Gnites of the Square Tabel1An article by Geoffrey Pullum on The Language Log talks about rigidity in long cherished common scientific thought with regards to the Pluto controversy. Just because something is a belief (in what is after all classification based on long distance observation) for about 75 years, should it not be challenged? Especially after seeing science progress past corpses of old theories and faiths. He seems to suggest that linguists do take a more progressive approach to language.
Just how much progressiveness the linguistic community and opinionated voices are prepared to show is a different matter. Or we wouldn't have interesting discussions like these.
In a related note, from the Language Log, I happened to hop on to Prof. John Wells' homepage. He's a Professor of Phonetics and maintains an interesting, though (understandably) heavily technical blog on phonetics. I noticed he had a link to a group called The Simplified Spelling Society, about whose objectives I didn't get around to reading much about, but noticed this in their sidebar:
from which it is probably safe to assume that they prefer an excessive simplification of spelling, aimed at giving kids an easier time. I seem to be a bit of a traditionalist (though not too much :-)) - these language quirks have helped give us some great poetry, some very bad puns (thanks to the phenomena of polysemy2, homonymy3 and so on) and word-jugglery. It would be a pity to see some of it be lost. In a research meeting yesterday, someone mentioned how older languages are much more morphologically richer4 and the tendency seems for language evolution to take some of that richness away. So do we evolve towards further simplicity in languages? Is the new-age internet/texting lingo evidence enough?
Why don't comb tomb bomb rime?
Why do they say weigh
Oh and before I go. The race to save the planet is on. Not Earth, dummy. Pluto.
1: In one of my favourite books "William the Bad" (one of Richmal Crompton's "William" series), the Outlaws launch their own version of King Arthur and co. in search of more adventures. Their first and only case comes to them via a young man who thinks it is the HQ of a Spelling Reform League. The title of this post is their advertising sign which represents their best-effort spelling skills.
2: Polysemy - multiple meanings for the same word (such as in the case of "mate")
3: Homonym/-graph/-phone - such as "bow/beau"
4: Languages like Hindi have words like "ne"/"se" as in "Irfan ne" and "Chammach se" which adds a wealth of morphological information useful in detecting subjects, objects, roles etc.