one dimensional linguistic cleverness

A gen which purports to appreciate narrative, that is to say the story telling of the origin of things, did not bother with parsing in school. As a result the fact that English began its powerhouse of words in Graeco-Roman times as well as Anglo-Saxon will soon be a fact of the past, soon forgotten. I studied A-S as a first year unit at University; I was amazed how like the conversation of my upbringing was this language; I grew up speaking German, so being surrounded with en endings was familiar territory. Then, there was its beautiful alliterative poetry: lines composed not on the iambic pentameter powerhouse but a graceful structuring of two sets of consonant clusters per line; suddenly the language had things in common with ancient languages like Hebrew.

The great growth of English usage happened with Shakespeare; his amazing ability to create metaphorical phrases, his way of forging dynamic events with prepositions made from metaphors. I have no problem with the achievement of a great man being overturned by his like or greater; but no such person has made his presence felt. Instead, the most supple vehicle of expression is in danger of being reduced to nonentity by the tricksy constructions of the virtual age.

I agree new technology calls for appropriate neologisms to reflect its achievements but the clumsy, lazy cobbles of words like “mis-heard” are in use because a virtual generation has not done its homework. Yes, English is the child of both Greek and Latin, and carries rudimentary features of both languages. The English use of case is minimal; however I was raised to make subject and verb agree in number; a baby generation is alive which does not possess the attention span to make subject and verb agree.

I note that using “which” has fallen out of favour; in its place “that” is being used more and more of people, something which would not have happened in my day. Gen XY seems to style itself an Anzac conscious generation; it talks in a newly vowel-broadened way. One example, I was taught that the definite article “the” followed by a vowel was pronounced “thee” a softened elision, instead of the inelegant grunt that now occurs when someone says “thuh egg”.

With all of this, there is no reassurance that is generated by the poetic or lyrical works of the age as should happen; a generation becomes characterised by the products of its age; however rap for instance is known for its fluidity rather than for its verbal moulding ability. Likewise, the whole easy access of computer tools does not seem to have given its users confidence; instead, people seem to need to reassure themselves of the strength of their pronouncements. Speakers ubiquitously, from Julia Gillard onwards possess that obnoxious characteristic of nodding at the end of the speech, agreeing with themself, and inviting you to do likewise. The content of speech is over-filled with words like “actually”, intended to emphasise the action described but by over-emphasis, they undermine the strength of what has gone before.

I truly despair of the future of a magnificent language; perhaps its greatness was built on the suffering of subjugated people, who in turn appropriate His Master’s Voice?

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About anton veenstra

tapestry weaver, fibre artist, gay/qr activist, multiculturalist
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3 Responses to one dimensional linguistic cleverness

  1. Steadfast says:

    And the use of ‘that’ instead of ‘who’ when the noun is animate … as well as the use of ‘less’ when ‘fewer’ should be used … and when the year after this on is called ‘nex jear’ …

  2. Steadfast says:

    one not on Oh forgive me, I’m contributing to the dumbing down of our language with sloppy typing.

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