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November 26, 2012 / Fantelius

The State of Language

Every generation contains a puddle of pundits complaining about the degeneration of language. The ancient Greeks did it, the Chinese do it and even Egyptian geeks do it. Let’s do it, let’s complain that people do not maintain the standards that prevailed when we were young.

Language changes. New words are born, old ones die, some change meaning. ”Nice” for example started out meaning ignorant and clumsy. ”Lady” first meant bread-maker.

Pronunciation changes, spelling changes, even grammar changes.

Chaucer’s English (1300s) is a foreign language for today’s English speakers, as is the language of the Franks for the French and that of the Vikings for Scandinavians.

Today’s language is vibrant, diverse and chaotic. Different styles are employed by different groups, but everyone can communicate with anyone.

Language travels in context. Homies don’t talk like editors and professors don’t talk like hos. Generally.

What do we want to say to who? How do we say it?

Language reflects the condition of society in general and the quality of a culture specifically. The way in which a society spreads information among its members determines the strength of the society and the health of its language.

Determine the state of a society and know the state of its language.

 

“Shakespeare never read Shakespeare, but he wrote pretty good plays anyway.”
Dartwill Aquila

 

(Tomorrow: The Great Myth of Language and Intelligence)

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