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July 02, 2012

Expressing Ourselves

Maybe our brains aren't the ideal language creating organs many of us imagine them to be...

...what if our brains (and therefore our language) is as muddled and sometimes contradictory as we are?

Have you noticed how many times in a typical conversation, where someone says a very simple thing, but you have to stop the conversation and ask what they mean?

I love the nuances, flexibility and ever-changing possibilities of our language, but sometimes it leads to confusion and misunderstanding.

Here's just a couple of examples; have you ever thought about the word 'right'? It could mean the opposite of left - or the opposite of wrong. Or it could apply to someone's 'left' or 'right' politics. Or it could refer to someone's legal 'right' to do something.

Or it could mean that you agree with someone, by saying that they are 'right'.

I love this inherent ambiguity of English, but I do have great sympathy for those who study this linguistic chameleon. What else could I call a language that constantly shifts, adapts and leaves behind its vocabulary?

Here's an article from Scientific American on the, perhaps, brain based inadequacies of the English language - http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2010/04/07/present-imperfect-is-the-human-brain-ill-adapted-for-language/.

And here is a link to a profile of the Hungarian language, a language perhaps the opposite of English in that it is essentially the same language as many centuries ago, in contrast to English which is dramatically different from even fifty years ago and will be at least as dramatically different fifty years from now. You can see the link here - http://cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php?topic=13148.0.

English is fluid and imprecise, but perhaps that is why so many different people groups have made it their own; like a one-size-fits-all set of gloves, this language fits every people or purpose.

As always, send us any words or phrases that make you crazy and be sure to let us know what it is about English and language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.

Morf

Posted by mmorf at July 2, 2012 11:27 PM

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