Human beings constantly feel the need to adapt to new lifestyles, especially when it comes to technology. In the last two decades or so we've all (or almost all) learnt how to use a computer, the internet and a mobile phone. We no longer spend hours on the phone talking to our best friends complaining about our heartaches; instead we use online chatting and social networking sites. Our deepest and most personal (at least that's how they used to be) thoughts and feelings are no longer something that only our closest peers know about. On the contrary, if I wake up one morning feeling sad and lonely, I have to make sure that I let the whole world know about it before even getting out of bed and starting my day! All this only boils down to one fact - that the Homo sapiens did not stop evolving once it reached its full behavioural modernity some 50,000 years ago.
"..verbing, nouning and so on [...] is not something that can only be attributed to the 21st century. "
Language, more specifically the English language, is living proof of this - it is in a constant state of flux and, at first glance, blame is guiltlessly put on jargon which falls under the umbrella of ‘New Technology'. This is mainly because it is constantly looking for names to give to things which did not previously exist. Nowadays we text from our mobiles, we bookmark websites, we inbox our e-mail contacts and we friend our acquaintances on Facebook -only, in some cases, to defriend or unfriend them later (depending on which part of the world you are facebooking from). In all these cases nouns have been changed into verbs to accommodate this new phenomenon.
So what happened before our beloved English language was ‘bastardised' (as some schools of thought strongly claim) by Facebook and Twitter (do not forget that we now also tweet)? The answer to that is very simple - Shakespeare happened! In fact, verbing, nouning and so on (in other words, the changing of word classes) is not something that can only be attributed to the 21st century. Shakespeare's Duke of York, in Richard II says "Grace me no grace, nor uncle me no uncle"; in her very famous soliloquy in Macbeth, Lady Macbeth asks the spirits to "unsex" her.
In his book The Language Instinct (1994), Steven Pinker points out that "easy conversion of nouns to verbs has been part of English grammar for centuries; it is one of the processes that make English English." The fact that English is so dynamic could be one of the reasons (possibly the main reason) why it has become the most important international language in the world. Therefore, despite the fact that many traditionalists still deplore the idea of verbing, it doesn't look like this linguistic inertia is making any notable difference to modern-day English!
Courtesy of Elanguest Language School
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