Posts Tagged ‘language’

Microsyntax — Informally Canonizing Linguistic Evolution

May 26th, 2009

A new website, is opening its doors. It aims at an attempt to offer some canonization to emergent linguistic conventions that grow organically on Twitter.

Stow Boyd, the site’s founder and only present author, writes:

… [W]e are launching a new non-profit,, with the purpose of investigating the various ways that individuals and tool vendors are trying to innovate around this sort of microsyntax, trying to define reference use cases that illuminate the ways they may be used or interpreted, and to create a forum where alternative approaches can be discussed and evaluated.

I’m fascinated by the mission of Boyd’s new site because it implicitly reframes language as action — an event unfolding — rather than a thing. It is a recognition of order emerging from chaos, aiming to assist its development and refinement.

This perspective stands in compelling contrast with arguments that are critical of the influence that technologies such as Twitter (or texting, instant messaging, and the rest) are affecting upon the modern written language; particularly as practiced by young people still in school, who are likely to apply these linguistic practices in “inappropriate” contexts, such as when writing papers.

The main reason language (both written and spoken) serves humankind’s communications needs so well is that we’re able to largely agree upon practices around how to encode and decode ideas, such that their meanings largely survive the transmission.

Notably, Boyd’s new website seeks to bridge the gap between emergent linguistic practices and informal canon.

[via TechCrunch]

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50 Years of Strunk & White

March 24th, 2009

Arguably the best linguistic “style guide” ever written for contemporary English. Doubly-relevant to Uncarved, since it both informs the way I aim to write, and serves as a canon for how sentences and paragraphs can most optimally be constructed.

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style, 1918

There is a new hardcover edition to commemorate the anniversary. [via Daring Fireball]

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