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趣闻乐见:美式英语缺失“U”的来龙去脉 语言演变的结果

2016-02-19    来源:参考消息网 Olivia Goldhill    【      美国外教 在线口语培训

 美式英语缺失“U”的来龙去脉 语言演变的结果

当我的美国编辑让我研究一下为什么英国人拼写单词多那么多“u”时,我立刻意识到,他搞错了。作为一名英国记者,我认为我们的拼写显然是正确的,是美国人的拼写在演化过程中逐渐失去元音字母。
 
When my American editor asked me to research why Brits spell their words with so many extra‘u’s,I immediately knew he had it all wrong. As a British journalist,it's perfectly obvious to me that we have the correct amount of ‘u’s,and that American spelling has lost its vowels along the way.
当我的美国编辑让我研究一下为什么英国人拼写的单词多了那么多“u”时,我立刻意识到,他完全搞错了。作为一名英国记者,我认为我们的拼写显然是正确的,是美国人的拼写在演化过程中逐渐失去了元音字母。
 
“Color,” “honor,” and “favor” all look quite stubby to me — they're positively crying out to be adorned with a few extra ‘u’s.
在我看来,“color”(颜色)、“honor”(荣誉)和“favor”(喜爱)这些单词的形态都十分短粗,它们迫切需要添加几个“u”来修饰。
 
But it turns out that the “o(u)r” suffix has quite a confused history. The Online Etymology Dictionary reports that -our comes from old French while -or is Latin. English has used both endings for several centuries. Indeed,the first three folios of Shakespeare's plays reportedly used both spellings equally.
但事实上,“o(u)r”这个后缀的发展脉络并不清晰。据在线词源词典称,“-our”源自古法语,而“-or”源自拉丁语。英语(精品课)使用这两个后缀都已有几百年历史。实际上,据说在莎士比亚戏剧集的前3个对开本版本中,这两种拼写出现的次数一样多。
 
But by the late 18th and early 19th centuries,both the US and the UK started to solidify their preferences,and did so differently.
但在18世纪末至19世纪初,美国和英国都开始强化其语言偏好,并且以不同的方式。
 
The US took a particularly strong stand thanks to Noah Webster,American lexicographer and co-namesake of the Merriam-Webster dictionaries. Webster was a language reformer and,as Merriam-Webster.com notes,the creator of a dictionary in 1806 that attempted to rectify some of the inconsistencies he observed in English spelling. He preferred to use the -or suffix and also suggested many other successful changes,such as reversing “re” to create “theater” and “center,” rather than “theatre” and “centre.”
因为美国词典编纂者诺厄·韦伯斯特(《梅里厄姆-韦伯斯特词典》就部分得名于他)的缘故,美国的立场尤其鲜明。韦伯斯特是一位语言改革家,据《梅里厄姆-韦伯斯特词典》网站介绍,他曾尝试在其编纂并于1806年出版的词典中修正他所看到的英语拼写不一致。韦伯斯特更喜欢使用“-or”这个后缀,他还提出了许多其他的成功建议,例如将“re”改为“er”,由此将“theatre”(剧院)和“centre”(中心)变为“theater”和“center”。
 
However,other Webster proposals,such as changing “tongue” to “tung,” “women” to “wimmen,” “island” to “iland,” and “thumb” to “thum” were ultimately rejected.
但韦伯斯特的另一些建议最终没有被采纳,例如将“tongue”(舌头)改为“tung”,将“women”(女性)改为“wimmen”,将“island”(岛屿)改为“iland”,将“thumb”(拇指)改为“thum”。
 
Meanwhile in the UK, Samuel Johnson wrote A Dictionary of the English Language in 1755. Johnson was far more of a spelling purist than Webster,and decided that in cases where the origin of the word was unclear,it was more likely to have a French than Latin root.“We have few Latin words,among the terms of domestick use,which are not French,”wrote Johnson. And so he preferred -our to -or.
与此同时,在英国,1755年塞缪尔·约翰逊编纂了《英语词典》。在追求拼写的纯正性方面,约翰逊的要求远高于韦伯斯特。他认为,在词源不明的情况下,源于法语比源于拉丁语的可能性更大。约翰逊写道:“就国内使用的词汇来说,源自拉丁语而不是法语的词汇极少。”所以,他更喜欢使用“-our”。
 
“I have endeavoured to proceed with a scholar's reverence for antiquity,and a grammarian's regard to the genius of our tongue,”he wrote. As such,he “attempted few alterations.”
他写道:“我努力以学者对古文字的敬畏和语法学家对我们语言特征的尊重来进行这项工作。”因此,他“极少尝试改变”。
 
So while the UK chose to preserve linguistic roots,the US opted to modernize spelling. And if you're wondering which country got it right,the answer is,well,neither. Language is constantly evolving,and the US and UK simply went their different linguistic ways.
所以,英国选择保留语言的来源,而美国选择对拼写进行现代化改造。如果你想知道哪个国家做得对,答案是,没有对错之分。语言在不断演变,美国和英国只是选择了不同的语言道路。
 
【刘白云译自美国石英财经网站1月17日文章】


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