The Future of English
Jan13
Miscellaneous4

The Future of English

Languages can grammaticalize a lot of different things. Japanese grammaticalizes the shape of an object with a noun suffix. Turkish grammaticalizes how certain you are of a statement with a verb suffix.

English doesn’t grammaticalize much. We just use extra adjectives and adverbs. However, I predict English will acquire a feature in which it grammaticalizes mood with a sentence-final clitic. For example, compare:

  1. I’ve got bad news. You have herpes.
  2. u got herpes lol

In example 2, the sentence-final ‘lol’ marks the sentence’s nonserious mood, making it apparent to the listener that he is in fact being mocked, rather than informed of his condition, as in example 1.

The mood indicated by ‘lol’ does not have to be mocking, however. It can encompass a wide variety of situations, including smugness, irony, amusement, even to defuse an otherwise inflammatory sentence. Consider the following statements:

  1. Quit being such a pansy, Jake.
  2. jake ur such a pansy lol

Example 3 is read with a default mood of meanspiritedness or frustration. Grammaticalizing the nonserious mood here serves to obscure whether or not the speaker actually thinks Jake is a pansy. In such cases this grammatical structure will also provide plausible deniability should Jake take offense anyway.

The use of a clitic to grammaticalize mood in English will not necessarily be limited to the nonserious. Consider the tone presented in these examples by other possible sentence-final mood markers:

  1. Our stock just lost 56% of its value srsly.
  2. A normal day for you you fly into the sun and die nowai.
  3. So if I order now I can get a free pear slicer orly?
  4. Sorry I have a boyfriend g2g!

Undoubtedly the anglophone population is rapidly progressing towards an ever more useful and versatile language. God save the queen lol.

Tags

Humor, Linguistics

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4 Comments

  • 1

    Ben

    Jan 13, 2011 at 18:06 | Reply

    What was it you said about post-rock bands? ;)

  • 2

    Taylar

    Jan 13, 2011 at 18:23 | Reply

    lol it could be a prefix too

  • 3

    Ariel

    Jan 13, 2011 at 22:09 | Reply

    cameron ur such a dork lol u should srsly write a textbook about it

    So what happens when we grammaticalize punctuation, too? Emoticons express a full range of human emotion, intention, and nuance! :D :( :O :p 8) :* ;) Ben has even given us an example within this very comment section!

  • 4

    Ben

    Jan 13, 2011 at 23:09 | Reply

    I wuz hoping that wud be caught :)) =;

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Hi, I'm C. Harwick, an economics PhD candidate in Virginia with an interest in monetary theory, institutional evolution, and folk music.

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