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GG Mora

The English Language

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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.

The rapid change from "his" to "their" is a reflection of cultural and political changes of equal rapidity.

 

And I agree with your last statement somewhat, Paul - neither is correct in terms of universal common usage, but both are correct if they communicate effectively with the intended audience.

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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.

Are you suggesting that linguists prefigured language?

 

Personally, I am of the opinion that grammar is an explicit explanation of a language system that necessarily prefigured it. Not knowing grammatical terminology and 'rules' in no way impedes communicative ability. Indeed, self-conscious use of prescriptive grammar may even obstruct understanding, hence such campaigns as Plain English. Also, as any etymological dictionary will tell you, Shakespeare, Milton, Spenser etc. are not only literary giants but those who most altered the language to suit their needs. Fooling around with syntax and morphology is, by your definition, 'incorrect'.

 

I realize that there is a compelling need for consensus on how to teach language, and not every teacher can be his or her own arbiter of acceptability. Nevertheless, I don't believe that using a subject pronoun instead of and object pronoun, or ending a sentence with a preposition is 'incorrect', 'wrong' or anything else. Neither do I believe that, as Orik appeared to suggest earlier, that language is the preserve of the middle classes, and letting standards go will result in mutual unintelligibility.

 

No one, including the Middle Classes, has the right to demand a style of usage from another person. One has to remember that modern English grammar is only some 300 years old, and was extrapolated from Latin models, an inflected language of relatively free syntax, that has little in common with English. Not only this, but when grammar was fixed it was fixed onto one varietal of English, that of southern England's middle classes. Thus in one blow every variety that differed from this nascent Standard English became instantly 'incorrect'. This Standard English is still the variety of authority today, which is ironic because it is an utterly artificial class construct more in keeping with past imperialism than with the multicultural tolerance of today.

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

 

Right.

 

"No one, including the Middle Classes, has the right to demand a style of usage from another person."

 

We can talk about "rights" all we want, but unless someone does in fact demand a style of usage from another, the first statement is rendered meaningless, and communication ends.

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Again. Usage and grammar do not equal communication. Stop pretending they do.

 

The only thing that can reasonably be demanded is the effort to understand each other.

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Again. Usage and grammar do not equal communication. Stop pretending they do.

 

The only thing that can reasonably be demanded is the effort to understand each other.

yes. i tell my students that the most important thing is that they have interesting things to say in their papers, then that their papers are structured so that their ideas come across to best advantage, and finally that their language does not become a barrier to a reader's understanding. i am not particularly interested in things like split infinitives or technically incorrect usage which i nonetheless understand perfectly. i suppose i am one of those people responsible for a decline in "standards".

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Again. Usage and grammar do not equal communication. Stop pretending they do.

 

The only thing that can reasonably be demanded is the effort to understand each other.

Does "Tower of Babel" have any meaning to you?

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yes. i tell my students that the most important thing is that they have interesting things to say in their papers, then that their papers are structured so that their ideas come across to best advantage, and finally that their language does not become a barrier to a reader's understanding. i am not particularly interested in things like split infinitives or technically incorrect usage which i nonetheless understand perfectly. i suppose i am one of those people responsible for a decline in "standards".

I'm sure that will be particularly helpful when they're writing things to submit for publication.

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This Standard English is still the variety of authority today, which is ironic because it is an utterly artificial class construct more in keeping with past imperialism than with the multicultural tolerance of today.

How many steps is this position from one contending that merit is something handed out equally at birth?

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But if they're not taugh to write well and correctly, they won't be able to write for that audience.

 

You can tell them all you want about the audience, but if they don't know how to communicate to that audience, well then, have you really prepared them?

 

Are there many college freshmen in the US who can actually write a proper, complete English sentence these days? And can they do so when they graduate from college?

 

Does anybody know how many remedial English courses there are in the first year curricula of colleges and universities in the US?

 

PC be damned. This country is going to hell. Western civilization is on the decline. And I don't have to axe anybody to know that.

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Again. Usage and grammar do not equal communication. Stop pretending they do.

 

The only thing that can reasonably be demanded is the effort to understand each other.

Does "Tower of Babel" have any meaning to you?

It certainly does. Are you citing the story as evidence for your position?

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Two people can quite easily figure out a way to effectively communicate down to the smallest subtlety. But when the audience for communication broadens, standardization becomes much more important. Without standardization the communicator is limited to speaking to only those who are familiar with his way of using language and real understanding is then compromised. Hence, the need for RULES.

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Again. Usage and grammar do not equal communication. Stop pretending they do.

 

The only thing that can reasonably be demanded is the effort to understand each other.

Does "Tower of Babel" have any meaning to you?

It certainly does. Are you citing the story as evidence for your position?

Just adding the thought to the mix.

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This Standard English is still the variety of authority today, which is ironic because it is an utterly artificial class construct more in keeping with past imperialism than with the multicultural tolerance of today.

How many steps is this position from one contending that merit is something handed out equally at birth?

What do you mean by this question?

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