Wordcraft Home Page    Wordcraft Community Home Page    Forums  Hop To Forum Categories  The Written Word    Is Grammar Dead?
Page 1 2 3 
Go
New
Find
Notify
Tools
Reply
  
Is Grammar Dead? Login/Join
 
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted
I read a delightful article in the Chicago Tribune today about the current state of the English language. The author gave both views: those from people who are curmudgeons about the use of grammar and language, and those who see the discussions of "good" or "bad" grammar and use of language as "futile." She quoted some well respected authorities on both sides of the issue. The article was entitled, "Is Grammar Dead," and it was written by Julia Keller, the Tribune's cultural critic. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a reprint of it online.

I was surprised that many of the linguists think we are being too anal with our criticisms of grammar and the use of language. Here is a quote from the University of Chicago noted linguist, Leonard Bloomfield, "The discrimination of elegant or 'correct' speech is a byproduct of certain social conditions....The fact that speakers label a speech-form as 'good' or 'correct,' or else as 'bad' and 'incorrect,' is merely a part of the linguist's data....Strangely enough, people without linguistic training devote a great deal of effort to futile discussions of this topic."

That is an interesting perspective.

Yet, another linguist, John McWhorter, from the University of California, Berkeley, and now a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute takes the opposite view. He laments, "We're losing an art. The way one had to learn the language, beyond what came easily, was the mark of civilization. And the reason is, casual speech doesn't communicate a sustained argument very well. High language can communicate a complex thought."

They highlight many of the same things we've discussed: "its" and "it's;" "Who will the blame fall on?" versus "On whom will the blame fall?;" "irregardless;" and "impactful." About "irregardless" she says that word mavens say it is merely a bloated version of 'regardless' whose meaning is identical, while proponents say 'So What? The meaning is clear.' I am not sure that I agree the meaning of "irregardless" is clear. Technically speaking the "ir" and the "less" cancel each other out, but that's another post. Roll Eyes

Some of those who say the English language is declining blame part of it on the use of e-mail and chat rooms, where poorer writing is accepted. These people especially hate the emoticons that people use in e-mails.

Is English becoming a "slovenly" language? Or, as Bloomfield says, are the discussions on grammar and use of words futile? It may be somewhere in between.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Kalleh,
 
Posts: 24030 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
Kalleh quoted:

Yet, another linguist, John McWhorter, from the University of California, Berkeley, and now a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute takes the opposite view. He laments, "We're losing an art. The way one had to learn the language, beyond what came easily, was the mark of civilization. And the reason is, casual speech doesn't communicate a sustained argument very well. High language can communicate a complex thought."

McWhorter is point on, in my view. However, a distinction should be made between casual speech and "simple" language. It is possible to communicate very complex thoughts using simple, non-jargonized language. Casual speech is conversation, not particularly nuanced, and relies more upon emotion and non-verbal cues.

To blame email or chat rooms for the increase in casual speech is to fail to understand that the language of the internet is neither casual speech or high language. It is its own animal, with its own rules and social strictures. Emoticons are the equivalent of non-verbal cues. People who survive well in the world of the chatroom are those who learn the difference between "real" speech and cyber-speech.

As to the reasons for the decline of the use of high language: my personal theory is that it is directly related to the increase in the use of television, video and other non-print media for the dissemination of information and ideas. Writing encourages, nay almost demands, high language.

Or as I used to tell my students, "Never write anything you would not say, but always remember that there are things you can say and ways of saying them that will never properly translate to written form. The only exception is the novel or play."
 
Posts: 915 | Location: IowaReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of aput
posted Hide Post
McWhorter is being completely misrepresented if they're saying he believes in concepts of 'good' or 'bad' grammar. McWhorter is a serious professional linguist, and is therefore entirely in agreement with Bloomfield (who, by the way, is I think just being quoted from written works: he worked many decades ago and is probably dead now).

No linguist -- no scholar of the science of language -- believes in 'good' or 'bad' grammar. The concepts are simply irrelevant to what we do. They make no sense, any more than geologists dividing rocks into nice rocks and yukky rocks, or astronomers saying there are clever stars and stupid stars. We linguists study language: what people say, how they say it, when they say it. We find this interesting, all of it interesting, we are fascinated by the real grammar of real languages. But ignoramuses' false beliefs about grammar just don't bear any relationship to that study. There isn't even a branch of linguistics that cares what the ignoramuses think.

What McWhorter has been arguing for is rhetoric: an art of speech, an art of being able to vary and flex your language: and against one common or prevalent social view that says only the ordinary, street language is authentic. It's got nothing to do with grammar. I ain't done nothing cried out in the street is just as grammatical as however a rhetor would say it; but it's only one register, one style. We're losing the choice of styles.
 
Posts: 502 | Location: LondonReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
Kalleh, You 'beat me' by just a few hours. The article was so interesting, and there were so many things I'd like to highlight. The most important one is about the 'vast number of children who aren't learning how to read'....'are unable to use reading for any useful purpose'. That's the most appalling thing. I suppose that 'enjoyment' must fall in here, too, as a useful purpose...of travelling, dreaming, playing...all from the comfort of one's own chair. "Books are the bike I ride, the hole I putt, the fish I catch, the laps I swim, the plane I fly in." No idea whose quote it is.
 
Posts: 51Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
I suggest that it is a pointless to talk about goo or bad grammar as it is to talk about good or bad accents. All speech has grammar; all vocal speech has accent.

A better descriptor would be appropriate or inappropriate, and this could apply both to grammar and accent. As to which is appropriate, when and where - that is clearly debatable.


Richard English
 
Posts: 8037 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
quote:
The article was entitled, "Is Grammar Dead," and it was written by Julia Keller, the Tribune's cultural critic. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a reprint of it online.


I couldn't find it, either, but I did find one titled "CAN WE, LIKE, TALK?". You may have to register first to access this.

Tinman

This message has been edited. Last edited by: tinman,
 
Posts: 2795 | Location: Shoreline, WA, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
The article by Keller was much longer than that Tinman, with much more depth. There were many linguists quoted, in the U.S. and in England as well, all with various points. I thought it quite fair, though I am not an expert on the subject as some some of you are.

who, by the way, is I think just being quoted from written works: he worked many decades ago and is probably dead now

Sorry, aput, I should have stated that, indeed, Dr. Bloomfield is dead, and that his works were published in 1933 and again in 1961. Keller had called his work a "classic primer" in linguistics, and that's why I quoted it.

McWhorter is being completely misrepresented if they're saying he believes in concepts of 'good' or 'bad' grammar. McWhorter is a serious professional linguist, and is therefore entirely in agreement with Bloomfield

Aput, again, forgive me. I was probably the misrepresenter here. Though I did quote McWhorter accurately, he also says precisely what you said aput; that is: "There used to be a sense in American society that you talk one way casually and another way at a formal occasion. We have a different relationship to formality in all ways now. It's not that that our way of speaking is necessarily falling apart. What's eroding is the sense that, to play a part in society, you have to be bi-dialectical -- to use casual language and dress-up language." According to Keller he believes that the distinction between high and low language is critical and that the "black-tie" language is edging closer and closer to the "slangy, open collared, sleeves-rolled-back variety."

The Brit that Keller quotes is Peter L. Patrick, linguistics professor at the University of Essex in Colchester, England. She says that Patrick joins Bloomfield in insisting that "bad grammar" is a socially inspired fiction. He is quoted as saying (by e-mail exchange): "In truth, there is not such problem as speaking with 'bad grammar' in one's native language. We occasionally make slips of the tongue, but these are mistakes of processing. We sometimes use inappropriate language -- but the grammar of swear words or taboo items is normal grammar; it just contains a few 'hot-potato' items." He then goes on to make this point, which I think is an excellent one: "Other people may be prejudiced against a dialect, usually because they are prejudiced against the people to whom it belongs -- but that is their fault for being intolerant and/or ignorant." The author says that Peter's view summarizes the bitter battle that has ensued over "ebonics."

Of all the linguists or language experts interviewed, Dan McCall of Cornell University was probably the most staunch about insisting on grammar standareds. He, Aput, definitely doesn't fit your description of a "scholar of the science of language." Here is what he says:
"I've been fighting a lonely fight here for a long time. My poor students at Cornell are so lost. Nobody helps them out [with grammar]. No one has ever said to them with sufficient conviction: 'Hey, you've got a problem here. You don't know how to use a comma. You use a lot of junky cliches. You don't know how to construct a sentence.' They're helpless....Things are worse than ever on the grammatical front." He is the one who then blames chat rooms and the e-mail culture and hates emoticons.

Whew! It may seem as though I have posted the whole article, though I haven't even begun to touch upon everything that was there. It may be in Google News tomorrow so that I can post it. If anyone would like me to e-mail it to you I can do that through the Chicago Tribune Web site...just send me a PM, and I will be happy to.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Kalleh,
 
Posts: 24030 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
Tinman found it! Sorry about my long post above; now you can just read the whole article.

Thanks, Tinman! Big Grin
 
Posts: 24030 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of aput
posted Hide Post
But Dan McCall isn't a linguist: he's in the English Department. There's no reason why he should have any particular knowledge of language or grammar at all. English teachers usually don't. (I have no idea whether he has or not.)

In any case, from what you've quoted of him, my main complaint would be that he is, as so often, using the word 'grammar' wrongly, as if it covered punctuation and style. Most of his students who write badly have probably got no problems with grammar. This is what I find with editing amateur writing: occasionally you could see wrong grammar arising from a splice in editing which they haven't then reread and noticed, but it's rare compared to the other faults.

There's an appalling amount of bad writing out there, and we really need to teach children how to write properly. But it has nothing to do with grammar.

First, editing: writers don't reread. They repeat words, they use the same description several times over several paragraphs, and don't notice it. They use spelling-checkers to mangle words, and don't notice that it's now ludicrous nonsense.

They don't put any sensible punctuation in don't reread just type it up once everyone else trying to read it skis giddily along to find somewhere to take a breath there isn't one though. So I always insist: punctuation is for rhythm. You're trying to write down what you would say, but we can't hear your voice, so we need the rises marked by commas and the falls by full stops; longer pauses with semicolons and colons. They're a guide to timing and pitch, and in many cases these also coincide with grammatical features. (This gives rise to the erroneous idea that punctuation marks grammar.)

And just style, that's the other big problem. Don't keep throwing surprises at the readers; don't describe characters using numbers and hair colour; alternate long and short paragraphs; keep the speakers distinct by a variety of methods; don't use cliches, or weak words (such as 'beautiful' for something beautiful).

English teachers should be teaching good style -- not factually false nineteenth-century notions of grammar. If they learnt linguistics they could even teach real grammar: parasitic gaps, pied-piping, affix-hopping, spread negation, polarity items, garden paths, extraction islands, all the things that have been discovered in the last century. It might be helpful; it might be interesting; and it might at least train a generation immune to the rubbish that is still being taught in schools.
 
Posts: 502 | Location: LondonReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of jheem
posted Hide Post
I was going to mention that Leonard Bloomfield was not just some dead, white linguist, but for many years considered the father of American structuralist linguistics. His book, Language (1933), is still in print (I have a cheap copy from New Delhi), and a must read for anybody interesting in linguistics or the historiography of the sdame.

McWhorter is a living American linguist, an African American conservative academician. I haven't read any of his articles, but his popular books on linguists (esp. his Babel book) are quite nice and readable.

That having been said. Nobody speaks English. Everybody speaks some ideosyncratic version of English. We make all sorts of non-linguistic judgments about speakers based on how they speak or what their speech is. What annoys me is when we try to clothe our social commentary about somebody with some pseudo-scientific rap about good or bad grammar.
 
Posts: 1218 | Location: CaliforniaReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
Aput wrote,

There's an appalling amount of bad writing out there, and we really need to teach children how to write properly. But it has nothing to do with grammar.

*************

I don't disagree except as noted at the end of this post, and your last paragraph is bloody brilliant. However, I urge you to avoid terms like "how to write properly." Persuasively, stylishly, clearly, precisely: all useful terms. But what the heck is proper?

" And just style, that's the other big problem. Don't keep throwing surprises at the readers; don't describe characters using numbers and hair colour; alternate long and short paragraphs; keep the speakers distinct by a variety of methods; don't use cliches, or weak words (such as 'beautiful' for something beautiful)."

**********

This is a rather large list of don'ts, and I disagree with most of them. There are times when cliches are absolutely perfect. Why not describe characters using numbers and/or hair color. In the land of the blondes, a brunette is a standout? In the land of six footers, a five foot one baldy would be quite noticeable. The point is, there are always exceptions to rules which appear to be absolute when it comes to writing.

On a final note, you stated in the portion I quoted first, above, that (paraphrasing here) grammar has nothing to do with style. In that I believe you are mistaken, unless you are consigning grammar solely to the punctuation and word order heap. Those are only elements of grammar, and style has everything to do with word order. Actually, by your own illustration of how to teach punctuation, it too has everything to do with style. Without clarifying punctuation and comprehensible word order, writing lacks style.
 
Posts: 915 | Location: IowaReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of BobHale
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by aput:
If they learnt linguistics they could even teach real grammar: parasitic gaps, pied-piping, affix-hopping, spread negation, polarity items, garden paths, extraction islands, all the things that have been _discovered_ in the last century.


I'd be fascinated to learn more as all of these are terms I've never encountered. Can you recommend a good text book or reference a good web-site? Don't worry about it being too dry or accademic, I'm used to that.
 
Posts: 8315 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of jheem
posted Hide Post
I'd be fascinated to learn more as all of these are terms I've never encountered. Can you recommend a good text book or reference a good web-site? Don't worry about it being too dry or accademic, I'm used to that.

Well, I know we've discussed garden path sentences here before. (Example: "The horse raced past the barn fell.")

A modern linguistics textbook on introductory syntax should have it. We used Aho and Akmajian back in the day, but I know there's a popular textbook on "transformational grammar" in the Cambridge linguistics series. Red book, cannot remember the author. Ack. I'm sure aput can recommend the latest and greatest.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: jheem,
 
Posts: 1218 | Location: CaliforniaReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
But Dan McCall isn't a linguist

Well, in all fairness to 'yours truly' (ahh...a cliché), I had said "linguist or language expert." While you might not think Dr. McCall a language expert, I imagine, from his comments in the article, he surely considers himself one!
 
Posts: 24030 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Caterwauller
posted Hide Post
Red book, cannot remember the author.
The running joke question among Librarians! "I remember this book about words . . . it was about this big <holds out hands> and it had a blue cover."

"Ack" is right!


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
Posts: 5149 | Location: Columbus, OhioReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
I will never forget when I was in this huge Borders around Christmas time, and my daughter was looking for a book for her friend. She only remembered briefly what the subject was and what it looked like, but she did not remember the author or the title. I said, "Let's ask the clerk." She scolded me, saying, "Oh, for heaven's sake, how will he know?! (thinking, I am sure, "Mom is so stupid!). Well, I went up to the young man anyway, embarrassing my daughter, and asked him. He immediately marched to the shelf and picked it out. My daughter was shocked! [It was one of my finest moments with her!]
 
Posts: 24030 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
I'm familiar with the "red book, blue book" scenario! It happens, sooner or later, to everyone who works in a library.

Does anyone have any thoughts about what people who use libraries should be called? There seems to be a running battle between calling them "patrons" or "customers" (I prefer the latter). I have also heard them called "users" as in "library users," but this makes me think of drugs! Eek
 
Posts: 235 | Location: Portland, OregonReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
There is a tendency in the UK for the term "customers" be be applied to anyone who receives some kind of service or other provision.

Even our railways have now moved away from their traditional term "passengers" when making service announcements, and now refer to travellers as "customers".

I actually think this is not a very good move since the railways have many different kinds of customer, not all of whom will be travellers.


Richard English
 
Posts: 8037 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Caterwauller
posted Hide Post
SUNFLOWER! It's so good to have you here with us! We talked about the Customer/Patron thing before here. I know what you mean about "users" and it always cracks me up. We count "user visits" (the door count) each day, and I've gotten so used to saying it I barely even crack (excuse the pun) a smile anymore.


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
Posts: 5149 | Location: Columbus, OhioReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
Yes, it is good to have you here, Sunflower! If you notice in that link that CW posted, we have the same discussion in nursing. "Patient" has gone out of style, and "client" is often used. I hate it!
 
Posts: 24030 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
Thanks for directing me to your discussion of library customers, et al, of last October! And I see that you, Cat, also noted that "users" makes you think of drugs!

Smile
 
Posts: 235 | Location: Portland, OregonReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
I think I missed the customer/patron discussion. I always liked the term patron as a library afficianado. It made me feel all medieval and wealthy.. "I am a patron of the library." Something akin to being a patron of the arts, perhaps? LOL
 
Posts: 915 | Location: IowaReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
It amazes me that we can sometimes be so picky about language and at other times rules are allowed to be very lax indeed. I had always been brought up to believe that there was clearly a right and wrong way to use language and that went for both the written and spoken word. When I came to do my Degree I was shocked to discover that was wrong and any form of English may be viewed as correct as long as it stuck to it's own grammatical rules. Consequently it is seen as perfectly acceptable for children where I live to constantly misuse 'was' and 'were' as long as they do it consistently. I can't agree with that otherwise English would eventually become too fragmented for us to effectively communicate. Surely we need some form of rules to maintain a standardised language. At the moment this has become 'formal' and 'informal' language but I wonder where it will end?

On the other side of the coin, it is now frowned upon in schools to refer to children as 'pupils' or 'students' but instead we have to refer to them as 'learners'. If I could lapse into 'informal' English for a moment, I consider this to be little more than pretentious crap! At the end of the day, what does it matter? Calling them 'learners' instead of 'pupils' isn't getting them to learn any more. You may have gathered by now that I hate political correctness for its own sake.
 
Posts: 291 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Caterwauller
posted Hide Post
quote:
where I live to constantly misuse 'was' and 'were' as long as they do it consistently


How do they use those words?


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
Posts: 5149 | Location: Columbus, OhioReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
quote:
How do they use those words?


Where we would correctly use the sentence 'You were going to the shops to get some milk', they would insert the word 'was' in place of 'were'. There are other examples of this, a common one being to confuse 'rob' and 'steal' yet they mix them up with 100% consistency so it is seen by many academics that they are therefore following the grammatical rules for their own regional variation of English. In the particular school I now work in I have noticed that their pronunciation of the word 'our' invariably leads them to spell it as 'are'. This problem is getting worse with the advent of mobile phones as many children increasingly find it impossible to use the word 'before' without spelling it 'B4' or 'are you' simply appears as 'RU' in their exercise books.
 
Posts: 291 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
quote:
any form of English may be viewed as correct as long as it stuck to it's own grammatical rules


But rule that says that "its" is spelt "it's", I will never accept Frown

Incidentally, I was in my local Safeway the other day and they were selling hot-cross buns. The packaging read, "SAFEWAY - The Baker's"

The young lad filing the display hadn't the remotest idea of what a missplaced apostrophe was (in fact, I doubt he even knew what punctuation was). I wrote a letter to my local paper and they published it today. It will be interesting to see whether Safeway respond.


Richard English
 
Posts: 8037 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Hic et ubique
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by Richard English:
It will be interesting to see whether Safeway respond.
We would say 'whether Safeway responds'. Was yours a typo, Richard, or would the British usage be to treat 'Safeway' as a plural noun?
 
Posts: 1204Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
The firm's name is Safeway and we tend usually to consider firms as plural bodies.

"It will be interesting to see whether they respond" would be a normal construction here.


Richard English
 
Posts: 8037 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
On last evening's news, a neighbor of a suspected criminal, rather than the traditional "He seemed so quiet and kept to himself" response, we heard, "He asked...actually aksed...me to borrow him some money." An overheard comment from an educated co-worker, "Well, I wouldda went out wid him, but I seen him last week." How much difference is there between book smart and street smart?
 
Posts: 51Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
quote:
How much difference is there between book smart and street smart?

Linguistically a great deal; mentally possibly less.


Richard English
 
Posts: 8037 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of jheem
posted Hide Post
How much difference is there between book smart and street smart?

Unlike the British educational system which seems to expend great effort in changing one's native accent to something approaching RP (or at least used to in the good old days), American schools, (primary, secondary, and tertiary), have never seemed to affect how citizens here speak. Those who must present a public face, either writing or speaking on one of the media, modify their spoken register somewhat to approach what passes for Standard (broadcast) American English, but others pass out the other end of the educational system, speaking pretty much as they did on their mother's knees. Something that many laymen do not seem to understand is that a person's language, though it may differ from whatever is the standard is, is not ungrammatical sensu stricto but merely has a different set of grammatical rules and lexicon than the standard. There's an easily repeatable experiment you can perform to prove this. Pick a non-standard dialect and try to imitate it with a native speaker or two, and let them correct your impression of their dialect's grammar. It's very tough, but great fun at a party or in a pub. To non-native dialect speakers, you may sound perfect, but to native speakers there'll almost always be some annoying differences.
 
Posts: 1218 | Location: CaliforniaReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Caterwauller
posted Hide Post
I encounter this sort of thing all the time at work. When it comes to street smarts, my customers have it over me on every count - I am clueless. My educational pedigree does me no good, even though I done did got them degrees.


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
Posts: 5149 | Location: Columbus, OhioReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
A Persian colleague regularly complains to me (usually when he's struggling with writing a paper) that spoken English and written English are two entirely different grammars.
 
Posts: 1242 | Location: San FranciscoReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of jheem
posted Hide Post
A Persian colleague regularly complains to me (usually when he's struggling with writing a paper) that spoken English and written English are two entirely different grammars.

Well, they're actually closer than he probably thinks. That's one of the big problems teaching non-standard English-speaking students how to write standard English. The interference from their first language is usally greater and more difficult than learning a foreign language. I knew somebody at university who was a Slavics major. He taught Russian, and he told me his worse students were Polish because when they tried to speak Russian they always sounded like they were speaking Polish with a thick Russian stage accent.
 
Posts: 1218 | Location: CaliforniaReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
In the Sunday Chicago Tribune Magazine section, which was responsible for the starting of this thread, there a bunches of letters in response to that article. One of the things I loved: "Proper language is important, not because it confers social or class distinctions, but because language is the only tool of thought, and without the proper tools our thoughts are handicapped."
 
Posts: 51Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Caterwauller
posted Hide Post
OH, but what about art? Music?


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
Posts: 5149 | Location: Columbus, OhioReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
"Although visual and aural imagary may produce emotional responses, only language can provide the conceptual tools to produce rational thought."
 
Posts: 51Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of jheem
posted Hide Post
One of the things I loved: "Proper language is important, not because it confers social or class distinctions, but because language is the only tool of thought, and without the proper tools our thoughts are handicapped."

Can't say I agree. This is like saying you cannot write love poetry in German or physics in Hopi. Total and utter nonsense. Any language is the proper tool for our thoughts. You can write well or poorly, but the language you write in does not determine how well you write. I know many will not agree, but then I have never worried about being popular, just correct.
 
Posts: 1218 | Location: CaliforniaReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of BobHale
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by jheem:
but then I have never worried about being popular, just correct.

And modest. Don't forget modest.
 
Posts: 8315 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of jheem
posted Hide Post
And modest. Don't forget modest.

Smile I try not to mention my huge sense of modesty out loud. Thanks, Bob.
 
Posts: 1218 | Location: CaliforniaReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
Proper language is important, not because it confers social or class distinctions, but because language is the only tool of thought, and without the proper tools our thoughts are handicapped.

I'm a pragmatist: proper language is important precisely because it confers social or class distinctions.
 
Posts: 1242 | Location: San FranciscoReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of jheem
posted Hide Post
proper language is important precisely because it confers social or class distinctions.

Yes, I keep forgetting to mention that I, personally, find the distinctions important, but that is precisely because I get paid to write well.

Class is interesting. Some Americans believe that it doesn't exist in the States, which is nonsense. But, I must admit our class consciousness is different than in Europe. When I lived in Germany, and was trying to get a library card, the woman processing my form, asked to see my student ID card, because under occupation I had put down student. I told her I was affiliated with a university at the moment, and she matter of factly told me I could put down student. So I told her that I was a farmer (Bauer, 'farmer, peasant'). She got the most emnbarassed look on her face, and started to stammer. It was really something I hadn't expected. I explained that I lived on a ranch in California, and that my family were ranchers. That was OK; so, my occupation was entered in English: rancher. very strange.
 
Posts: 1218 | Location: CaliforniaReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
jheem, that reminds me of the day I first stepped into the medical library of UCSF. I was a young, none-too sophisticated graduate student. I asked the medical librarian where the "magazines" were. She immediately demanded to see my ID. I didn't know what I had done wrong, but I fumbled and quickly came up with it. She calmed down when she saw my ID, and I asked what was wrong. She said, "students in the medical professions do not call them 'magazines;' they call call them 'journals!' Never again have I called our professional journals, "magazines!"
 
Posts: 24030 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Caterwauller
posted Hide Post
I don't understand the difference between a farmer and a rancher. Why did the woman get embarrassed?

Class most definitely DOES exsist in the United States. I recommend a very good book on the topic, A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby K. Payne. Payne discusses not only the different classes but the hidden rules that govern each, making it difficult to move from one to another with ease or success. I consider this a must-read for everyone who works at my library branch.


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
Posts: 5149 | Location: Columbus, OhioReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of jheem
posted Hide Post
I don't understand the difference between a farmer and a rancher. Why did the woman get embarrassed?

She was embarassed with the connotations of a Bauer 'peasant, farmer' using the city library. Rancher in English only had positive connotations.
 
Posts: 1218 | Location: CaliforniaReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by jheem:
A Persian colleague regularly complains to me (usually when he's struggling with writing a paper) that spoken English and written English are two entirely different grammars.

Well, they're actually closer than he probably thinks.

I think that what people call ungrammatical writing is writing in which the rules for spoken English are used rather than the rules for written English. For example, Louis Armstrong's memoir about getting busted for marijuana in LA in the 1930's is certainly not 'proper' written English, but I don't think it has any problems with ambiguity or expressiveness. Armstrong writes like he speaks, and for me that's what makes the piece so engaging and charming.
 
Posts: 1242 | Location: San FranciscoReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of jheem
posted Hide Post
what people call ungrammatical writing is writing in which the rules for spoken English are used rather than the rules for written English.

Thanks, neveu. That makes sense to me.
 
Posts: 1218 | Location: CaliforniaReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
I thought of wordcraft tonight when the conductor on my train said to me, "It don't make no difference." I knew what he meant, that's for sure. But, the grammar...!
 
Posts: 24030 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of jerry thomas
posted Hide Post
Truant officer to little boy who answered her knock at the door: "I need to speak to your mother."

Boy: "She ain't here."

TO: "She ain't here!!! Heavens!!! Where's your grammar?"

Boy: "She ain't here neither."
 
Posts: 6708 | Location: Kehena Beach, Hawaii, U.S.A.Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
I am writing a position paper with input from a committee. With 9 of us writing the paper, this hasn't been easy!

However, today I nearly lost it...until I thought of some of our posts here about the silliness of grammatical proclamations or the Strunk and White attitude, so to speak. I was then able to sit back, smugly, and think, "You should read wordcraft."

Specifically the comment that dusted my doilies was, "You'll have to change those 2 sentences. My English teacher always taught me to never begin a sentence with "it" or "this." Instead of arguing the ridiculous point (I hate redundancy in writing and felt that the changes made it worse), I changed it her way. Further down another sentence started with, "However, it..." so I said, "I assume you want that "it" changed, too? The answer was, "Oh, no. That sentence starts with 'however'." Roll Eyes
 
Posts: 24030 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
  Powered by Social Strata Page 1 2 3  
 

Wordcraft Home Page    Wordcraft Community Home Page    Forums  Hop To Forum Categories  The Written Word    Is Grammar Dead?

Copyright © 2002-12