Books, Jesus, and why Verbs are no better than Nouns

Chalk Outline of a Pretend Dead ChildI can’t believe we’re almost sold out of issue two in print. Last night I just got an order for eight more copies from Clarkesworld Books, a New Jersey Bookstore run by Neil Clarke with an online presence that rivals They seem to have everything speculative fiction, small press and large, and their website is nice and easy to use. Go take a look and see for yourself. (While at ReaderCon this past July, Gavin Grant mentioned Neil, but we couldn’t find each other in the crowd.)

My friend, Lauren McLaughlin has written an interesting blog entry on the meme of Universal Love. No, this isn’t some kooky new-age love parade. Lauren explains why she believes the message has been diluted over time, and why Jesus is sooper kewl even though she is a raving atheist.

Here’s an interesting chart on the number of native speakers of the world languages. I had always assumed English was one or two, but not so says this chart. Mandarin and Hindi come in at a comfortable first and second. And to my surprise, I found that as a native language, more people may speak Spanish than English. Often futurists, or even-better, science fiction writers will try to summarize and hypothesize the way languages will evolve in the future. Some authors avoid the question entirely by calling it the “Common Tongue” or “Anglai” to show how it is some derivative of English. And sometimes Mandarin or some form of Chinese becomes the main tongue. If I’m not mistaken, I think this was one of the languages in Mote in God’s Eye.

Well, I’ll add my theory to the queue. There has been conclusive proof that people born in the West and speak the Latin/Germanic derived languages think very differently and see the world very differently than those born in the East, and who speak an Asian tongue. Easterners, when shown a picture of a man before a large canyon, will first look at the canyon and study the setting before looking at the man. Westerners will do the reverse. Easterners, when teaching children the names of things, focus more on verbs and action, while Westerners focus on nouns and shapes. Hence, we think differently about the world (note that I’m not implying one view is better than the other, only different). This difference makes it very difficult for us to learn each other’s language.

So here’s my take: English will continue to absorb words from other languages as it is used more and more in all regions of the world. Since Spanish comes in slightly ahead or a close second, it will become most people’s second tongue in the West, perhaps even merging a bit with English in some cases (as in “Spanglish” as it does in some regions of the world). I don’t think we’ll ever have a completely new tongue, but more of a hodgepodge of combined tongues as in the “Cityspeak” or “Guttertalk” of Blade Runner, but perhaps a lot less removed from English and Spanish as in the film. Meanwhile, Mandarin will expand as the Chinese colonize space much more quickly than the West ever did, and those of us willing to work and do business with them will be forced to learn their language. At some point in the distant future, our languages will evolve beyond what we can currently comprehend, but for a long time I see two main tongues, on born from the East, and the other from the West emerging as the dominant lingua-franca of the next few centuries. Come to think of it, that’s not to far off from what everyone else is saying. 😛

Finally, to end on a good note, Toyota said recently that soon all of its automobiles (that’s right, it says all) will be hybrid-electrics. In this time of high gasoline prices, limited oil, and concerns about global warming and pollution, a hybrid-electric fleet of cars is a wise thing.

3 Replies to “Books, Jesus, and why Verbs are no better than Nouns”

  1. When they say Eastern/Asian language speakers think differently, does this include those from the Indian subcontinent?

  2. The article I read didn’t mention India, but now that I think about it, yes, they’ll probably merge/combine/blend with some of the Eastern tongues, although it depends on how the language is structured. Would you say that Indian languages are similar to Western tongues in terms of sentence construction or closer to East?

  3. It depends on which Indian language you’re talking about, but I don’t think they really fit into either East Asian or Western languages. They’re pretty different. Hmmm…

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