Sunday, 3 July 2011

What speechitatest you? On engineered language change amongst high schoolers

The latest Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, on high school language change:

The type of language change the students are shown undergoing would require more than a source of new lexical items, I would think.

We find morphological change: Wouldsest for 2nd person singular present of "would".

And syntactic change: What speechitated Harvard? for "What did Harvard say?" (note the necessity of do-periphrasis in modern English).

How could a thesaurus (of fake synonyms) drive these sorts of changes? [Of course, under Minimalism, parametric variation, including differences in word order, is theorised to be a reflex of formal features which are borne by lexical items. So perhaps if the thesaurus had some way of encoding abstract syntactic features in such a way that they would be picked up along with the phonological and semantic aspects of the lexical item....]

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