Saturday, January 4, 2014

Linguistic Notes

I figured it was about time to publish some of my language observations, so as to keep to the promise in the title of my blog!
In my French studies in the classroom, I always learned that in French, only the first word of a title is capitalized. However, a bit of research has presented conflicting viewpoints on how titles are capitalized in French. Some say that only proper nouns are capitalized; some say that proper nouns and their descriptors are capitalized; the variations continue. In English, typically each word that is not an article or preposition (of, the, to, etc.) is capitalized. Also, the Oxford Comma is never used in French. It is used based on writer preference in English. In the same sentence in L’Encyclopédie and in the Plan of the French Encyclopedia, the Oxford Comma is omitted in the French print while it is included in the English print.
When I first began to read the Encyclopedia, I had to adjust myself to a couple of things. Other than becoming accustomed to handling three-hundred-year-old original prints, there were differences in the language and format, some of which I expected. The most glaring difference was the way the letter “s” is sometimes printed. Printing presses of the time often printed the lowercase “s” so it looks more like an “f”. This occurs when an “s” appears at the beginning or in the middle of the word, but never at the end of a word. I was baffled; it seemed impossible that “s” used to be “f” in every old French word. I soon deciphered the problem – Mr. Ring informed me of the printing difference.  
A difference in actual language, however, is that the typical “ais,” “ait,” “aient” endings used in some verb tenses were instead “ois,” “oit,” and “oient.” In addition, the first “a” in the word “connaissances” is an “o” in L’Encyclopédie. A brief reading of the Wikipedia article “French Verb Morphology” shed light on this situation: using an “o” where there is now an “a” was simply a part of Old French, “not…abandoned by the Académie Française until 1835.” Specifically, this difference appears frequently in verbs conjugated in the imperfect tense, used to signify actions in the past.

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