Note: This post deals with one of the constructed languages in my upcoming novel The True Story of Jude. Alongside Arg, the novel also includes a constructed Creole from the Australian town of Orange.
Arg is a variety of English spoken in the Kingdom of England and Wales, which differs markedly from The King’s English to the extent that it can be classified as a dialect. The name Arg can be traced back to a paper published by the Cerebrum think tank in 0012 that advocated the banning of ‘unauthorised dialects and argots of English’. The term ‘argot’ was ridiculed by campaigners for language liberalisation outside the Kingdom, and was widely disseminated in the graffiti meme ‘hands off my Arg’.
Unverified sources claim that 22% of English speakers in K.E.W. understand Arg ‘well’, 67% ‘moderately well’, and 11% ‘not well’. Some 34 % of the K.E.W. population are claimed to speak Arg at least once a month.
Arg exists in a code-switching relationship with The King’s English. It is typically used for in-group conversation, e.g. intimate peer speech, non-professional workplaces, among boy bankers and girl bankers, and among criminals. It is not unusual, for example, for a manual worker to speak The King’s English in a workshop but to switch to Arg in an encounter in the washroom with a colleague. Using Arg in certain contexts can be interpreted as an implicit act of opposition to the rule of law in K.E.W.
Arg is rarely written except in the captions of some samizdat graphic novels, for example, the notorious Zak and Zina msorta fool around.
Loris Hacker’s book Arg: The Future of English, now proscribed in the K.E.W., argues that Arg is ‘the vanguard of English’ since it progresses language change features that were largely halted with language standardisation and the introduction of printing in the sixteenth century.
Grammatical features of Arg
The grammar of Arg differs from The King’s English in several ways:
1. Loss of inflection in nouns.
Nouns in Old English (sometimes known as Anglo-Saxon) bore inflections, i.e. endings to indicate their role in a sentence or to indicate plural number. For example, the word for ‘angel’ had the forms engel, engles, engle, englas, engla, and englum. In The King’s English today, those inflection are lost, except for the plural -s and a handful of ‘irregular’ plurals such as -en in children. Arg has taken the final step of losing even the plural inflections.
Example: Two rouble, nine girl [Two roubles, nine girls]
2. Loss of verb inflections
Old English had a rich system of verb inflections to convey such things as subject and tense, e.g. lufie, lufast, lufath, the present tense forms for ‘love’ with the pronouns I, you and he/she respectively. The corresponding past tense forms are lufode, lufodest, lufode. In The King’s English, we see a weakened system of inflections, with just a few vestiges of the Old English system, e.g. -s, -ed and -ing in ‘loves’, ‘loved’, ‘loving’. However, Arg has lost all verb inflections.
3. Verb modifiers
To compensate for the loss of verb inflections, Arg has developed a set of verb modifiers that have the status of independent words rather than endings. Examples include:
Past tense modifier did
Unlike The King’s English, which uses inflected forms of do to form questions, tags and ellipsis, e.g. Do you like tea? He wrote the book, didn’t he? Yes, we do., in Arg, only an uninflected form did remains. It is used optionally to indicate actions in the past, e.g. He arrive, he did arrive [He arrived.]
Progressive modifiers ‘msorta, ‘mlike and ‘mkinda
‘msorta has developed from ‘I’m sort of’, e.g. ‘I’m sort of talking to my sister’. The inflected forms, e.g. ‘he’s sort of’ and ‘you’re sort of’ have been lost. At the same time the progressive inflection -ing has been discarded in Arg, to yield examples such as:
He’msorta eat dinner. [He’s eating dinner.]
We’msorta wait. [We’re waiting].
Baz ‘msorta fish. [Baz is fishing].
The other progressive modifiers, ‘mlike and ‘mkinda, are interchangeable with ‘msorta, e.g
He’mlike eat dinner
He’mkinda eat dinner
Modifiers can be combined, (with the proviso that did is optional) e.g.
I’m did sorta kiss her [I was kissing her]
He’m did like sit on the bench [He was sitting on the bench]
4. Nominalisation of complementizers
The -ing inflection is preserved in Arg in order to form nominalisations that correspond to to-infinitives and to-less infinitives in the King’s English, e.g.
I want eating chips. [I want to eat chips.]She ‘mlike help me chopping
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