Being too correct?

For the discussion of language mechanics, grammar, vocabulary, trends, and other such linguistic topics, in english and other languages.

Moderators: gmalivuk, Moderators General, Prelates

what to do about "The English Question"?

We should just "go with the flow"
40
39%
We should learn the accepted English of today and stick to it
10
10%
We should learn all the grammar rules of "Modern English" and use them
22
21%
English should be revised completely
6
6%
Let's all speak like Shakespeare
5
5%
Let's all speak like an otter
20
19%
 
Total votes: 103

User avatar
ZLVT
Posts: 1448
Joined: Wed Feb 13, 2008 3:56 pm UTC
Location: Canberra, Australia
Contact:

Being too correct?

Postby ZLVT » Mon Jul 28, 2008 3:31 am UTC

As some of you may know, I oppose the divergent evolution of the English language. In fact I oppose the Evolution of the English language's grammar and syntax full stop. In an effort to speak well, I don't use "good" adverbially, I use the accusative interogative personal pronoun (whom) and express the subjunctive with "were" not "was". It occurs however, that all this, means speaking the way people did back in "the olden days", before "shall" lost its identity to "will" since both contracted to "-'ll". When I'm speaking with my grammar nazi friends, our English begins to slightly resemble Shakespearean/Elizabethan English (due in part to using archaic words which describe things perfectly, but are no longer in use) but where should one draw the line? using "whom", "were", and "shall" are concidered the hallmarks of an educated speaker, but "thou" and "ye" are seen as pretentious mediaeval wannabe obsolete words. If we go further and further back, we'll find that verbs conjugated for person even more than Dutch verbs do today. Should I begin speaking in an unintelligible Old English variant? Should I blindly ignore what semblance of grammar remains in the language? ooo let's make a poll.

Clearly, English is not my own language and I don't see it as special or beautiful. I just want to speak it well, and not follow the trends of laziness and uneducation, mixing the past tense and participle, conjugating verbs for the wrong person (we is chillin', the way I are, I/you/he/she/it/we/you/they be anythinging etc), ignoring the subjunctive all together and so on.
22/♂/hetero/atheist/★☭/Image

Originator of the DIY ASL tags

User avatar
steewi
Posts: 873
Joined: Mon Feb 18, 2008 3:38 am UTC
Location: Tropical Nowhere

Re: Being too correct?

Postby steewi » Mon Jul 28, 2008 4:44 am UTC

I'm a "go with the flow"-er. English will change, and the standard will change with it, albeit at a slower rate. The standard will remain that by which people are judged as educated or uneducated, but the future standard of English won't necessarily be the same as the current one. French has a 400 year history of standardisation, and the standards have changed. There are still people speaking non-standard French (Ch'ti and others, some of which are almost separate languages) but they still learn the current standard French in school. Sure, English has no official institution to decree things as standard or non-standard, but the multiple official standards are still changing to fit the current climate - the current Harvard standards of English aren't the same ones they had 100 years ago, but the changes are still mild.

jimrandomh
Posts: 110
Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2008 7:03 am UTC
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby jimrandomh » Mon Jul 28, 2008 8:18 am UTC

If a new word, usage or construction enters the language and becomes widely accepted, then you should not tell people that it's incorrect. That would be lying. If a large enough percentage of native speakers use it, then it is correct English by definition of English. If you falsely accuse people of speaking incorrectly, then they won't listen when you truthfully tell them that they're speaking gibberish.

On the other hand, some dialects contain constructions which people react negatively to. More specifically, anyone who speaks with an inner-city ghetto accent is assumed to be stupid and poor. This is extremely unfair, but demographically speaking, it's usually true. Children pick up bits of this dialect from music and television, and need to have it beaten out of them, lest they reduce the wrong consonant cluster or use the habitual 'be' in front of an interviewer.

However, it's easy to take this too far. It's easier to impress a teacher with linguistic somersaults than with clear writing. The scale is something like
  • Didn't hand anything in [F]
  • "Ima get luch", he sed [D]
  • "Hey, let's get lunch," said the protagonist. [C]
  • "Yes, I'm hungry and it's lunchtime," said the foil. [B]
  • "I do therefore hereby decree that this group ought now to set forth in search of an establishment which can provide us with suitable comestibles," said the villain. [A+]
"Proper English" means learning to land a linguistic somersault, but no one ever points out what a bad idea it is to actually do one. Grammar is instinctive, and best left that way; spend your effort correcting style instead.

User avatar
Pa-Patch
Posts: 124
Joined: Wed Jun 11, 2008 4:16 am UTC
Location: Winnipeg, MB

Re: Being too correct?

Postby Pa-Patch » Mon Jul 28, 2008 8:26 am UTC

Language should be as casual as possible without prohibiting communication. If you're taking your grammar or fancy words (Not that I don't enjoy or even primarily think in fancy words) so far that they're getting in the way of people understanding you or just using up too much time, you're doing it wrong.
Language is there to communicate. While paying attention to subtle differences between words can be both fun and useful (in certain company), most grammatical precision is dumb. Yeah, there's a line to be drawn where we don't wanna look like idiots and we don't wanna do shit, like this; ...! but most grammar strikes me as a way for English professors and the like to have something to criticize.

Asleep or Wrong
Posts: 78
Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2007 10:34 am UTC
Location: sirmio
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby Asleep or Wrong » Mon Jul 28, 2008 11:00 am UTC

Ignoring the prescription/description thing entirely, a unified prestige language and a ton of common Anglic family prole-langauges would be way radder than a single prescribed rigid English. So I'm going to have to go with that.

goofy
Posts: 911
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 3:32 pm UTC

Re: Being too correct?

Postby goofy » Mon Jul 28, 2008 2:27 pm UTC

ZLVT wrote:In an effort to speak well, I don't use "good" adverbially,


"good" has been an adverb since the 1300s.

ZLVT wrote: express the subjunctive with "were" not "was".


Writers have been using "was" for 300 years.

Good luck holding the line.
Clearly, English is not my own language and I don't see it as special or beautiful. I just want to speak it well, and not follow the trends of laziness and uneducation, mixing the past tense and participle, conjugating verbs for the wrong person (we is chillin', the way I are, I/you/he/she/it/we/you/they be anythinging etc), ignoring the subjunctive all together and so on.


I'd suggest doing what the native speakers do. They are the experts, after all. Language changes but it doesn't degrade. People have been complaining about language degradation for thousands of years. If language really did degrade, then we should be speaking in grunts and growls, soon to be only grunts.

Take the subjunctive... we don't ignore the subjunctive if we use "was", we're just using a different form.

Baza210
Posts: 219
Joined: Sat May 17, 2008 9:29 pm UTC
Location: Ireland.

Re: Being too correct?

Postby Baza210 » Mon Jul 28, 2008 2:52 pm UTC

goofy wrote:I'd suggest doing what the native speakers do. They are the experts, after all.


I took "not my own" to mean: "I am not the proprietor of the English language and thus cannot decree the terms of usage for others", not "English isn't my first language". The OP is in Australia, after all.

For my own part, I'm currently struggling to stave off the assimilation of "should of" in to my writing.


Ugh. Imagine if I actually spoke like that.
Here I'm allowed everything all of the time

goofy
Posts: 911
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 3:32 pm UTC

Re: Being too correct?

Postby goofy » Mon Jul 28, 2008 3:04 pm UTC

Baza210 wrote:I took "not my own" to mean: "I am not the proprietor of the English language and thus cannot decree the terms of usage for others", not "English isn't my first language". The OP is in Australia, after all.


I assumed they were not a native speaker. My apologies if that's not the case.

Baza210
Posts: 219
Joined: Sat May 17, 2008 9:29 pm UTC
Location: Ireland.

Re: Being too correct?

Postby Baza210 » Mon Jul 28, 2008 3:25 pm UTC

goofy wrote:
Baza210 wrote:I took "not my own" to mean: "I am not the proprietor of the English language and thus cannot decree the terms of usage for others", not "English isn't my first language". The OP is in Australia, after all.


I assumed they were not a native speaker. My apologies if that's not the case.


Any my apologies to you if that is the case ; )
Here I'm allowed everything all of the time

User avatar
ZLVT
Posts: 1448
Joined: Wed Feb 13, 2008 3:56 pm UTC
Location: Canberra, Australia
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby ZLVT » Mon Jul 28, 2008 3:27 pm UTC

What I meant was that while I speak English very well, and have for years, since I emmigrated to Oz in 1991 (by which time I already spoke Hungarian at the age of ...2) I don't feel any connection to it, it's not /my/ language, I don't feel a special buzz from hearing it, I don't really associate with it, nor do I care about the state of the language per se. Whereas, someone mangling magyar is like torture to my ears, it's /my/ language, it's what I default to with my countrymen and I feel persoanlly cut when other languages invade it, we're trying to rid the entire passive and middle voice constructs as they are too german, and at the same time it's become "cool" to use English back home. It honestly hurts me.

Sigh, I should have started a betting pool on my fluency.
22/♂/hetero/atheist/★☭/Image

Originator of the DIY ASL tags

User avatar
protocoach
Posts: 251
Joined: Thu Feb 14, 2008 6:44 am UTC
Location: Omaha, NE
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby protocoach » Mon Jul 28, 2008 4:20 pm UTC

Go with the flow. The best thing about English is the adaptability and the constant evolution. Trying to crystallize it is removing one of the things that makes English beautiful. Besides, the extra stuff that the OP seems to dislike makes speaking English fun. You can blend Shakespearean English with Ebonics and Valley Girl. Then you can laugh at all the people who's shit's all retarded and talk like fags. I like to play around with words and construct abnormally formal sentences using uncommon grammar as much as the next guy, but sometimes it's fun to drop into ghetto slang.
If I were a Viking god, I don't think I would fall for that.
But if I were a Viking, that's exactly what I would do.

How can you study geometry and not believe in a God?
A God of perfect points and planes,
Surrounded by arch-angels and right angles

User avatar
4=5
Posts: 2073
Joined: Sat Apr 28, 2007 3:02 am UTC

Re: Being too correct?

Postby 4=5 » Mon Jul 28, 2008 8:50 pm UTC

I try to encourage change so I can find the rules and then do cool things

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26767
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jul 30, 2008 5:42 am UTC

Go with the flow.

If you want to speak an unchanging language, there are plenty of dead ones to choose from.

And if you insist on speaking an unchanging English, you can pick a dead version of that, too.

Ic láþie éow for þám þe éow ne cunnon mid rihte sprecan þá Angliscan tungan. Declí­niaþ éower word, búras! And saga mid rihte þínne selfswégend!
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
ZLVT
Posts: 1448
Joined: Wed Feb 13, 2008 3:56 pm UTC
Location: Canberra, Australia
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby ZLVT » Wed Jul 30, 2008 7:12 am UTC

you sure you meant "éow" and not "þe"?
22/♂/hetero/atheist/★☭/Image

Originator of the DIY ASL tags

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26767
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jul 30, 2008 1:47 pm UTC

You're not the only one who has weird notions about preferring to speak an unchanging language, according to the poll.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
ZLVT
Posts: 1448
Joined: Wed Feb 13, 2008 3:56 pm UTC
Location: Canberra, Australia
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby ZLVT » Wed Jul 30, 2008 2:49 pm UTC

Yup..but what does the OE say?
22/♂/hetero/atheist/★☭/Image

Originator of the DIY ASL tags

Pan9
Posts: 8
Joined: Wed Jul 30, 2008 2:58 pm UTC

Re: Being too correct?

Postby Pan9 » Wed Jul 30, 2008 3:20 pm UTC

People do get lazy though, especially with texting language.

User avatar
Red Hal
Magically Delicious
Posts: 1445
Joined: Wed Nov 28, 2007 2:42 pm UTC

Re: Being too correct?

Postby Red Hal » Wed Jul 30, 2008 3:54 pm UTC

Horses for courses. As has already been mentioned, English is a fluid, hybrid, ever-changing language. What is acceptable in one age is considered archaic in the next, and what is considered unconscionable in that age, becomes the normal form in the next.

When a word, idiom, cliché or form of speech becomes an acceptable part of modern English, then - though I may not adopt it - I will not wince internally when I hear or see it. As an example, I used to wince when young children used the word fart. To me the correct form in polite company was "pass wind" (or even better to ignore the matter entirely). Then one day, while reading New Scientist, I saw it in print. The next month it was used twice in national broadsheet newspapers. Now, although I don't tend to use the word myself, I accept that it is no longer considered impolite.

Equally there are some things that - while they may signal the more educated speaker - cause me no concern when missing. Examples include the colon/semi-colon debate, hyphen versus dash, placing full stops after each letter in an initialism, and other casualties of the era of ASCII keyboards.

I just wanted to say at this point that I'm not a stickler for language, nor am I a fucking prude; there are some things, however, that really get my goat and are the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put*:

The Greengrocer's apostrophe; confusing possessives with plurals.
Substituting "U" and "W8" and "L8R" and other such textisms in lieu of their full equivalents when the author has a full keyboard in front of them.
Affect / effect.**
Pretty much anything here: http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html.

So to summarise my position:

A changing English language is both inevitable and to be embraced; sloppiness should be neither.











*A cookie if you recognise the (alleged) author.
**Yes I am a bona fide grammar nazistickler on that one. (Edited to avoid Godwin's law, which would reference yet another xkcd comic and which would result in the entire post imploding in a morass of self- and internet-sub-culture- references.)
Lost Greatest Silent Baby X Y Z. "There is no one who loves pain itself, who seeks after it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain..."

goofy
Posts: 911
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 3:32 pm UTC

Re: Being too correct?

Postby goofy » Wed Jul 30, 2008 4:35 pm UTC

Red Hal wrote:The Greengrocer's apostrophe; confusing possessives with plurals.


I don't think anyone is confusing possessives with plurals. If they were, they would say or write something like the men hats instead of the man's hats.

"There was formerly a respectable tradition (17-19c) of using the apostrophe for noun plurals." The modern use of the apostrophe to mark plurals seems to be a remnant of that. Also: "it appears from the evidence that there was never a golden age in which the rules for the use of the possessive apostrophe in English were clear-cut and known, understood, and followed by most educated people."

User avatar
Red Hal
Magically Delicious
Posts: 1445
Joined: Wed Nov 28, 2007 2:42 pm UTC

Re: Being too correct?

Postby Red Hal » Wed Jul 30, 2008 4:42 pm UTC

Confusing possessives with plurals:

Sign in a Greengrocer's window: "Cabbage's £0.30/lb"

Sign in a Cobbler's window: "Shoe's £9.99"


Edit: I forgot to deal with your link to the encyclopaedia. My take on their (mis)usage jives with that of Michael Quinion: http://www.worldwidewords.org/articles/apostrophe.htm.
Lost Greatest Silent Baby X Y Z. "There is no one who loves pain itself, who seeks after it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain..."

User avatar
schmiggen
Posts: 383
Joined: Wed Nov 28, 2007 12:15 am UTC
Location: location, location

Re: Being too correct?

Postby schmiggen » Wed Jul 30, 2008 5:27 pm UTC

ZLVT wrote:I just want to speak it well,

In my opinion, what it means to speak a language well is to be savvy in using it to communicate with others who speak it. So... the only way to speak a language well is to do two things in conjunction: go with the flow (or at least understand it), and tailor your speech or writing to your audience. (Note that tailoring speech to an audience doesn't necessarily mean speaking as they do, although it can.)

That's what language is there for, so if you're not enamored with a particular phase in its evolution, it seems a bit silly to shy away from change.
Kabann wrote:Aw hell, as far as I'm concerned the world started in late 1967. Everything else is just semantics and busy-work.

User avatar
22/7
I'm pretty sure I have "The Slavery In My Asshole" on DVD.
Posts: 6475
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 3:30 pm UTC
Location: 127.0.0.1

Re: Being too correct?

Postby 22/7 » Wed Jul 30, 2008 5:30 pm UTC

I have to agree with schmiggen here. Basically as soon as speaking correctly hampers your ability to communicate it needs to go.
Totally not a hypothetical...

Steroid wrote:
bigglesworth wrote:If your economic reality is a choice, then why are you not as rich as Bill Gates?
Don't want to be.
I want to be!

goofy
Posts: 911
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 3:32 pm UTC

Re: Being too correct?

Postby goofy » Wed Jul 30, 2008 5:49 pm UTC

Red Hal wrote:Confusing possessives with plurals:

Sign in a Greengrocer's window: "Cabbage's £0.30/lb"

Sign in a Cobbler's window: "Shoe's £9.99"


That's not confusing the possessive with the plural. That's using the apostrophe as a plural marker. If these people were really confusing the possessive with the plural, then we would expect to find them using the plural where the possessive is required (for instance the men hats instead of the man's hats) and they don't.

User avatar
22/7
I'm pretty sure I have "The Slavery In My Asshole" on DVD.
Posts: 6475
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 3:30 pm UTC
Location: 127.0.0.1

Re: Being too correct?

Postby 22/7 » Wed Jul 30, 2008 6:16 pm UTC

They're both confusing the two.
Totally not a hypothetical...

Steroid wrote:
bigglesworth wrote:If your economic reality is a choice, then why are you not as rich as Bill Gates?
Don't want to be.
I want to be!

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26767
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jul 30, 2008 6:45 pm UTC

No, they are using the apostrophe to mark plurals. They know damn well that they aren't talking about possession, and that apostrophe+s+noun is possessive.

But yeah, speaking so "correctly" that people have trouble understanding you, means you're not speaking it very well. I'd go further and say that speaking in a way that is comprehensible but pretentious-sounding for your particular audience, to the point of being distracting, also means you're not speaking it very well.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
steewi
Posts: 873
Joined: Mon Feb 18, 2008 3:38 am UTC
Location: Tropical Nowhere

Re: Being too correct?

Postby steewi » Thu Jul 31, 2008 12:50 am UTC

ZLVT wrote:Yup..but what does the OE say?


Ic láþie éow for þám þe éow ne cunnon mid rihte sprecan þá Angliscan tungan. Declí­niaþ éower word, búras! And saga mid rihte þínne selfswégend!


"I hate you because you don't speak English correctly. Decline your word, peasant! And say your vowels correctly!"

I can't remember if English used a V/T pronoun distinction at this time, but I don't think so, in which case, "Ic þe láþie..." might be more appropriate, addressing only one person. Correction welcome.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26767
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 31, 2008 3:46 am UTC

steewi wrote:
ZLVT wrote:Yup..but what does the OE say?

Ic láþie éow for þám þe éow ne cunnon mid rihte sprecan þá Angliscan tungan. Declí­niaþ éower word, búras! And saga mid rihte þínne selfswégend!

"I hate you because you don't speak English correctly. Decline your word, peasant! And say your vowels correctly!"

I can't remember if English used a V/T pronoun distinction at this time, but I don't think so, in which case, "Ic þe láþie..." might be more appropriate, addressing only one person. Correction welcome.

But, as I said above, I wasn't only addressing one person. I notice now that the þínne in the last sentence is probably misplaced, though, in that case...
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
ZLVT
Posts: 1448
Joined: Wed Feb 13, 2008 3:56 pm UTC
Location: Canberra, Australia
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby ZLVT » Thu Jul 31, 2008 6:26 am UTC

Red Hal wrote:the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put*:


*A cookie if you recognise the (alleged) author.


Winston churchill (though at least half of the posters above me knew that, and no he didn't say it.
Schmiggen wrote:In my opinion, what it means to speak a language well is to be savvy in using it to communicate with others who speak it. So... the only way to speak a language well is to do two things in conjunction: go with the flow (or at least understand it), and tailor your speech or writing to your audience. (Note that tailoring speech to an audience doesn't necessarily mean speaking as they do, although it can.)

That's what language is there for, so if you're not enamored with a particular phase in its evolution, it seems a bit silly to shy away from change.


In Hungarian, we had a weird l sound once, which was transcribed (from the original runes) as "ly" it now makes a y sound as does the character j (although if you exchange the y sound for l, if it still is intelligible, it's probably an ly) anyway, I suggested to my father that we should scrap the ly and just use j everywhere and he said that when he'd suggested a similar thing to his father, the reply had been "It's not the language that needs dumbing down, you should educate the population to the level of the language" and a famous author of ours (Karinthy Frigyes) once wrote "the/a nation/people lives in its language" (nyelvében él a nemzet), so I guess I see "language evolution" as a sort of conquest of the idiots. People who can't handle the difference between who and whom discarded the latter and then society shrugged and called it good. It's not only disrespectful to the language (imho) but a very poor sign of the state of society. Like when we moved to Oz, the anthem still had 2 verses (of the original 5-6*), now it has but one, and not long after they discarded it, there was an ad on tv saying "...we could never remember the second verse of our anthem, so we just got rid of it." (it was an AOL ad btw) and we were appalled that someone would be proud of having discarded half of their anthem, as though this was a sign of great ingenuity on the part of the aussies (pronounces ozzies for those of you who have not yet learnt)


*argued
22/♂/hetero/atheist/★☭/Image

Originator of the DIY ASL tags

goofy
Posts: 911
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 3:32 pm UTC

Re: Being too correct?

Postby goofy » Thu Jul 31, 2008 1:02 pm UTC

ZLVT wrote:"It's not the language that needs dumbing down, you should educate the population to the level of the language" and a famous author of ours (Karinthy Frigyes) once wrote "the/a nation/people lives in its language" (nyelvében él a nemzet), so I guess I see "language evolution" as a sort of conquest of the idiots. People who can't handle the difference between who and whom discarded the latter and then society shrugged and called it good. It's not only disrespectful to the language (imho) but a very poor sign of the state of society.


So when English lost "thou", were speakers being disrespectful to it? When English lost "hie" and replaced it with "they" (borrowed from Old Norse), was that when the idiots took over? Or was it when the Angles and Saxons moved to England, and started the long downward slide known as English?

If you believe that every time the language changes we're being disrespectful to it, then that implies that you believe that the language was at one time better than it is now, and has been declining in quality ever since. And since the language is not as good as it once was, we can't communicate as well as we could in the past.

But there is no objective measure for determining language degradation. Saying that we know when a language is undegraded and when it is degraded implies we know absolutely everything there is to know about language, and we don't. We know very little about language.

User avatar
ZLVT
Posts: 1448
Joined: Wed Feb 13, 2008 3:56 pm UTC
Location: Canberra, Australia
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby ZLVT » Thu Jul 31, 2008 1:08 pm UTC

Am I the only person here who sees languages as more than just a way of communication?

EDIT: See, what I don't get is, if everyone had good grammar, then whenever someone made a mistake, they'd be corrected and then they'd know how to speak, so does this mean that language simplification is brought on by people not being corrected? Which in turn is brought on by people not knowing/caring? Or have I just got the wrong end of the stick?
22/♂/hetero/atheist/★☭/Image

Originator of the DIY ASL tags

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26767
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 31, 2008 1:51 pm UTC

What you've got wrong is far more basic. You're assuming, for one thing, that language change is always in the direction of simplification. For another, you're assuming that such a direction can even objectively be said to exist. Some people find inflected languages with less emphasis on word order to be simpler. Others find the opposite. There is no objective way to say one is correct and the other is incorrect.

Language change is brought about by dozens of different causes. Changes in phonology, for instance, can result from a sort of tug-of-war between the existing language and new borrowings. (As in, borrowed words are pronounced so they fit a bit more with existing words, while at the same time still generally introducing new sounds that, over time, will probably effect how the language as a whole sounds.)

The only constant regarding langauge change, really, is that there always seem to be people like you crying over the "dumbing down" of the way we speak. But of course, it's impossible for anything to be in a continual state of degrading without, well, somehow being worse off later than it was before. And like I said, there's no way at all that you can possibly demonstrate that on anything other than your personal aesthetic grounds.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
ZLVT
Posts: 1448
Joined: Wed Feb 13, 2008 3:56 pm UTC
Location: Canberra, Australia
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby ZLVT » Thu Jul 31, 2008 1:58 pm UTC

I would say that the loss of the accusative and dative cases, dual number and full verb conjugation paradigms was a simplification. German has full paradigms and still uses pronouns to denote person and number so I don't think the focus was shifted from verb inflection to pronoun use, rather the former was abandoned (nearly) entirely. Also the loss of gender. I happen to enjoy genderless languages, gendered nouns are a plague imho but it occurs, how could gender be lost? It was there some centuries ago and isn't there now. Something happened, I want to know what. Who was responcible and why?
22/♂/hetero/atheist/★☭/Image

Originator of the DIY ASL tags

goofy
Posts: 911
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 3:32 pm UTC

Re: Being too correct?

Postby goofy » Thu Jul 31, 2008 2:00 pm UTC

Children are sometimes explicitly corrected when they are learning the language, but most correction is implicit. For instance children first form the past tense regularly for all verbs: "I break, I breaked". They later correct this to "I broke". I can't imagine that every child is explicitly told what all the irregular past tense forms are.

We have acquired most of the grammar of our native language before we start school. What you mean by "good grammar" is prescriptive grammar, the grammar we are taught in school, which doesn't necessarily have much to do with the language as it is used. Prescriptive grammar isn't a good measure of determining language degradation or simplification. Most languages have no usage books or prescriptivists, and no one would say that those languages are corrupt or bad.

If an adult makes a mistake, whether it's a real disfluency or an error of prescriptive grammar (like who/whom), I'd think they're likely to be corrected only if there's a breakdown in communication.

As for why language changes, no one knows, but it does change. Change is a fact of all languages.

ZLVT wrote:I would say that the loss of the accusative and dative cases, dual number and full verb conjugation paradigms was a simplification.


You could say it was a simplification. Many languages exhibit this sort of simplification. But there's no justification for saying it's bad.

Something happened, I want to know what. Who was responcible and why?


I recommend David Crystal's The Stories of English.

User avatar
protocoach
Posts: 251
Joined: Thu Feb 14, 2008 6:44 am UTC
Location: Omaha, NE
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby protocoach » Thu Jul 31, 2008 2:17 pm UTC

ZLVT wrote:Am I the only person here who sees languages as more than just a way of communication?

Well, in a way, that's all they are. You can make an argument that they're a reflection of the culture that uses them, but you're fighting that interpretation with an insistence on freezing the language in a current form. If we did that, it would cease to be a record of the culture and would become a record of an earlier culture. Crystallizing language removes most of the meanings for it outside of "a way of communication".
If I were a Viking god, I don't think I would fall for that.
But if I were a Viking, that's exactly what I would do.

How can you study geometry and not believe in a God?
A God of perfect points and planes,
Surrounded by arch-angels and right angles

User avatar
ZLVT
Posts: 1448
Joined: Wed Feb 13, 2008 3:56 pm UTC
Location: Canberra, Australia
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby ZLVT » Thu Jul 31, 2008 2:41 pm UTC

But you could argue that then language purity is also bad in that it won't allow you to track the influence of other languages on your own, while personally, I want Hungary to go for the language reform again and this time wipe ALL the foreign words out, not just some, Christ, we have our own langugae and it's served us well, why would we poison it with other languages' words? Go Iceland!

Also, as languages are simplified, I'd say it becomes harder and harder to make it jump hoops and bend over for you, because things are more straight forward. Besides, I happen to be proud of speaking the language widely concidered to be the hardest language for an English speaker to learn. Why would I make it easier for you?

Your language is something to be proud of, like your masterpeice. What if Rick Rubin had told Motzart that he wanted to take out the bassline of "Requiem" and add an nts nts nts beat. It's make the peice simpler, easier for more people to appreciate and like, but it's lost so much.
22/♂/hetero/atheist/★☭/Image

Originator of the DIY ASL tags

goofy
Posts: 911
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 3:32 pm UTC

Re: Being too correct?

Postby goofy » Thu Jul 31, 2008 3:00 pm UTC

ZLVT wrote:But you could argue that then language purity is also bad in that it won't allow you to track the influence of other languages on your own, while personally, I want Hungary to go for the language reform again and this time wipe ALL the foreign words out, not just some, Christ, we have our own langugae and it's served us well, why would we poison it with other languages' words? Go Iceland!


There's no such think as a pure language. Icelandic is a Germanic language, and by some accounts about 30% of the vocabulary of Germanic languages is non-Indo-European. Even Proto-Indo-European undoubtedly mixed with other languages and borrowed words from them. Early Hungarian borrowed many words from Turkish.

Also, as languages are simplified, I'd say it becomes harder and harder to make it jump hoops and bend over for you, because things are more straight forward.


If that's the case, then Mandarin, one of the most "simplified" languages (in the sense that it has very little inflectional morphology) is very difficult make jump hoops and bend over for you (whatever that means). And yet it has the largest number of speakers.

You just can't say that less inflectional morphology means worse communication. Where's your evidence that English is more difficult to communicate with now than it was 1000 years ago?

Your language is something to be proud of, like your masterpeice.


I agree, that's why I think we should consider all the facts when we discuss language.

User avatar
ZLVT
Posts: 1448
Joined: Wed Feb 13, 2008 3:56 pm UTC
Location: Canberra, Australia
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby ZLVT » Thu Jul 31, 2008 3:34 pm UTC

Hungarian has taken from Turkish, Slavic, Germanic and Latin so I don't know what we speak now :'(


goofy wrote:
ZLVT wrote:But you could argue that then language purity is also bad in that it won't allow you to track the influence of other languages on your own, while personally, I want Hungary to go for the language reform again and this time wipe ALL the foreign words out, not just some, Christ, we have our own langugae and it's served us well, why would we poison it with other languages' words? Go Iceland!


There's no such thing as a pure language. Icelandic is a Germanic language, and by some accounts about 30% of the vocabulary of Germanic languages is non-Indo-European. Even Proto-Indo-European undoubtedly mixed with other languages and borrowed words from them.


True, I won't contest that, but it's still resistance to modern vocabulary exchange which is far more intrusive. Most languages can't help but use certain universal words like computer, electricity, etc

goofy wrote:
Also, as languages are simplified, I'd say it becomes harder and harder to make it jump hoops and bend over for you, because things are more straight forward.


If that's the case, then Mandarin, one of the most "simplified" languages (in the sense that it has very little inflectional morphology) is very difficult make jump hoops and bend over for you (whatever that means). And yet it has the largest number of speakers.


I mean that you can do very subtle intricate and beautiful things when you have a complex inflectional and syntactic system at your fingertips, a slight twerk here or there can make all the difference in the world.
goofy wrote:You just can't say that less inflectional morphology means worse communication. Where's your evidence that English is more difficult to communicate with now than it was 1000 years ago?


I'm not saying that at all, I'm not trying to set up a scientific argument claiming that one is better for straight forward communication than the other and should hence be adopted, in fact I think English as it is now is easier to use than it was back then, but it's the principle of the thing, what does language change say about us, our society, nation and people. Nor am I saying that, simplification is always the problem, Hungarian is shedding its middle and passive voices because they are stolen form German and we don't want to use them as they're not ours. This makes the language simpler but it makes it more ours.
goofy wrote:
Your language is something to be proud of, like your masterpeice.


I agree, that's why I think we should consider all the facts when we discuss language.

That's why we're here.
22/♂/hetero/atheist/★☭/Image

Originator of the DIY ASL tags

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26767
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 31, 2008 3:39 pm UTC

goofy wrote:As for why language changes, no one knows, but it does change.

That's not actually true. There are numerous known influences of language change. They are complex and interconnected, so it's hard to predict ahead of time how a particular language element will change, but it's not nearly so unknowable as many people think. Wikipedia, as usual, gives a reasonable overview of language change.

ZLVT wrote:Also, as languages are simplified, I'd say it becomes harder and harder to make it jump hoops and bend over for you, because things are more straight forward.

That would be true, if language change was simplification. But, well, it isn't. Otherwise foreigners learning modern English would find it easier than learning Anglo Saxon, which I strongly doubt is the case. In fact, I think a large part of language change actually results from making the language jump hoops for you. The thing is, which hoops you need it to jump change because the world itself, and thus the way we need to communicate about it, is not static.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

goofy
Posts: 911
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 3:32 pm UTC

Re: Being too correct?

Postby goofy » Thu Jul 31, 2008 3:46 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
goofy wrote:As for why language changes, no one knows, but it does change.

That's not actually true. There are numerous known influences of language change. They are complex and interconnected, so it's hard to predict ahead of time how a particular language element will change, but it's not nearly so unknowable as many people think. Wikipedia, as usual, gives a reasonable overview of language change.


We know how language changes, but do we know why it changes? Why do syntax, morphology and phonology change instead of remain static? It's not clear to me that we know.

ZLVT wrote:I mean that you can do very subtle intricate and beautiful things when you have a complex inflectional and syntactic system at your fingertips, a slight twerk here or there can make all the difference in the world.


But you're not communicating anything that can't also be communicated in a language with no inflectional morphology.

True, I won't contest that, but it's still resistance to modern vocabulary exchange which is far more intrusive.


Why is modern borrowed vocabulary more intrusive than vocabulary that was borrowed in the past? Most of the really intrusive borrowings in English happened 1000 years ago.

I'm not saying that at all, I'm not trying to set up a scientific argument claiming that one is better for straight forward communication than the other and should hence be adopted


So everything you're saying is just your opinion. That's fine, but it has nothing to say about linguistics or the facts of language.
Last edited by goofy on Thu Jul 31, 2008 5:03 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26767
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: Being too correct?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 31, 2008 3:51 pm UTC

goofy wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
goofy wrote:As for why language changes, no one knows, but it does change.

That's not actually true. There are numerous known influences of language change. They are complex and interconnected, so it's hard to predict ahead of time how a particular language element will change, but it's not nearly so unknowable as many people think. Wikipedia, as usual, gives a reasonable overview of language change.

We know how language changes, but do we know why it changes?

Did you actually look at that article? The first section is about causes of language change. Language changes because the world changes, is the most simplistic explanation.

Obviously different elements of language change for different reasons, so you're not going to find some kind of magical Why Language Changes explanation.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)


Return to “Language/Linguistics”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests