The English Language Is Strange Indeed! - Part 1

July 29th, 2016

While the English language is a fascinating one, it’s also bizarre, confusing, and sometimes downright scary.

We can’t deny that the English language is a fascinating one (and not only for translation experts), it’s also bizarre, confusing, and sometimes downright scary. Most native speakers of the English language don’t know everything there is to know and understand about this language because it consists of both the worst and best elements of ancient languages. Lovers of language from all over the world have come together at various times to discuss idiosyncrasies, oddities, and quirks of the English language, and it’s usually these people who uncover fascinating and unexpected facts about this unusual language. Let’s take a closer look at some interesting discoveries –

The Difference Between Descriptivists and Prescriptivists

Over the years there have been significant changes to the English language, and its continued its evolution with every new corruption, bastardization, and barbarism. These three unusual terms refer to how language has changed and derived into something that academics consider improper. English has been enforced and informed by all the languages that came before it. These are not words that would be used by linguists because generally, they’re descriptivists (descriptivism is defined as the object study of language where what is spoken is analyzed by specialists, as opposed to what should be spoken). Then there are prescriptivists, and these are people who stay true to the grammatical rules they were taught. A descriptivist might say ‘Me and him went to the movies’ because it’s this type of phrasing that’s commonly used by ordinary people; whereas a prescriptivist will consider this improper grammar usage and say ‘He I went to the movies’.

So what do the three words Corruption, Bastardisation, and Barbarism mean?

The word barbarism refers to a non-standard pronunciation, phrase or word. The word ain’t is a good example of this. These are words that everyone knows what they mean, but they’re not correct from a grammatical point of view, nor will they ever be accepted by academics.

Bastardisation and corruption refer to the phenomena of language changes when people either don’t know how to pronounce the word, or they don’t understand it. For example, you may be surprised to know that the word apron is not correct: the correct word is napron. It became apron because people became confused with ‘an apron’ and ‘a napron’. This occurs quite often, particularly among native speakers, and is simply the result of the evolution of language. Another challenge for translation experts!

Isograms

When it comes to rules and oddities, possibly the easiest one to define is the isogram. Basically, an isogram is a word in which the letters appear a certain number of times – but that’s not all because there are different types of isograms.

  • First-Order Isograms: This is when a letter appears just once in a word. They’re also known as heterograms, and interestingly, a perfect example is the word isogram. The mission of some language lovers is to find the longest heterogram! We understand that the longest word with 17 letters is subdermatoglyphic, but this word is rarely used. Uncopyrightable is next on the list, and this is a word that could be used in everyday language.

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