Letter to the Editor SpecGram Vol CLIV, No 4 Contents 20 Steps to Decide Whether You Should Take That Course—C. V. Fonologist

The Life And Death Of An Anonymous Verb

by John Miaou

Once upon a time, there was a jolly little verb, who led a care-free, happy life. He was a successful verb. He appeared in a few proverbs, and he even appeared briefly in a nation-wide commercial slogan.

He had many friends of all classes, but he preferred the company of nouns. He spent particularly long hours around a certain noun of the feminine gender, who had all her declensions in all the right places. He fell in love, she fell in love, and soon they had formed their own little clause. They would often be seen snuggling in an embedded clause, making propositions together. Before long, they had a whole sentence of their own, with several little objects trailing them.

But life goes on. What started out as an exciting experience soon turned to redundancy and fixed phrases. The verb began bringing home prepositions, and he started hanging with bad complements. His own nouns grew tired of his new antics and soon they left him. It was the biggest ellipsis he had ever felt. Without his beloved objects near him, he just couldn’t find any arguments.

To console himself, he spent most of his time with feminine nouns whose declensions were more revealing than functional. He became addicted to serial verbs, and his dependence on others grew more and more serious. Soon his whole life centered around other verbs. He felt he didn’t mean anything without reference to others. He had become an auxiliary, a defective verb who could no longer stand on his own.

He stopped caring about his appearance. His plosives weakened, and one day he lost a whole syllable. It was then that he realized that he had become... gasp... an inflection.

After that life just didn’t seem worth it anymore. He lost his stress. Not even floating tones would visit him anymore. He became weaker and weaker until no one even bothered to pronounce him at all.

Once he was a proud, frequently uttered, polysyllabic verb, who appeared in proverbs, slogans, and a few famous last words, too, but even those would soon be archaic. The verb had left the language, without even a trace.

Letter to the Editor
20 Steps to Decide Whether You Should Take That Course—C. V. Fonologist
SpecGram Vol CLIV, No 4 Contents