Imagine a world of verbs and nothing else. Imagine a language whereby each and every word denoted an action, an occurrence or a state of being. To bring this scenario closer home, suppose all the nouns and other passive elements in our English language were non-existent. Such a scenario stretches the imagination, but it is conceivable, all the same. After all, all non-verb elements of our language are usually just clarifiers. A world full of verbs and nothing else is possible, though it would be radically different from what we are familiar with. Let’s explore such an existence for a moment.
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Verbs, by their very essence, are an amorphous group of words which can be crafted out of practically any other word. This is because every word that is not currently a verb describes a person, animal, geographical location, external conditions and so on, that can potentially take on an active form. For example, the word America is a definite noun. But from it, a verb can be derived. “All immigrants to the US end up being Americanized.” Americanized here is a passive form of the verb “Americanize”. This is a classic example to show that all forms of existence can be viewed in an active form, and from that, the verb can be derived.
So the fact that verbs are ubiquitous is settled. But how would a language without nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, tenses and other conjectures be like? Well, for one, the language would be impersonal. Most sentences constructed are pitted with numerous peripheral words just to give them a human touch. When addressing someone, you keep on using his or her name in the conversation. You also describe events or physical places by calling them by their proper nouns. In a verb-only language, such luxury would be non-existence. In its place would be a chain of impersonal instructions and commands- every sentence in effect being a precursor for action. A computer’s chain of commands is an excellent example here.
A language consisting of only verbs would also be distinctly vague. Imagine trying to refer to an object, without actually naming it, or describing it in any passive manner. Obviously, it would be very hard to accomplish that feat. So naturally, a language without verbs would also lack direct references to objects or other humans. Now since language plays an important role in our general psychological make up, this would mean that as humans, we would all be impersonal, both to ourselves and to those around us. It would be impossible to think of ourselves as individual entities, since the very possibility of individualism would be impossible to conceptualize.
Without any direct pointers to individuality both in our communications and our thoughts, we would be hard pressed to express personal uniqueness to other people. We wouldn’t, for example, be able to talk about ourselves in conversations, since we can’t even conceptualize our singular existence in the first place. And this lack of individualism would be extended right up to our inner thoughts. Thus, in reality, we would be mere existences without unique personalities. Humanity, as a whole, would consist of an action-oriented populace without the means to foster creativity, uniqueness, ambitions or aspirations. All the visions and goals that we now hold wouldn’t be possible in a world where they can’t be described.
Verbs describe action. For any living thing, action is the most fundamental character trait. In other words, every living thing moves – one way or another. However, it is the other functions within a human being that makes us more advanced than animals. We are able to think of abstract phenomena or existences because we have a name for them. And when we come up with an ingeniously new concept or perception, we automatically craft a name for it. All these names are either nouns or pronouns. Then, in order to incorporate these new names into our conversations and thought-streams, we use adjectives, adverbs and other descriptive words. Few of these descriptive words are verbs – in a strict sense. And because we can communicate with each other, define our personal existence in this world, and explore the external world from that view point, we are able to form a coherent, advanced culture. We are also able to accumulate knowledge, for any new discovery or invention is simply given an identifying code- a noun – and later generations need only understand this noun. In a verb-only world, discoveries and inventions would be unheard of. Knowledge accumulation would also be hard to accomplish. We would, in other words, be mere automatons, lacking individuality and personality.
The foregoing paints a grim picture of a verb-only world. Yet, when we think about it, this kind of a world probably exists. Animals, whether domestic or wild, all show the traits just described. They are action-oriented. They don’t show any long-term creativity or aspirations. And they usually act like automatons, reacting to environmental and internal stimuli, rather than initiating their own actions. Could it be that their ways of reasoning are governed by a verb-only stream of thought? It is food for thought.
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