Quirks of English

Lecture 4 describes some of the unique features of the English Language as a result of its Celtic background. One of the unique features is how native English speakers attach the useless word “do” at the start of some questions. Apparently, this doesn’t happen for any other European languages, and is rare in languages around the globe. Another unique feature is that in English people will often overstate a present continuous event. For example, when asked “What are you doing?” an English speaking respondent will reply “I am writing” instead of the more common, and simpler present tense “I write”.

Many of these quirks of English came about because of a long-time gap between written language and spoken language. Latin, the long dominant written language, was reserved for structured, prestigious, and ritual purposes. Casual writing didn’t exist until about a millennium ago.

Today, the gap seems to have been closed. From the affordances of electronic text, the variety of printed language far surpasses spoken language. Spoken language may still be the power of humanity, but variety and malleability belong to the visual language.

Link to the first post in this series is here.


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