ED Is Dead

I’m dying! I’m dying! I’m dead!

DyING is a process. The -ing ending indicates something continuous or progressive, that is, something that is in the process of happening (ex. I’m playing, jumping, laughing). So it makes sense that verbs ending in -ing are classified as present progressive tense or present continuous tense.

But now turn your attention from the written word to the sound. The -ing sound has a certain continuity to it. Say “dying” and hold the “ing” sound: dyinnnnnnnng. You can do this until you run out of breath.

When you really run out of breath you are dead. It’s the end of you. When you are dead you no longer exist. You existed in the past.

Exist. Existed. To make something happen in the past, we usually put an -ed ending on the verb. The past tense of die is died. The dying man died.

Say the word “died”. How is it different than saying “dying”? At the end of the word “died” you tongue hits the roof of your mouth and then just drops, just like a dying man’s arm might reach up for the people around him before dropping down limp. The -ed sound makes the word end. It’s not continuous. The word no longer exists in the present. The word is in the past. It no longer exists. It’s dead.

It’s no small coincide that past tense words end in -ed (ex. I played, jumped, laughed). The sound has a certain finality to it and indicates that the action has come to an enD. It points to the fact that meaning is embedded in sound. This is an idea that seems to evade most language instructors and an important reason for us to get away from written instruction and focus on the sounds of language.

For an interesting look at sound encoding in language, check out “Deciphering The English Code: The Untold History Of The Words We Speak” by Joseph Aronesty.

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