Death Sentence

A recent article from the Washington Post examined the idea that modern “Internet” or technologically driven writing is killing the sentence, and that without the sentence there will be a breakdown of society at large.

That’s a rather large presumption to make, even from someone who loves written language as many of the commentators referenced in the article obviously do.  Would society break down if the Internet stopped working?  For a time, yes, but we’d adapt.  Would society break down if the financial system we currently use stopped working.  Yes, for quite awhile.  But we’d adapt.

Throughout history, language has evolved, changing and morphing into the languages spoken around the world today.  And, while most modern lanugages include basic sentence structure to convey ideas, there is certainly no uniformity to how a sentence is composed, especially when comparing English to other modern languages.  So would the death of the “sentence” mean a breakdown in societal function?

I think not.  I may not have any idea what the meaning is of all the txt msgng lingo the girls in my Jr. High small group use, but they understand it.  Their “society” is as understanding of the language as I am of understanding that D.H. Lawrence could write a sentence that made sense even though it continued for a whole page.  Modern internet lingo might be “Greek to me,” but then again, Greek is, too.  Did we claim Ebonics was going to cripple society?  Is Pidgin English suffocating the understanding of those who communicate in such a way?  I can’t understand a thing the Pope says during his catechism, but does take away from the meaning of his holy words?  Should we all have a common language and a common way of structuring the things we say?

Communication is one of the most defining attributes of human beings.  While many living things have simplistic and elementary methods of communicating with one another, humans are blessed by the ability to not only communicate needs and instruct others, but to think abstractly and theoretically.  This is most easily done in the context of story, the context of having a beginning and an end, having a subject and that subject doing something.  But it seems naive and very limiting to tell me that it can only be done in the context of the sentence. 

Some of the most profound things I have ever had to contemplate and some of the most beautiful messages I’ve ever witnessed haven’t been expressed using any words at all, let alone using complete sentences.

  • the all-encompassing gaze of a lover
  • the trust implied by the confident laugh of a child
  • the smallness of myself as I stand before the vastness of the ocean
  • An American Flag at half-mast
  • the dancer worshipping before her God without any music surrounding her at all
  • the artist who captures the pain and anguish of a time using 3 basic colors

There can be more power in what is never said, than in all the sentences you ever say.

I love words.  I’m a lover of all things that communicate, whether communicating to instruct or inform, to engage emotion or to express emotion, to simply tell or story, or to tell a simple story to illuminate complex truth.  And I recognize the ease of the modern sentence structure in conveying what I want to convey to those to whom I wish to convey it. 

But I’m adaptable.  If you tell me that one day “Jane + Mcl xoxo :-O” will be the acceptable way to express your amazement that Jane and Michael are now a couple, then I’ll start brushing up on my txt msgng and my emoticons.

A very wise person once told me that to hate change was to hate life.  I love life.  Bring it on.