In case you didn’t already know, I have a strange passion for etymology. It’s fascinating to study how words change and grow over time, retaining bits of their original meaning while marrying a new culture.
Having studied six languages now (crikey), there is one resounding trend in linguistics (which either reflects well or poorly on humanity, depending on how optimistic or pessimistic you are).
We Like to Make Things Simpler
If you look at Latin, which gave birth to the Romance languages of Italian, Spanish, French, etc., you can see how we totally dropped the declension system.
If you have no idea what that means, but you’ve heard of “conjugating” verbs — well, in Latin, you have to conjugate verbs AND decline (basically conjugate) nouns. It’s a bloody nightmare.
I once read a comic where a group of historians debated the greatest achievements of the Romans. “The Colosseum!” said one. “Learning Latin!” replied the other.
With that in mind, here are three ways I predict the English language will change in the next 100 years…
“Whom” Will Disappear
Why have two words when one will do? Everyone uses “who” and “whom” interchangeably already. And as we saw with the Latin -> Spanish, Italian, French evolution above, complicated grammar is one of the first things languages drop as they evolve.
The Subjunctive Will Disappear
Unless you’re a sneaky English teacher, you probably don’t even know what the subjunctive is. I certainly didn’t until I had to learn it for Italian.
Basically, in English, the subjunctive refers to situations that are imagined or wished. In these cases, you’re supposed to use the verb “were,” but many people confuse it with the past tense and use “was.”
For instance, “If I was a rich man,” SHOULD be, “If I were a rich man.” He’s not saying he was rich in the past…it’s IF! So a past tense verb doesn’t make sense.
However, as we’ve seen time and again, complicated grammar doesn’t fare well in the linguistic hunger games, so bye bye subjunctive.
International Terms Will Become ‘English’ Words
History shows that languages are extremely welcoming when it comes to new words, especially English…and especially when it comes to food.
If you’re linguistically savvy, you know that many of our polysyllabic words are Greek or Latin in origin, and many of our shorter words are Germanic. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see even more Spanish terms enter the fold in the next 100 years.
And what’s interesting is that, at some point, people don’t even think of them as “foreign” words. Take “paparazzi,” for instance. It’s the plural of the Italian “paparazzo,” or celebrity photographer, but you don’t really think “this is a foreign word” when you see “paparazzi,” do you?