Re: Linguist's Of The Apocalypse, unite!

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Wed, 29 Jan 1997 18:06:29 -0800 (PST)

> Oh please Lee, comparing the present comprehensibility of 400-700+ year
> old works of literature to a 100 or less year future's possible
> comprehension of present literature (though I would hardly call Rudee
> Valee literature) is stacking the deck and not a good comparison. Try
> instead Thoreau's _Walden_ in an ordinary high school class 50 years
> from now (or even try it right now, you will find blank stares of
> incomprehension from 99% of them). Bringing up this point proves you
> wrong...

The comment to which I replied was something along the lines of "in
100 years, you wouldn't recognize English", and I disagree. The
factors that lead to the changes from Chaucer to Shakespeare to
modern English just aren't there anymore: today we travel more, we
interact with more people, we all watch the same television shows
and movies. 400 years from now, there will be lots of new vocabulary
for the new technologies and new social forms, but today's English
will be understandable to those children without effort--including
its present sounds, which have changed more over the years than
writing simply because writing has been around longer than sound
recording. In fact, it is interesting to note that speakers of
different dialects of Chinese today understand each other only with
considerable effort, but they both can read Lao-Tsu with ease.

> And these sort of "reforms" will further evolve the language. I do think
> that the cyber elites that start uploading will evolve english and code
> into an ideographic language that will allow for greater efficiency as
> people's mental capacities are enhanced by technologies, because we will
> have to compete will a Chinese superpower in the 21st century with a
> billion people who can already think that way....

But why even bother starting with English? Why patch a sinking ship
when we could build an airplane? Leave the old ships in museums and
old artworks, where they belong. Drastically changing English despite
years of books and recordings instead of starting over is the worst of
both worlds: we lose contact with the past, and cripple our future.