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Linguistics Is Fun

124

Posts

  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Feral wrote: »
    Perhaps when people do things the "wrong" way it's because the "wrong" way is actually better than the "right" way. We can discuss whether it's better to use "they" as a genderless third-person pronoun rather than "he" but first there has to be agreement that something can actually be better and that we have some way of figuring out what better is... even if better is contextual (e.g., perhaps 'something we suspect but aren't really sure of' is a fine use of 'theory' in the context of a conversation over the family dinner table but not in the context of a scientific conference).

    I understand what you're saying, but I don't think "better" really exists in the way that you describe it. I also don't think your analogy with moral/cultural relativism is entirely appropriate. I feel comfortable judging a moral system inferior when it causes demonstrable harm (say, mutilation of females, or death of innocents). But what demonstrable harm can an accent or syntactic structure cause?

    That's a fair point.

    I think I let myself get too deep into argumentation, and I didn't mean to do that. I definitely have an opinion, but I don't consider it an educated one. So mostly I'm curious: among mainstream academic & professional linguists, is descriptivism the dominant perspective? Or is there any synthesis, even minorly, of the two perspectives? If there is any synthesis, what does that synthesis entail?

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • EchoEcho staring is caring Super Moderator, Moderator mod
    edited April 2011
    Akei Arkay wrote: »
    Echo wrote: »
    French was the lingua franca for several centuries.

    Hence, y'know, lingua franca.

    Actually, it means Frankish, not French.

  • surrealitychecksurrealitycheck NONSTOP INFINITE CLIMAX POSTING you must go on i cant go on ill go onRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Do native Chinese-speaking children take longer to read at similar levels as native English-speaking children?

    Based on how in Japan the children learn an alphabet before even learning the kanji (and are then taught kanji using hiragana in a system known as furigana), I think there's certainly an argument that the alphabetic system is quicker.

    obF2Wuw.png
  • ArbitraryDescriptorArbitraryDescriptor Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    jothki wrote: »
    Consider the 47 forms of "arrive," in French, versus four in English (arrived, arrives, arrive, arriving).

    That's not an entirely fair comparison, considering how English tends to split out the subject when dealing with verbs, while Romance languages don't. For example, the first person singular form for 'arrive' (whatever the heck that is, I'm not going to bother looking it up) would translate to 'I arrive'. If you bear in mind that English can't drop the subject without resulting in a fragment, English has plenty of verb forms, though most of them are multiple words.

    It's been a long while, but don't you still need to use the subject in French (in most instances)? J'ai arrive, etc.

    Automata-Sg.png
  • VishNubVishNub Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Can we talk about words that sound stupid in this thread? Like "faculty." It just sounds stupid.

    Steam = VishnuOwnz
    Dota2 = Glitchmo
  • surrealitychecksurrealitycheck NONSTOP INFINITE CLIMAX POSTING you must go on i cant go on ill go onRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I remember watching the "it's just a box" ytmnd for about 20 minutes. By the end the word box had ceased to sound like a word and was the most bizarre sounding thing to me

    it took about 5 minutes before my brain would parse it again properly

    obF2Wuw.png
  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I remember watching the "it's just a box" ytmnd for about 20 minutes. By the end the word box had ceased to sound like a word and was the most bizarre sounding thing to me

    it took about 5 minutes before my brain would parse it again properly

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_satiation

    Seems to be homologous to the ability of the brain to "tune out" continuous stimuli.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • jothkijothki Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    jothki wrote: »
    Consider the 47 forms of "arrive," in French, versus four in English (arrived, arrives, arrive, arriving).

    That's not an entirely fair comparison, considering how English tends to split out the subject when dealing with verbs, while Romance languages don't. For example, the first person singular form for 'arrive' (whatever the heck that is, I'm not going to bother looking it up) would translate to 'I arrive'. If you bear in mind that English can't drop the subject without resulting in a fragment, English has plenty of verb forms, though most of them are multiple words.

    It's been a long while, but don't you still need to use the subject in French (in most instances)? J'ai arrive, etc.

    Heh, no clue. I'm largely working off high school Latin, and just assuming that all Romance languages are somewhat similar.

    Oh, whoa, link right in my quote, how'd I miss that?

  • taoist drunktaoist drunk Registered User
    edited April 2011
    Feral wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Perhaps when people do things the "wrong" way it's because the "wrong" way is actually better than the "right" way. We can discuss whether it's better to use "they" as a genderless third-person pronoun rather than "he" but first there has to be agreement that something can actually be better and that we have some way of figuring out what better is... even if better is contextual (e.g., perhaps 'something we suspect but aren't really sure of' is a fine use of 'theory' in the context of a conversation over the family dinner table but not in the context of a scientific conference).

    I understand what you're saying, but I don't think "better" really exists in the way that you describe it. I also don't think your analogy with moral/cultural relativism is entirely appropriate. I feel comfortable judging a moral system inferior when it causes demonstrable harm (say, mutilation of females, or death of innocents). But what demonstrable harm can an accent or syntactic structure cause?

    That's a fair point.

    I think I let myself get too deep into argumentation, and I didn't mean to do that. I definitely have an opinion, but I don't consider it an educated one. So mostly I'm curious: among mainstream academic & professional linguists, is descriptivism the dominant perspective? Or is there any synthesis, even minorly, of the two perspectives? If there is any synthesis, what does that synthesis entail?

    Prescriptivists are (obviously) more likely to be writing usage guides and dictionaries; descriptivists are more likely to be academics who no one's ever heard of (see what I did there?). Prescriptivists are more interested in writing while descriptivists are more interested in speech. Descriptivists are also interested in the power/authority dynamics inherent in writing usage guides and dictionaries (most of those usage guides and dictionaries are written by relatively wealthy white men, who are generally overrepresented in positions of power). Bryan Garner has suggested a compromise in this article (paywall, sorry):
    Why not let prescriptivists advocate a realistic level of linguistic tidiness, even as the descriptivists nonjudgmentally describe the mess all around them? And if the prescriptivists have moderate success, then why can't the descriptivists simply describe those successes? Education entailing normative values has always been a part of literate society. Why should it suddenly stop merely because descriptive linguists see this kind of education as meddling with natural forces?

    Meanwhile, prescriptivists need to be realistic. We can't expect perfection, and we must bow to universal usage. But when an expression is in transition - when only part of the population has adopted a new usage that seems genuinely undesirable - prescriptivists should be allowed, within reason, to stigmatize it. There's no reason to tolerate wreckless driving in place of reckless driving. Or wasteband in place of waistband. Or corollary when misused for correlation. There are legitimate objections to the slippage.

    I think his proposed compromise is too far to the prescriptivist end of the spectrum, personally. I think a degree of prescriptivism is appropriate in the written word, but speech is a different animal. His three complaints seem legitimate to me, but that's because I can only really imagine them in writing. Maybe because the word "correlation" doesn't come up a lot in day-to-day speech for me. The only time I personally get on a prescriptivist high horse is in the case of academese, business jargon, etc.: with regard to instead of the perfectly serviceable regarding; parameters instead of limits; to reference instead of to refer, etc. Users of academese and business jargon want to share the esteem of "proper" / "standard" English users but instead of just using clear, standard English they engage in deliberate or semi-deliberate obfuscation and just basically say things that don't mean anything. And it's memetic, right? So because of continental philosophers everywhere (sorry), Ph.D. students everywhere are becoming bad writers.

    (note: on reflection I guess this goes for people who say things like "economically disadvantaged" instead of "poor" in an attempt at sensitivity but really just think about telling a poor person she's "economically disadvantaged" and how that would go, exactly. full disclosure: this parenthetical and the above paragraph are heavily influenced by my memory of David Wallace's usage essay reviewing Bryan Garner's Modern American Usage, which was published in Consider the Lobster and is probably my least favorite thing he has ever written.)

    Those seem like acceptable areas for prescriptivists to step in because they're mostly written and all dealing with people who want the authority that comes with "proper grammar." It's ridiculous, though, for some prescriptivist to butt in and say that my grandma shouldn't be saying "would of" instead of "would have" in her living room. I also think that "could care less" is fine in everyday conversation because everyone knows what it means. It's clear to me that there are different kinds of speech and writing that are appropriate in different contexts. When I'm writing here, for instance, I don't take the same kind of care that I do when writing a paper. My mannerisms and dialect are different when I talk to my family than when I talk to my friends, and both of those mannerisms/dialect combinations are different from the combo I adopt when talking to prospective employers or professors. This just seems like common sense, and to me it's the same idea as not wearing shorts to work, or not showing up at the bar on a Saturday in a suit.

    Super-hardcore descriptivism is unrealistic in that way. Sure, I could use non-standard English on my final exam, just like I could show up in a baseball cap and sandals for work, but those wouldn't have desirable consequences. It makes sense to question authority, and even to say that the people who currently hold authority shouldn't (because they have sticks up their asses, because it's unjust, whatever), but it's naive to basically adopt a "fuck you I won't do what you tell me" attitude.

  • EchoEcho staring is caring Super Moderator, Moderator mod
    edited April 2011
    A random factoid for your amusement:

    The Swedish word for machine gun, kulspruta, literally means "bullet hose".

  • jothkijothki Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I feel there's some merit to crushing constructions like "would of". It's not internally consistent in any way, it's just corrupting the sound from "would've" into an entirely different word that already has an established meaning.

    I wouldn't want to have to be the one to explain to ESL students exactly why the word 'of' is showing up in a context where it makes no sense, especially when the reason is so stupid.

  • LoveIsUnityLoveIsUnity Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Right, but that's not really a prescriptivist vs. descriptivist issue, because if someone wrote "would of" it would be incorrect (although most people would likely be able to figure it out). However, most people pronounce "would've" and "would of" identically. This is not really an issue.

    Although, for the sake of argument, I would say that "would of" is likely to show up in txt talk, which is its own beast and a pretty exciting area of study at the moment.

    sig.gif
  • taoist drunktaoist drunk Registered User
    edited April 2011
    Ok, "would of" is a bad example. Insert "ahold," or using "sour grapes" to mean "bitterness," or "brussel sprout," or pronouncing "Illinois" "Illinoise," or "send her an invite," or "sooner than later," or "a whole nother" for things my grandmother might say instead of "would of."

  • LoveIsUnityLoveIsUnity Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Ok, "would of" is a bad example. Insert "ahold," or using "sour grapes" to mean "bitterness," or "brussel sprout," or pronouncing "Illinois" "Illinoise," or "send her an invite," or "sooner than later," or "a whole nother" for things my grandmother might say instead of "would of."

    For sure. You also highlighted something I meant to discuss in the op, which is style shifting. I'm absolutely fascinated when I ask a class full of students for situations in which they change the manner in which they speak and they tell me that they talk the same way to everyone and in every situation. It seems like some people are way more aware of it than others, and I can never figure out how or why people don't realize they're doing it.

    sig.gif
  • AtomikaAtomika Hypercritical Queen Bitch of Cinema Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Ok, "would of" is a bad example. Insert "ahold," or using "sour grapes" to mean "bitterness," or "brussel sprout," or pronouncing "Illinois" "Illinoise," or "send her an invite," or "sooner than later," or "a whole nother" for things my grandmother might say instead of "would of."

    For sure. You also highlighted something I meant to discuss in the op, which is style shifting. I'm absolutely fascinated when I ask a class full of students for situations in which they change the manner in which they speak and they tell me that they talk the same way to everyone and in every situation. It seems like some people are way more aware of it than others, and I can never figure out how or why people don't realize they're doing it.

    *cue stock footage of Hillary Clinton suddenly adopting Southern drawl during Florida primary campaign

  • surrealitychecksurrealitycheck NONSTOP INFINITE CLIMAX POSTING you must go on i cant go on ill go onRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    The biggest style shift I perform is typing like a complete drooling retard on forums because it amuses me

    I am mentally 5 years old

    obF2Wuw.png
  • poshnialloposhniallo Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Feral wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Perhaps when people do things the "wrong" way it's because the "wrong" way is actually better than the "right" way. We can discuss whether it's better to use "they" as a genderless third-person pronoun rather than "he" but first there has to be agreement that something can actually be better and that we have some way of figuring out what better is... even if better is contextual (e.g., perhaps 'something we suspect but aren't really sure of' is a fine use of 'theory' in the context of a conversation over the family dinner table but not in the context of a scientific conference).

    I understand what you're saying, but I don't think "better" really exists in the way that you describe it. I also don't think your analogy with moral/cultural relativism is entirely appropriate. I feel comfortable judging a moral system inferior when it causes demonstrable harm (say, mutilation of females, or death of innocents). But what demonstrable harm can an accent or syntactic structure cause?

    That's a fair point.

    I think I let myself get too deep into argumentation, and I didn't mean to do that. I definitely have an opinion, but I don't consider it an educated one. So mostly I'm curious: among mainstream academic & professional linguists, is descriptivism the dominant perspective? Or is there any synthesis, even minorly, of the two perspectives? If there is any synthesis, what does that synthesis entail?

    Prescriptivists are (obviously) more likely to be writing usage guides and dictionaries; descriptivists are more likely to be academics who no one's ever heard of (see what I did there?). Prescriptivists are more interested in writing while descriptivists are more interested in speech. Descriptivists are also interested in the power/authority dynamics inherent in writing usage guides and dictionaries (most of those usage guides and dictionaries are written by relatively wealthy white men, who are generally overrepresented in positions of power). Bryan Garner has suggested a compromise in this article (paywall, sorry):
    Why not let prescriptivists advocate a realistic level of linguistic tidiness, even as the descriptivists nonjudgmentally describe the mess all around them? And if the prescriptivists have moderate success, then why can't the descriptivists simply describe those successes? Education entailing normative values has always been a part of literate society. Why should it suddenly stop merely because descriptive linguists see this kind of education as meddling with natural forces?

    Meanwhile, prescriptivists need to be realistic. We can't expect perfection, and we must bow to universal usage. But when an expression is in transition - when only part of the population has adopted a new usage that seems genuinely undesirable - prescriptivists should be allowed, within reason, to stigmatize it. There's no reason to tolerate wreckless driving in place of reckless driving. Or wasteband in place of waistband. Or corollary when misused for correlation. There are legitimate objections to the slippage.

    I think his proposed compromise is too far to the prescriptivist end of the spectrum, personally. I think a degree of prescriptivism is appropriate in the written word, but speech is a different animal. His three complaints seem legitimate to me, but that's because I can only really imagine them in writing. Maybe because the word "correlation" doesn't come up a lot in day-to-day speech for me. The only time I personally get on a prescriptivist high horse is in the case of academese, business jargon, etc.: with regard to instead of the perfectly serviceable regarding; parameters instead of limits; to reference instead of to refer, etc. Users of academese and business jargon want to share the esteem of "proper" / "standard" English users but instead of just using clear, standard English they engage in deliberate or semi-deliberate obfuscation and just basically say things that don't mean anything. And it's memetic, right? So because of continental philosophers everywhere (sorry), Ph.D. students everywhere are becoming bad writers.

    (note: on reflection I guess this goes for people who say things like "economically disadvantaged" instead of "poor" in an attempt at sensitivity but really just think about telling a poor person she's "economically disadvantaged" and how that would go, exactly. full disclosure: this parenthetical and the above paragraph are heavily influenced by my memory of David Wallace's usage essay reviewing Bryan Garner's Modern American Usage, which was published in Consider the Lobster and is probably my least favorite thing he has ever written.)

    Those seem like acceptable areas for prescriptivists to step in because they're mostly written and all dealing with people who want the authority that comes with "proper grammar." It's ridiculous, though, for some prescriptivist to butt in and say that my grandma shouldn't be saying "would of" instead of "would have" in her living room. I also think that "could care less" is fine in everyday conversation because everyone knows what it means. It's clear to me that there are different kinds of speech and writing that are appropriate in different contexts. When I'm writing here, for instance, I don't take the same kind of care that I do when writing a paper. My mannerisms and dialect are different when I talk to my family than when I talk to my friends, and both of those mannerisms/dialect combinations are different from the combo I adopt when talking to prospective employers or professors. This just seems like common sense, and to me it's the same idea as not wearing shorts to work, or not showing up at the bar on a Saturday in a suit.

    Super-hardcore descriptivism is unrealistic in that way. Sure, I could use non-standard English on my final exam, just like I could show up in a baseball cap and sandals for work, but those wouldn't have desirable consequences. It makes sense to question authority, and even to say that the people who currently hold authority shouldn't (because they have sticks up their asses, because it's unjust, whatever), but it's naive to basically adopt a "fuck you I won't do what you tell me" attitude.

    What you're describing is particular attitudes to writing, not descriptivism and prescriptivism.

    Prescriptivists are not involved in studying language - they're all about telling you how it should work, and frequently they know much less about the actual history of the language than they think.

    Descriptivists are perfectly happy to write in any style - they're just aware that the reasons they are doing so are subjective and cultural, not objective.

    I've never heard of a prescriptivist academic. I'm not sure you could be an academic nowadays and be a prescriptivist. What are you going to study? How wrong everyone is?

    Prescriptivism is unscientific. If you find some colleges with prescriptivist professors, I'd consider that a reason to not go there.

    Ah - in my googling I found an article talking about how they aren't really two sides of the same coins, more like medical researchers vs pro-lifers.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/97mar/halpern/halpern.htm

    I'm not an academic myself, but I used to study linguistics, and as far as I know, prescriptivist are columnists and writers and grumpy old men. Not scientists.

    I figure I could take a bear.
  • LoveIsUnityLoveIsUnity Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    poshniallo wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Perhaps when people do things the "wrong" way it's because the "wrong" way is actually better than the "right" way. We can discuss whether it's better to use "they" as a genderless third-person pronoun rather than "he" but first there has to be agreement that something can actually be better and that we have some way of figuring out what better is... even if better is contextual (e.g., perhaps 'something we suspect but aren't really sure of' is a fine use of 'theory' in the context of a conversation over the family dinner table but not in the context of a scientific conference).

    I understand what you're saying, but I don't think "better" really exists in the way that you describe it. I also don't think your analogy with moral/cultural relativism is entirely appropriate. I feel comfortable judging a moral system inferior when it causes demonstrable harm (say, mutilation of females, or death of innocents). But what demonstrable harm can an accent or syntactic structure cause?

    That's a fair point.

    I think I let myself get too deep into argumentation, and I didn't mean to do that. I definitely have an opinion, but I don't consider it an educated one. So mostly I'm curious: among mainstream academic & professional linguists, is descriptivism the dominant perspective? Or is there any synthesis, even minorly, of the two perspectives? If there is any synthesis, what does that synthesis entail?

    Prescriptivists are (obviously) more likely to be writing usage guides and dictionaries; descriptivists are more likely to be academics who no one's ever heard of (see what I did there?). Prescriptivists are more interested in writing while descriptivists are more interested in speech. Descriptivists are also interested in the power/authority dynamics inherent in writing usage guides and dictionaries (most of those usage guides and dictionaries are written by relatively wealthy white men, who are generally overrepresented in positions of power). Bryan Garner has suggested a compromise in this article (paywall, sorry):
    Why not let prescriptivists advocate a realistic level of linguistic tidiness, even as the descriptivists nonjudgmentally describe the mess all around them? And if the prescriptivists have moderate success, then why can't the descriptivists simply describe those successes? Education entailing normative values has always been a part of literate society. Why should it suddenly stop merely because descriptive linguists see this kind of education as meddling with natural forces?

    Meanwhile, prescriptivists need to be realistic. We can't expect perfection, and we must bow to universal usage. But when an expression is in transition - when only part of the population has adopted a new usage that seems genuinely undesirable - prescriptivists should be allowed, within reason, to stigmatize it. There's no reason to tolerate wreckless driving in place of reckless driving. Or wasteband in place of waistband. Or corollary when misused for correlation. There are legitimate objections to the slippage.

    I think his proposed compromise is too far to the prescriptivist end of the spectrum, personally. I think a degree of prescriptivism is appropriate in the written word, but speech is a different animal. His three complaints seem legitimate to me, but that's because I can only really imagine them in writing. Maybe because the word "correlation" doesn't come up a lot in day-to-day speech for me. The only time I personally get on a prescriptivist high horse is in the case of academese, business jargon, etc.: with regard to instead of the perfectly serviceable regarding; parameters instead of limits; to reference instead of to refer, etc. Users of academese and business jargon want to share the esteem of "proper" / "standard" English users but instead of just using clear, standard English they engage in deliberate or semi-deliberate obfuscation and just basically say things that don't mean anything. And it's memetic, right? So because of continental philosophers everywhere (sorry), Ph.D. students everywhere are becoming bad writers.

    (note: on reflection I guess this goes for people who say things like "economically disadvantaged" instead of "poor" in an attempt at sensitivity but really just think about telling a poor person she's "economically disadvantaged" and how that would go, exactly. full disclosure: this parenthetical and the above paragraph are heavily influenced by my memory of David Wallace's usage essay reviewing Bryan Garner's Modern American Usage, which was published in Consider the Lobster and is probably my least favorite thing he has ever written.)

    Those seem like acceptable areas for prescriptivists to step in because they're mostly written and all dealing with people who want the authority that comes with "proper grammar." It's ridiculous, though, for some prescriptivist to butt in and say that my grandma shouldn't be saying "would of" instead of "would have" in her living room. I also think that "could care less" is fine in everyday conversation because everyone knows what it means. It's clear to me that there are different kinds of speech and writing that are appropriate in different contexts. When I'm writing here, for instance, I don't take the same kind of care that I do when writing a paper. My mannerisms and dialect are different when I talk to my family than when I talk to my friends, and both of those mannerisms/dialect combinations are different from the combo I adopt when talking to prospective employers or professors. This just seems like common sense, and to me it's the same idea as not wearing shorts to work, or not showing up at the bar on a Saturday in a suit.

    Super-hardcore descriptivism is unrealistic in that way. Sure, I could use non-standard English on my final exam, just like I could show up in a baseball cap and sandals for work, but those wouldn't have desirable consequences. It makes sense to question authority, and even to say that the people who currently hold authority shouldn't (because they have sticks up their asses, because it's unjust, whatever), but it's naive to basically adopt a "fuck you I won't do what you tell me" attitude.

    What you're describing is particular attitudes to writing, not descriptivism and prescriptivism.

    Prescriptivists are not involved in studying language - they're all about telling you how it should work, and frequently they know much less about the actual history of the language than they think.

    Descriptivists are perfectly happy to write in any style - they're just aware that the reasons they are doing so are subjective and cultural, not objective.

    I've never heard of a prescriptivist academic. I'm not sure you could be an academic nowadays and be a prescriptivist. What are you going to study? How wrong everyone is?

    Prescriptivism is unscientific. If you find some colleges with prescriptivist professors, I'd consider that a reason to not go there.

    Ah - in my googling I found an article talking about how they aren't really two sides of the same coins, more like medical researchers vs pro-lifers.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/97mar/halpern/halpern.htm

    I'm not an academic myself, but I used to study linguistics, and as far as I know, prescriptivist are columnists and writers and grumpy old men. Not scientists.

    I didn't really want to say it, but this is pretty much the case. I don't know of any prescriptivist academics, although I do know some linguists who remain relatively neutral on the topic. I'm sure if pressed for an opinion they would side with the descriptivists, but they wish the discussion would just go away.

    Posh is right about prescriptivists generally not understanding the history or nuances of English. A lot of the "rules" that come from the 18-19th centuries grammars are derived from Latin, and Latin is not really analogous to English. For instance, this is where we get the split infinitives thing from. It's not actually possible to split an infinitive in Latin, so, by comparison, we shouldn't be able to do it in English either...

    It's also worth mentioning that the idea that upper class people speak more "correctly" than others is ridiculous. Upper class people have always had the advantage of being able to speak however they damn well please. The folks who are most concerned with their speech patterns are those in the middle class, and these are the people the aforementioned grammars were written for.

    sig.gif
  • BagginsesBagginses __BANNED USERS regular
    edited April 2011
    There's also the fact that it's the job of academics to document and analyze what's happening, not to say how things should work. It's like biologists v. doctors. biologists and descriptivism document and analyze how things work, while prescriptivists and doctors try to fix the problems.

    And, of course, the history doesn't really matter, as the language has changed a lot over the years without attempts to use Anglo-Frisian grammar obtaining any legitimacy.

  • FlarnaFlarna Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I've always been fascinated by constructed languages. Perhaps it stems from my days as a proto-nerd haphazardly teaching myself Klingon and Tolkien Elvish (no, I don't retain that knowledge). But all leisurely pursuits aside, constructs were essentially my introduction to an amateur interest in linguistics. Orwell's Newspeak, for instance, is basically a primer on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

    Plus, constructed languages occasionally give us awesome things like Shatner speaking Esperanto.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F77k6SQX7iQ

  • JebusUDJebusUD Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    We should talk about the exclaimation "And How!".

    As in you guys said "Linguistics is awesome!" JebusUD replied "And how!"

    I mean seriously, what the hell.

    You haven't given me a reason to steer clear of you!
  • HachfaceHachface Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    jothki wrote: »
    jothki wrote: »
    Consider the 47 forms of "arrive," in French, versus four in English (arrived, arrives, arrive, arriving).

    That's not an entirely fair comparison, considering how English tends to split out the subject when dealing with verbs, while Romance languages don't. For example, the first person singular form for 'arrive' (whatever the heck that is, I'm not going to bother looking it up) would translate to 'I arrive'. If you bear in mind that English can't drop the subject without resulting in a fragment, English has plenty of verb forms, though most of them are multiple words.

    It's been a long while, but don't you still need to use the subject in French (in most instances)? J'ai arrive, etc.

    Heh, no clue. I'm largely working off high school Latin, and just assuming that all Romance languages are somewhat similar.

    Oh, whoa, link right in my quote, how'd I miss that?

    French, maybe alone among the Romance languages, requires the use of explicit subjects. This is because, even though written French has preserved nearly the full set of Romance verb conjugations, spoken French has changed in such a way that many different verb forms have identical pronunciations (for instance, of the various forms of parler in the present tense, the following distinct forms are pronounced the same: parle, parles, parlent.)

    It's pretty stupid.

  • LoveIsUnityLoveIsUnity Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Hachface wrote: »
    jothki wrote: »
    jothki wrote: »
    Consider the 47 forms of "arrive," in French, versus four in English (arrived, arrives, arrive, arriving).

    That's not an entirely fair comparison, considering how English tends to split out the subject when dealing with verbs, while Romance languages don't. For example, the first person singular form for 'arrive' (whatever the heck that is, I'm not going to bother looking it up) would translate to 'I arrive'. If you bear in mind that English can't drop the subject without resulting in a fragment, English has plenty of verb forms, though most of them are multiple words.

    It's been a long while, but don't you still need to use the subject in French (in most instances)? J'ai arrive, etc.

    Heh, no clue. I'm largely working off high school Latin, and just assuming that all Romance languages are somewhat similar.

    Oh, whoa, link right in my quote, how'd I miss that?

    French, maybe alone among the Romance languages, requires the use of explicit subjects. This is because, even though written French has preserved nearly the full set of Romance verb conjugations, spoken French has changed in such a way that many different verb forms have identical pronunciations (for instance, of the various forms of parler in the present tense, the following distinct forms are pronounced the same: parle, parles, parlent.)

    It's pretty stupid.

    Also, and this doesn't respond to Hach's comments so much as the ones before about "I arrive," it's worth noting that one conjugation in French has several possible English translations.

    For instance, "J'arrive" can mean "I arrive," "I am arriving," or "I do arrive."

    Anyway, the reason that I mention this, is because it's similar to what Hach said about conjugations that have similar pronunciations. Since they're pronounced the same (especially with "il parle" vs. "ils parlent"), speakers rely on context, much like the various possibilities for "j'arrive." (It's also worth mentioning that I have met a few people who claim they pronounce "ils parlent" and "il parle" differently, but I can't hear it.)

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  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Bagginses wrote: »
    There's also the fact that it's the job of academics to document and analyze what's happening, not to say how things should work. It's like biologists v. doctors. biologists and descriptivism document and analyze how things work, while prescriptivists and doctors try to fix the problems.

    And, of course, the history doesn't really matter, as the language has changed a lot over the years without attempts to use Anglo-Frisian grammar obtaining any legitimacy.

    I had a long response typed up but the forum ate it. Basically, there's no incompatibility between biologists and physicians; there are research physicians and medical scientists, there are case studies by practicing doctors published in the same volumes as controlled studies from academic institutions. There are specializations, sure, but the impression I've been getting isn't that descriptive linguistics and prescriptivism aren't simple specializations, but largely incompatible philosophies. A physician and a biologist can hypothetically sit down and have a productive talk about the challenges delivering a certain drug through the bloodstream to a particularly elusive receptor. Does such collaboration ever go on between linguists and the authors of grammar guides?

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • AtomikaAtomika Hypercritical Queen Bitch of Cinema Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Hachface wrote: »
    French, maybe alone among the Romance languages, requires the use of explicit subjects. This is because, even though written French has preserved nearly the full set of Romance verb conjugations, spoken French has changed in such a way that many different verb forms have identical pronunciations (for instance, of the various forms of parler in the present tense, the following distinct forms are pronounced the same: parle, parles, parlent.)

    It's pretty stupid.

    I agree. I was trying to Rosetta Stone myself some Francophone knowledge, and I was all, "How the frickety fuck can 'La fille lit' and 'Les filles lisent' sound virtually identical?!?"

  • JakarrdJakarrd In the belly of OklahomaRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I find it fascinating how easily someone can adopt different phrasings of words into their vocabulary and it be the most natural thing to them.

    I remember when words like LOL and PWN were just starting to crop up around the internet. Then the other day I was listening to a basketball conversation and I hear "Yeah, he was on fire. He was pwning people pretty hard." I did a double take as at first I was like wth is pwning and then I realized he was phoenetically sounding out that word (He said as something akin to POWNING though I've also heard it as pwhen-ning. Same with lol being "lawl" in spoken word.

    I'm curious if other language users find this occuring with integration of made-up words suddenly becoming normal in parlance.

    Greetings Starfighter! You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada.

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  • MimMim Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Are you guys talking about semantics as well? I just did a presentation on Raskin and Attardo's General Theory of Verbal Humor. Pretty interesting, but it's slightly weird how it became a theory but it seems to not work quite so well when actually applied to television scripts. Anyone know why that is?

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  • HachfaceHachface Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Hachface wrote: »
    French, maybe alone among the Romance languages, requires the use of explicit subjects. This is because, even though written French has preserved nearly the full set of Romance verb conjugations, spoken French has changed in such a way that many different verb forms have identical pronunciations (for instance, of the various forms of parler in the present tense, the following distinct forms are pronounced the same: parle, parles, parlent.)

    It's pretty stupid.

    I agree. I was trying to Rosetta Stone myself some Francophone knowledge, and I was all, "How the frickety fuck can 'La fille lit' and 'Les filles lisent' sound virtually identical?!?"

    Ha. By the standards of spoken French, the differences between those two sentences are clear as a bell:

    French:La fille lit; Les filles lisent.
    IPA:lɑː fij li ; le fij liz
    Ghetto Pronunciation Guide: lah fee lee ; lay fee leez

    I admit the difference is probably uncomfortably subtle for English speakers. The trick for cases like this is to remember that the signifier of plurality will not be in the noun itself, but in the article ('les' as opposed to 'la').

    I sometimes don't understand how anyone in France ever understands anyone else.

    edit:
    I mean, this list of French homophones is ridiculous:
    http://french.about.com/od/vocabulary/a/homophones.htm

    There are some extremely important, high-utility words in there, like various forms of avoir (to have) and être (to be).

  • AtomikaAtomika Hypercritical Queen Bitch of Cinema Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Hachface wrote: »
    Hachface wrote: »
    French, maybe alone among the Romance languages, requires the use of explicit subjects. This is because, even though written French has preserved nearly the full set of Romance verb conjugations, spoken French has changed in such a way that many different verb forms have identical pronunciations (for instance, of the various forms of parler in the present tense, the following distinct forms are pronounced the same: parle, parles, parlent.)

    It's pretty stupid.

    I agree. I was trying to Rosetta Stone myself some Francophone knowledge, and I was all, "How the frickety fuck can 'La fille lit' and 'Les filles lisent' sound virtually identical?!?"

    Ha. By the standards of spoken French, the differences between those two sentences are clear as a bell:

    French:La fille lit; Les filles lisent.
    IPA:lɑː fij li ; le fij liz
    Ghetto Pronunciation Guide: lah fee lee ; lay fee leez

    I admit the difference is probably uncomfortably subtle for English speakers. The trick for cases like this is to remember that the signifier of plurality will not be in the noun itself, but in the article ('les' as opposed to 'la').

    I sometimes don't understand how anyone in France ever understands anyone else.

    That's the thing. My masters work is in Linguistics, and I speak fairly fluent Spanish, so the written word and grammatical rules of French are not hardly all that difficult to grasp. But listening to spoken French is daunting to the clumsy American ear.

  • OptimusZedOptimusZed Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Can we talk about the fact that every part of Philadelphia has its own distinct accent, and how I, a midwesterner born and raised that sounds not unlike Dan Rather with a bad head cold, am always mistaken for a native of some other part of Philadelphia than the one I am currently in because of my (lack of) accent?

    Because this has always weirded me out.

    We're reading Rifts. You should too. You know you want to. On Hiatus!

    Any gamers in the Danville, PA area? PM me if you're interested in some tabletop gaming.
  • LoveIsUnityLoveIsUnity Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    OptimusZed wrote: »
    Can we talk about the fact that every part of Philadelphia has its own distinct accent, and how I, a midwesterner born and raised that sounds not unlike Dan Rather with a bad head cold, am always mistaken for a native of some other part of Philadelphia than the one I am currently in because of my (lack of) accent?

    Because this has always weirded me out.

    Everyone has an accent.

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  • Pipe DreamerPipe Dreamer Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Feral wrote: »
    Bagginses wrote: »
    There's also the fact that it's the job of academics to document and analyze what's happening, not to say how things should work. It's like biologists v. doctors. biologists and descriptivism document and analyze how things work, while prescriptivists and doctors try to fix the problems.

    And, of course, the history doesn't really matter, as the language has changed a lot over the years without attempts to use Anglo-Frisian grammar obtaining any legitimacy.

    I had a long response typed up but the forum ate it. Basically, there's no incompatibility between biologists and physicians; there are research physicians and medical scientists, there are case studies by practicing doctors published in the same volumes as controlled studies from academic institutions. There are specializations, sure, but the impression I've been getting isn't that descriptive linguistics and prescriptivism aren't simple specializations, but largely incompatible philosophies. A physician and a biologist can hypothetically sit down and have a productive talk about the challenges delivering a certain drug through the bloodstream to a particularly elusive receptor. Does such collaboration ever go on between linguists and the authors of grammar guides?

    There are style guides written based on scholarship and extensive research, using the same principles and many of the same methods (like corpus analysis) used by linguists. These are generally published by dictionary publishers, like the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage. The really great thing about this guide is that the editors put it together the same way they would put together a dictionary; they actually look at how words have been used in newspapers, magazines, books, etc., and derive their conclusions from factual evidence instead of personal bias.

    The problem, of course, is that most usage guides are written by a single person, and before the Internet it was impossible for one person to conduct all the necessary research to write such a book. So you have style guide writers deciding on a rule and then finding away to justify it, often flagrantly disregarding real usage. And a lot of usage guide authors are openly contemptuous of linguists because they think linguistics means "anything goes."

  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    There are style guides written based on scholarship and extensive research, using the same principles and many of the same methods (like corpus analysis) used by linguists. These are generally published by dictionary publishers, like the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage. The really great thing about this guide is that the editors put it together the same way they would put together a dictionary; they actually look at how words have been used in newspapers, magazines, books, etc., and derive their conclusions from factual evidence instead of personal bias.

    Ohhhhhhkay. That makes sense!

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • OptimusZedOptimusZed Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    OptimusZed wrote: »
    Can we talk about the fact that every part of Philadelphia has its own distinct accent, and how I, a midwesterner born and raised that sounds not unlike Dan Rather with a bad head cold, am always mistaken for a native of some other part of Philadelphia than the one I am currently in because of my (lack of) accent?

    Because this has always weirded me out.

    Everyone has an accent.
    Well, yes. I was just riffing on the fact that a lot of people consider the lower midwest to have some sort of a neutral accent, which is why all the newscasters on television try to sound like us.

    But really, I'm just curious as to how I always get misidentified based on mine. Fishtowners think I'm from West Philly, West Philadelphians think I'm from South Philly, South Philadelphians think I'm from Kensington. Some people even think I'm from New York. It's just bizarre.

    We're reading Rifts. You should too. You know you want to. On Hiatus!

    Any gamers in the Danville, PA area? PM me if you're interested in some tabletop gaming.
  • surrealitychecksurrealitycheck NONSTOP INFINITE CLIMAX POSTING you must go on i cant go on ill go onRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    But listening to spoken French is daunting to the clumsy American ear.

    Just watch French films! You'll pick it up quickly, spoken French is super easy once you've heard it a bit

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  • LoveIsUnityLoveIsUnity Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    OptimusZed wrote: »
    OptimusZed wrote: »
    Can we talk about the fact that every part of Philadelphia has its own distinct accent, and how I, a midwesterner born and raised that sounds not unlike Dan Rather with a bad head cold, am always mistaken for a native of some other part of Philadelphia than the one I am currently in because of my (lack of) accent?

    Because this has always weirded me out.

    Everyone has an accent.
    Well, yes. I was just riffing on the fact that a lot of people consider the lower midwest to have some sort of a neutral accent, which is why all the newscasters on television try to sound like us.

    But really, I'm just curious as to how I always get misidentified based on mine. Fishtowners think I'm from West Philly, West Philadelphians think I'm from South Philly, South Philadelphians think I'm from Kensington. Some people even think I'm from New York. It's just bizarre.

    It is very true that a Midwestern accent is generally considered a neutral accent. I was just giving you a hard time because it's easy to forget that you have an accent, especially when you speak SAE. :P

    In terms of why your accent is misidentified, there are probably a lot of reasons for it. I have only spent a limited amount of time in Philadelphia, but I knew quite a few people in Philly who had only been exposed to Philly culture, thus the possibility that your accent comes from somewhere farther away isn't likely to cross their minds. It's also certainly the case that they don't grasp the nuances of your accent. Think of a famous American actor doing a British accent without spending a long, long time training for it, and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Accents overlap pretty heavily with dialects in a lot of ways, which further confuses people.

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  • surrealitychecksurrealitycheck NONSTOP INFINITE CLIMAX POSTING you must go on i cant go on ill go onRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Think of a famous American actor doing a British accent without spending a long, long time training for it

    I find it interesting how many actors on American TV are not American atm - often with the audience being entirely unaware the actor isn't American.

    I suspect it is largely due to the amount of American media that escapes America, leading to children and young adults hearing lots of American English and grasping its nuances much more than Americans are exposed to, say, Australian English.

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  • AtomikaAtomika Hypercritical Queen Bitch of Cinema Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I suspect it is largely due to the amount of American media that escapes America, leading to children and young adults hearing lots of American English and grasping its nuances much more than Americans are exposed to, say, Australian English.

    If you'll go back a few pages and look at that American/UK dialect map, I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that wherever you live in the US, you're just not going to hear that many specific dialects.

  • Swampy2Swampy2 Registered User
    edited April 2011
    poshniallo wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Perhaps when people do things the "wrong" way it's because the "wrong" way is actually better than the "right" way. We can discuss whether it's better to use "they" as a genderless third-person pronoun rather than "he" but first there has to be agreement that something can actually be better and that we have some way of figuring out what better is... even if better is contextual (e.g., perhaps 'something we suspect but aren't really sure of' is a fine use of 'theory' in the context of a conversation over the family dinner table but not in the context of a scientific conference).

    I understand what you're saying, but I don't think "better" really exists in the way that you describe it. I also don't think your analogy with moral/cultural relativism is entirely appropriate. I feel comfortable judging a moral system inferior when it causes demonstrable harm (say, mutilation of females, or death of innocents). But what demonstrable harm can an accent or syntactic structure cause?

    That's a fair point.

    I think I let myself get too deep into argumentation, and I didn't mean to do that. I definitely have an opinion, but I don't consider it an educated one. So mostly I'm curious: among mainstream academic & professional linguists, is descriptivism the dominant perspective? Or is there any synthesis, even minorly, of the two perspectives? If there is any synthesis, what does that synthesis entail?

    Prescriptivists are (obviously) more likely to be writing usage guides and dictionaries; descriptivists are more likely to be academics who no one's ever heard of (see what I did there?). Prescriptivists are more interested in writing while descriptivists are more interested in speech. Descriptivists are also interested in the power/authority dynamics inherent in writing usage guides and dictionaries (most of those usage guides and dictionaries are written by relatively wealthy white men, who are generally overrepresented in positions of power). Bryan Garner has suggested a compromise in this article (paywall, sorry):
    Why not let prescriptivists advocate a realistic level of linguistic tidiness, even as the descriptivists nonjudgmentally describe the mess all around them? And if the prescriptivists have moderate success, then why can't the descriptivists simply describe those successes? Education entailing normative values has always been a part of literate society. Why should it suddenly stop merely because descriptive linguists see this kind of education as meddling with natural forces?

    Meanwhile, prescriptivists need to be realistic. We can't expect perfection, and we must bow to universal usage. But when an expression is in transition - when only part of the population has adopted a new usage that seems genuinely undesirable - prescriptivists should be allowed, within reason, to stigmatize it. There's no reason to tolerate wreckless driving in place of reckless driving. Or wasteband in place of waistband. Or corollary when misused for correlation. There are legitimate objections to the slippage.

    I think his proposed compromise is too far to the prescriptivist end of the spectrum, personally. I think a degree of prescriptivism is appropriate in the written word, but speech is a different animal. His three complaints seem legitimate to me, but that's because I can only really imagine them in writing. Maybe because the word "correlation" doesn't come up a lot in day-to-day speech for me. The only time I personally get on a prescriptivist high horse is in the case of academese, business jargon, etc.: with regard to instead of the perfectly serviceable regarding; parameters instead of limits; to reference instead of to refer, etc. Users of academese and business jargon want to share the esteem of "proper" / "standard" English users but instead of just using clear, standard English they engage in deliberate or semi-deliberate obfuscation and just basically say things that don't mean anything. And it's memetic, right? So because of continental philosophers everywhere (sorry), Ph.D. students everywhere are becoming bad writers.

    (note: on reflection I guess this goes for people who say things like "economically disadvantaged" instead of "poor" in an attempt at sensitivity but really just think about telling a poor person she's "economically disadvantaged" and how that would go, exactly. full disclosure: this parenthetical and the above paragraph are heavily influenced by my memory of David Wallace's usage essay reviewing Bryan Garner's Modern American Usage, which was published in Consider the Lobster and is probably my least favorite thing he has ever written.)

    Those seem like acceptable areas for prescriptivists to step in because they're mostly written and all dealing with people who want the authority that comes with "proper grammar." It's ridiculous, though, for some prescriptivist to butt in and say that my grandma shouldn't be saying "would of" instead of "would have" in her living room. I also think that "could care less" is fine in everyday conversation because everyone knows what it means. It's clear to me that there are different kinds of speech and writing that are appropriate in different contexts. When I'm writing here, for instance, I don't take the same kind of care that I do when writing a paper. My mannerisms and dialect are different when I talk to my family than when I talk to my friends, and both of those mannerisms/dialect combinations are different from the combo I adopt when talking to prospective employers or professors. This just seems like common sense, and to me it's the same idea as not wearing shorts to work, or not showing up at the bar on a Saturday in a suit.

    Super-hardcore descriptivism is unrealistic in that way. Sure, I could use non-standard English on my final exam, just like I could show up in a baseball cap and sandals for work, but those wouldn't have desirable consequences. It makes sense to question authority, and even to say that the people who currently hold authority shouldn't (because they have sticks up their asses, because it's unjust, whatever), but it's naive to basically adopt a "fuck you I won't do what you tell me" attitude.

    What you're describing is particular attitudes to writing, not descriptivism and prescriptivism.

    Prescriptivists are not involved in studying language - they're all about telling you how it should work, and frequently they know much less about the actual history of the language than they think.

    Descriptivists are perfectly happy to write in any style - they're just aware that the reasons they are doing so are subjective and cultural, not objective.

    I've never heard of a prescriptivist academic. I'm not sure you could be an academic nowadays and be a prescriptivist. What are you going to study? How wrong everyone is?

    Prescriptivism is unscientific. If you find some colleges with prescriptivist professors, I'd consider that a reason to not go there.

    Ah - in my googling I found an article talking about how they aren't really two sides of the same coins, more like medical researchers vs pro-lifers.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/97mar/halpern/halpern.htm

    I'm not an academic myself, but I used to study linguistics, and as far as I know, prescriptivist are columnists and writers and grumpy old men. Not scientists.

    This sums it up exactly. I'm coming out of ~5 years lurking on the PA forums to say this: I am a professional linguist, and no, there are basically no prescriptivist linguists. I'm sure there are a couple somewhere out there, but I've never met a single one.

    prescriptivist = style guide writer
    descriptivist = professional linguist

  • jothkijothki Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    How much formal study has been done on prescriptivism? It seems like it would be possible to do studies on whether certain styles of expression are better than others, and eventually develop linguistic engineering into a true field.

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