Whisper #352

There are important reasons for not using language correctly, that is, in accordance with a strict grammatical rule. The historical truth that languages change over time — not just in the meaning of certain words or introduction of new words, but in grammar — supports those reasons objectively.

However, we should avoid the temptation of assuming that changes in grammar over time imply some clear evaluative backdrop, i.e., improvement or degeneration. It is impossible to tell objectively, i.e., without assuming a particular subjective or inter-subjective standpoint, where improvement or degeneration has occurred. All that these changes tell us is that they were (or were seen as) necessary. A similar argument works for understanding the evolution of a species not yet extinct: We cannot objectively state that some branch in its evolution constitutes an improvement or degeneration, only that it was necessity and that a trade-off with its environment took place.

Nevertheless, the reasons for grammatical changes over time are multifarious: moral, political, aesthetic, physical, and maybe a combination such as social and-or economic. They stem from the complex interrelations between people within a linguistic context, which may be broad enough to span the entire international scene or as narrow as a household.

There is, however, one interesting aesthetic reason for changing grammar, which is to direct attention not to the meaning of words, but:

  • to the pace of the words as we read them, which brings us closer to the character’s or writer’s mood and reflects her perspective itself, rather than a description of it;
  • to the feelings certain words or sentences incite in us, not because of their meaning, but due to their sound and so the vibrations they send through our body;

These two reasons are understood best by artists and mystics.

They are especially understood by poets: the sensitive, rare and beautifully endangered creatures without whom we would more quickly descend into automation — in deed as in spirit.

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