I'll have to read this a little later, but I SO WANT to change my name to Peewee Nipplepuss.
On a related subject, a new study sheds light on why some languages use subject-object-verb while others use subject-verb-object.
The MIT researchers' explanation is that the SVO ordering has a better chance of preserving information if the communications channel is noisy.
Suppose that the sentence is "the girl kicked the boy," and that one of the nouns in the sentence -- either the subject or the object -- will be lost in transmission. If the word order is SOV, then the listener will receive one of two messages: either "the girl kicked" or "the boy kicked." If the word order is SVO, however, the two possible messages on the receiving end are "the girl kicked" and "kicked the boy": More information will have made it through the noisy channel.
A preliminary investigation, Gibson says, suggests that there is a very strong correlation between word order and the strength of a language's "case markings." Case marking means that words change depending on their syntactic function: In English, for instance, the pronoun "she" changes to "her" if the kicker becomes the kicked. But case marking is rare in English, and English is an SVO language. Japanese, a strongly case-marked language, is SOV. That is, in Japanese, there are other cues as to which noun is subject and which is object,... [emphasis mine]
The summary makes so much sense to a feminist. We are only beginning to understand how distorted is the language used to describe women and their actions. Thanks for this article.
All of these findings are not just entertaining factoids about language use. They suggest that patterns in language might actually shape how people construe and reason about events. And that has real world consequences, particularly in legal contexts. The specific language used in police reports, legal statements, court testimony, and public discourse is full of descriptions that influence not only verdicts of guilt or innocence but also the sentencing process.What is clear is how susceptible we are to habits of expression or twists of translation. And we’re only just beginning to understand the consequences.