Thursday, 30 May 2013

Linguistic Changes

Peter Jowett is an educated businessman and Member of Parliament, yet there is something odd about the way that he speaks to Commissioner Desai in Poul Anderson's The Day Of Their Return (IN Captain Flandry, New York, 2010).

On rereading, I realize that he speaks the Emperor's Anglic almost (almost) entirely without articles, the words "a" or "the" - although he does say "the" twice. Thus, he is like a Roman for whom mensa meant indifferently "table," "a table" or "the table," depending on context. This makes for slightly more clipped, telegrammic speech:

"'...I belong to class which Landfolk regard with suspicion...'" (p. 95)

"' began as scientific colony...'" (p. 96)

"'That's origin of University...'" (p. 96)

"'To maintain humans...on planet as skimpy as this...'" (p. 96)

"'When League broke down and Troubles came...'" (p. 96)

"'...we're minor part of Townfolk.'" (p. 97)

And so on.

So did Anderson intend Jowett to speak entirely without articles but let two slip through by mistake? The difference between Jowett's and Desai's speech is noticeable throughout their conversation and is a small part of how we see their characters.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Paul!

    I too remember how characters from the planet Aeneas generally (altho not always) omitted articles like "a" or "the" when speaking. And characters from other planets did use the articles. Naturally, this was done by Anderson to show small dialectal changes when compared with Imperial standard Anglic. Needless to say, I'm sure Aeneans did use articles when writing, both informally and formally.