Posts Tagged: language
Chi Luu writes for JSTOR Daily on the popularity of invented languages, ranging from the mystical language created by a 12th century abbess to contemporary constructed languages such as Esperanto and Klingon.
Invented languages found in literature are really examples of linguistic artistry, language for art’s sake, not necessarily for real world utility or universality….
At the Atlantic, Adrienne LaFrance defends teenagers’ ever-maligned contributions to the lexicon, citing a recent student that examines the extent to which teens influence linguistic change:
And the thing about linguistic changes is they can’t exactly be stopped in any sort of deliberate way…Even old-school grammar geeks are warming up to “they” as an acceptable gender-neutral pronoun, understanding that culture doesn’t just trump language rules, it creates them—then destroys them, then creates new ones again.
In the American imagination the black woman, whether light skinned or dark, is already a sexualized entity, a character upon which so many stereotypes are projected. But as a black woman writing these characters, I need to write beyond the stereotypes, expose their idiocy one page at a time.
The Oxford English Dictionary, the first comprehensive catalog of the English language, took seventy years to compile. Volunteers aided the project, and one of the biggest contributors happened to be a murderer who lived in an insane asylum:
Through the years, the OED’s editor had enlisted hundreds of volunteers around the English-speaking world, and probably took for granted that a mysterious stranger was happy to cite word usage for him all day, because he was editing the most ambitious lexicographical project in the English language to date.
Based on the available evidence, if you want to write one of the fifty most important novels in the next half-century, then by all means avoid sentimental language. But if you want to get published, sell books, be reviewed, win a prize or simply make someone happy, then emote away and just write a good novel.
Writing for Aeon, Elijah Millgram uses 1984 and George Orwell’s Newspeak/doublethink idea of language to examine why imperfect language, and expression that is sometimes inexact, contradictory, or misleading, can be better for developing the scope of human reasoning....more
As it’s most commonly used, badass implies both toughness and disaffectedness. It’s rare to look at someone whose chief qualities are measured thoughtfulness and open emotionality and declare her a total badass.
At The Awl, Annie Abrams gives the history of a 19th-century newspaper, Di Anglo-Sacsun, and its editors’ attempts to make literacy more available to the public, by developing their own phonetic alphabet that the newspaper was written in. Abrams also dives into the controversy surrounding the name of the paper:
Andrews and Boyle pointedly explained that they did not choose the title “in a partisan or national spirit, or with a view to render prominent the dysfunction between the different branches of the human brotherhood,” but instead “because it seems to us to contain a proper allusion to the language which it is our primary object to reform.”
At Aeon, John McWhorter explores the twists and turns through English’s linguistic history that brought us the “deeply peculiar” language structure used today....more
Punning surprises us by flouting the law of nature which pretends that two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time.
Where does the pun come from? And why does it prompt ubiquitous eye-rolls? Dive into the history of the “comical frolic” over at JSTOR....more
Over at the New Yorker, Caleb Crain tackles the ambiguity on the use of “farther” and “further” in contemporary writing:
Farther or further? I vary them more or less thoughtlessly in my writing, sometimes to the consternation of copy editors, a number of whom abide by the convention that farther is for literal distance and further for metaphoric distance.
Richard Grant discusses how his time living in Mississippi provided him with a more full understanding of William Faulkner’s language. Despite studying Faulkner at school in England, Grant felt that it wasn’t until he moved that he was able to totally appreciate Faulkner’s work:
To sit on the old porch reading Mr.
Shakespeare is about the intoxicating richness of the language… It’s like the beer I drink. I drink 8.2 per cent I.P.A., and by changing the language in this modernizing way, it’s basically shifting to Bud Light. Bud Light’s acceptable, but it just doesn’t pack the punch and the excitement and the intoxicating quality of that language.
“Conlang” is short for “constructed language,” which is just what it sounds like: a language that has been constructed… conlanging is an art as well as a science, something you might do for your own pleasure, as well as for the entertainment of others.
After having written 800 pages on torture, rape, world war, and genocide, it was time to take on some really controversial topics like fused participles, dangling modifiers, and the serial comma.
Over at the Guardian, Steven Pinker defends his choice to fight the good fight against solecisms....more
At Book Riot, Aram Mrjoian explores the question of what makes a sentence beautiful. He conjectures that our brain becomes overwhelmed when it sees words organized and used in a way that is beyond its imagination:
Maybe, when words are amalgamated together into some combination that we could never imagine, our brains need a split second to allow the synapses to fire and connect, creating a stronger mental tie to the language that binds us together as humans.
At the Atlantic, Megan Garber proposes a new word to describe words and phrases that have come to mean their opposite, like “honestly,” “no offense,” and “literally”:
So here’s one proposal: Let’s call these words “smarmonyms.” Because they’re the words that exist because we English-speakers can be, at times, awkward and passive-aggressive and jerky and, yes, a little bit smarmy.
At JSTOR Daily, linguist Chi Luu makes a case for emphasizing grammar rules that follow popular usage, rather than the pedantic standards set by centuries-dead classicists.
Here are the plain facts: many of these pop grammar rules… were magically pulled out of thin air by a handful of 18th and 19th century prescriptive grammarians….