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Are Some Languages Better than Others?$
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R. M. W. Dixon

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198766810

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198766810.001.0001

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What is not (really) needed

What is not (really) needed

(p.107) Chapter 5 What is not (really) needed
Are Some Languages Better than Others?

R. M. W. Dixon

Oxford University Press

Not every aspect of human languages is ideal, or conducive to easy communication. Here we examine complexities which appear at first sight to fulfil no useful role, and indeed to impede the efficient learning and use of languages. Having many forms of, say, past tense occupies the mind in ways which could be better occupied with distinctions that carry meaning. However, there is something to be said in favour of certain types of irregularity, such as suppletion. There is discussion of types of grammatical and semantic redundancy, taking account of the fact that efficient operation of a language is facilitated by a certain level of redundancy. The final section contrasts the way in which repetition is a key factor of spoken proselytisation, but something which convention says should be avoided in a felicitous writing style.

Keywords:   irregularity, suppletion, redundancy, rhetorical style, repetition

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