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Subject: Re: (urth) One Ship: reply
From: matthew.malthouse@guardian.co.uk
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2003 09:58:11 +0100

On 16/08/2003 09:36:33 "Ashley Crill" wrote:

>-The Chrasmologic Writings contain French and Latin because, A: Its a 
>writing. B: It was written and the Whorl was launched far before 

That I can go with easily enough if I had to.

>Also, Latin is extant in Severian's day, along with Greek and Spanish.

Nope.  An ancient language (epitomized by the inscriptions in the Atrium 
of Time) presented to us as Latin not because it is Latin but because it 
bears a similar relationship to Severian's tongue as Latin does to ours.

There is a general assumption that writing slows the change of language 
and the more widespread literacy, the larger the published corpus and the 
more durable and disparate the means of recording the slower changes will 

Yet it is actually rather hard to demonstrate that this is in fact the 

Take as an example Hindustani.  A language formed over half a millennium 
from the Sanskrit rooted languages of the mid western Deccan and the 
Persian of the Muhguls.

Hindustani is grammatically indistinguishable from Urdu and Hindi. 
Technically all three are the same language.  Or were.

But starting in the late c19 and formalized at the beginning of the c20 
Hindustani was divided.  Urdu re-acquired words of Persian origin while 
de-emphasizing Sanskrit based vocabulary.  Hindi delved into Sanskrit 
adopting words to supplant Persian vocabulary.

One single century since this was formalized a grammatically identical, 
lexically identical language has been split to the point where spoken Urdu 
(eg from TV and radio broadcasts) has only 60 percent comprehension for 
Hindi speakers and Hindi - made more obscure by the flowery 
circumlocutions of classical Sanskrit - is only 40 percent comprehensible 
to Urdu speakers.

Should this rate of change persist the two languages are likely to be 
mutually incomprehensible within another 100 years.  More divergent than 
classical and modern Greek.  English is not immune, 400 year old 
Shakespeare needs occasional footnotes; 600 year old Chaucer needs entire 
explicative texts; American English and British English differ in 
lexicography and usage sufficiently to require a choice between them when 
installing a computer!  French has hallowed institutions dedicated to 
preserving the immutability of the language yet Rabelais can be as obscure 
as Shakespeare and Chretien do Troyes needs translating.  Castillian and 
American Spanish.  Arabic in variations from Morroco to Syria.

Consider then the span of time between ourselves and Severian.  Consider 
also the upheavals that are alluded to in the history.  The likelihood is 
that if Greek, Latin, French, Spanish English or any other current 
language "existed" it would be as archeological artefacts as obscure and 
incomprehensible as Minoan / Archaean Linear A and Linear B.



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