Languages always develop towards simplicity – except when they don’t

Somebody suggested to me recently that languages always develop towards simplicity. It is not unusual for people to think that. There is a popular opinion out there that languages start out as very complex but over time the grammar and vocabulary and pronunciation and everything becomes more simple.

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“The passive voice must not be used”

Somebody called Marie Murray has written an opinion piece for the Irish Times in which she berates the passive voice (The passive voice is the penultimate weapon of denial, 31 July 2009). She basically says that the passive voice is bad because it lets people get away with not admitting responsibility for their actions. But while the moral side of her argument is true and laudable, the linguistics she uses to support it is, at best, shaky.

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