2

When I learned Swedish I noticed I went through two phases of learning with regard to understanding the language. First I had to learn the meaning of common words. For example, "mening" means both "meaning" and "sentence". Secondly I had to associate meanings with groups of consequtive words - idioms, phrasal verbs etc.

So the difficulty for me involved a word or a small group of consequtive words. Once I knew them, I could understand the sentence. Is this the same with all languages? For example, if I learned the meanings associated with every word, idiom, phrasal verb etc, would I understand every sentence? Or can there be other complexities at play which effect the meaning of the sentence?

Word order differs accross languages but when learning Swedish I still heard a command when I heard "Nu skall vi gå!" instead of a question "Now shall we go?". This is due to how we tone the words in the sentence. But maybe this toning is different or missing in certain languages. Anyway, my guess is that the word ordering is so fundamental to any language that you will learn it at the very beginning and that it will be consistent thereafter.

6
  • This question has multiple problems. The title of the question is not a question. The text contains multiple questions. As far as I can tell, an answer to the last question would require a survey of the world's languages, or at least, language families. For these reasons, I'm voting to close. But the OP should remember that my vote is only one vote, and that questions can be revised and brought back. I revised and resurrected one of mine. – James Grossmann Jan 14 '14 at 22:12
  • @JamesGrossmann It seems that the recent edit has fixed the majority of problems you have mentioned. – bytebuster Jan 14 '14 at 23:53
  • 1
    @bytebuster: Works for me. :-) – James Grossmann Jan 15 '14 at 6:23
  • "Anyway, my guess is that the word ordering is so fundamental to any language that you will learn it at the very beginning and that it will be consistent thereafter." — I don't think this is necessarily true: an Englishman having learned enough Dutch to participate in most conversations without effort will often still get the word order wrong, notably in subordinate clauses and clauses in which the subject does not come in first position. He will say, for example, *ik weet dat de man is groot, or *vrijdag ik ga naar de supermarkt. – Cerberus Jan 15 '14 at 17:15
  • Thanks @Cerberus. I'm primarily interested in the "understanding" of a sentence rather than "speaking" of it. Could an English speaker misunderstand a Dutch sentence, due to word order, having studied the language for a while? – Baz Jan 15 '14 at 18:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.