Language Cities

Let’s imagine for a moment that languages are like cities. There are the Preposition subdivisions, the Noun suburbs, the Direct and Indirect Objects kicking around a ball out in the countryside, the Subjects floating like Bohemian rhapsodies from this place to that… and then the hardcore Verbs, who hang in the barrio and treat the Adverbs like second-class gang members–commands and no respeto.

The Punctuation Police try to keep things orderly, with Commas encouraging citizens to pause; Semi-colons forcing a respite; Quotation Marks making announcements; Periods demanding that everyone STOP; and New Paragraphs introducing off-beat ideas every chance they get–but ultimately, the Verbs occupy a no-go zone, where Punctuation dares not enter. Why do you think the general public hems and haws about splitting infinitives?

Nouns decline and can get an attitude from time to time (e.g., German capitalization), but Verbs conjugate irregularly, and frequently insist upon having Cases, lots of Cases. They live in and for the judicial system, but remain unpredictable and unruly, behaving as though in a lawless society. Constantly in flux, no one really knows them.

But I digress. Today was the day I would swallow hard and muster the courage (foolishness?) to visit the rough side of town. Yep. El barrio [Arabic root, بَرِّيّ‎ (barriyy, ‘wild’)]. Whether they liked it or not, I was coming to the party. Sure, I could bother getting an Invitation from the Noun Suburbs, even spice it up with something Official from Adjective Headquarters, or have a Pronoun accompany me for protection… but really, this was a solo job.

Verbs versus Me, round one. I hoped they liked me. Icelandic was tough enough without any extra drama.