The rules we don’t know we know

Now and again, I get a puzzled face when telling someone that what is going on in language—in their language—is quite complex. „Might be,“ they say, „but why should I care?“

I can’t tell anybody why they should be interested in how languages work, but for me it could start with a passage like this one:

The pluperfect progressive passive for an extended state of action that happened to you prior to another action in the past is, when you put it like that, rather daunting. But then you’d happily say „I realised I’d been being watched“ without breaking sweat or blinking.

There’s some celebration of exoticism here, yes. But also of something else: Curiosity. You don’t know nearly as much about language as you think. But that’s a good thing, because there’s so much to find out. Language is fascinating!

The (above quoted) article by Mark Forsyth breathes that fascination. Oh, and it also explains why, „in a strong French accent, there’s no difference between happiness and a penis.“

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