The Mathematics of English

English and Mathematics are very different subjects. Even the parts of our brain that are active for the two are different. Yet there is a certain math that is involved in any language and that includes English. This is called grammar. It is these set of rules that set a degree of restraint for the correct usage of the language.

I very well remember how in middle school, when posed with all these grammatical rules, I was a bit disappointed. English was my favourite subject and what I found most fascinating about it was its flexible freedom – popularly known as creativity. Bringing down a set of dos and don’ts just seemed to be taking away from it what I cherished most. I was confronted with the Math of English. (And I hated Math!)

At first, I tried mugging up all the rules. But then, there were so many of them that it was impossible to get them all right! Finally, I stopped. I couldn’t let my favourite subject also become the subject to rigid logic. So there I was, using the language any way I liked, brushing it up along the way till it sounded correct, listening to others who knew their words well and just using my words like them. Slowly and steadily, it all came to me too.

See, that is what makes any language so enjoyable. We, the people, no matter of which generation, status or aptitude, have the power to mould a language. We don’t need a PhD to be able to tweak the math when required. That is precisely why while Mathematics as a subject goes straight to the head, English (or any language, for that matter) – with or without its math – goes straight to the heart!

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