it, now.




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