20 feb. 2007

I've learned from reading Language Log over the past few years that most people's grammatical "pet peeves" are really linguistic shibboleths with no basis in linguistic reality or "grammar." Grammar is not a set of meaningless prohibitions about splitting infinitives, but the internal structure of a language.

Educated people are often not educated in linguistics. I still have people asking me where the "best" Spanish is spoken. Educated people are actually worse than non-educated people, in this respect, because they think they know things about grammar that they don't actually know. In other words, their knowledge is baseless, pure prejudice in many cases.

I've also learned that Strunk & White are considered idiots by contemporary linguists. The Elements of Style is a completely worthless book.

I wish I had some formal training in linguistics. Obviously I have none at all, although I use or abuse it every day on the job.

4 comentarios:

lindsayi dijo...

absolutely and totally agreed. i think everyone, especially any language major, should have formal linguistics training. prescriptive grammar (as opposed to descriptive) has very limited purpose, because language changes. someday soon english will no longer have a subjunctive and that's not *wrong*, it's just *different*

JWG dijo...

I will continue to stand by my Elements of Style.

Jonathan dijo...


Either you haven't read the Language Log posts about Strunk and White, or

You have read them and are still sticking behind it, because you haven't been convinced.


What would it take to convince you?

JWG dijo...

I just went over and read some of the posts. I like the posts. They seem pretty right on to me. If you take the advise to excess, it does turn absurd. We do need adjectives.... sometimes a needless word makes something sound much better. So I will give them that. Not that they need giving. What the book does well though is give a quick hit. It lets me, when I have a question, go in there and quickly find an acceptable answer. If all freshman comp students followed the S&W rules (when in doubt), those essays would be much easier to read. I am not saying the book is the beginning and the end, only that it has helped me before. I am not sure where it has hurt me.

What would it take to change my mind? I think, if it could be shown that this book is dangerous to a comp I student, I'd change my mind. Right now though, if we are putting odds on a readability match, I'd take the comp I student with the book over the comp I student without the book.