Debates over linguistics rage hotter than ever

‘The Canterbury Tales,’ penned six centuries ago, is exceedingly hard to decipher, but some words have endured for millennia. How have our attitudes toward language evolved?

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After all, the Middle English versions of Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” is barely understandable to me, and the suite of stories was written only about 630 years ago.

Some linguists now argue that there are also some “ultra-conserved words”—that is, terms that have managed to survive for 150 centuries. Some of these words are: “mother,” “not,” “what,” “hear,” and “man.”

I’m a writer, not a linguist, so I’m unqualified to step into the debate. But if you’re interested, you can read more about it in the The Washington Post.

This discussion has also caused me to reflect on our attitude toward words and writing. Many of us are passionate about both subjects, which I believe is healthy—healthy, that is, until some of us cross the line and start to obsess.

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