Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Laws Yet To Be Discovered

I haven't written on my blog for almost a week now. Not that I don't have anything to write about, it's just that I was very lazy.

Anyway, today, during Finnish class, I learnt about a piece of Finnish grammar which really blew my mind. It's called consonant gradation, and it involves the mutation of stop consonants (like p, t, k) when they appear at the onset of the last syllable in a stem and when a suffix is added to a word that closes the syllable. What really shocked me is that the teacher told us that there is no set rule when to apply consonant gradation. I don't know if it is true or not, but it seemed very weird. She explained that a language is an agreement between people and that it is not based on laws. It just appeared, and people later try to find laws to explain it. I somewhat agree to this, however, I believe languages change over time, to eliminate exceptions and find laws to encompass most of the language.

The weird part of it all was, that the phenomenon immediately got me thinking about rendaku. I know the Finnish language is full of weird shit, but this one must be somewhere there at the top of the list, probably fighting over first place with this mutant spawn of the Japanese language. Rendaku also deals with voicing of the initial consonant of the non-initial portion of a compound or prefixed word. It is actually pretty similar (in my opinion). Now, you don't really here these expressions about consonant gradation, but the Wikipedia article about rendaku describes it as: "a common but unpredictable phenomenon in modern Japanese", "manifests in ways currently unpredictable", "Some instances are linked with a lexical property as noted above but others may obey laws yet to be discovered", and, the most hilarious one, "sometimes presenting a problem even to native speakers". That's just great.

You should really read the Wikipedia articles on these two. I've supplied the links. There are many mysteries in the Universe. Who knows, after the experiment at the LHC, we might even learn what laws truly govern consonant gradation and rendaku...

1 comment:

tibi masterofalltime said...

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

-Hamlet, Act 1. Scene V