Monday, May 30, 2016

How the English language has developed (and continues to develop)

A recommendation I received recently from my daughter at university was actually nothing to do with her major (biology), but on the subject of etymology and linguistics (an unrelated elective course she is doing). She directed me to vlogger Tom Scott's Language files series on YouTube, and I found them fascinating.
Granted, some were more fascinating than others, but they are only short (2-5 minutes), so all 17 of them will take you well under an hour to watch. Along the way, Scott discusses, inter alia, things like:
  • the ways in which different languages are constructed;
  • different ways in which languages can be ambiguous;
  • voiced and unvoiced sounds;
  • what counts as a word and as a character in different languages;
  • the unspoken rules behind the order of adjectives;
  • how letters become obsolete over time and how that changes the spelling of words;
  • the use of "they" as a gender-neutral pronoun;
  • spelling reform and prescriptivism vs. descriptivism in linguistics;
  • different registers at work in the English language;
  • how colours can be seen and described differently in different cultures and languages; and
  • features that other languages have and English does not (e.g. time-independence, clusivity, absolute direction, and evidentiality).
If you are interested in how our language has developed, and is continuing to develop (whether you like that idea or not), you will probably enjoy these short videos.

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