Monday, November 7, 2016

Change is a lingual constant too

I called English a mythical language some days ago. 

And all hell broke loose.

Apparently, mythical is something which doesn't exist. Like God. Or Atlantis. Their arguments preened toward establishing that if i call English mythical, then so are Sanskrit or Malayalam or any Germanic languages. Which is a fair point because language evolve exactly the way we do. Words change. Tones change. Pronunciations change. The whole vocabulary changes with time. But that's the thing about a majority of languages that undergo this process. They die. Unlike English. Hence, here are some questions worth pondering over: does English really exist anymore in its essence? Or is it a fiction that is wholeheartedly accepted across the world be it the Nordic nations or the Francophone ones? Doesn't this acceptance validate the greatest empire—British—of all time? If no, would you claim to understand the "English" Chaucer wrote in? Or for that matter, Shakespeare (or Marlowe, whoever that was!)? English, as we know today, is not what it was barely 400 years ago. Can you say the same for languages like Arabic or Tulu? From what we know, if you are to time travel to England a few centuries back, you won't understand a word on the street. No, no, not because of the accent (which is true for the present day as well; you can't understand shite when Cockneys are speaking) but because of the syntax. The very structure of the words used were enormously different back then. If you called someone nice, they'll trash you because there was a point in history when that word meant an idiot. And if you called that person a bully for trashing you, he'll trash you again because bully was once the equivalent of today's bae. People would blankly blink at your "What's up?" expression. A different language altogether perhaps. Too many influences perhaps. Recently, a Tamil word 'aiyoh' made it to the Oxford Dictionary. It's certainly not the first south Indian to have the honour, nor would it be the last. That's how integral the English language is—or should we assume, has always been. There are myriad words with Latin and Greek roots. So much so, more than 80% of the English words today have something to do with French; either in its formation or its pronunciation. At the same time, then are lots of words with non-European roots as well. What does that tell you? I believe it shows us (more than just telling us) the immense power of a language. A tongue that refuses to stagnate or wither away. It's growing like a myth that keeps changing its mythology every passing generation. Which is why you pick up the phone and say 'hello' without bothering to know its origin or say OK without bothering to know that it doesn't really have an origin.

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