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GG Mora

The English Language

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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?

Why don't you answer it?

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LML, are you implying that "multicultural tolerance" is to be valued above language standardization insofar as language standardization (in a given period of time) makes it possible for people of different cultures to communicate with each other (assuming they speak the same "language" ) ?

 

Do I speak the same language as uneducated African-Americans who live in contemporary urban ghettos? Almost not. I can barely understand some of the kids I hear speaking on the subway sometimes, and I know they're speaking "English." Do you think this helps us as a society? Do you think it helps uneducated people to manage to earn a living in a world where they must deal with people who do not speak their version of "English?" Do you think that there should be some kind of standard English that everyone should have to learn in order, for example, to be granted a high school diploma?

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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.

as i am constantly reminded on the internet, reading is also a skill that is important.

 

for instance, in my earlier post i do not say that language is unimportant. instead i lay out a different set of priorities. "writing well" or communicating is about a lot more than grammar and spelling. writing perfectly--in terms of grammar and usage--while having nothing to say is a fairly pointless exercise.

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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.

as i am constantly reminded on the internet, reading is also a skill that is important.

 

for instance, in my earlier post i do not say that language is unimportant. instead i lay out a different set of priorities. "writing well" or communicating is about a lot more than grammar and spelling. writing perfectly--in terms of grammar and usage--while having nothing to say is a fairly pointless exercise.

Nobody is talking about "perfectly."

 

Split infinitives and incorrect usage - that's not only not perfect - it's also not even writing well.

 

Not teaching students to write well is, in my opinion, shortchanging them. If I were a parent of a student whose professor actively told him/her that incorrect usage wasn't so important as long as the ideas got across - I'd flip out.

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Nobody is talking about "perfectly."

 

Split infinitives and incorrect usage - that's not only not perfect - it's also not even writing well.

allow me to quote winston churchill to you on the correct use of split infinitives:

 

"this is the sort of english up with which i will not put."

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Nobody is talking about "perfectly."

 

Split infinitives and incorrect usage - that's not only not perfect - it's also not even writing well.

allow me to quote winston churchill to you on the correct use of split infinitives:

 

"this is the sort of english up with which i will not put."

You can choose to make jokes and use extreme examples, or you can defend your position. Your choice, of course.

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but see, that wasn't even about split infinitives, but about splitting hairs about ending sentences with prepositions.

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What do you mean by 'correct'?

 

.....

 

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

 

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.

No doubt language predates linguists, grammarians and William Safire, just as travel predates roads and music predates the musical scale.

 

However, in each case, the imposition of regulation allowed the antecedent activity to become more effecient and evolve to a higher level. People are free to attempt to change the consensus but, until they do, they will not only be "incorrect" in a strict sense, but less effective. You may wish to drive through the American countryside on the left side of the road, you will not find it an effective way to travel. Similarly you may decide that "infer" means "imply" as one insidious dictionary has. However, if you use "infer" when you mean "imply," you will be poorly understood.

 

That Shakespeare etal twisted the English language to their own ends is not relevant. They had, in the most literal sense of the word, poetic license. More to the point, their first goal is was to reach the reader or listener on an artistic and emotional level through the power and the beauty of their language, in a controlled context. They were not attempting to convey "practical" information. Shakespeare can write "to be or not to be, that is the question." A depressed individual on the suicide hotline might be better served with a more prosaic construct, lest the person at the other end of the line become confused.

 

In fact, let me stap back for a moment that, aside from purely ignorant and confusing usage -- imply/infer -- my commitment to propriety is limited largely to formal communication. Slang, jargon, pop phrases, odd foreignisms all contribute color and vibrancy to the language. Language is an art as well as a tool.

 

Mastering any of or all of them, however, does not relieve the speaker of an obligation to a core understanding of formal English, that can be used to communicate information effectively when the situation requires it. Rage against bourgeoise grammarians does not excuse inability to communicate in the common and accepted mother tongue when the situation demands; it particualr does not excuse simple usage errors such and inability to get a noun and a verb to agree.

 

I'm reminded of those wacko's out in Wyoming or wherever who, despite years of Supreme Court decisions, Congressional action and common acceptance, maintain that the U.S. income tax is unconstitutional and need not be paid.

 

To lapse into the vernacular - you can't just make things up to suit yourself as you go along. That shit don't float.

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"There's glory for you!"

"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' " Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't—till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!' "

"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument,' " Alice objected.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

"The question is, " said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty. "which is to be master—that's all."

 

-- Lewis Carol, "Through the Looking Glass"

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but see, that wasn't even about split infinitives, but about splitting hairs about ending sentences with prepositions.

So what?

 

You still haven't defended your position.

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LML, are you implying that "multicultural tolerance" is to be valued above language standardization insofar as language standardization (in a given period of time) makes it possible for people of different cultures to communicate with each other (assuming they speak the same "language" ) ?

 

Do I speak the same language as uneducated African-Americans who live in contemporary urban ghettos? Almost not. I can barely understand some of the kids I hear speaking on the subway sometimes, and I know they're speaking "English." Do you think this helps us as a society? Do you think it helps uneducated people to manage to earn a living in a world where they must deal with people who do not speak their version of "English?" Do you think that there should be some kind of standard English that everyone should have to learn in order, for example, to be granted a high school diploma?

The problem is that implicit in your opinions is the notion that the way you speak is the correct way, and that deviation from your language is incorrect. You are, in other words, setting yourself up as an authority. I would question that authority.

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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?

Why don't you answer it?

I would if you were able to convince me it were relevant.

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but see, that wasn't even about split infinitives, but about splitting hairs about ending sentences with prepositions.

So what?

 

You still haven't defended your position.

you still haven't read my posts carefully--if you do you'll see that you're continuing a non-argument. i don't particularly feel that i have a position to "defend". my attitudes to these matters are flexible and modulated by instance and audience--you seem to want to cast this in absolutes.

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here's a fairly sensible approach to these matters (and one i recommend to my students). note the entries on "rules" and "prescriptive and descriptive grammars".

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I am by no means an authority or the authority. I struggle to adhere to what I view as the standards by which those with whom I want to communicate might understand me.

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