it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken

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Mon crayon est longe et jaune

My entire academic acquaintanceship with linguistics comes in the form of having been an anthropology and english double major (who left college with some grad credits, but without a degree--yes, I'm one of those people), and who thus could not avoid taking certain courses on language. (The worst of these was a 100's-level linguistics course that I stopped attending after four weeks and managed to pull out a better grade than a friend who went to class--the class was actually successful in removing knowledge from the human brain. The best of these was The History of English [The textbooks were C.M. Millward's wonderful A Biography of the English Language and Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Primer]: I walked away from that one with a working knowledge of OE that allows me to claim it as one of the three languages that I've clean forgotten [the other two are German and French; I've also forgotten katakana, pidgin Spanglish, and the Cyrillic alphabet, and hope someday to add Russian to the list of languages I've forgotten: that seems like a good lifetime goal. {I can, however, still say "Ich habe...kopfschmertzen" in exactly the intonation of the language lab tapes. Astounding what we retain.}])

And I bet you never thought I was gonna get out of those brackets with all my limbs intact.

But I digress.

Anyway, now that I've established my complete lack of credentials to talk about language, I want to talk about linguistic playfullness, and one of the cooler types of linguistic adaptation that I'm witnessing going on as we speak. There's a grand tradition of emphasis in language being denoted through playful misuse and mispronunciation of words--"yer feets too big" "accent on the wrong sylahbul" and so forth--and it's very interesting, to me, to watch that being translated to the chiefly-written communication patterns of teh interweb, as it were.

It's fascinating to watch as this style of communication evolves, as people discover ways of indicating emphasis and emotion, of broadening the level of information available for parsing through the critically limited interface of text. It's a little humbling, too--from the cheerful misappropriation of hakspek and its intentional opacities to the repurposing of careless typos (teh hott!!!1!!!1) and intentional mis-spellings (weerd!)--it's deeply gratifying for me, at least, to watch human adaptability in action.

It's not *new,* by any means, this kind of playfullness ("We have met the enemy and he is us," after all, and there are some pretty terrible puns in Chaucer), but it's new, I think, the level of semantic packing that we're learning to incorporate in--typewritten!--textual communication. There's an odd level on which it makes me think of calligraphy as high art, especially in the Chinese tradition--but on a much more practical level.

We is the talking animal, baybie. And people is neat.

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