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French, it's rocket science | Presseurop

Irregular verbs, rebellious participles, arbitrary genders - French is a fiendishly difficult language to master, all grammarians agree. And what if its very complexity explained the success of French mathematicians?

There are times when you have to laugh at grammarians. They describe French as a horribly difficult language, full of complicated knots that only a lace maker could pick apart. They make a living out of highlighting everything that is contradictory or uncertain in our beloved Gallic tongue, which is presented as a tissue of nutty expressions, replete with irregular verbs, rebellious participles that refuse to agree, uncontrollable adjectives, singular plurals and outmoded tenses. In short, if you believed their descriptions, you would think that French was a dog's dinner.

Take genders for example. There is no doubt that French genders are completely arbitrary, whereas in Hungarian, there is no such thing as a `masculine' or `feminine' common noun, nor is there in English. Ooh Hungarian! Ooh English! Neuters of the world, come forth and unite! Well all right, there is no intelligent reason for "le bureau" and "la Rose," or "le lys" -- and if that bothers the Magyars, big deal!

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:55:19 AM EST
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