To Be, or Not: That Is the Question for Irregular Verbs

Study shows language evolves à la Darwin, less-used forms die off
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 11, 2007 10:44 AM CDT
To Be, or Not: That Is the Question for Irregular Verbs
The eleventh edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary is seen stacked on other dictionaries at the company's headquarters in Springfield, Mass., Tuesday, July 3, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)   (Associated Press)

Irregular verbs, much like the Kennewick Man, evolve. But, much like the woolly mammoth, sometimes they vanish altogether, and linguists and evolutionary theorists have teamed up to compute their extinction times—in terms of half-lives. The study, published this week in Nature, shows that irregular forms of lesser-used verbs are the first to become regularized.

The LA Times reports that just as "holp" became "helped" and "swole" became "swelled," one day soon "wed" might turn into "wedded." But don't get too cozy with "goed" or "haved"—the 10 most-common irregular verbs will stick around for 40,000 years. (More linguistics stories.)

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