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#31 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 03:44 PM

perhaps the question one should ask is not whether what one's saying is 'correct' or not, but whether it is communicatively effective, which is a far harder skill to achieve yet one that is infinitely more useful.

Among those who use the term, "aks" for "ask" is communicatively effective. If you and I decide to use "hello" to mean "goodbye", it will be communicatively effective between us, but I'm not sure that it will be infinitely more useful. However, I take your point that "correct" can imply an inflexibility that may not be useful.
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#32 ranitidine

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 03:44 PM

May I recommend "Language Crimes" by Roger Shuy, an eye-opening treatise on the ambiguity present in the everyday use of the English language.
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#33 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 03:46 PM

Which is correct and why:

"There are a number of people outside waiting to get in."

"There is a number of people waiting to get in"

and

"There are a large number of people who signed up."

"There is a large number of people who signed up."

In traditional American grammar, the word number is singular, even if it refers to a multitude of objects. So, I'd use "is" in both examples. I've noticed the newscasters, as arbiters of speech, have moved to the "are" form of late

So you might, but your usage would now be considered incorrect.

Not so. The acceptance of an alternative usage that may not be technically correct by presently accepted rules of grammar does not obviate the "correctness" of the originally accepted usage in this case.
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#34 g.johnson

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 03:47 PM

Among those who use the term, "aks" for "ask" is communicatively effective.

Though there is a certain ambiguity in "I aksed him for money".
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#35 omnivorette

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 03:50 PM

The acceptance of an alternative usage that may not be technically correct by presently accepted rules of grammar does not obviate the "correctness" of the originally accepted usage in this case.

Disagree. Language is an ever-changing thing. Eventually, usage does indeed dictate what is correct and incorrect. The rules of grammar change with time.
"It seems a positively Quixotic quest to defend food from being used as any kind of social signifier, as if it could avoid the fate of each other component of our everyday lives." -Wilfrid

#36 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 04:12 PM

The acceptance of an alternative usage that may not be technically correct by presently accepted rules of grammar does not obviate the "correctness" of the originally accepted usage in this case.

Disagree. Language is an ever-changing thing. Eventually, usage does indeed dictate what is correct and incorrect. The rules of grammar change with time.

Are you making the statement now that

"There is a large number of people waiting to get in." is incorrect?

Are you also saying that "I aksed him to give me the money." is correct?
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#37 omnivorette

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 04:17 PM

In the second case, I believe that the word itself has been changed in that usage, not the grammar. Different situation.

About the first, I don't think it's incorrect, I just think both are correct at this point in time. And as language marches on, one may be rendered completely incorrect. Probably not in our lifetime.
"It seems a positively Quixotic quest to defend food from being used as any kind of social signifier, as if it could avoid the fate of each other component of our everyday lives." -Wilfrid

#38 Busboy

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 04:22 PM

What do you mean by 'correct'?

The quantifying phrase "a (large) number of", despite taking the singular indefinite article 'a', is plural. It's much the same as 'a flock', 'a group' etc., which although singular countable nouns, imply plurality, so I suppose the appropriate option would be 'there are' in both cases.

However, this concept of 'correct' is entirely prescriptive. It's only 'correct' because someone decided it was, not for any intrinsic reason of language. Thankfully, modern linguists are now less concerned with telling people how to say things than with studying how people say things and I imagine in your example there would be a fairly even split.

Language is replete with ambiguity and perhaps the question one should ask is not whether what one's saying is 'correct' or not, but whether it is communicatively effective, which is a far harder skill to achieve yet one that is infinitely more useful.

You descriptivists are a pox on the corpus of effective communication. :(

People cannot communicate effectively unless there is a common understanding of meaning and structure.

Though the language cops do skew pedantic, the are fundamentally correct in their assumption poor usage leads to ineffective communication.

Studying how people say things is an interesting and important discipline. It in no way eclipses the need to teach people how they should say things.
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#39 Busboy

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 04:26 PM

Which is correct and why:

"There are a number of people outside waiting to get in."

"There is a number of people waiting to get in"

and

"There are a large number of people who signed up."

"There is a large number of people who signed up."

In traditional American grammar, the word number is singular, even if it refers to a multitude of objects. So, I'd use "is" in both examples. I've noticed the newscasters, as arbiters of speech, have moved to the "are" form of late

So you might, but your usage would now be considered incorrect.

'Couple' -- another one. It always used to be 'the couple is honeymooning in the Bahamas,' but now it's 'couple are.'

It always appeared to me that Brits use the plural when speaking of -- what shall we call them? -- collective-singular nouns. "The army are being deployed," "the Commons were debating," rather than "the army is being deployed," "the Congress is debating."
"We were just outside of Barstow, on the edge of the desert..." --HST

#40 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 04:30 PM

In the second case, I believe that the word itself has been changed in that usage, not the grammar. Different situation.

It is still an alternative usage that is aggressively promoted. As language marches on, might not "ask" be "rendered completely incorrect?" Is that fine? What if it is in fact combined with grammatical mutation? Is that fine?
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#41 omnivorette

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 04:36 PM

As language marches on, might not "ask" be "rendered completely incorrect?" Is that fine? What if it is in fact combined with grammatical mutation? Is that fine?

What is your opinion, Robert?
"It seems a positively Quixotic quest to defend food from being used as any kind of social signifier, as if it could avoid the fate of each other component of our everyday lives." -Wilfrid

#42 tanabutler

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 04:37 PM

How can one graduate from high school and not understand the difference between it's and its?

i have to admit that i often have to think twice about this one myself.

http://www.wsu.edu/~...errors/its.html

I've never had a problem with "it's" and "its," but a good mnemonic is that possessive pronouns do not take an apostrophe: his, hers, its.

#43 omnivorette

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 04:52 PM

In the second case, I believe that the word itself has been changed in that usage, not the grammar.  Different situation.

It is still an alternative usage that is aggressively promoted. As language marches on, might not "ask" be "rendered completely incorrect?" Is that fine? What if it is in fact combined with grammatical mutation? Is that fine?

Nobody writes axe or aks. And the use of those in oral English is restricted to certain populations.

Whom is a word which is all but gone in oral, colloquial English. I don't think that whom is incorrect, but it may be at some point.

How many people say "there's 4 eggs in the basket?" Many. But it's not written that way. But its common usage has made it acceptable, and it will eventually be considered correct.

How many people use the plural pronoun for a singular instance, for example "everyone should lift their arm" - but everyone is actually singular. It should be "everyone shoud lift his or her arm." But the use of "their" is so obiquitous that it's going to be correct in the future.

It used to be the case that the masculine pronoun was used as the universal pronoun. And in order to avoid that, came the quite awkward he/she or his/her. We don't have a gender neutral pronoun in English. It became politically incorrect to use "he" as the universal pronoun.

Language evolves. I'm not saying that's bad or good, it just is. There's no question about that.
"It seems a positively Quixotic quest to defend food from being used as any kind of social signifier, as if it could avoid the fate of each other component of our everyday lives." -Wilfrid

#44 omnivorette

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 04:53 PM

In the second case, I believe that the word itself has been changed in that usage, not the grammar.  Different situation.

It is still an alternative usage that is aggressively promoted. As language marches on, might not "ask" be "rendered completely incorrect?" Is that fine? What if it is in fact combined with grammatical mutation? Is that fine?

"Promoted?" By whom?
"It seems a positively Quixotic quest to defend food from being used as any kind of social signifier, as if it could avoid the fate of each other component of our everyday lives." -Wilfrid

#45 Rail Paul

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 05:08 PM

Which is correct and why:

"There are a number of people outside waiting to get in."

"There is a number of people waiting to get in"

and

"There are a large number of people who signed up."

"There is a large number of people who signed up."

In traditional American grammar, the word number is singular, even if it refers to a multitude of objects. So, I'd use "is" in both examples. I've noticed the newscasters, as arbiters of speech, have moved to the "are" form of late

So you might, but your usage would now be considered incorrect.

Not so. The acceptance of an alternative usage that may not be technically correct by presently accepted rules of grammar does not obviate the "correctness" of the originally accepted usage in this case.

I think there's always a lag between the point at which grammar and language begins to change, often at the margins, and a point at which there is general agreement language has changed. That's the reason why I framed my answer to Robert's question with the limiter "traditional."

The evolution from "his" to "their" which I noted earlier, is an example of particularly rapid change

The Sovereign's Address to the Opening of Parliament will probably use grammar and constructions familiar to Queen Victoria. Bow Wow, on the other hand, will probably use a different construction in his next rap, and likely incorporate contracted words, etc.

In context, neither is especially correct, I'd say.
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