Thursday, March 15, 2012

Patterns in the English Language

English is a "melting pot" language. Though it can be summarized as having a Latinate vocabulary with Germanic grammar, that's an oversimplification.

There's a reason English is often called one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn for a non-native speaker. While I'm not entirely fluent in Spanish, and though I'm out of practice, I can still hear when a particular verb will be an exception to the conjugation rules, even when I can't remember how to properly conjugate it.

English isn't so simple. Even exceptions have exceptions, as in "I before e; except after c or when sounding like ay, as in neighbor or weighweird, agreed?

There are, however, patterns to English grammar. Commas, for instance, often work in pairs. (I intentionally structured the previous two sentences to demonstrate that.) A sentence always begins with a capital letter (which leads to the rule that any number at the beginning of a sentence must be spelled out, not in Arabic numerals). A sentence always has ending punctuation.

There are even patterns to the spelling of word families. For example, a lot of French-origin nouns have a masculine and feminine form, with the feminine denoted by an e on the end. Blond (male)/blonde (female), fiancé (male)/fiancée (female), and debutant (male)/debutante (female) are the three I encounter most often.

So when you're editing or spelling things, look for patterns.

They do exist.

Watch for them. It might just help you understand the English language better.

And frankly, I also find it helpful to think in terms of patterns when I'm picking up words in a foreign language or when I'm creating a fictional language.

Have you ever noticed patterns in the English language? Are there any you find particularly useful?


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