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Prescriptivism - peddling myths about language

 
 
joefromchicago
 
  2  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 10:28 am
@JTT,
JTT wrote:

Quote:
Not according to my definition of "like."


That's the best you can do, Joe?

And you're doing any better?

JTT wrote:
As YOU see it, Joe. It is not my strange definition. It is a definition supported by language science.

You claim that prescriptivism is wrong and that descriptivism is right, and you back up your claim by defining prescriptivism as being wrong because it's not descriptivism. That's how YOU see it, JTT. And if that's how language science sees it, then I'm surprised that nobody else has noticed that obvious bootstrapping argument before.
Merry Andrew
 
  2  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 10:44 am
@JTT,
Quote:
If you'd like to read more about it, there's a good discussion in The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker.


I've had Pinker's book sitting on my shelf for years. It's right next to Pei's slim little volume . Yes, I've read it but was apparently less struck with it than you. You quote Pinker sometimes the way some born-again Christians quote the Gospels.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 10:54 am
@JTT,
JTT wrote:
Descriptivists describe it as I described it to Joe. It's ungrammatical for standard English.


See? Both camps decry this bit of grammar, but for different reasons.

Quote:
But it is accepted, Robert. It has its place in the nonstandard English, as I believe I also mentioned to Joe, and it's similar in nature to "Confucius say".


JTT, you are moving the goalposts now. Sure, both camps "accept" abusage as "nonstandard", "colloquial" etc. There is a greater deal of acceptance of these things with descriptivism but this simply wasn't what we are talking about. The point I had been making is that both camps disagree with that bit of grammar, not whether they find it within themselves to accept nonstandard grammar's place in society.

Quote:
Please don't try and delineate what this thread is about.


If you keep engaging in the fallacy of equivocation I will continue to point it out.

Quote:
Prescriptivism is based on deceit. Such is not the case for descriptivism.


Moving the goalposts is deceitful.

Quote:
The part I've underlined is not true. It's not standard English but it's clear that it is English, just of a nonstandard variety. ain't isn't standard English but it isn't rejected by descriptivists. It's just accurately described as to how it fits our language.


You are quibbling over nothing. The point is that both camps deem that structure to be abusage, if you prefer "nonstandard" that's fine but it makes no difference to the point.

Quote:
For some dialects, ain't is standard.


Dialects are subjective. I can claim that "me want cookie" is a "youthful dialect" and the descriptivists that don't accept it are making a subjective decision on what constitutes a legitimate dialect.

Again, all abusage has a pattern of use at some level.

Quote:
On these two particular issues, it's not just a question of drawing a line regarding prevalency. The analysis was simply dead wrong. In the case of 'can' prescriptivists held to the false notion that 'can' only meant ability. In the case of 'that/which', there isn't a time in the language that that was followed. Again prescriptivists simply misanalysed the language.


This kind of thing is why you have to go to such great lengths (usually making a new thread about the subject when you've been ignored in other threads) to get intelligent people to talk to you.

I was talking about descriptive thresholds being subjective, and you counter with your stock and store criticism about prescriptivism. It simply doesn't answer what I had said at all and it's like talking to an obnoxious parrot.

Quote:
This is all too common a thread in prescriptivism. Why would anyone want to put their trust in such failures? Language is more than capable of handling itself. If 'me want cookie' becomes the norm, it'll become the norm despite what anyone says.


Repeating yourself ad nauseum doesn't make your point any more valid. There's no profit to be had (by either party it seems) to continue going in circles with you so if all you have to say is a simplistic criticism of prescriptivism then there's nothing more to discuss with you on the subject.

We already knew we didn't agree on this, and I'm not going to engage in the repetition you seem fond of.
High Seas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 10:57 am
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

JTT wrote:
As YOU see it, Joe. It is not my strange definition. It is a definition supported by language science.

........... And if that's how language science sees it, then I'm surprised that nobody else has noticed that obvious bootstrapping argument before.


Joe - the sight of JTT babbling the word "science" is too ridiculous to bother commenting on. His/her position meets the precise criteria for what Wolfgang Pauli designated as so utterly irrelevant as not to even be wrong.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 11:44 am
@Merry Andrew,
Quote:
Yes, I've read it but was apparently less struck with it than you. You quote Pinker sometimes the way some born-again Christians quote the Gospels.


If you've read it then how it is that you missed the part about the Hawaian pidgin/Creole, Merry?
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 12:13 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Quote:
See? Both camps decry this bit of grammar, but for different reasons.


Robert, you definitely don't get it. Descriptivists do NOT decry such examples. Describing something as nonstandard doesn't mean that it's incorrect or that it's bad language or that it's abusage, it simply means that it's nonstandard.

Quote:
First, I didn't "decry" the form are in the quoted example from a letter published in the Philadelphia Inquirer). (Decrying is strong disapproval, open condemnation with intent to discredit; check your Webster.) It needs no strong public condemnation; it doesn't offend me. I merely said it was wrongly inflected. And I explained in painstaking detail why it couldn't satisfy the normal principles of English. Now, what are these things I'm calling the normal principles? Where do they come from?
http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/001843.html



Quote:
JTT, you are moving the goalposts now. Sure, both camps "accept" abusage as "nonstandard", "colloquial" etc. There is a greater deal of acceptance of these things with descriptivism but this simply wasn't what we are talking about. The point I had been making is that both camps disagree with that bit of grammar, not whether they find it within themselves to accept nonstandard grammar's place in society.

You are quibbling over nothing. The point is that both camps deem that structure to be abusage, if you prefer "nonstandard" that's fine but it makes no difference to the point.


It makes all the difference in the world. It illustrates that despite your protestations you don't understand what descriptivism is. Descriptivists don't make value judgments about language. They describe how each language works, and how each dialect within a language works.

Quote:

Grammar Puss

S Pinker

I hope to have convinced you of two things. Many prescriptive rules are just plain dumb and should be deleted from the usage handbooks. And most of standard English is just that, standard, in the sense of standard units of currency or household voltages. It is just common sense that people should be given every encouragement and opportunity to learn the dialect that has become the standard one in their society and to employ it in many formal settings. But there is no need to use terms like "bad grammar," "fractured syntax," and "incorrect usage" when referring to rural and Black dialects. Though I am no fan of "politically correct" euphemism (in which, according to the satire, "white woman" should be replaced by "melanin-impoverished person of gender"), using terms like "bad grammar" for "nonstandard" is both insulting and scientifically inaccurate.

http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/articles/media/1994_01_24_thenewrepublic.html


Did you actually read G Pullum's article or Grammar Puss by S Pinker?

Quote:
Barbara Scholz and I have taken to using the term correctness conditions for whatever are the actual conditions on your expressions that make them the expressions of your language " and likewise for anyone else's language. If you typically say I ain't got no hammer to explain that you don't have a hammer, then the correctness conditions for your dialect probably include a condition classifying ain't as a negative auxiliary, and a condition specifying that indefinite noun phrases in negated clauses take negative determiners, and a condition specifying that the subject precedes the predicate, and so on. The expressions of your language are the ones that comply with all the correctness conditions that are the relevant ones for you.




High Seas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 12:47 pm
@Merry Andrew,
Andrew - you know, of course, that Pinker is a psychologist. What eminence he may have achieved in that field I don't know, but he has made vastly erroneous statements on AI, Chomsky hierarchies, and innate linguistic structures, especially concerning numbers. He does appear to have retracted most of those statements, though. It's a mystery to me why JTT persists in posting on subjects of which s/he is wholly ignorant, but maybe it's some kind of self-destructive behavior, heaping ridicule on oneself - here's where psychology might be of some utility <G>
JTT
 
  0  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 01:10 pm
@High Seas,
Prone as you are to prevarication and illustrative of your poor reading skills, see,

Two British man jailed for web race crimes
http://able2know.org/topic/134153-1

I think that sources are in order, High Seas.

Perhaps you'd like to defend some of the prescriptive myths.
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 01:40 pm
@JTT,
Quote:
If you've read it then how it is that you missed the part about the Hawaian pidgin/Creole, Merry?


What made you think I'd missed it, JTT?
JTT
 
  0  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 01:53 pm
@Merry Andrew,
The questions you asked. You seemed somewhat unsure of the very thing you were describing, Merry.
High Seas
 
  0  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 03:47 pm
@JTT,
JTT wrote:

Prone as you are to prevarication and illustrative of your poor reading skills, see,.....


ROFL! In a spirit of Christian charity I never even addressed directly your inane posts, but this incredibly lame sentence is one to be kept as an example forever to be avoided in AI, though most machines know parsing terms (words and numbers) in all human languages better than you do:

Quote:
Prone as you are to prevarication and illustrative of your poor reading skills, see,.....


Subject, object, verb - you ever heard of proper order?! Clearly it's too much to expect syntactical discipline from a devotee of "creoles", whether equipped with indo-european superstructures or (like Hawaiian original dialects) not. Forget "innate grammars", JTT, if you ever even heard the term, which I doubt: for you it's been far, far, too late since you were about 3 years old. Check with your hero, Pinker, he'll confirm this Smile Smile
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 04:28 pm
@High Seas,
Quote:
but this incredibly lame sentence is one to be kept as an example forever to be avoided in AI, though most machines know parsing terms (words and numbers) in all human languages better than you do:


Quote:
Subject, object, verb - you ever heard of proper order?!


I'm not sure specifically, what AI has to do with the discussion at hand. Perhaps you could stop babbling for a second and explain yourself.

What kind of order do you have in mind, HS, word order, maybe? And what language do you have in mind?

High Seas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 04:38 pm
@JTT,
ANY language, JTT, whether man or machine language - but not, sadly, any of the languages YOU would be familiar with. From your posts I gather you're a creole / pidgin native speaker (of which language, indo-european or not, is immaterial) and you consequently cannot even comprehend WHY Pinker is wrong when he considers creoles languages in their own right.

They are definitely not - they are derivative, bastardized, dim mirror images of a whole which includes numbering systems. Truly I don't think that even the greatests linguists could explain to you the errors in that sentence of yours that I re-posted; you are simply not equipped to grasp such concepts, any more than a tone-deaf man can ever become an opera singer, or a quadriplegic become a triathlon champion. Surely you must have some other talent? - Please use it and stop wasting the time of other posters here; thanks.
JTT
 
  0  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 05:13 pm
@High Seas,
I asked that you stop babbling, but as you seem unable to control yourself, I guess we'll just have to work with that.

What caused you to leap to the illogical conclusion that I'm a "devotee" of Creoles?

Quote:
Truly I don't think that even the greatests linguists could explain to you the errors in that sentence of yours that I re-posted;


Well then, we'll have to leave that up to you, High Seas. Go for it; set it out in clear logical sentences, not the "all over the map" diatribes you've so far exhibited.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  0  
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 10:46 am
@JTT,
Quote:
Robert wrote: JTT, you are moving the goalposts now. Sure, both camps "accept" abusage as "nonstandard", "colloquial" etc. There is a greater deal of acceptance of these things with descriptivism but this simply wasn't what we are talking about. The point I had been making is that both camps disagree with that bit of grammar, not whether they find it within themselves to accept nonstandard grammar's place in society.

You are quibbling over nothing. The point is that both camps deem that structure to be abusage, if you prefer "nonstandard" that's fine but it makes no difference to the point.


Well, Robert, no goalposts were moved, and clearly I wasn't quibbling over nothing. I took you at your word that you understood the difference. That was my mistake. You clearly did not.

Quote:
To prescriptivists of this sort, there is just nothing you can say, because they do not acknowledge any circumstances under which they might conceivably find that they are wrong about the language. If they believe infinitives shouldn't be split, it won't matter if you can show that every user of English on the planet has used split infinitives, they'll still say that nonetheless it's just wrong.

That's the opposite insanity to "anything that occurs is correct": it says "nothing that occurs is relevant". Both positions are completely nuts. But there is a rather more subtle position in the middle that isn't. That is the interesting and conceptually rather difficult truth that Zink does not perceive.

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/001843.html


That is the "interesting and conceptually difficult truth that" you also missed, Robert. That is what Joe has missed too and I'm sure, no, I know that there are many others that have missed it.

Such is the mindset of the Strunk & White generation. And it continues to be passed on by that exalted group of "legislators of "correct English," [the] informal network of copy-editors, dictionary usage panelists, style manual writers, English teachers, essayists, and pundits".

Once more, for all those who continue to miss it or, for whatever cockamamie reasons, refuse to believe it.

Quote:
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.

http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/articles/media/1994_01_24_thenewrepublic.html



Why did this happen, you ask?

Quote:
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.


[emphasis is mine]

These "rules" were nothing more than fads, falsehoods propagated so that some folks could sell books. It goes on today; Garner, Safire, Lederer, Partridge, Simon, ...

One only has to go thru the Peeves threads to find these same pieces of nonsense, [none of them original ideas], repeated time and again. It started out with ailsagirl, egged on by "I am in the business - EFL publishing - and I know these things!" Clary, and others who knew and likely still know very little about language.

But like good little prescriptivists everywhere, they dutifully memorized a series of falsehoods and proceeded to spread them far and wide.

When you read/hear something about language where the writer/speaker uses should/must take a step back, take a thought back and ask yourself, "Is that really true? I know that I hear it often in the speech of native speakers, see it in the writing of those same native speakers."

Ask that person to show you why we should/must follow that "rule". Note the complete absence of anyone in this thread defending the prescriptions. Go to the other Peeve threads and you'll notice the same thing.






0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 11:14 am
@High Seas,
Quote:
High Seas wrote: Subject, object, verb - you ever heard of proper order?! Clearly it's too much to expect syntactical discipline from a devotee of "creoles",


This probably wasn't an example of HS's normal prevarication. I say this because she apparently isn't all that well versed in the study of language though she attempts to suggest that she is with a steady stream of psycho babble, ... that's psycho babble, not psycho-babble.

She screams; "ANY language, JTT, whether man or machine language ..."

Well, actually, not ANY language, High Seas.

English is not a "Subject, object, verb" language. It's a "subject-verb-object [SOV] language.

Quote:
SVO language 
"noun Linguistics.
a type of language that has basic subject-verb-object word order, as English, Chinese, or Spanish.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/svo+language?qsrc=2446


Perhaps, High Seas was suggesting that I should have written that sentence "she reposted" in English using Japanese, Tamil or Turkish word order.

Given the degree of incoherency found in her postings, one can't ever be sure just what it is she suggests or means.

Quote:
SOV language 
"noun Linguistics.
a type of language that has basic subject-object-verb order, as Turkish, Japanese, or Tamil.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Sov+language

0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 11:42 am
Quote:
I wrote: It's a "subject-verb-object [SOV] language.


My mistake, sorry. [SOV] should have been [SVO].
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 12:12 pm
@JTT,
What I was describing, JTT, was in an entirely different context from any considerations about pidgin or creole. I understand how these dialect variations occur and how they work.
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 12:32 pm
@Merry Andrew,
I suspect you do, Merry, but I must say then that I am puzzled by your post on that issue.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Aug, 2009 12:43 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Quote:
You are quibbling over nothing. The point is that both camps deem that structure to be abusage, if you prefer "nonstandard" that's fine but it makes no difference to the point.


Was it you that added 'abusage' as a Peeves' tag, Robert? I hoped you've grasped by now that there is no such thing except in the minds of prescriptivists, who, given their numerous poor analyses of language, are not people that should be trusted. [damn, that passive again, better read S&W once more.]

Quote:
Dialects are subjective. I can claim that "me want cookie" is a "youthful dialect" and the descriptivists that don't accept it are making a subjective decision on what constitutes a legitimate dialect.

Again, all abusage has a pattern of use at some level.


You can claim anything you want. But the likelihood that that notion would even be entertained is negligible, on a few counts, none of them having to do with what descriptivists accept.

Let's put the 'abusage' thing where it belongs, right in the trash can.

Quote:
I was talking about descriptive thresholds being subjective, and you counter with your stock and store criticism about prescriptivism. It simply doesn't answer what I had said at all and it's like talking to an obnoxious parrot.


As you can see now, the problem wasn't mine. We were operating on the principle that you understood enough to engage in a meaningful discussion. Such was not the case.

Quote:
Repeating yourself ad nauseum doesn't make your point any more valid. There's no profit to be had (by either party it seems) to continue going in circles with you so if all you have to say is a simplistic criticism of prescriptivism then there's nothing more to discuss with you on the subject.


Clearly, repeating a point ad nauseum doesn't make a point any more valid and yours is a clear case in point. Forgive me for "ad nauseuming" this point but it held up what might have been a fruitful discussion.

"My points" would have to looked at in a whole new light, one where we all know that you are up to speed on just what these terms mean. I'm not sure that that's clear even now.

If my criticism of prescriptivism is simplistic, as you suggest, then it seems that you would be able to easily point that up. But you've not discussed anything about any of the incredibly simplistic prescriptions I've discussed in this thread. No one has. That amount of silence should tell you something, Robert.


0 Replies
 
 

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