So a conjunction can have a different grammatical number from the pronouns inside it. Why, then, must it have the same grammatical [case] as the pronouns inside it? The answer is that it need not.
I don't think that many people say that, rydinearth. In fact, I don't think anyone would say that. I only got two hits for "gave the cookies to I" and both were people discussing the sorry state that language was in. Needless to say, I will forgo their arguments; been there, done that, nothing to see, hear or read.
A LOT of people now say or write sentences like this:
Mother gave the cookies to Janie and I".
Notwithstanding your quote from Steven Pinker, this usage is simply wrong. It violates current established rules of English grammar.
There are many expressions and grammatical constructions that are not normally used in Standard English. These include regional expressions, such as might could, and other usages, such as ain’t and it don’t, that are typically associated with dialects used by people belonging to less prestigious social groups. These nonstandard varieties of English are no less logical or systematic than Standard English. In this book an expression labeled nonstandard is not wrong; it is merely inappropriate for ordinary usage in Standard English.
It is important to remember that formal and informal refer to styles of expression, not standards of correctness. Informal English has its own rules of grammar and is just as logical as formal English. You can be serious using informal English, just as you can be comical using formal English. The two styles are simply used for different occasions.
And since this topic is about "Pet Peeves", I guess I can't help getting a bit peevish.
'peevish' is one thing, 'accuracy' another.
True enough. For one thing, one is an adjective, the other a noun. But then, I wouldn't want to be a "prescriptivist."
I find it interesting that you're basically dispensing with the need for accuracy in English, while at the same time criticizing me for my lack of it.
Incorrect - sorry - "non-standard" English is fine for discussing my boo wit my peeps in da hood, but it bothers me to hear it coming from people for whom public speaking is their livelihood; presidents, politicians, lawyers, journalists etc.
Just curious, is there anything you WOULD consider a wrong usage of English? Or can I justify any misuse of the language by just calling it "non-standard"?
Ideology, Power, and Linguistic Theory
Geoffrey K. Pullum University of California, Santa Cruz
Grammar and style Grammar " the principles constituting the syntactically and morphologically permissible expressionsof a language " is not at all the same thing as style. Style involves skill. It involves making choicesbetween alternatives that the grammar makes available. Those choices can make the difference betweenusing the language brilliantly or using it ploddingly. This is the sort of domain in which the notion ofregulative rules makes sense. Indeed, what are known as ‘house style’ guides issued by publishers ofbooks, journals, and newspapers may lay down rules that are in effect mandatory (there can be job-relatedconsequences if the rules are not followed). But other sources (language teachers; writing tutors; bookson how to write) offer discretionary advice.
When a style guide or writing tutor tells you that adjuncts are not placed between to and the head verb of an infinitival clause, the claim is not that this never happens in Standard English prose. Far from it: the matter would not be worth mentioning unless people oftenplaced adjuncts in that position! Rather, the claim is that you are doing wrong if you position adjunctsthus: you are doing something that you shouldn’t.
This is what is meant by a prescriptive rule. Construed as having descriptive intent, prescriptive rules seem hopelessly silly, easily refuted hypotheses about the correctness conditions. They seem less worthy of being taken seriously than the absurdly obvious warnings printed on the packaging of nearlyevery kind of tool or other consumer durable you can buy in America.
I swear I purchased a foldingwindshield-sized cardboard screen for protecting the inside of my car from getting overheated in the hotCalifornia summer sun, and on the back were the words “Do not drive with screen in place.”But at least that is advice that everyone seems to follow (I certainly do), and a good thing too.
Prescriptive rules seem even dopier than that, because they warn against doing things which (a) everybody does all the time, and (b) are not harmful or inadvisable anyway.
But of course prescriptive rules are not intended to be constitutive. They are intended to be regulative.English is assumed to be already defined in some other way, or not to need any definition.
The prescriptivist’s rules are deliberately making recommendations about the ways in which you are recommendedto use it or not to use it.
The received view of AAVE appears to be that it is just glaringly in contravention of prescriptive rules:it is bad Standard English, sullied and impaired by ignorant mistakes. This is not a defensible view. It makes a readily testable claim: that white English speakers should be able to do convincing impressionsof AAVE speakers simply by injecting random mistakes. They should be able to write scripts for AAVEspeakers in films, for example. Try it. You won’t do well as a scriptwriter for films with young urbanAfrican American characters. There are well described systematic features of the syntax and morphologyof AAVE that you would need to learn if you wanted to pass as yourself off as knowing it.Some African Americans seem to think there is no possibility of your succeeding at the task, inci-dentally. I gave some examples of a few elementary rules of AAVE syntax during a lecture to teachers inSanta Clara County, California, and later a black teacher came up to me and explained that there aren’treally any constitutive correctness conditions for AAVE: it’s entirely a matter of personal style, intuitiverather than governed by constraints; rather like jazz. It’s a black thing, he wanted me to understand.Of course, in one respect the suggestion he made actually goes beyond the received view: by saying 2 See my ‘Language that dare not speak its name’ (Nature 386, 27 March 1997, 321-322, for a brief commentary. Igive a fuller discussion in ‘African American Vernacular English is not Standard English with mistakes,’ in The Workings ofLanguage: From Prescriptions to Perspectives, ed. by Rebecca S. Wheeler, 39"58 (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999).
I haven't decided how much I agree with what I just said. Just thinkin' aloud, is all.
Interesting. This is mostly a thought experiment, but I wonder: does Pinker's argument undo itself? Pinker claims that there is some flexibility when it comes to the grammatical number of a conjunction, and that there should therefore be some flexibility when it comes to the grammatical case of a conjunction. But that claim assumes that the conventions governing grammatical number should be consistent with the conventions governing grammatical case. What is the basis of that claim?
Pinker's argument about the grammatical number of a conjunction demonstrates that grammatical conventions are not obliged to be consistent. So why does he want the flexibility of one area to be applicable to the flexibility of another?
To say that there can't be any freedom in the grammatical case of a conjunction is an arbitrary decree, to be sure; but what aspect of grammar isn't?
From your postings to date it's not at all clear that you know what constitutes a misuse of language. Personal peeves/prescriptions, gleaned from mothers/fathers, old grammar school teachers, even a large number of college/university professors of English, do not count as misuse of language.
No, I get the point you're making. Failure to follow prescriptive rules does not constitute misuse of the language. I don't know that I agree with that, but I'll be the first to admit, I don't bother following the letter of the prescriptive law in everyday speech myself.
But this whole topic is about pet peeves related to English grammar. And I'm sorry, but for those of us who actually bothered to learn these rules in school, it's irritating to hear them constantly mutilated by people who should know better.
The thing of it is is...
The reason being is...
My car needs washed...
Of of the sudden...
That gift is for Jim and I.
Most people probably don't even notice, but for whatever reason, I do, and it bugs me.
HOW GRAMMARS OF ENGLISH HAVE MISSED THE BOAT
THERE'S BEEN MORE FLUMMOXING THAN MEETS THE EYE
Charles-James N. Bailey
Consider the possibility that English grammar has been misanalysed for centuries because of grammarians’ accepting fundamentally flawed assumptions about grammar and, not least, because of a flawed view of the history of English; and that these failings have resulted in a huge disconnect between English grammars and the genius of the English that really exists among educated native-speakers.
The development of the information age and of English as a world language means that such lapses have even greater negative import than formerly. But what is available on the shelves has fallen into sufficient discredit for grammar to have forfeited its place in the curriculum, unrespected and little heeded by the brighter students.
For here are the remarkable facts. Most of the prescriptive rules of the language mavens make no sense on any level. They are bits of folklore that originated for screwball reasons several hundred years ago and have perpetuated themselves ever since. For as long as they have existed, speakers have flouted them, spawning identical plaints about the imminent decline of the language century after century. All the best writers in English have been among the flagrant flouters. The rules conform neither to logic nor tradition, and if they were ever followed they would force writers into fuzzy, clumsy, wordy, ambiguous, incomprehensible prose, in which certain thoughts are not expressible at all. Indeed, most of the "ignorant errors" these rules are supposed to correct display an elegant logic and an acute sensitivity to the grammatical texture of the language, to which the mavens are oblivious.
The scandal of the language mavens began in the 18th Century. The London dialect had become an important world language, and scholars began to criticize it as they would any institution, in part to question the authority of the aristocracy. Latin was considered the language of enlightenment and learning and it was offered as an ideal of precision and logic to which English should aspire.
The period also saw unprecedented social mobility, and anyone who wanted to distinguish himself as cultivated had to master the best version of English. These trends created a demand for handbooks and style manuals, which were soon shaped by market forces: the manuals tried to outdo one another by including greater numbers of increasingly fastidious rules that no refined person could afford to ignore. Most of the hobgoblins of contemporary prescriptive grammar (don't split infinitives, don't end a sentence with a preposition) can be traced back to these 18th Century fads.
Let me say this as kindly as I can, Rydinearth. You aren't getting it. There's nothing wrong with four of the five "grammar problems" you've laid out above.
Grammar isn't the simplistic stuff of your school days. Grammar is a series of exceedingly, astoundingly complicated rules that allow you [and everyone else] to post here without having the faintest conscious idea of how you did it.
The vast majority of the "rules" that you learned in school were not rules at all. They were fictions, old wives tales, nonsense; all the forgoing are excellent words describing 'prescriptions'.
The students who bothered to learn these "rules" wasted their time.
It seems to me that if the average person is going to get "peeved" about something in the English language, it would be these "simplistic prescriptives" of which you speak; deviations from what they have come to accept as correct usage of the English language. What else are people going to get peeved about? Some complex and obscure grammatical construct? Seems to me you're the one that's missing the point. This whole topic is supposed to be a fun way of venting about those little usages that annoy us in everyday speech. And that's exactly what I'm doing.
Setanta: There are several members who used to post here who no longer do so because the grammar peeve threads had become just about their only hang-outs, and this idiot totally spoiled the experience for them by setting up as the great Panjandrum of Authority on English grammar, telling them what they were and were not allowed to be peeved about.
back to the subject: my peeve is those who come here and speak in text language, usually I think the very young. When they are too lazy or too ingnorant to use full english language words I get offended.
It seems to me that if the average person is going to get "peeved" about something in the English language, it would be these "simplistic prescriptives" of which you speak; deviations from what they have come to accept as correct usage of the English language. What else are people going to get peeved about? Some complex and obscure grammatical construct?
Seems to me you're the one that's missing the point. This whole topic is supposed to be a fun way of venting about those little usages that annoy us in everyday speech. And that's exactly what I'm doing. You may find nothing wrong with the examples I gave, but every time I hear them it's like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. BTW, which one didn't you like
The Decline of Grammar
But while it is understandable that speakers of a language with a literary tradition would tend to be pessimistic about its course, there is no more hard evidence for a general linguistic degeneration than there is reason to believe that Aaron and Rose are inferior to Ruth and Gehrig.
Most of my fellow linguists, in fact, would say that it is absurd even to talk about a language changing for the better or the worse. When you have the historical picture before you, and can see how Indo-European gradually slipped into Germanic, Germanic into Anglo-Saxon, and Anglo-Saxon into the English of Chaucer, then Shakespeare, and then Henry James, the process of linguistic change seems as ineluctable and impersonal as continental drift. From this Olympian point of view, not even the Norman invasion had much of an effect on the structure of the language, and all the tirades of all the grammarians since the Renaissance sound like the prattlings of landscape gardeners who hope by frantic efforts to keep Alaska from bumping into Asia.
BTW, which one didn't you like?