Wednesday, September 20, 2006

In Memoriam: Language

Hello, world. This is Sean.

And this is a segue.

The tail end of "Canada has a battleship?!" raised an interesting question. Since language is the metaphorical Soup of the Day at the literal Family Feedbag that is TOK, I'll reiterate this question here:
The English Language, can we kill it? How? Are we doing so now? Did anyone notice the comma I spliced three sentences ago?

This is a closing,



Jared,givemeagooddisplaynamenow,wolschlager said...

Ah one of my favorite questions, yes yes we can kill english in much the same way latin was abolished and died during the roman empire. Once english becomes the universal language of business, it will die as seen through this gramatic mess, and t3h l33t h4xors. So yes yes it will die assuming, history will indee repeat itself.

T Hunt said...

I hate to get in the middle of this one, but I don't see how I can't, so here goes:

English will not die because it becomes widespread; it will become (and some might argue is becoming) varied, however, over time. Most languages are variations (or derivations?) of earlier languages; hence the similarities we sometimes observe, for example, between English, French, and Spanish words. It is interesting to note, though, that these three languages actually do not all have their major origins in the same central language (English is classified as a Germanic language while French and, I believe, Spanish are romantic languages), signifying that the way language evolves over time becomes more complex as more languages influence one another.

Yet while the "purists" among us might cringe at the (increasingly accepted) use of the question mark and exclamation point in tandem, we are the same who readily accept aspects of language that the "purists" before us would never have made peace with. The split infinitive is probably the best example. And why shouldn't we split our infinitives, anyway? Do you know that the ONLY reason it is considered "wrong" is because it is impossible to split an infinitive in Latin? We wouldn't want our language to follow different rules than Latin -- oh no! Even if splitting infinitives typically makes more sense than rewording a sentence to avoid this error.

And what of the dangling preposition? Haven't we all heard Churchill's comment of it being (something to the effect of) a rule "up with which I will not put?" (Of course, there are a number of valid arguments that suggest Churchill never said this, but that is a separate matter.) We have become much more accepting of dangling prepositions, allowing them when they allow for better communication.

I would argue, as informal as it appears and as much as it makes my inner English purist cringe, that the combination of a question mark and exclamation point actually allows for better communication in some instances. It is perhaps a fault of standard written English that we do not have a punctuation mark that indicates this sort of passionate bewilderment, thus requiring us to undermine tradition and combine punctuation marks in an effort to make ourselves more clear.

Of course, the example Sean offered does not seem to be the best use of this combination, but that is not an intentional abuse of the English language; rather, it is just another example of the many who don't know how to break those old "rules" the right way.

As for l33t sp34k making its way into written and (ugh!) spoken language, well . . . that is an entirely different issue. Oh em gee.

Vvyynn said...

On the contrary, Miss Hunt, I believe that 1337 has EVERYTHING to do with this topic. It is my opinion and belief that, much like Shakespeare's English has evolved into our modern day english, our English will evolve into |337 3n6|15h. I believe that this will destroy the English language, and force it to become complete unintelligent giberish.

Of course, viewing this through different lenses, one could claim that many people said this of the great vowel shift, and the evolotion from Shakspearean English to Modern day English.

Vvyynn said...

Another words:

0|\| +|-|3 (0|\|+|2@|2`/, |\/|1$$ |-||_||\|+, 1 |}3|13\/3 +|-|@+ 1337 |-|@$ 3\/3|2`/+|-|1|\|6 +0 [)0 \X/1+|-| +|-|1$ +0|*1(. 1+ 1$ |\/|`/ 0|*1|\|10|\| @|\|[) |}3|13|= +|-|@+, |\/||_|(|-| |1|<3 $|-|@|<3$|*3@|23'$ 3|\|6|1$|-| |-|@$ 3\/0|\/3[) 1|\|+0 0|_||2 |\/|0[)3|2|\| [)@`/ 3|\|6|1$|-|, 0|_||2 3|\|6|1$|-| \X/1|| 3\/0|\/3 1|\|+0 |337 3|\|6|15|-|. 1 |}3|13\/3 +|-|@+ +|-|1$ \X/1|| [)3$+|20`/ +|-|3 3|\|6|1$|-| |@|\|6|_|@63, @|\|[) |=0|2(3 1+ +0 |}3(0|\/|3 (0|\/||*|3+3 |_||\|1|\|+3||163|\|+ 61|}3|21$|-|.

0|= (0|_||2$3, \/13\X/1|\|6 +|-|1$ +|-||20|_|6|-| [)1|=|=3|23|\|+ |3|\|$3$, 0|\|3 (0|_||[) (|@1|\/| +|-|@+ |\/|@|\|`/ |*30|*|3 $@1[) +|-|1$ 0|= +|-|3 6|23@+ \/0\X/3| $|-|1|=+, @|\|[) +|-|3 3\/0|0+10|\| |=|20|\/| $|-|@|<$|*3@|23@|\| 3|\|6|1$|-| +0 |\/|0[)3|2|\| [)@`/ 3|\|6|1$|-|.

Jared,givemeagooddisplaynamenow,wolschlager said...

I see the point about english developing and changind, as cause for optimism, but according to that logic the first language ever spoken still exits it just morphed seperately. I believe that since english is changing quickly and rapidly that the structural basis for english will change enough that it is no longer apparent. Take romance languages for example, they sure all af latin origin, however each is specified enough that is seperate from its predesscesor. This will happen to english through its universality and it itself will collapse, while it remnants will live on.
Also as for the engrish is germanic, it is only in gramatical structure and geographical origin not on a word basis. On a word basis it is essentially latin.

T Hunt said...


On what are you basing that last observation? Yes, many English words (and rules--remember the split infinitive and dangling prepositions for example) derive from Latin, but it is still classified, in the linguistic taxonomy, as a Germanic language.

Anyone know why this is? There is a great historical explanation . . . and it makes for excellent trivia. You know--that kind of knowledge that comes in handy for impressing people at all those dinner parties you attend.

Jared,givemeagooddisplaynamenow,wolschlager said...

I know I was just to lazy to explain. It is due to the fact that the first people to settle england, and speak olde english were from germany and had adopted it from their barbaric motherland, something like 1000 people popularized the country speaking this language, and thus even though little the language does not resemble german very much it is still considered thusly.

Vvyynn said...

Wow! Lazy is a verb now? INCREDIBLE! Just for conversation, I'm going to diagree with myself. The Evolution of language is a natural thing. If 1337 takes over, then who are we to say it's wrong? Who are we to say that this will bring about the "death" of language? Just because we're used to speaking in our current vernacular? If Shakespeare heard us speak today, he'd/she'd/it'd/they'd be disgusted. We're speaking like a bunch of lower-class yokels. No, the English language is not dying only changing. Discuss.

Vvyynn said...

Another words:

W! Liavn? I!Jfc, Igtdwm. Teoliant. I 1337 to, twawtsiw? Wawtsttwbat"d"ol? jbwutsiocv? IShust,h's'i't bd. Wslabol-cy. N, tElindoc. D.

Big E said...

Ahhhh! Linguistics!
Well, lets start from the beginning here.
The claim has been made that the becoming of English as an international language will eventualy cause it to become a dead language. I do not concur. The example sited was the use of Latin throughout the Roman empire. First of all, Latin, actual Latin, was spoke by very few during the Roman days. It was known by most, however it was only used for formal documents or speeches. What most people spoke was a form of colloquial Latin, or "Vulgar" Latin, which varied quite a bit from the formal written form. This colloquial Latin was more wont to drift to become regional vernaculars than the "real" written Latin. This is because in those days people did very little traveling. There was no mass media; no television, radio, or internet. Nor were there telephones. Therefore all of the spoken comunication Roman citizens had was with other people in their region. This meant that, for example, Roman citizens in the hidden valleys of Switzerland would not ever talk with other Roman citizens from the other corners of the Empire. Without hearing the standard, their language would eventualy drift to become what is known as Romansch today. In other regions the same thing happened to their respective colloquial pockets: Italian in northern Italy, Romanian in eastern europe, French in Gaul, Catalan in eastern Iberia, Castilian in Central Iberia, and Portugues is Western Iberia. This is a gross oversimplification; there were several more vernaculars than that, these are most of what have survived to today. The important point here is that proper Latin did not change like this. This is because written Latin was exchanged throughout the empire. Indeed, Romans from Africa to the British Isles read Vergil. What caused the death of Latin was the death of the only thing perpetuating it: the Roman Empire. After the Empire's end there was no reason for people (except the international curch) to speak in anything besides their vernacular. We see much the same thing in English today. Except mass media keeps vernaculars from existing (except in Britain, where they developed before Mass Media). Instead of being kept alive by a massive empire, it is being kept alive by a much bigger beast: Capitalism. Therefore there is no "death" in sight for the English Language.

Now, for those of you who say that English can change and not be "destroyed" I say "Damn Straight". You see, English is quite possibly the most diverse and rich Language in the world. Unlike the French and Spanish who insist of Embalming their languages, we let ours roam free, knowing that it was born thusly, and that it knows what best for itself. I will now try to give my understanding of the English Language.

The first languages that were spoke on the British isles were neither German nor Romantic. They were Celtic. In the area that is now called England, a tribe lived called the Brythons (compare to modern Briton). They had their own language, just like the Scots and Picts to the north, the Welsh to the west, the Irish across the sea, and the Cornish to the south west. This language was supressed by the Romans when they conquered, in favor of Latin. The Romans were only around for a few centuries, and the English langauge really starts up after they leave. This is when the Germans come and mess everything up. A large influx of Germans came and overwhelmed the indeginous people, until the language they spoke was more German than Latin or Brythish (Although it still had some influence from both of those). But the Germans were of mixed descent. There were the western Germanics: Low german speakers from Saxony, High German speakers from Angles. Then there were the North Gemanics, the Vikings, who invaded from Scandanavia. This is the basic melting pot that "ye Olde English" came from. Then the French invaded. During this peroid the tiny bit of Latin in English woke up and was brought out by careful nurturing of the French. Even after the French left, the British even tried to make their langauge more Latin like to better fit their growing place in world politics. Despite this English still remains a Germanic language; the gramamr is still closer to German than Latin. There are no conjugated verbs (thank god) and the structure is basically Germanic.

In any case, the English Langauge clearly has a rich legacy. It has changed alot, and I think Shakespeare would be dismayed. For instance, have you ever wondered what the whole "thou beest/thou be" thing was about? That was subjuctive. English used to have a subjuctive. Shakespeare used it very poeticaly and it goes straight over all of our heads who don't understand it. Regardless, our mutt of a language allows us to have works like pyre and fire, whose root words are the same but have different meanings in English. I think English is so flexible that over time it can only get more rich, not less.
Well. There it is. I heart you English. Heh. Get it? I wrote "I heart" istead of "I love".
whew lordy
P.S. if an Interrobang is not a correct symbol, why did they come up with a name as cool as "Interrobang" for it?

Vvyynn said...

Yes, however you have just claimed one, and I'll even make it more, points to where the English language CAN, indeed, die. The first is if Capitalism goes. Apparently, this is keeping English alive, therefore if it dies English goes with it. LIkewise, if the media falls. You said that the media was the glue that kept this cute little rocking horse of the English language together, without glue, the horse will break (yes, this is a perfectly valid analogy). Finally, consider this: We become so incredibly xenophobic that we decide that only our locality can be trusted, and all other are either filthy liberals, communists, or terrorists. Then our own language will fluntulate, until we start to usify numericous words, that nover of the Elsers know. Thuslymore, I the luitious language of English will contrampulate into a smaltite magnormox, decapable of being redisherfied in the relnexian morg.
I also stick by my point, that Language can, and will, be destroyed. Although, As I showed above, I am willing to accept the oppostie as a viewpoint, and I'm able to see where you guys are coming from.

Vvyynn said...

Another words:

OMG! Lnge soooooo cn be dstroyed, wanker. Cptilism? R mebbe the DE-struction of da Media? Ur just makin X-cuses, E-van.
im sitckin' ta my pnt, but i can c whare u guyz r commin from.