I write a lot about language because I find it an interesting topic, and learning to speak Japanese has been a fascinating process for me. Languages always shift and change according to laws that are pretty well understood, for example hard consonants will soften over time, and words that are always next to each other will often sort of grow together into a single word, such as words like “tomorrow” or “breakfast,” or even the more recent joining of “web log” into “blog.” Another law that changes language is known as the Principle of Least Effort, which mainly says that speakers will exert the least effort needed to get their point across, quite visible in languages like Japanese where the subject is often omitted, and unwieldy words like “Starbucks” (sutaabakkusu in katakana) shortened to ”
utaba.” This “law of laziness” is also why the schwa sound (ə, pronounced “uh”) is so common in American English — apparently we’re especially lazy when it comes to language. I’m pretty sure some linguistic change happens as each generation of children is born and acquires language, which leads to incredibly creative new words being formed. When my niece was three, she drank a powdered hot apple cider she decided was called “spider mix,” and to this day I can’t think hot cider without thinking of it with that name.
Mmm, delicious Spider Mix. Got to get me some of that.