The English language is derived from old European languages, and is what I think of as a mechanical language. Unlike Eastern languages which rely more on tone and inflection, English words and ideals are constructed by manually adding prefixes, suffixes, and prepositions. It's a bit like Legos in that respect.
Take Latin, one of English's parent languages, which--lucky for us--only gives our language specific words, not linguistic form. I took a few years of Latin and all the declensions and conjugations (aka inflection) made for a surgically precise though sterilized sentence. As a result, their dictionary would only include the root words, which made for a thinner dictionary than English, especially American English. The English language thus allows every noun to become a verb (to bike, to punch, to drink), and every verb into an adjective (playfully, runny, watchful). Unlike Latin, English mechanically turns words into their opposite via -un or -de, as Orwell points out. We take this for granted, and may even see this as the best, therefore the only way due to our comfort, but in terms of language, this is just one way of conjugating. For example, familiar and unfamiliar appear independently in English dictionaries. However, if you look up unfamiliar in a Latin dictionary, you'll find the word doesn't even exist. To credit Latin, it requires you to use a unique word to convey that particular meaning, whereas the English definition of unfamiliar will invariably be 'not known or recognized.' This isn't really a definition, it's just an anti-definiton of a word which already exists; something that Latin (ironically the dead language here) avoided for clarity, but English readily practices. It even puts these anti-definitions into the dictionary, which is why it's so damn huge.
English is also a borrowing language. We all know that, we just may not know that we know it. Cul-de-sac is a common one. "Other example from the vast armoury of borrowed words are garage, charabanc, alias, alibi, steppe, thug, role, menu, lasso, rendezvous, chemise. It will be noticed that in most cases an English equivalent exists already, so that borrowing adds to the already large stock of synonyms." (p.633) English thus seems to drive toward acquiring a large quantity of words, rather than a concise, practical spread. As a writer I appreciate this because it allows so many nuances. With Latin, building a sentence is like conjugating yourself into linguistic chastity. In English, so long as you follow fundamentals of grammar, you can create a verbal palette never before seen. This is why I think of English as a very literary language, despite being Lego-like in the manipulation of its words. It's simultaneously archaic and artistic.
Verbs are pretty simple as well, in that there are four main modifiers: past, present, future, and subjunctive. A subjunctive is simply a modifier of possibility, or anything applying to distinct unreality that could potentially be reality. So, you played, you play/are playing, you will play, or you may play. There are flavors--this time tomorrow, you may have played at the park again--but generally verbs are modified by time or subjunctive. No adding nouns or gender or clause to convey the meaning, that's Latin. On the topic of gender, English doesn't utilize that either, so no la or le or los like French or Spanish, or der or er like German. Again, English is mechanical; a verb, noun, and adjective utilize the same modifiers instead of gender-specific modifiers. "Moreover, the tendency is always towards greater simplicity, both in grammar and syntax. Long sentences with dependent clauses grow more and more unpopular, irregular but time-saving formations such as the 'American subjunctive' (it is necessary that you go instead of it is necessary that you should go) gain ground, and difficult rules, such as the difference between shall and will, or that and which, are more and more ignored. If it continues to develop along its present lines English will ultimately have more in common with the uninflected language of East Asia than with the language of Europe." (p. 634) In short, inflection is the construction of a word merging the stem (or root) with the appropriate ending, which denotes gender, person, tense, case and others.
We can go on and on about the intricacies of English-English and American-English, get into slang, homophones and homonyms, but that depth is unnecessary. One could even argue the depth I just went into was unnecessary because you can read it in a thousand different language books. But as English-speaking people I do think it's beneficial to have a basic grasp of how our tool works, which entails an education of some type. This doesn't necessarily mean sitting in a classroom, but it does mean treating our language carefully and deliberately because it's the primary tool of both our survival and pleasure. Think of all the stupid training courses we take for our vocations, the how-to manuals we read before constructing some IKEA particleboard, or the endless 'reality' television shows demonstrating how to deconstruct or construct something. Then think of how much time we actually spend understanding and clarifying our own language. Unless you're a writer or an academic, it's probably minimal or even none. Would you try and rebuild an engine without studying or consulting/including an expert? Nope. Then why speak and chat and blither without studying or consulting/including an expert? This is not a rhetorical question.
(Literary note to readers: George Orwell is a master of the English language, both English-English and American English. If you want a crash course on how grammar and culture meet, I highly recommend you read The English People: The English Language.)
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