Friday, January 14, 2005

I finished reading that book

Note: if you click above on the title, you will be linked to the closest thing I could find (it appears to be a different edition (I read the third edition), and from the looks of it, it's been adapted to better fit the market on this side of the pond, but that's probably mostly just the cover art talking) on amazon.0

I finished my book about English. I enjoyed reading it very much, although I must admit the parts concerning events over a hundred years ago were a lot more comfortable for me to read than the more recent sections. The reason being, that along with all of the usual interesting nuances and developments, it was charged with controversy of interpretation. Where our language is going next, and how it will get there, is a political, economic, social, and cultural battle being waged by forces beyond the control af any one person or group of people. Will English decay into mutually unintelligible dialects, but still be preserved in its dead form as a lingua franca for diplomacy and trade? Will an international standard be enforced through legislation, only to stifle its further evolution, rendering it unfit for the task of expressing new innovations in culture, and technology? Meh!1

Writing in the 80's the authors had no idea what the Internet would do for English. The closest they came was describing an age of "satellites and telefax." The state of linguistics in the 80's (what with the newfangled tape recorders) was fascinated with oral communication. For now, at least, the state of technology seems optimized for written communication. I predict that in the future the Internet will become more and more of a multimedia experience, but I am unable to say to what extent text will remain its primary venue (with corporations and a few individuals supplying the bulk multimedia content), thus retaining written language the primary means of actual individual expression, or even begin to describe the rate at which this will happen. Not that the whole internet is in English. I'm very glad it's not, or I wouldn't get to practice any of my Spanish in this God-forsaken cauldron of assimilation known as the state of Washington. Come to think of it, I haven't been to a Spanish website in forever.

*Sigh* I still do listen to my Spanish CDs, but I haven't added to the collection since I've been up here. There aren't any good stations, and so I never hear any new songs that I like. I should start listening to Spanish pop music streams on my computer. */Sigh*2

If you stepped into a time machine3 and got out in the 1980's, I think you would be able to readily explain that "blog" is a term that will be coined around the turn of the century, and that it means a diary transmitted over a computer network, hence its etymology ("web-log"), but would have great difficulty explaining the context of blog, given that today's Internet is nothing like anything ever thought of before4.

I also can't predict cataclysmic cultural upheavals, which play a big role in linguistics. War has fallen out of fashion as a means of spreading language culture, at least in the conventional ways of annihilation, conquest, colonialism, imperialism, and--oh, that's right: now we've graduated to "nation-building."

Writing, in whatever language or dialect, will I think never lose its importance. It is no longer necessary for communicating over time, but it is the simplest way to deliberately compose. 5Other compositions (besides oral composition--which doesn't work too well if your brain leaks like a seive) are usually made first in writing, tried out, edited, and then presented as a whole. Plus, all you really need is a semi-flat surface and a marking implement.

0My apologies for nested parentheses to those of you who don't write code for a living.
1Even now I contribute to the inevitable decay. w00t!
2Not a typo.
3one that travels backwards (these are a bit harder to make than the forward kind)
4to corroborate or debunk this claim, consult science fiction archives over 10 years old
5for example, this entry has taken over an hour to compose (which is why I wish the "Time and Date" field at the bottom was dynamic--it's pretty simple to implement in JavaScript) during which time I have added footnotes, inserted and re-ordered paragraphs, and in general formed the chaos resultant from hacking my mind into the beautifully crystallized, perfect, and coherent work of literature you see here. (I will not accept the Pulitzer, but please feel free to make all the cash donations you wish).


  1. Footnote "2" made me laugh out loud. =) And I can't comment with HTML. Phooey.

  2. I would like to take a moment to rectify the world by publicly thanking and acknowledging Bethany for lending me such a wonderful book.