A and Lot are two separate words that many a times are put together like conjoined twins. One might write something like, “I get bored alot”. This is the time a reader might actually picture the person having a conversation with his pet ‘Alot’. I bet people really love their Alots and talking to them. Sometimes I read things like, ” Nowadays it snows alot” or ” I am angry alot” then that Alot better run because angry people are unpredictable. What surprises us readers is that it is normally a one sided conversation. The writer never informs us of the alot’s response to these declarations. On the other hand maybe the reader is supposed to deduce that alot are two separate words, ‘a lot’.
“How was it?,” I would ask my daughter whenever she came from somewhere, she would answer ” It was super cool!”. She would say things like,” My teacher today was super annoyed…” and I would try to imagine all these ‘supers’ describing different words daily. It seems when one uses the word to describe everything, we just deal with extremities nothing in between. Another word she likes using is ‘a bunch’, like ” We had a bunch of fun.” Then I would just picture these little tied up bundles of fun all heaped up into a huge pile, where they would all be rolling having ‘super’ fun.
Kenya has 47 languages of these, English is the official language of business and Swahili is the national language. I guess in this case national just means that it is a language of the people, by the people, for the people 🙂
My mother tongue is ‘Luo’, we are known as the people from the lake…this is due to the fact that our ancestors hailed from Sudan and settled around the area of Lake Victoria. This was in their search for greener pastures, in this case literary greener pastures. There being so many languages it is not easy to be fluent in all of them but definitely after being around the others, one does begin to understand a couple of words here and there. Back to the luo tribe we do not have the sound ‘sh’ in our language. Therefore it is very difficult for us to pronounce it during a conversation. So for words like ‘shut up’ I would find myself unconsciously saying ‘sut up’ lol. Do not get me wrong we can pronounce it, it is just that during a conversation I find my tongue just slipping.
My son when he first learnt how to speak he used to say,’ Yesh’ instead of ‘yes’, yet he didn’t know how to speak in Luo. He still doesn’t know nor does he comprehend a word of it. Sometimes I wonder why he was born with the ‘sh’ problem could such a thing be in one’s genes?
To have an accent in a foreign country can sometimes be a heavy burden to carry, except when people love the accent. As soon as I utter a word I am bombarded with a barrage of questions, “Where are you from and how long have you been speaking English? When did you come to America?” I don’t mind answering such questions but after answering them everyday, after a couple of years it becomes tiresome. Some years back I started a new job at a factory. One of those jobs whereby a bell rings and everyone has to go for break at the same time. So of course the break room was always filled with people talking on the phone, queuing for the microwave, conversing with each other or having a mental calculation of how many hours were left before the shift ended. I definitely joined the last group since I was busy trying to hide my accent.
One person tried to strike a conversation and I tried to avoid it by just nodding, but he was so determined to draw a word out of my mouth. He succeeded and of course asked where I came from. I replied that I was from Mexico. The eyes almost bulged out of the socket, ” but you are black!” this was my chance to play the race card. “Does it mean that my skin determines where I come from?” end of conversation. I strolled leisurely back to my workstation feeling like a boss.
They say that when it rains it pours. My plan for this semester was to always be ahead, read a chapter ahead in every class, submit blog entries regularly, and not to wait until the last minute to study for exams. But that plan remained in my head it was buried in the deepest vaults of my brain and I probably swallowed the key. So of course none of that happened and I was walking around worried sick to my stomach. I did not have any observational blog entries to enter for one of the classes. Time was flying like a ticking bomb. It is weird but I find it hard to write when there is a deadline, I develop a bloggers block.
All of a sudden I became the Grammar Nazi, I mean a walking, breathing, patrolling police. As I walked to my class I would try to be close to people as possible just in case I heard them say something wrong, or out of the ordinary in English. I was fishing for blogging material and everything was a potential target. Lo! and behold when one is looking for something you cannot find it. I looked everywhere, inside the bus, at the restroom and I even asked for directions just in case I detected something. As I was heading home feeling discouraged, I found a piece of paper stuck on my windscreen with the words, ” Organisation X will be holding it’s annual meeting on….” There it was! the word ‘it’s’ which is a contraction of ‘it is’ had been used instead of the modifier ‘its’.
Some words are specific to a particular region or country. When we first arrived in America on that cold summer, we asked the taxi driver to take us to a hotel. He asked us which one, we just wanted a cheap hotel to start our pursuit of the elusive American dream. He stated that motels were cheaper, we had no idea what a motel was and he had to explain. It sounded like a better option, especially since we had no idea where our daily living would be coming from. I thought our arrival would be better celebrated by tasting and drinking American beer.
A gas station was situated directly across the motel. So my partner and I went in to purchase a couple of drinks. we were surprised at how cheap the American beer was, a huge 2 liters was retailing at 99c. We quickly grabbed a couple and some plastic cups then dashed back to the motel. We were so excited we had finally arrived. I was not at all impressed with how sweet the beer was and could not get over how much sugar the Americans preferred. To top it, after a couple of cups I was still missing that buzzed feeling that comes with alcohol. I asked my partner, “What kind of beer is this, do you feel anything?” “No” he promptly answered. I decided to do a little bit of investigation, I lifted up the now empty bottle and read the label, “Root beer, 0% alcohol.”
Sometimes during downtime (okay not downtime) at my job, we get to browse through the social media sites. I like to visit different forums because it helps release stress. There is this particular site where people mainly share business ideas. One person had put out an idea of how to procure some products and mentioned that they sell the goods mainly in ‘gaylords’. At the mention of that word I quickly minimized my screen and my mind went into overdrive. I began to doubt that site’s authenticity and wondered why they would be promoting pornographic language.
I started wondering how I would be fired, once my boss checked my hard drive. I imagined those gay lords, who were probably pimps for the gay, sitting at some corner peddling their products. Maybe if I lost my job I could become a ‘gaylord’. On the other hand this line of thinking did not tally with the way the conversation had been flowing. I decided to ask instead of jumping to conclusions and also so that I could have an explanation for my boss in case he found out. I quickly logged in and tiptoed to the private message room. I asked the person what a ‘gaylord’ was and begged them not to be explicit as I was using the work computer. All this time I became real jumpy and at one point I thought I even heard one of my colleagues calling my name. The person burst out in a fit of laughter, those fits that involve several laughing tear-filled emojis. I felt stupid and was almost in tears myself. Luckily her reply came promptly explaining that a ‘gaylord’ was actually a large container used by industries to pack or store goods.
Today my daughter gave me a lesson on grammar. I had lost some money and asked, ” Who has seen a 20 dollar note somewhere.” The kids all started that choked annoying giggle like they were trying to hide it. Then Barbara asked what I meant. I told her that I had lost some money. She quickly went and got a paper and proceeded to say,” Mommy, look a note is something you write on a piece of paper like this, money is called a bill not a note. So say twenty dollar bill.” Myself “Get out of here, go look for the money!”. This shows how grammar is fluid and changes, evolves over time. Sometimes this change can be geographical, like the way the ‘Brits’ call money notes while here it is bills, well as long as the speakers are comfortable with whichever version they choose.
Peter Trudgill unmasks the above myth and asserts that language change should not be halted. He further on gives interesting examples of how some words have evolved over time. Such as the word ‘Knee’ whereby the ‘K’ was not silent in earlier times. As language changes and becomes modified over time, it does not necessarily mean some kind of deformity rather these same changes have added to the richness and variety of language. Language change is always happening everyday, as words get exchanged between different speakers. it also changes as people travel and are influenced by others. Language changes also occurs as new things are discovered and named, adding new vocabulary to language.
In conclusion, we have learnt that over time human beings have evolved from primitive states over millions of years ago. In the same manner, language too is evolving.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, grammar is ‘the set of rules that explain how words are used in a language.’ From this simple definition, we understand that language has rules and it would be impossible to discern a message when everything is scrambled. In the essay, ‘Some languages have no grammar’ by Winifred Bauer she emphasizes that all languages have grammar. I totally agree with this point because otherwise the recipient of a message would have to waste time decoding it. Then again on the other hand that decoding would involve following some rules which would thus represent it’s grammar. She also reiterates that the existence of grammar in a language does not depend on a grammar book. This means that grammar exists in all languages whether it is written or not and some might be complex than others depending on the language.
I remember watching the movie, ‘The gods must be crazy’ several years ago. At the time I found it funny the way the Kung (South African) language was portrayed. Kung is a South African language that is spoken by the bushmen, each sound is a click followed by an exclamation mark. I was pretty sure they had no grammar, all one had to do was produce a number of clicking sounds when speaking it. On the other hand, these clicking sounds had to have some sort of pattern (grammar) for one to be able to understand and distinguish the different messages.