Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2010 August 8

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August 8[edit]

Chinese coiffure or turban[edit]

Does anyone have access to the book History of the Qin and Han Dynasties (秦汉史) by Jian Bozan? Page 198 of the work supposedly mentions the dress and appearance of the Dayuan people. The author of a book I am reviewing states the Chinese character used to describe the headdress of the people can mean either "turban (diadem) or a coiffure." With my limited knowledge of Chinese, the only character for the Chinese coiffure I know of is Jiu (鬏). What other possibilities are there?

I have a secondary question regarding whatever character that more knowledgeable editors may come up with. Even though the character can be used to mean coiffure and turban, has it ever been used to describe any other type of headgear other than turbans? If so, please give examples (preferably from around the Han Dynasty if possible). Thanks. --Ghostexorcist (talk) 10:20, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

I looked around and found another character that might fit: Jin (巾). Most of the online Chinese dictionaries I've consulted just say it means towel and or turban, but I found one on google books that says it also means coiffure. But unless someone can look up that specific page from the above book, I won't know for sure if this is correct or not. --Ghostexorcist (talk) 17:58, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
盤頭 also means coiffure or turban, but it is not the single character I am looking for. --Ghostexorcist (talk) 13:00, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
I don’t have the book at hand, but I get a glimpse of it through Google Books. However, I find its Chinese version only, so I’m not sure whether we’re reading the same page. In the Chinese version, the reason why Han invade Dayuan and two attempts of invasion led by general Li Guangli are mentioned. Besides, a description of a desert by Marco Polo is cited. If these clues are confirmed, I think what we see are the same.
If so, I’m afraid Jian Bozan only mentions the appearance of the Dayuan people, not dress. Well, at least in the Chinese version. He says Dayuan “used to be the last shelter for those Greeks with ‘deep eyes, high noses’ and ‘lots of beards’ in the Northwest of Central Asia”. The character he uses is “鬚”, which is simplified to “须” in simplified Chinese. And this character means beard. So I think the translator just confused “鬚” with “鬏” or “鬓”. Well, they look similar, don’t them?--Certiffon (talk) 17:18, 13 August 2010 (UTC)

Number of phonemes[edit]

This question (Wikipedia:Reference desk/Humanities#Do_humans_have_a_natural_language.3F) at the Humanities RD let me thinking: Is User:Ludwigs2 right?--Quest09 (talk) 10:44, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

I've taken the libery liberty of emending the link in Quest's query. Deor (talk) 10:50, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
I've taken the liberty of emending the spell in Dear's Deor's query. Quest09 (talk) 11:12, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
I've taken the liberty of emending my name in Quest's liberty-taking message. :-) Deor (talk) 11:18, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
I've taken the liberty of not emending anything. Rimush (talk) 13:59, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
I've tasen taken the liserty liberty of emensing emending a few wosds words in this sost post. Eliko (talk) 15:19, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
e-mending, like e-mail? (talk) 23:14, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Liberties aside, Ludwigs2's claims sound convincing to me, except that I think the restriction on phonemes begins earlier - some claim that it begins in the womb! I haven't time to cite references just now, so perhaps someone else can find some? Dbfirs 12:16, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
I'm not sure exactly what your question is, but if the heading is a guide, you're perhaps asking about Ludwigs2's statement that the "phonemes of human speech" number "80-some". As far as I know, the term phonemes is applied to significant distinctions within an individual language or dialect; and even for single speech communities, different scholars will come up with different numbers, depending on how they conduct their analyses. See the discussion on pp. 118–124 here, which mentions languages with as few as 11 and as many as 141 phonemes. If one wanted to count the different sounds used in all languages, the number would be enormous but would again depend on how one went about drawing the distinctions. Deor (talk) 14:07, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes, on reflection, I think Deor is right with many hundreds or even thousands if one makes fine distinctions and includes the clicks of Khoisan languages etc. Our IPA chart has only 53 for all dialects of English, but there are many subtleties within the vowels, as in the questionable homophones taught, tort and taut. Dbfirs 15:10, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Is it only me who finds referring to the Khoisan sounds as "clicks", and discussions about including them as sounds or not, offensive? They're consonants like all others, aren't they? And keep in maaaai (Wiseau reference), this is coming from an anti-PC kind of guy Rimush (talk) 15:30, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
I wasn't intending to imply that they are not consonants, just that we often forget about such sounds from "exotic" languages. My own dialect has some very strange consonants that sound like clicks (as in bottle), and the k in standard English and many other languages is a click is it not? I've never heard anyone speak in a Khoisan language. Are there any sound files available? Dbfirs 16:05, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Xhosa is not a Khoisan language, but it features click consonants too, and you can hear some Xhosa clicks for example here, here or here. See also click consonant. --Theurgist (talk) 16:33, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for the links. It sounds quite tricky to learn! (Harder than Welsh and Gaelic) Dbfirs 17:09, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
You have a click in "bottle"? Do you just mean a plosive consonant? --Tango (talk) 18:44, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
I think it's a click - certainly a double plosive. I try not to use it! Dbfirs 21:27, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, no one has a click in "bottle". You probably are referring to a glottal stop. And there's nothing politically incorrect about referring to "clicks" – it's a class of consonant, just like "plosive", "fricative", "ejective", and so on. (talk) 12:29, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Is the "glottal stop" like the way Eliza's father says "little" in the song "With a Little Bit of Luck"? As in "li-ul"? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 14:58, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes. In American English you can hear it in "uh-_oh" and replacing the "t" some pronunciations of words like "Latin" and "kitten". +Angr 15:08, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
No, definitely not a glottal stop, but perhaps not quite a click either. The sound is made at the sides of the tongue like the click one makes to tell a horse to walk, but is not usually a full click, perhaps just a combination of plosive and fricative . Do we have a formal definition of a click? Dbfirs 06:04, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
To answer the OP's actual question: of course I'm is right. That goes without saying. Face-angel.svg --Ludwigs2 19:22, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Too late! You already said it. :) ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 14:58, 9 August 2010 (UTC)


I have recently re-read the Eddie Dickens Trilogy by Philip Ardagh, a certified Brit. However, he likes to write confusingly, a la Lemony Snicket, and I think he may have misled me. In the book, which takes place in Victorian England, policemen are called "peelers". Ardagh claims that this is because they were named after the (real) Prime Minister Robert Peel, who set up the police force. However, I learned shortly after that British police officers are called "bobbies" for the same reason. Could somebody who is British tell me if I've been had? Has "peeler" ever been a legit term for an officer of the law?? (talk) 12:39, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

I'm not British, but the answer to your (final) question is yes. See here. Deor (talk) 12:59, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
I don't know how much the terms was actually used, but yes, it features commonly in "life in Victorian London" exhibits, and that sort of thing. I remember being taught the term when studying the Victorians. - Jarry1250 [Humorous? Discuss.] 13:33, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes, both are UK slang terms for policeman, and both derive from the name of Sir Robert Peel. Bobby is still in current use (though it would be regarded as dated by some). Peeler is no longer in use, but is generally understood because it can be found in older literature. Dbfirs 15:22, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
I didn't know you had to get certified to be British. +Angr 16:27, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Peeler is still in widespread use here in Northern Ireland, but then I suppose that's also true for many other words. -- the Great Gavini 17:55, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Can you cite any recent non-historical NI books in which "peeler" is used? If you can, then we ought to change Wiktionary's entry. In many parts of England, some younger people might assume you were referring to a stripogram! Dbfirs 21:20, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
There are a couple of instances quoted in this 2003 report on policing (PDF) (pp 59 and 61). I must say I've never heard the strip-o-gram use. -- the Great Gavini 08:17, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
I would think most English speakers would think of this when they hear "peeler". To "peel" is also a cute way of saying "strip", as in removing cloths (not skin, except if you were sunburned a few days ago). ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 14:51, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for the link. That confirms that the word is still in colloquial use in Ireland. It sounds very dated on this side of the Irish Sea. Dbfirs 13:42, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
While the English use of "peeler" certainly came from Sir Rbt Peel, the Irish use predates Peel's 1829 reforms: the OED has an 1817 Irish quotation. The OED does attribute this also to Peel who, it claims, set up the Irish Constabulary. Neither Peel's page or the RIC page note this, that I could see. On a further note, they have a 1993 citation in reference to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Gwinva (talk) 23:19, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes, the word does seem to be in occasional current use. Would you accept "dated" rather than Wiktionary's tag of "archaic". If so, I'll change the Wiktionary entry. Dbfirs 23:34, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
... (later) ... I've made small additions to the articles you mention to redress the omissions. Dbfirs 02:20, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

Belonging to someone else[edit]

What is the correct possessive of "someone else" or "Everyone else"? For example a problem belonging to someone else. My instinct is always to write "someone else's problem", but that is always tagged by spelling checkers as wrong.

Is there another, more correct way of writing this? Or is this a case where the spell checker is leading me astray? APL (talk) 18:31, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

I certainly say "someone else's" and the spell checker in Firefox that is checking this as I type it doesn't complain (it does, however, complain about the word "Firefox"...). --Tango (talk) 18:38, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
I suppose that, logically, it should be "someone's else", but I've never heard anyone say that. Microsoft's grammar checker changes "someone's else" to "someone else's". Perhaps one should re-cast the sentence in very formal writing. Dbfirs 21:13, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
NO, a thousand times NO. Leave it as the perfectly correct "someone else's", and the spell checker be damned. Do NOT be a slave to spell/grammar checkers. Learn the basics, and be confident with your use of them. That principle would apply in any other field of human endeavour, wouldn't it, so why not in one's own language. Imagine a surgeon relying on a crappy computer program to tell him whether to make the next cut near the heart or the brain, or the balls. -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 21:52, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
I agree in principle with JackofOz, but, in practice, I find Microsoft's spell checker (together with a custom dictionary compiled over twenty years) moderately useful. It would be even more useful if it allowed words to be deleted. The only major error was the spelling of liaison, and they eventually corrected that around the turn of the millennium after many years of apparently not noticing their mistake. The grammar checker is less useful, but the most annoying aspects can be disabled. "Someone's else" would be hyper-correct and just sounds wrong (as I intended to imply above). It's rather like "majors general" where everyone actually says "major generals", and have done for the last 200 years. Dbfirs 22:26, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Useful or not, if your gut is telling you your spelling of a particular word or phrase is correct and the spell checker disagrees, then either go with your gut without further ado, or do as APL did and check it out independently, but do not just abandon your own gut instinct. Majors general? Does any grammar checker actually require that? Being a rank or title, it's different from 'attorney-general' or 'governor-general', which are offices. They pluralise the first element only, but "lieutenant-colonel", "major-general" etc are pluralised in the normal way. -- (talk) 23:00, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
The London Gazette of 1710 had "The Brigadiers Juel and Daa were created Majors-General", but I agree that the correct spelling now has the "s" at the end. It won't be long before "attorney-general" and "governor-general" follow suit. I was really contrasting logic with usage, not claiming archaic plurals as correct. Some spell checkers evidently need someone to check their spelling. Dbfirs 23:24, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
This one's a bit complex, because to us a Major General is a type of General, but originally it was short for Sergeant Major General, which was a type of Sergeant Major. So the noun-adjective roles have switched over time. Looie496 (talk) 01:41, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
I see Judge Advocate General (United Kingdom) refers to “Assistant Judge Advocate Generals” rather than “Assistant Judge Advocates General”. That surprises me, I must say. Judge Advocate General (Canada) nicely side-steps the issue with: Eight Assistant Judge Advocate General (AJAG) offices; and Ten Deputy Judge Advocate (DJA) offices.
Which reminds me: is it "Pedantry-Enforcers-General" or "Pedantry-Enforcer-Generals"? -- (talk) 02:45, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
I thought that "Pedantry-Enforcers-General" were a dying breed - very near to extinction! As I tried to show above, the "s" is gradually moving to the end in all of these compounds, and in very formal writing it is often preferable to re-cast the sentence to avoid the controversy. Dbfirs 07:08, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Oh, I hope they are extinct. That doesn't stop us talking about them forever. -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 09:11, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
For the record, the correct form is in fact "someone else's", and "someone's else" is in absolutely no way correct. English possessive -'s always comes at the end of a noun phrase, which may or may not the noun actually doing the possessing. It's not like a traditional genitive case. (talk) 12:24, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
I thought that was what we all said in the discussion above, but thanks for clarifying. Problems sometimes still arise when the head of the noun phrase precedes other nouns or modifiers. In cases that sound clumsy, it is usually preferable to re-cast the sentence. Dbfirs 13:32, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Excellent. So I'm right and spell checkers are wrong. Good. Thanks all. APL (talk) 14:04, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
I'm sure your spell checker wouldn't like "The boy I gave the puzzle to's mother" or "The man I kissed's hat" either, but they're both right. +Angr 14:16, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Just as a matter of interest, which spell checker gets it wrong? Microsoft's makes the correct suggestion in the case of "someone else's", but it can't cope with Angr's examples. Dbfirs 08:39, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
The proper place to put the 's is after the last word in a noun phrase, otherwise the meaning is unclear. For example, if you said that Vegamite sandwich belong to Jack of Oz, you wouldn't say "Jack's of Oz sandwich", you would say "Jack of Oz's sandwich". The example "majors general" is different - that's a plural, not a possessive, although it's more likely to be heard as "major generals" as noted above. However, the plural of "court martial" the last I heard is still "courts martial", as "martial" is still an adjective. However, the discussion has clarified one thing for me: In the American south (and increasingly elsewhere) the most commonly stereotyped expression is probably "yawl", as in "y'all", for "you all". The possessive of "yawl" is "yawl's" or "y'all's". If "you all" is taken to be a noun phrase, then it works. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 14:47, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Than there's that horror, "she and I's car" instead of "her and my car", or "the car is hers and mine". It's trying to possessivise the expression "she and I" by adding an 's to it, but that's a bad, bad error. -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 20:48, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
I recommend "the car of her and me".—Wavelength (talk) 15:04, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
The phrase "The King of Spain's daughter" is used at, but I do not endorse that usage.
Wavelength (talk) 03:16, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
That has a long history, e.g. William Byrd's "The Erle of Oxfordes Marche" from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. -- (talk) 06:59, 10 August 2010 (UTC)

Incomprehensible stew[edit]

The article brunswick stew, currently linked from the front page, contains a sentence that makes no sense to me. I was going to fix it, but first I need help decoding it:

Also, North Carolina natives have been known for their own unique concoction, leaving the tomato base and thickness but divering between meats with chicken breast chunks or pulled Eastern Carolina style bbq.

"Divering" is probably meant to be "diverging," yes? Even so, "diverging between meats with" baffles me. I imagine the North Carolina natives running some kind of race, all grouped together, reaching a landmark which is a pair of tables laden with meats, and then running between the tables and diverging, and all the while they are "with", that is, holding onto, chicken breast chunks or pulled Eastern Carolina style bbq. What is that last item, anyway? The term "pulled" is something I don't know about, and barbecue is not an actual meat type. Perhaps "divering between meats with" means "diversifying the meats with"; but the problem with this is that chicken was already mentioned as a common ingredient. What is the sentence trying to say? (talk) 21:40, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

"Divering" may also have been meant to be "differing", but the syntax would still be messed up. How about something like "... their own unique concoction, similarly thick and tomato based, using either chicken-breast chunks or pulled Eastern Carolina–style barbecue as the meat". I also think that the "Also" at the beginning of the sentence could be dispensed with. (I'd worry more about the lack of references for anything in that section, myself.) Deor (talk) 22:12, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Oh, and pulled in this context basically means "shredded", and Carolina barbecue apparently is pork by definition. Deor (talk) 22:18, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Good stuff, thanks. (talk) 22:47, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Might dithering also have been intended? Although that wouldn't be terribly encyclopedic. (talk) 23:09, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
For the specific differentia of Eastern Carolina barbecue, see the first paragraph of North Carolina#Famous food and drinks from North Carolina, which could be linked to at the appropriate point in this article. Deor (talk) 01:24, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
It appeared on February 24th from this rather poorly-constructed edit by a one-shot IP: [1] (or two shots, technically) so getting an answer on his intentions might be difficult. I would recommend rewriting the sentence in a way that seems most logical and don't worry about precisely what word the IP intended. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 14:37, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

Bad vs. Good words query[edit]

I mean, Positive and Negative words. I want to know why horrible and terrible describe ghastly things, and then the word horrific also is bad, but terrific is taken to mean something is great. The root words are horror and terror, right? Could somebody give an answer or their best guess? 2Ð ℳǣ$₮ℝʘ talk, sign 22:51, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

"Terrific" needn't necessarily mean 'something great.' Just like "great" it can mean good, bad or indifferent. Like "there was a great/terrific bang," or "the great/terrific mountain range." Terrible and terrific both have the same stem, yes, but different suffixes. "-ic" and "-ible" both form adjectives, but they are "a form or instance" and "causing," respectively. So the two words' forms give insight. Hope this helps! schyler (talk) 23:35, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
Some other good ones for the collection are awesome, awful, and tremendous. These words definitely change over time; I remember reading an old novel which described a statue as "awful", meaning it was imposing. Nowadays we would assume that meant "badly made". (talk) 00:01, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Even "bad" itself can be positive when used colloquially, just like "wicked" (and probably others more). ---Sluzzelin talk 00:06, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Dammit, I just came back to edit that in, you got there first. :) Colloquially, and in the 1980s. (talk) 00:21, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
(after edit conflicts) Until at least 1899, terrific was used in its original meaning of terrible, horrible, but it also came to be used as an intensifier, as mentioned by Schyler, from the mid-1800s ("A terrific storm", but also "A terrific sunset".) Terrible is also used as an intensifier in my local dialect (and probably elsewhere). From about 1930, the slang usage of "terrific" meaning "very good" came into use (The equivalent use of terrible in my local dialect probably came earlier [2]). It was a gradual development, as with many changes of meaning. Dbfirs 00:07, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
words like this are referents to the causation of an emotion: e.g. horrible means 'instills horror', adorable means 'creates adoration', etc. some of these emotions are ambiguous: awe and terror in particular have implications of religious ecstasy which need not be negative. --Ludwigs2 00:17, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
I don't think there were any religious connotations in this case. It was through the intensifier usage, as with lots of similar words. Dbfirs 00:27, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
"Bad" and "wicked" were already mentioned; there's also the modern slang usage of "sick" to mean "great". The word "awesome" also once had a negative meaning. Looie496 (talk) 01:31, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

Nobody would ever now be given the epithet "The Terrible", as Ivan the Terrible was, because it no longer means menacing, threatening, or terror-inducing. It just means crap quality now, or it can also mean highly inappropriate ("That's a terrible thing to say"). "Ivan the Highly Inappropriate" - nah, I don't think so. -- (talk) 02:19, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

(... except in dialect, where it is a synonym of terrific, as in my link above.) Dbfirs 07:00, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
In pre-Vatican II days, my school choir sang Terribilis est locus isti ("how terrible is this place") as part of the dedication of a new church. The phrase comes from Genesis 28:17, when Jacob, awakening from his dream, says, "How awesome is this shrine! This is nothing else but an abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven!" --- OtherDave (talk) 01:02, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
It reminds me of how "sensible" once meant "aware" (I am sensible of your interest in this matter), where now it means "demonstrating common sense". -- (talk) 06:50, 10 August 2010 (UTC)

Seyran (name)[edit]

Can you tell me the pronunciation of the Turkish name "Seyran"? Thanks, Irene1949 (talk) 22:58, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

It is pronounced like the combination of two English words "say" (tell) and "run" (jog). --Omidinist (talk) 04:07, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
With IPA for Turkish, it would be represented thus: [sejˈɾan]. --Theurgist (talk) 09:27, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
However, according to the note on that page, "In Turkish proper, excepting certain unstressed suffixes and stressed verb tenses, proper nouns are typically stressed on the 2nd or 3rd last syllable, and other words on the last syllable" (emphasis added; see also Turkish phonology#Sezer stress), so perhaps it's actually [ˈsejɾan]. +Angr 15:52, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
(edit conflict with Irene1949's thank-you post below) Probably. But all examples here to support that are placenames. Among the proper names of people, we have [ɾeˈdʒep taˈjip ˈeɾdoɰan], [dʒeˈmaɫ ɟyɾˈsel], [adˈnan mendeˈɾes], [meˈsut jɯɫˈmaz]. Besides, many Turkish anthroponyms are directly derived from common nouns, for example Gül means "rose"; Güneş means "sun"; Yıldırım means "lightning"; Yıldız means "star". The "Sezer stress" section of the Turkish phonology article begins thus: "Proper names (of both places and foreign people) follow a different stress pattern, known in the linguistics literature as Sezer stress (after the discoverer of the pattern, Engin Sezer)." [emphasis added] This biographical article would suggest that the name Seyran might have Kurdish origins, and a Kurdish speaker has recorded a pronunciation here, stressing the ultimate syllable. I'm not saying I'm in all senses right, but my very passing (lack of) knowledge of Turkish wouldn't let me rely on the penult and antepenult stresses in all cases of proper names. :) --Theurgist (talk) 18:31, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Thank you. -- Irene1949 (talk) 17:50, 9 August 2010 (UTC)


While in deep thought with my friend we were discussing the nature of language. In particular we came to the past- and future-tenses. I queried how past means past and future means future and how We came to understand what had happened and that something can happen that yet hasn't. In answer to "how does past-tense means the past" my comrade responds, "because someone took the time to create it." This was enlightening, to say the least. I would like to pose the same question again here. Have at it Wikipedians! Thanks! schyler (talk) 23:25, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

First, allow me to point out that PWS (Posting While Stoned) may not be illegal the way that DWI is, but it is still discouraged in most civilized nations.
Second, I'm not sure exactly what the question is, but I can crib an answer from New Age material. Past and future don't exist: past-tense and future-tense are simply linguistic referents to current-time mental events that we interpret in temporal/causal terms (in other - possibly less clear - terms, we imbue our thoughts with pastness and futureness, the same way that we imbue a well-crafted pencil drawing with 3-dimensionality). put that in your pipe and smoke it. Face-wink.svg --Ludwigs2 00:09, 9 August 2010 (UTC)--Ludwigs2 00:09, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

While deep-thought occurred in that state it is now an issue of general mental health why I no longer consume.
New-Age material is nice, but as you point out it's an interpretation of temporal terms that is the key in that viewpoint. While some may argue about reality, as an old teacher taught me "it is what it is." As we interpret IS reality.
So I will pose the question differently: How did we come to understand that "happened" meant it was in the past, linguistically. schyler (talk) 00:59, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

Because we have memory, and we probably learn the concept from cases where things that are said to have "happened" are things that we remember. The future is more problematic -- the explanation must somehow be that we learn patterns of causality and thereby learn how to anticipate some events; this gives us the ability to draw a connection in situations where we anticipate something and where somebody says it "will happen". (I hope this explanation was not too incoherent!) Looie496 (talk) 01:25, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

Looie: yes, it was coherent, but it seems to be answering a different question. We have memory and that means we learn the concept of past, but how did the language represent that? I guess it's a question, like I said earlier, about the nature of language in general. schyler (talk) 02:12, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

Are you asking when in the evolution of language past and future tenses appeared, and what caused this? If that's the question, then the answer is that we don't know, since it probably happened over 100,000 years ago. If that's not the question, you'll have to be a bit clearer (unless somebody else gets it). Looie496 (talk) 03:13, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Actually it couldn't have happened like that at all, since the categories of "past" and "future" (and indeed, "tense") do not exist in all languages. For example, Germanic languages don't have a natural future tense, although German and English at least have created them by using other verbs - so obviously this was "invented", in a way, within recent human history. Adam Bishop (talk) 16:57, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Is it not the case, though, that 'older' Indo-European languages ('older' meaning 'retaining earlier characteristics') such as Latin, Greek and Sanscrit, do feature inflected future tenses, suggesting that the Germanic branch dropped these and subsequently invented a replacement system? (talk) 21:20, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Latin's future tense was a later development too, I was mostly adapted from the subjunctive (and sometimes the future and subjunctive are the same). According to Proto-Indo-European verb there was no future tense. Adam Bishop (talk) 23:11, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Proto-Indo-European didn't have a future tense as such, but it had an -s morphological stem derivation which (with variations) formed the basis of the future tense in four separate Indo-European branches (Greek, Indic, Baltic, and Celtic). AnonMoos (talk) 17:56, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
Many languages have distinct irrealis forms, which depending on the language might include future reference, possibility, hearsay, counterfactuals. In some cases these forms have given rise to more specifically future forms. --ColinFine (talk) 07:24, 10 August 2010 (UTC)