A long time ago, there were no dictionaries, no modern language associations, no Oxford standards. Language is a fundamentally organic system that has been evolving for thousands of years, as complex and intricate as something like the economy, and for most of its existence its rules have not been explicit.
Fewer Words, Longer Books
rigorous, quantitative analyses to confirm the trend, so what I really have is a suspicion based on inference, internal logic, and anecdotal evidence; however, it struck me as a sufficiently interesting observation that I should desire to share it with you. The trend is this: the English language is losing words (ironic, considering our post about word creation), and is using more of them to compensate.
I’ve said it many times on the site: I have something of a love affair with the English language. Where some people moan over homonyms and homophones, or grumble about synonyms and antonyms, or the fact that tenses are so erratic, to me they are features, not flaws.
Some people might decry this as unnecessary complexity, and in some cases the variability and mutability of language can be a disadvantage. Certainly in science and engineering, it is necessary to be very, very careful and precise with language in order to communicate your meaning, and there are some meanings that cannot be adequately communicated with our language at all, as we don't have the words; it's one of the hazards of trying to talk about the nature of reality using a communication technique developed to tell people where the best fruit is.
Is the Written Word Fake?
The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about the authenticity of different communication mediums. Its central claim was that, as methods of communication go, text-based methods are generally considered the least “authentic.” That is, according to their cited case studies and survey results, a plurality of people tend to consider emails or text messages to be easily faked, devoid of real emotion or sentiment, and a bit of a cop-out. Now, I realize that I am somewhat biased, being an author, but even outside of the realm of stories I think that the article takes an unfortunately confrontational tract. There are times, occasions, and circumstances that befit any communication medium, and in each one might be better than another, but that in no way detracts from another.
I don’t remember if this was a comparison I developed, or if I read it somewhere and expanded upon it, but I’ve taken to using windows to explain different styles of writing to others. What I do remember is that it's based on Brandon Sanderson describing his prose as "transparent." This made perfect sense to me, but when I mentioned it to others, they were confused by the idea, and ever since I've been trying to come up with a better way of explaining this metaphor. In other words, I hope that this post is going to make sense to you.