29 comments Add a comment
Simon Winchester's "Professor and the Madman" features the remarkable origins of the Oxford English Dictionary. It is the offspring of amity among those in the literary community, including the criminal-asylum inmate Dr Minor, an unlikely oddity in Broadmoor.
OED UK-based senior editor Fiona McPherson updates us on their project-in-progress, that 300,000 new words have found a permanent home in the 'compendium' since year 2000. Even Homer Simpson's popularization of 'Doh!' is given a kindly nod to be included.
And so, many who still debate on whether 'labour' is more correct than 'labor' if 'manoeuvre' is superior to 'maneuver' are unwittingly treading the shallows of mediocrity. If they were condoned, Bernard Shaw would have been off the mark in suggesting how unhinged our English system of alphabet is. 'Fish' could have looked like 'ghoti', the derivative of the component of 'rough' (gh for f), 'women' (o for e or i) and 'nation' (ti for sh).
Phonics pundits have been wrong. It is clear a student versed in phonics, in and of itself, cannot by extension be an infallible speller. To the uninitiated, 'rough' will be 'ruff' as will 'enough' be 'enuff.' Beware of heard, a dreadul word; that looks like beard and sounds like bird, warns a doggeral.
Language instinct in the fields of cognitive neuroscience, psycholinguistics and evolutionary psychology is more pervasive than most have the wherewithals to master. Its idea is a paean to the breadth of natural potential of language evolution and progress than to its push for artificial re-constitution. It is for the academic elitists .
Words are symbols - to rehash, capturing the essence of mental abstractions as flows from conceptualization and intellectualization, not to mention DNA and some grey matter. The conventions of the English language, for instance, dictate that a cup is a cup is a cup for its given function which might well have been symbolized by kup or puk.
No one thinks in pure English or Gaelic. If thoughts were the function of words, no new words would ever be coined. We think, then we decide what words would best serve the nature, quality and the intent of our thoughts. New words may be needed.
What makes the English language unique is the abundantly colorful wealth of its vocabulary even though part of its words system is of foreign imports: macho, schadenfreude, macaroni, typhoon, amok and orang utan - Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese and Malay.
Word usage and grammar is not contingent upon knowledge and learned language skills alone. Hydrocephalic children as schizophrenics and aphasics have been cited for their incredibly developed grammatical proficiency and accuracy. How did that happen? For this, consult with my convincing mentor, Pinker by name.
By: Sam, the Tiger