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Thread: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

  1. #1
    Peaceful Oasis TomAz's Avatar
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    Default English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    This is really a response to a post Courtney made over in the Movie Corner thread and instead of responding to it there (and thus cluttering that thread with a very tangential but still potentially interesting discussion) I decided to start a separate thread for it.

    ***

    Quote Originally Posted by Courtney View Post
    Right. English is a living language. For better or for worse, things change and words or sentence structures that were once considered incorrect can become accepted over time if enough people are in agreement. It might not be your personal preferred word/phrase/whatever, but if multiple reputable dictionaries include it, you'd be hard-pressed to argue that it's technically incorrect.
    David Foster Wallace wrote a really interesting essay on this whole notion which is reproduced (probably illegally) here.

    Thesis statement for the article:

    Issues of tradition vs. egalitarianism in U.S. English are at root political issues and can be effectively addressed only in what this article hereby terms a "Democratic Spirit." A Democratic Spirit is one that combines rigor and humility, i.e., passionate conviction plus sedulous respect for the convictions of others. As any American knows, this is a very difficult spirit to cultivate and maintain, particularly when it comes to issues you feel strongly about. Equally tough is a D.S.'s criterion of 100 percent intellectual integrity you have to be willing to look honestly at yourself and your motives for believing what you believe, and to do it more or less continually.
    As is the case for nearly every DFW essay I've ever read, he can take an apparently tedious subject and make it fascinating.
    Quote Originally Posted by efrain44 View Post
    Anyone know who the guy in the Cardinals jersey is? I've seen him in pictures on the board and I thought I saw him this year.

  2. #2
    Old Gay Guy gaypalmsprings's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    Language is dynamic, not static.
    Quote Originally Posted by SepaGroove View Post
    You shouldn't feel uncool for not going to EDC, you should feel uncool because you are uncool.

  3. #3
    Peaceful Oasis TomAz's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    Quote Originally Posted by gaypalmsprings View Post
    Language is dynamic, not static.
    No one doubts that.

    Gore's now classic introduction to Webster's Third outlines this type of Descriptivism's five basic edicts:

    "1 Language changes constantly;

    2 Change is normal;

    3 Spoken language is the language;

    4 Correctness rests upon usage;

    5 All usage is relative."

    These principles look prima facie OK commonsensical and couched in the bland simple s.-v.-o, prose of dispassionate Science but in fact they're vague and muddled and it takes about three seconds to think of reasonable replies to each one of them, viz.:

    1 OK, but how much and how fast?

    2 Same thing. Is Heraclitean flux as normal or desirable as gradual change ? Do some changes actually serve the language's overall pizzazz better than others? And how many people have to deviate from how many conventions before we say the language has actually changed? Fifty percent? Ten percent?

    3 This is an old claim, at least as old as Plato's Phaedrus. And it's specious. If Derrida and the infamous Deconstructionists have done nothing else, they've debunked the idea that speech is language's primary instantiation.[18] Plus consider the weird arrogance of Gove's (3) w/r/t correctness. Only the most mullahlike Prescriptivists care very much about spoken English; most Prescriptive usage guides concern Standard Written English.[19]

    4 Fine, but whose usage? Gove's (4) begs the whole question. What he wants to imply here, I think, is a reversal of the traditional entailment-relation between abstract rules and concrete usage: Instead of usage ideally corresponding to a rigid set of regulations, the regulations ought to correspond to the way real people are actually using the language. Again, fine, but which people? Urban Latinos? Boston Brahmins? Rural Midwesterners? Appalachian Neogaelics?

    5 Huh? If this means what it seems to mean, then it ends up biting Gove's whole argument in the ass. (5) appears to imply that the correct answer to the above "which people?" is: "All of them!" And it's easy to show why this will not stand up as a lexicographical principle. The most obvious problem with it is that not everything can go in The Dictionary. Why not? Because you can't observe every last bit of every last native speaker's "language behavior," and even if you could, the resultant dictionary would weigh 4 million pounds and have to be updated hourly.[20] The fact is that any lexicographer is going to have to make choices about what gets in and what doesn't. And these choices are based on ... what? And now we're right back where we started.
    Quote Originally Posted by efrain44 View Post
    Anyone know who the guy in the Cardinals jersey is? I've seen him in pictures on the board and I thought I saw him this year.

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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    Did Al Gore create language now too???
    I'm a reasonable man, get off my case.

  5. #5
    Member paganman7's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    So you're saying that with enough use "Plur" can be a noun and a verb?

    Suhweet.
    Quote Originally Posted by rage patton View Post
    I swear to god. Harrison Ford better not be fucking dead.

  6. #6
    Coachella Junkie SoulDischarge's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    "Plur plur plur plur plur plur plur plur plur plur plur plur plur plur plur plur." is the new "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. "

  7. #7
    old school zenidogx's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    meh
    Quote Originally Posted by KungFuJoe View Post
    Here is all I'll say about borders ... the Los Angeles Angels.

  8. #8
    Peaceful Oasis TomAz's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    What was I thinking?
    Quote Originally Posted by efrain44 View Post
    Anyone know who the guy in the Cardinals jersey is? I've seen him in pictures on the board and I thought I saw him this year.

  9. #9
    MENACING Courtney's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    Thanks Tom. That looks like an interesting essay, although upon skim I'm not convinced that it's necessarily so much easier to be dogmatic than it is to be democratic. I'd like to go back and read it in its entirety when I'm not on deadline.

  10. #10
    Member Green Panda's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    Language is as language does.
    I don't think that's healthy. Everyone should be able to find some sort of arousing porn on the net.

  11. #11
    Act Like You Know real talk's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    The dictionary's like a box of chocolates.
    Quote Originally Posted by TomAz View Post
    You were right. I was wrong.

  12. #12
    Member Green Panda's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    You never know what word you're gonna get.
    I don't think that's healthy. Everyone should be able to find some sort of arousing porn on the net.

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    Brackish African wmgaretjax's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    I'm going to read this when I get home.

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    Endearingly Dislikable RotationSlimWang's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    Wallace is a long-winded douchebag. He can stuff his obscure references up Dennis Miller's urethra.
    Quote Originally Posted by amyzzz View Post
    Hannah, I don't know that pigs have big weiners, and my early 20's facination with dogs because of weiner size, I think. If that helps.

  15. #15
    Brackish African wmgaretjax's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    Quote Originally Posted by RotationSlimWang View Post
    Wallace is a long-winded douchebag.
    That's it. I no longer have a single iota of respect for your taste. Throw yourself in front of a train.

  16. #16
    Coachella Junkie
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    Anti-intellectualism isn't hip anymore Randy.

  17. #17
    Daft Punky Junkie BROKENDOLL's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    I just wanna know if this means canexplain and I will finally make sense to the rest of you?
    Its like the Infinite Monkey Theorem, if you put X amount of monkeys in a room with a typewriter and ask them to give you Shakespeare 99% of them will fling their shit at you while the other 1% will masturbate in the corner.

  18. #18
    Peaceful Oasis TomAz's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    Quote Originally Posted by RotationSlimWang View Post
    Wallace is a long-winded douchebag. He can stuff his obscure references up Dennis Miller's urethra.
    the really weird thing about this is that it seems to me that DFW does a really good job explaining references that might be obscure. I mean he does that really well, explaining exactly what he's getting at. He's the exact opposite of an academic obscurantist.
    Quote Originally Posted by efrain44 View Post
    Anyone know who the guy in the Cardinals jersey is? I've seen him in pictures on the board and I thought I saw him this year.

  19. #19
    Coachella Junkie Alchemy's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    It was my understanding that languages change with each new generation. New languages are formed through many periods of language acquisition, because that is when sub-conscious rules are formed--often adding variation to the way the previous generation spoke the language. I'm taking a class on syntax this semester so maybe I'll know about this more, but that's my guestimation based on my intro to linguistic class.
    Quote Originally Posted by canexplain View Post
    I try to be politically pc more than most here: As a dude, anyone who could put a shark up a gals pc body, is pretty creepy, different and interesting. Just saying big time ..... cr****

  20. #20
    Act Like You Know real talk's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    GUESTIMATION ISN'T A WORD ALCHEMY JESUS CHRIST
    Quote Originally Posted by TomAz View Post
    You were right. I was wrong.

  21. #21
    Coachella Junkie chairmenmeow47's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    what a perfectly cromulent word :P
    Quote Originally Posted by malcolmjamalawesome View Post
    It's when we discuss Coachella that we are at our collective dipshittiest.

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    Member prettydirtything's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    Quote Originally Posted by real talk View Post
    GUESTIMATION ISN'T A WORD ALCHEMY JESUS CHRIST
    Based on my guestimations, it will be eventually.
    02, 03, 04, 05, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12.2

  23. #23
    Peaceful Oasis TomAz's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    it already is.
    Quote Originally Posted by efrain44 View Post
    Anyone know who the guy in the Cardinals jersey is? I've seen him in pictures on the board and I thought I saw him this year.

  24. #24

    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    Quote Originally Posted by real talk View Post
    GUESTIMATION ISN'T A WORD ALCHEMY JESUS CHRIST


    Not yet it ain't.

  25. #25
    Peaceful Oasis TomAz's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    Quote Originally Posted by efrain44 View Post
    Anyone know who the guy in the Cardinals jersey is? I've seen him in pictures on the board and I thought I saw him this year.

  26. #26
    Act Like You Know real talk's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    Wow. Well, he spelled it wrong so I'm still funny.
    Quote Originally Posted by TomAz View Post
    You were right. I was wrong.

  27. #27

    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    From Oxford -

  28. #28
    Coachella Junkie Alchemy's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    Double "s" in guesstimate? But that looks so wordtarded.
    Quote Originally Posted by canexplain View Post
    I try to be politically pc more than most here: As a dude, anyone who could put a shark up a gals pc body, is pretty creepy, different and interesting. Just saying big time ..... cr****

  29. #29
    Act Like You Know real talk's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    why I eyes ya
    Quote Originally Posted by TomAz View Post
    You were right. I was wrong.

  30. #30
    Endearingly Dislikable RotationSlimWang's Avatar
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    Default Re: English grammar rules vs. 'living language'

    Quote Originally Posted by wmgaretjax View Post
    That's it. I no longer have a single iota of respect for your taste. Throw yourself in front of a train.
    Jared, you like complete shit. I couldn't care less if you respect my taste because if I'm doing my job right then you shouldn't.

    1000 page books can go fuck themselves.
    Quote Originally Posted by amyzzz View Post
    Hannah, I don't know that pigs have big weiners, and my early 20's facination with dogs because of weiner size, I think. If that helps.

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