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.
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
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.
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.
Why did this happen, you ask?
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.