Posts tagged ‘English’

The English Language

Of all the beautiful languages spoken on earth, English is perhaps one of the most complex and confusing. It may seem difficult to pinpoint exactly where the English language came from, but the answer is simple: everywhere. A friend of mine, Ian Hall (author of the Jamie Leith Chronicles), shared this entertaining video on twitter. This video is an excellent portrayal of where English originated and implications of how it will continue to evolve.

As we can see, the English language is clearly the melting pot of many other languages. This can sometimes make things like spelling very difficult to comprehend. The following image is a popular depiction of just how convoluted actual spelling versus phonetics can be.

Of course, the sounds that the letter combinations “gh” and “ti” create above typically only do so in the middle of words, not at the beginning or end. Perhaps a more accurate phonetic spelling of “fish” would be “phoche.”

Nevertheless, it is easy to see that the English language is one of the most interesting and flexible languages in the world. It certainly has both pros and cons, just like every other language out there. For instance, English words created from Greek or Latin stems are easy to understand, while Russian is known for its extensive and detailed vocabulary and German is built on cases that offer more syntax opportunities.

In short, knowing the limitations and strengths of a language is an invaluable skill for writers of any kind. Communication comes with responsibility; what you say can affect people’s feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. Learning how to effectively communicate is one of the most powerful things people of all races, genders, backgrounds, and fields of study can do.

What will you do with your language?

A Few Words on Punctuation

Ever since language evolved from animalistic grunts into a carefully structured system, punctuation had been one of its most important elements. Despite this, many people today tend to overlook its flexibility. It is perhaps one of the most important tools that a writer uses to demonstrate what they mean. This is illustrated in a well known example:

“Let’s eat, Grandma.”  as opposed to “Let’s eat Grandma.”

If one totally disregards punctuation, one may find his/her grandma deceased far sooner than expected. Although conventional punctuation is clearly essential, it is being rivaled with an entirely new kind of modern punctuation, greatly influenced by technological opportunities available to young writers today.

For centuries, the rules regarding things like commas, semicolons, and periods were simply that: rules. Few people strayed from the recommended usage for each mark. In fact, only a small group had any kind of presence in the literary world. With the dawn of the Digital Age, anyone can publish their work and have it accessed by anyone in the world, as well as  have their work readily available to publishers and agents. As a result of this, more people are writing than ever before, and the concept of how to properly punctuate is changing. It is not uncommon to see writers stray in their placement of periods and dashes, even if it is blatantly incorrect.

Noah Lukeman, the author of A Dash Of Style, attempts to correct this problem by discussing what each mark does and how best to use it. Punctuation is a pretty lame candidate for leisure reading, but this work is a refreshing surprise that both entertains and informs. Not only does it retain the basic rules, it simultaneously advises readers to branch out and refresh their text by punctuating.

Todays punctuation focuses on how something is said rather than what is said. You. Can. Literally. Change. The. Way. Someone. Reads. And. Thinks. Dr. Todd Petersen of Southern Utah University validates this concept by theorizing that emoticons are the new punctuation of this era. You can write pretty much anything and completely change the meaning by tacking on an emoticon.

– You suck! 🙂
– You suck! :/
– You suck! 😦

This is revolutionizing the way people communicate. It is now possible to directly indicate a specific intention or mood without having to consider context. It is easy to say that this new method will never find its place in the academic and business world, but those before us would be shocked at how we punctuate today. With the increasing use of internet technology, there is a possibility that we may be headed into a linguistic revolution.

The Butterfly

Streaks of orange and black
On wings soft as a whisper
Delicate legs clinging to
A solitary twig
With a still-fresh leaf.
Surrounded by clear glass
Of an old jam jar
The outside world,
With its open skies, fresh air,
And so many nectar-filled blossoms,
Perfectly visible beyond the glass.
Captured for the simple sin of beauty.
Trapped in a constant state of longing,
She stretches her wings
And prepares to fly,
Though each attempt is futile.
Days pass, the green leaf withers,
And she folds her wings,
Taking one last look at the
Unattainable pleasures
Beyond the glass prison.