Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Here's a question for any linguistic scholars out there:

Is our recent habit of turning verbs into nouns and nouns into verbs actually a recent habit? Nowadays, it's pretty much given that you can say a noun as a verb (or visa-versa) and everyone will understand what you mean.

Was this common in earlier time periods? We can't really look at literature for two reasons: first, there's not all that incredibly much literature to look at. Second, the literature of old was written almost entirely as careful prose, so comparing it to the internet posts of today is like comparing a major Vegas casino with three drunks playing strip poker.

I think it's probably more common to verbify words these days than in earlier times for one major reason: more people are communicating less officially. That, to me, implies a level of linguistic drift you can't expect earlier eras to have had.

Plus, oldschool geeks loved wordplay, which I'm sure seeded the internet habit of splitting into infinite subdialects.

I think it might be more common these days than before, but I don't know. Does anyone have any info on the matter?

I'm also interested in unusual linguistic structures. For example: "More people are communicating less officially" is a bad sentence. Does it mean that there are more people communicating, and more of those people are communicating less officially, or does it mean that more of the people who communicate do so less officially? IE, is it "(More people) are (communicating less officially)" or "More (people are communicating less efficiently)" or something else?

Such are the concerns of an armchair linguist. Feel free to share your linguistic convulsions.


Darius Kazemi said...

I'm 99% sure you can find examples of this wordplay in the works of Jonathan Swift, say, Gulliver's Travels.

Craig Perko said...

It definitely existed - but to what degree?

Patrick Dugan said...

"Verbing weirds language" - Calvin

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