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Picture of Kalleh
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Geoff, who is taking what I am hoping is a brief vacation from WC, sent me this link about Gwynne's Grammar. Apparently this pamphlet (book?) has become quite popular in the UK and is heading over to the US. Of course it's prescriptive in nature. Here is Pullum's thoughts on it:
quote:
“Nevile Gwynne’s little book is just about the worst I have ever seen on the topic of English grammar,” Geoffrey Pullum, a linguist at the University of Edinburgh, told me by e-mail. From a scholarly perspective, the view of English set forth in “Gwynne’s Grammar” is hopelessly out of fashion; it’s long been recognized that language is culturally contingent and constantly evolving, rather than being a strict, logical system that can be frozen in its 16th-century state, as Gwynne would have it.
However, the author of the article, Britt Peterson, says that Gwynne is more in the mold of 18th or 19th century grammarians, than a prescriptivist.

Have any of you read it? I'd like to read it, though it sounds a bit like Strunk and White.
 
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Picture of BobHale
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It's had a lot of internet discussion. Gwynne is something of an extremist* even by prescriptivist standards. I could list the reviews but this already links them and is a humourous enough piece in its own right.

(* I considered several other words instead of "extremist" bu t rejected them on the grounds that they might be perceived as an ad hominem attack on Mr Gwynne. Such an attack is unnecessary. His ideas speak for themselves.)

This message has been edited. Last edited by: BobHale,
 
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Yes, he seems to be laughed at even by many prescriptivists. Thanks for that link, Bob!


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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One thing about links is that you can then get lost in reading the links in the links and then the links in the links in the links and so on.... I did that in your link, Bob. When I posted this, I went to Language Log and searched for Gwynne, but nothing came up - not sure why. I am glad that Pullum decided not to spend the time to delve into Gwynne. Clearly he's not worth it - he's a linguistics/English language imposter.

I wonder why there so many uninformed people out there who think they can be grammar saviors. That doesn't seem to happen as much in other disciplines.
 
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LL's seach engine leaves something to be desired, I agree; in particular it seems very slow and often returns a number of seemingly unrelated hits.

However, I found three posts: the first was about when Gwynne successfully publicised his book by attacking fellow-peevers in this post, made by Mark Liberman, then this post where Prof Pullum calls him a 'preposterous old fraud' and finally this one by Mark Liberman again.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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Very interesting links, arnie. I had read the one from May 2013, but not the other 2. I liked the most recent one that mentioned William Corbbett. I don't know Corbbett, but now I'll have to read about him. While Mark Liberman finds Corbbett "arrogant and foolish," he also finds him honest, which is in contrast to the other prescriptivists. Here's an illustrative quote:
quote:
It's true that Cobbett's grammar is prescriptive, in the sense that he sets out what he thinks the "rules" should be, irrespective of elite usage. But he is absolutely forthright about this — he asserts, with examples and arguments, that the usage of great writers and of other grammar writers is simply wrong, when it diverges from what he believes to be the natural logic of the situation. This may be arrogant and foolish, but it is honest, in contrast to the practice of most prescriptivists, who claim implicitly to have elite culture as well as logic on their side.
 
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I have read Gwynne's Grammar. It is titanically silly. It begins with a "proof" that "grammar" will make you happy - you can read that part here.
http://www.nmgwynne.net/gwynnesgrammar.htm

The first five chapters are introductory. One chapter is a reprint of the original Elements of Style. There is one chapter on parts of speech, one chapter on syntax, and one chapter on punctuation and that's pretty much it.

His attempt to explain why the split infinitive is wrong made me lol. Apparently the split infinitive was put to the test by Fanny Burney in the late 18th century. She constantly split her infinitives. And then no one ever did it again! Therefore, don't do it.
 
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You know goofy, they could reprint that unchanged in The Onion and nobody would know that it wasn't satire. (It did increase the number of times I have ever encountered the would "rightly" by however many times he uses it, though he might like to check the meaning of "science" so that he can use it rightly. Big Grin)
 
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Let's see if I have this right(ly). By his chain of logic a misplaced apostrophe leads inevitably to the end of civilization as we know it. I knew already that Gwynne was bonkers but this is tin-foil hat stuff.
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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Yep, 11 times he used "rightly," Bob. Heck, I am not sure I've ever used it!

Hilarious link, Goofy. Happiness and survival of the civilization depend on the use of good grammar. Who knew. (And our poor president !)
 
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Picture of BobHale
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
Yep, 11 times he used "rightly," Bob. Heck, I am not sure I've ever used it!



Actually I think I might have heard it in old westerns when the stranger rides into town and meets the old tobacco-chewing local who answers questions with

"Well there, ah don't rightly know."
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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Perfect accent.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by BobHale:



"Well there, ah don't rightly know."
Spoken by either Gabby Hayes or Walter Brennon, I suspect. They were the most popular old codger actors in the black and white westerns.
 
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Former education secretary Micheal Gove loved Gwynne's Grammar. Could that have something to do with the backwardness of the new curriculum?

https://www.theguardian.com/ed...grammar-test-primary
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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It is scary to think how such a small number of people can be such an influence on a country's language.
 
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