I'm slowly setting up a new[er] computer since my existing machine is starting to get a little twitchy. The new[er] model contains only the Officially Accepted Plugs As Of The Current Picosecond. My monitor is more than one picosecond old, so it needs an adapter to fit the Accepted Plugs. The monitor works, but its firmware pointlessly informs me "VGA Plug Not Found" when I turn it on.
Though the time dimension is reversed, this is parallel to a linguistic universal. Languages with inflectional morphemes have a variety of different plugs, including some "irregular" plugs for Accepted Native Words. But when a non-accepted word is borrowed from foreign sources, there's only one Regularizer available.
English has some old 'strong'
verbs and nouns that form past or plural by vowel variation (ablaut). Speak/spoke, foot/feet. New words brought in from Latin never have strong forms**. Nouns always use the single adapter -s and verbs always use the single adapter -ed.
Occasionally the borrowed words will pointlessly inform us "VGA Plug Not Found" by showing their native forms. Most obvious example is data/datum. English stole these two words separately. Data is information, a 'liquid' that can't have a true singular or plural. A datum is a fixed point in geodetic mapping. It happily takes the regular -s plural. When you're looking at several fixed points, you've got several datums. This doesn't bother people who actually use the words, but for some reason "grammarians" have overactive firmware that pointlessly flashes a warning.
** Latin does have some vowel alterations in its forms, but they aren't recognized when the word is imported. Example: nominative singular index, nominative plural indices. Stock-market types are accustomed to talking of plural indices /ɪndɪsiz/. When they want the singular of indices, they backform /ɪndɪsi/, regularizing the suffix and two
foreign vowel changes all at once.
Labels: Language update