Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Great Verb Shift

I heard a report on NPR a while back that talked about the changes in languages, especially irregular verbs. The reporter asserted that irregular verbs have a lifecycle that ends in them becoming a regular verb. For example, in several hundred years, the past tense of read (reed) will no longer be read (red) but will instead be readed (reed-ed).

I was reflecting on this during my commute this morning, and I wondered if having a more literate society and technology that records the spoken word would tend to retard that change. Are there any cunning linguists out there who would care to opine?


CrankyProf said...

Technology is the problem, I think.

Too many people rely on tech rather than on linguistic proficiency ("I'll just spell check it!").

The same kind of dumbing down happened to math, and now people need calculators for everything.

Hoji said...

Thanks to LOLcats and other internet memes, in several hundred years we're going to be communicating via metaphor.

"Darmok and Gilad at Tanagra!"

"OMG - Ceiling cat sez peek a boo!"

CrankyProf said...

Plus, it's just a matter of time before "ask" becomes "axt" -- permanently.

Hoji said...

Oh, that's dead common.

Tea N. Crumpet said...

I can has cookeez?

Plz see me 4 bfast.

I am not a cunning linguist. I am repulsed.

Mike said...

Not a linguist, cunning or otherwise, but from what I have read technology (starting with the printing press) has had a regularizing effect on language as well as retarded change and development. Lucky for us English is fairly fluid because we do not have the stultifying authority of a National Language Academy a la French.

Living languages change.

viva las metaphors

Shay said...

Forget irregular verbs, how about all the nouns that are sneaking across the border into verb-dom?

"Gifted" comes to mind. If one more person tells me she was gifted for her birthday...impact is another one. The only thing about you that should be impacted is a wisdom tooth.

Bill said...

heh sed retard...heh heh.

Uh, what about a literate society?

GDad said...

Gifted? I've heard it in the sense of "I gifted that to Sue for Groundhog Day." I've never heard, "I was gifted something."

Wow - fifth comment before someone said anything about the cunning linguist remark. Either people didn't have their coffee, or (more likely) I'm not as funny as I think I am inside my head.