“All grammars leak”: How modern use and misuse are changing the English language

Anthropologist Edward Sapir once wrote, “Unfortunately, or luckily, no language is tyrannically consistent. All grammars leak.” Sapir was talking about the irregularities of language. For me, this
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Anthropologist Edward Sapir once wrote, “Unfortunately, or luckily, no language is tyrannically consistent. All grammars leak.” Sapir was talking about the irregularities of language.  For me, this leakiness is especially evident in what I think of as doppelgrammar words. Many of our most common words have come to serve more than a single grammatical role, so a word serving one part of speech will often have a homonym—a grammatical doppelganger—that serves as a different part of speech. Often this arises from what is called functional shift, when we take a noun and make it into a verb as in to adult or to gym. This shiftiness makes it hard, and perhaps impossible, to think of a word as having just one categorization. Here’s an example. Recently, a friend told me that her daughter’s teacher had told her to never use the word that. She wondered if the advice was legit. It depends, I said, which that we are talking about. This humble four-letter word can serve as a pronoun, adjective,. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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