A little linguistics, anyone?
By The Linguist 09-01-2008 10:38 PM
After weeks of reading blogs on CAG, I’ve come to realize that there is one huge gap in the coverage here. Sure, there are lots of you who write about games and your gaming habits, and there are a troubling number who share the minutiae of their lives (e.g. what electrical equipment they have surgically implanted in their chests, how messy their sisters are, etc.). But hardly anybody is blogging about insights gained from the study of modern linguistics. Have no fear; I’m here to fill that gap.
For the few of you who don’t know what linguistics is, let me explain. It’s often defined as the scientific study of language. Linguists study language from a variety of perspectives. Some linguists focus on grammar while others concentrate on speech sounds. Still others focus on the history of languages or the role language plays in society. That’s actually just a small sampling of what kinds of things linguists study. The general point of linguistics is to try to understand how and why language works.
Here’s an example (one with relevance to gaming):
Have you ever heard the verb ‘verse’ to mean “compete against”? For example, “Let’s verse each other in Madden” or “I’m going to verse him on XboxLive.” If you check any real dictionary (i.e. not UrbanDictionary.com), you won’t find this verb listed. Some would conclude that this means ‘verse’ is not a real word. Such people lack imagination (and any meaningful definition of “a real word”).
So where does ‘verse’ come from? This is the kind of question a linguists asks. This word illustrates one of my favorite types of morphological change (changes to the structure of words), a process called back formation. The verb ‘verse’ comes from a reanalysis of the preposition ‘versus’ (e.g. Joe versus the volcano), which is commonly abbreviated “vs.” and which is originally a Latin word for “turned.” Basically, people hear ‘versus’ and interpret it as a present tense verb ‘verses’ because it sounds exactly like it would if it were really a verb. Once it’s interpreted as a verb, its root form is ‘back-formed’ by removing what seems to be the 3rd person suffix –s which results in ‘verse.’ Then it will take all the normal verb forms as needed (e.g. versed, versing).
This kind of reanalysis of words happens all the time. Another example of back formation is the use of ‘bicep’ as a singular based on the original ‘biceps’ where the final –s is interpreted as a plural marker when it wasn’t originally.
Anyway, thanks for reading.
|Comments (Total Comments: 3)|
|Wingwright - 09-02-2008, 01:20 AM|
|phear3d - 09-02-2008, 08:26 AM|
|jaykrue - 09-02-2008, 08:11 PM|
|Recent Blog Entries by The Linguist|