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#206043 - 06/12/12 05:49 PM No hollow phrases
BranShea Offline
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Two quoted parts from the book "From Dawn to Decadence" 1500 to the Present, by Jaques Barzun.

On the influence and the cultural consequences of the downhill dance of "correct" spelling and writing.

The loss of grammar and the dogma that anything said is to be treated with respect due to life itself have had the further cultural effect of encouraging the natural carelesness
of talk; it even made it an asset: a new president of the United States in 1988 gained in popularity when he was found halting in speech and loose in grammar. In the same spirit, the linguists attack anybody who speaks up for saving threatened meanings and especially distinctions among words. This rebuke is paradoxal, since as scientists they should remain neutral toward influences acting on language. That it is a social institution for exchanging thoughts and at its best when its terms remain clear, as in the sciences and other technical fields, does not seem to be a part of the linguistic creed, nor that language has aesthetic powers and uses that also depend on conversation.

As for the life in language, that phrase is not science, but metaphor. Language is not alive, only those who use it have life, and when they stop speaking it, their language, if written, remains whole, readable and usable like classical Greek and Latin. To decide whether the living users should be encouraged to preserve or to tamper, one must judge by results. Establishing a standard spelling abolished the old democratic right to follow one's own fancy, and the result is that we can still read with relative ease the literature of the last 500 years. During that same time the vocabulary has suffered losses and changes, the increase in distinctions being much for the good; while the losses and confusions, many due to ignorance in a world of illiterates, were not then cheered along by specialists. The present order of things is not likely to keep the written word readable for another five centuries. But, it is only fair to add that the laxity now favored and fostered came in parallel with the poets' games with vocabulary and syntax in the Nineteen nineties, a recreation soon taken up by the writers of prose, and pursued in the 2OC by advertisers, journalists, and corporate managers.

From Dawn to Decadence
500 years of Western Cultural Life
J. Barzun

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#206044 - 06/12/12 08:51 PM bring on the empty peevers [Re: BranShea]
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The loss of grammar and the dogma that anything said is to be treated with respect due to life itself have had the further cultural effect of encouraging the natural carelesness of talk

Mr Barzun, he is speaking out of his strawman's ass, of course. Grammar, like language, is neither created nor destroyed. Grammar, like language, merely changes. This sends the angstful, both young and old, into a tizzy fit, but hey, all the tizzy fits in the world cannot unchange a changed grammar or language.
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#206049 - 06/13/12 03:52 AM Re: No hollow phrases [Re: zmjezhd]
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Yes I know you are one of the radicals in these matters, but it really hurts my delicate and highly sensitive feelings when in a so called "quality" respectable literary magazine (since 1837) named "The Guide", no one corrects a painful z for the s it should be. smile smirk smile

"In het bos bleven de kruizen achter".
Plural of kruis is kruisen. (kruizen looks like a verb that does not exist)

The Barzun book I find is a really nice trip through Westen World's colorful and turbulent past.

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#206050 - 06/13/12 08:22 AM Re: just hollow men [Re: BranShea]
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"In het bos bleven de kruizen achter".
Plural of kruis is kruisen. (kruizen looks like a verb that does not exist)


I take it the -z- is pronounced like an /s/, or at least has begun to do so recently. Quoting a Frenchman peeving about English "grammar" about a Dutch orthographic peeve is a bit much even for my rootishness.
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#206051 - 06/13/12 01:27 PM Re: just hollow men [Re: zmjezhd]
BranShea Offline
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I take it the -z- is pronounced like an /s/, or at least has begun to do so recently

No, the -z- is pronounced like a /z/ like in easy and zoo.
Is a Frenchman who migrates to the U.S. at the age of 12, who is fully educated there and spends the rest of his life and 70 years of writing-teaching life there still a 'Frenchman'?
( he's 104 years of age and his book is a lovely swan song written in the 1990s)

Link

The essay with the word above mentioned was translated from Polish. I do not blame the translator for making a mistake, but the correctors and anchor man for carelessness.

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#206052 - 06/13/12 03:18 PM Re: peeve my sole [Re: BranShea]
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Is a Frenchman who migrates to the U.S. at the age of 12, who is fully educated there and spends the rest of his life and 70 years of writing-teaching life there still a 'Frenchman'?

Yes. He's also a good writer and a superb critic. He just doesn't know squat about linguistics, so he should keep his misinformation to himself.
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#206053 - 06/13/12 03:21 PM Re: peeve my sole [Re: zmjezhd]
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I've always loved your elegant way of putting things. :~)

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#206054 - 06/13/12 03:28 PM Re: foo tian [Re: BranShea]
zmjezhd Offline
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I've always loved your elegant way of putting things. :~)

You're too kind. No really. The craft of editing is just one of the casualties of our times. Maybe after the zombie apocalypse, when the population of Earth is back down under a few hundred million, things will be better in the book world.
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#206055 - 06/14/12 05:48 AM Re: foo tian [Re: zmjezhd]
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But, but... are we not living now? And would it not be a good idea (in any language) to give children a solid and clear grammar system so that they can play with haberdashery and fashion language as much they please and still be able to write understandable language? Here too universities must give students extra courses to repair the lack of this simple base.
My grandson told that all the grammar he really knows well, he has learned through his Latin lessons. Thus, fter primary school. Overpopulation or general carelessness? What re the so called 'equal opportunities' if only the privileged get a chance to learn well in secundary and higher education?

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#206057 - 06/14/12 06:20 AM Re: foo tian [Re: BranShea]
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I think Nuncle's comment on editing being a casualty of our times is a comment on the regrettable fact that copy-editors seem to be among the first to go at newspapers and magazines when they decide they need to cut staff. This is often ridiculed with the glib phrase, "We don't need no copy editor, we got spell check." Of course, copy-editors do much, much more than correct misspellings. As for learning grammar in a modern European language from Latin, I don't know how it is in Nederlands but Latin grammar is a mighty poor match with English grammar. As has been pointed out we all learn the grammar of our mother tongues as small children, well before we are ready for any sort of formal training. This learning of the grammar is internalized and, while well established as an understanding of how to talk grammatically, does not give us any ability to talk rationally about it other than saying that an ungrammatical statement just doesn't sound right. For many of us the formal training either never happens or is so miserably inadequate in representing the true grammar of the language that it might as well never have happened. Learning any other language, one with a grammar sufficiently different from the grammar of one's own, at least gives us some notion about how grammars work. Any sufficiently intelligent person can then compare how this formally learned grammar works compared with the internalized grammar of their native tongue. This would work with any additional language learned formally. Languages learned in the same way as one's native language, by just being immersed in the language and forced to communicate in it, would probably not help with this. Multilingual people often learn other modern languages without formal training so it's usually Latin that gets the credit.

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#206059 - 06/14/12 10:12 AM Re: foo tian [Re: Faldage]
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Learning any other language, one with a grammar sufficiently different from the grammar of one's own, at least gives us some notion about how grammars work.

That's true, but in the fifties, primary schools took care of this in our native language already. Clear and systematically. Which made the comparison with other following, (obligatory) languages more directly noticeable and gave assurance.

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#206060 - 06/14/12 10:38 AM Re: glas de la grammaire [Re: BranShea]
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My grandson told that all the grammar he really knows well, he has learned through his Latin lessons. Thus, fter primary school.

You grandson learned the bulk of his grammar at home when he learned how to speak. The problem is that the grammar of one's spoken (first) language is definitely different from one's written formal language. It is not clear that learning some formal grammar (i.e., the terms for parts of speech and some grammatical functions) improves one's grammar. It does give you a way to talk about grammar. It's seems for most people who complain that grammar is no longer taught in schools grammar is a random bunch of usage, orthographic, and punctuation rules (masquerading as grammar), learning to identify parts of speech, and maybe some diagramming of some sort (either the Kellogg-Reed diagrams, or TG trees).

The best thing you can do, either as a kid or a grownup, is to read and write a lot. Taking a second language (like Latin) helps, too. Finally some elementary linguistics, such as pointing out that there are different registers that one uses to accommodate the social part of communication.

I think those things can be taught between the reading and composition parts of a normal English (or Dutch) curriculum.
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#206061 - 06/14/12 10:49 AM Re: apres moi le grimoire [Re: BranShea]
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That's true, but in the fifties, primary schools took care of this in our native language already. Clear and systematically. Which made the comparison with other following, (obligatory) languages more directly noticeable and gave assurance.

Unfortunately, I think, in this case, it is a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc. I think it is a lucky few of the kids who make the connection between their unconsciously learned grammar and the formal system some of us were taught in school. I myself (in the '60s and '70s) did not learn much "grammar" at school. When I took Latin in high school, I really started to understand (consciously) the grammar of English. How many kids in my Latin class? There was me. It had been canceled a decade or so before I got there, but I talked the teacher into teaching me one on one after he'd had a chance to smoke a quick cigarette in the teachers' lounge.

The truth of the matter is that a large percentage of the student body will never use grammar or algebra again after leaving school. The writers I work with are divided into two groups. The non-linguists who extol the teaching of grammar in schools as a panacea for everything wrong with today's youth and the smaller bunch of us who were exposed to some linguistics after having been scared with diagrams and parsing in Miss Thistlebottom's class.
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#206063 - 06/14/12 02:58 PM Re: apres moi le grimoire [Re: zmjezhd]
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Maybe my grammar and your grammar have (as a word) a somewhat different meaning. I do not have a diagram association with lessons about grammar. Never heard of. Also I don't think of grammar as something one 'uses'. It's an inner annotator that works along subconciously when one writes something. But once it was explained and conciously studied.

I would like to leave the rest to Miss Distelbodem.

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#206065 - 06/14/12 04:20 PM Re: apres moi le grimoire [Re: BranShea]
zmjezhd Offline
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Maybe my grammar and your grammar have (as a word) a somewhat different meaning.

Oh, of that I am sure.

I do not have a diagram association with lessons about grammar. Never heard of.

Ah, yes. That is a purely US pedagogical tool. If you can, take a look at this book on Google books (link). For most folks who went to primary and secondary school in the US before roughly up until 1970, these diagrams were a big part of "grammar".

Also I don't think of grammar as something one 'uses'. It's an inner annotator that works along subconciously when one writes something. But once it was explained and conciously studied.

Well, if grammar does not get used why is it necessary? Or better yet, why teach it? I agree that it is un- or sub-consciously learned and used. Learning some formal system of grammar lets one study already existing texts, but does very little to nothing in generating those texts. (Which is exactly what a whole bunch of peevers claim, amongst other things with which they annoy me.)

[Edited to correct typos.]
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#206069 - 06/16/12 09:54 AM Re: apres moi le grimoire [Re: BranShea]
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Originally Posted By: BranShea
Also I don't think of grammar as something one 'uses'. It's an inner annotator that works along subconciously when one writes something. But once it was explained and conciously studied.


What was explained and consciously studied was just a very small subset of English grammar, namely the parts that there was disagreement about. This teaching started in the 1700s, I think. Before that, English grammar in any form was not taught. So how did those great writers of the 1000s-1600s manage to write?

Barzun says

Quote:
The loss of grammar and the dogma that anything said is to be treated with respect due to life itself have had the further cultural effect of encouraging the natural carelessness of talk; it even made it an asset: a new president of the United States in 1988 gained in popularity when he was found halting in speech and loose in grammar.


He would have to show exactly what he means by "careless", and that talk now is more careless now than it was in the past, and more careless now than it needs to be.


Edited by gooofy (06/16/12 09:58 AM)

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#206070 - 06/16/12 07:18 PM Re: apres moi le grimoire [Re: gooofy]
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"He would have to show exactly what he means by "careless", and that talk now is more careless now than it was in the past, and more careless now than it needs to be."

How about some grammar? smile ( 3 nows? )

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#206074 - 06/17/12 10:13 AM Re: apres moi le grimoire [Re: BranShea]
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Yeah, there is one to many "nows"... editing mistake.

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#206075 - 06/17/12 02:41 PM Re: no reason to get exited [Re: gooofy]
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2? smirk No need to tell your editor. Who cares anyway..

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#206076 - 06/17/12 04:30 PM Re: no reason to get exited [Re: BranShea]
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I never said "no one cares." but I don't think the problem with careless talk or lax grammar or whatever is as bad as people like Barzun think it is. These complainers never provide convincing evidence for their linguapocalypse.


Edited by gooofy (06/17/12 04:34 PM)

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#206077 - 06/17/12 08:48 PM Re: no reason to get exited [Re: BranShea]
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Now, now. Even the best writer is nothing without a good editor.

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#206081 - 06/18/12 09:15 AM Re: no reason to get exited [Re: gooofy]
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I don't think he's talking about a linguapocalypse. In the book there's no evidence of despair. ( have you read it? ) It's just about changes and repetitive patterns.

It's me who struggles over sentences like this one; just received a little book of poetry with an acknowledgement:

"--- We believe this work is culturally important and have elected to bring the book back into print as part of our continuing committment to the preservation of printed works worldwide"
It just does not read well. Elected?? Elected what to bring the book back?


Edited by BranShea (06/18/12 09:16 AM)
Edit Reason: typo

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#206082 - 06/18/12 09:55 AM Re: no reason to get exited [Re: BranShea]
gooofy Offline
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Originally Posted By: BranShea

"--- We believe this work is culturally important and have elected to bring the book back into print as part of our continuing committment to the preservation of printed works worldwide"
It just does not read well. Elected?? Elected what to bring the book back?


If you don't think it reads well, that's fair enough, but it has nothing to do with the grammar of standard English. OED elect 2a is "To make deliberate choice of (a course of action, an opinion, etc.) in preference to an alternative". OED definition 2b is "with infinitive as obj. (Now common, but formerly chiefly in legal use)." In other words, elect can mean "choose" and be followed by an infinitive.

Those passages you quote seem despairing to me, for instance "The present order of things is not likely to keep the written word readable for another five centuries." In any case, my point is that he has provided no evidence, at least in those passages. Maybe he does in the rest of the book.


Edited by gooofy (06/18/12 10:13 AM)

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#206083 - 06/18/12 10:29 AM Re: no reason to get exited [Re: gooofy]
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The book is not about language in fact. The man is no linguist but a historian.
He has just one and a half page about laguage on 900 that give a cultural-social display of the Western world from 1500 till present times. But written in the 90s it lacks the last approx 15 years in which so many things have ocurred.

Yes, I think we have a different understanding of what grammar contains. I think we have a very simple system compared to what you show here.


Edited by BranShea (06/18/12 10:29 AM)

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#206084 - 06/18/12 11:01 AM Re: no reason to get exited [Re: BranShea]
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I don't think that non-linguists quite understand how infuriating these little pronouncements by non-specialists are. Especially after they begin to pile up like dirty snow in the winter. If I were to write a book about computer graphics programming and inserted a small paragraph or page or two in it about art history, in which I dismissed the Flemish School of paintings as a vulgar misinterpretation of the Italian Renaissance, and which led directly to the degeneracy of van Gogh and Gauguin as well as the French Impressionists. You might imagine that art historians and even some artists might disagree with me.

Barzun is just one in a long line of people who have achieved prowess in one field (in his case literary history, criticism) who thinks it grants them the right to pontificate on matters linguistic. In fact, I grant that he has that right, but I and others don't have to take his half-baked, crackpot theories of the doom of English seriously, mainly because other non-linguists have said the same and never offered any proof. In fact, they have usually made the same mistakes over and over again when complaining about the same, tired old tropes.
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#206085 - 06/18/12 11:58 AM Re: no reason to get exited [Re: zmjezhd]
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I see, nobody says you have to take it and you sure will be right about it, but skipp that part and it still is nice book to me, as 99.9 % really gives a very nice trip through the past.

( of course, of course in my simple opinion )

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#206088 - 06/18/12 12:09 PM Re: the risk of un-meaning [Re: BranShea]
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I see, nobody says you have to take it and you sure will be right about it, but skipp that part and it still is nice book to me, as 99.9 % really gives a very nice trip through the past.

Yes, if only I were a stronger person. The problem is that one, small flaw tends to taint the whole work. Also, if Barzun is making elemental mistakes in something I care about and know well, then I am likely to wonder if there are similar mistakes in the parts I do not know so well.

Also, these mistakes are so commonplace that only a small investment of time reading the refutations of them could possibly open up new vistas to write about.

This thread forced me into my library to retrieve the one Barzun book I own, The House of the Intellect. Skimming a few pages here and there, I am reminded that while I enjoy the mechanics of his writing, I do not so much enjoy his theses.

Ah, well, we cannot all be the last guardians of the language in our towers. Some of his have to be the barbarians at the gates of civilization, I suppose.
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#206089 - 06/18/12 02:36 PM Re: the risk of un-meaning [Re: BranShea]
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Quote:
"The present order of things is not likely to keep the written word readable for another five centuries."


Readable to whom? If Barzun is saying that something written in 2612 would be unreadable to someone of today, I would say, "Duh." Imagine, if you will, William Shakespeare reading Neal Stephenson. Do you suppose he would find it readable?

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#206090 - 06/18/12 04:44 PM Re: the risk of un-meaning [Re: zmjezhd]
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Originally Posted By: zmjezhd
Skimming a few pages here and there, I am reminded that while I enjoy the mechanics of his writing, I do not so much enjoy his theses.

Maybe that's what makes me enjoy the book (it reads like a train) and not being a linguist and an easy believer I accept the stain as just a minor stain. But I can understand and respect your irritations.

Faldage Imagine, if you will, William Shakespeare reading Neal Stephenson. Do you suppose he would find it readable?

laugh We find hm readable ( not tht readable but readable enough to enjoy )
I'm sure if he would take a little effort, like we do for him, he could read the language but would need a generous list of annotations.

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#206091 - 06/18/12 06:59 PM Re: the risk of un-meaning [Re: BranShea]
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Originally Posted By: BranShea


Faldage Imagine, if you will, William Shakespeare reading Neal Stephenson. Do you suppose he would find it readable?

laugh We find hm readable ( not tht readable but readable enough to enjoy )
I'm sure if he would take a little effort, like we do for him, he could read the language but would need a generous list of annotations.


Are you saying you find Shakespeare readable or Neal Stephenson readable? I'm not asking if you find either of those readable. And I'm not asking if someone 500 years in the future would find Neal Stephenson readable. I'm asking if you'd think WS would find NS readable.

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#206106 - 06/19/12 04:42 PM Re: the risk of un-meaning [Re: Faldage]
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Question: Are you saying you find Shakespeare readable or Neal Stephenson readable?
Shakespeare. As the 'he' in your question clearly refers to Shakespeare, not to Neal Stephenson.

Question:Do you suppose he would find it readable?
I think he would find it (Neal Stephenson) readable, (with a large amount of annotations).

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#206112 - 06/20/12 03:36 AM Re: the risk of un-meaning [Re: Faldage]
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Anyway dear Faldage, my concern is not whether our languages will still be readable in 500 years. My concern is how to keep them readable today!

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#206116 - 06/20/12 06:37 AM Re: the risk of un-meaning [Re: BranShea]
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My concern is how to keep them readable today!

The syntax of English has not changed too dramatically between Shakespeare's and Stephenson's times. The vocabulary and the meanings of many lexical items more so. I'd say the biggest changes have been in the cultural and knowledge areas. So while I can imagine that Shakespeare might, with some ramp-up time, be able to "read" Snow Crash, he probably wouldn't understand a lot of it.

The same holds for Stephenson reading Shakespeare (or a lesser known Elizabethan-Jacobean writer) without modern editions and critical apparatus.
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#206117 - 06/20/12 06:53 AM Re: the risk of un-meaning [Re: BranShea]
Faldage Offline
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Originally Posted By: BranShea
Anyway dear Faldage, my concern is not whether our languages will still be readable in 500 years. My concern is how to keep them readable today!


I think much of the concern about the state of the language these days is due to the explosion of unedited writing seen on the web. Unfortunately this unedited writing is moving into the print media with the layoffs of copy-editors at newspapers but that's another problem.

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#206118 - 06/20/12 09:28 AM Re: the risk of un-meaning [Re: BranShea]
gooofy Offline
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Originally Posted By: BranShea
Anyway dear Faldage, my concern is not whether our languages will still be readable in 500 years. My concern is how to keep them readable today!


But where is the evidence that unedited English, bad grammar, or whatever is leading to huge breakdowns in communication?

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#206119 - 06/20/12 10:05 AM Re: the migration of tongues [Re: gooofy]
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But where is the evidence that unedited English, bad grammar, or whatever is leading to huge breakdowns in communication?

Exactly! When languages change, it is because the speakers/writers are speaking/writing differently. Once a language changes enough, another language emerges. Latin changed greatly between Plautus' time and Ausonius'. Then it changed even more, until Latin became Italian, French, Spanish, etc. Is French a degenerate form of Latin? Or an improvement? Neither. It is merely a different language.

About the breakdown in communication, I have always wondered how a peever can correct somebody else's grammar. Shouldn't they just be uncomprehending? If you can understand me to give your "correct" version of what I just said/wrote, then you understood me and there is no need for "correction".

[Corrected the typo that tsuwm pointed out.]


Edited by zmjezhd (06/20/12 06:18 PM)
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#206125 - 06/20/12 02:01 PM Re: the migration of tongues [Re: zmjezhd]
tsuwm Offline
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here's a llittle bit of that there evidence.

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#206128 - 06/20/12 02:39 PM Re: the migration of tongues [Re: BranShea]
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a decriptivist might surmise that he meant "Latin became" here.

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#206129 - 06/20/12 02:40 PM Re: the risk of un-meaning [Re: zmjezhd]
BranShea Offline
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Registered: 06/23/06
Posts: 5282
Loc: Netherlands, the Hague
Originally Posted By: zmjezhd
My concern is how to keep them readable today!

The syntax of English has not changed too dramatically between Shakespeare's and Stephenson's times. The vocabulary and the meanings of many lexical items more so. I'd say the biggest changes have been in the cultural and knowledge areas. So while I can imagine that Shakespeare might, with some ramp-up time, be able to "read" Snow Crash,, he probably wouldn't understand a lot of it.

The same holds for Stephenson reading Shakespeare (or a lesser known Elizabethan-Jacobean writer) without modern editions and critical apparatus.

Yes, it would have to be (very roughly) one quarter book and three quarter footnotes.

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#206130 - 06/20/12 02:54 PM Re: the migration of tongues [Re: tsuwm]
BranShea Offline
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Registered: 06/23/06
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Loc: Netherlands, the Hague
Originally Posted By: tsuwm
a decriptivist might surmise that he meant "Latin became" here.

Thanks. I did't mean to be a prescriptivist. Just did could not fill that in.



Edited by BranShea (06/21/12 04:58 AM)

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#206133 - 06/20/12 06:17 PM Re: the migration of tongues [Re: tsuwm]
zmjezhd Offline
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Registered: 08/13/05
Posts: 3290
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here's a llittle bit of that there evidence.

Really? Really? I read the peeves, the same old "I could care less" peeves, but I saw not the "evidence" that communication is going to hell in a handbasket. Maybe I skimmed.
_________________________
Ceci n'est pas un seing.

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#206134 - 06/20/12 06:31 PM Re: draw me a sentence as a flying nun [Re: tsuwm]
zmjezhd Offline
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Registered: 08/13/05
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a decriptivist might surmise that he meant "Latin became" here.

Boy howdy. Gonna fire me my editor. He's been slackin' on the job. Wait a minute. I do not have an editor.

And a tit-for-tat peever would say "always start a sentence with a capital letter". In this case "A".

But seriously, or at least I'm serious about it: you do not see the difference between solecisms, usage choices, and simple typos? For me to mistype "because" instead of "became" is not really going to change the language.

I have been rereading Kitty Burns Florey's Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences and so, I am understandably a little cranky. She just does not seem to understand that Reed-Kellogg diagrams are a rather piss-poor tool for illustrating grammar.

Oh, and Miguelito: I have corrected my typo. Hope your blood pressure returns to normal ...
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Ceci n'est pas un seing.

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#206140 - 06/20/12 10:28 PM Re: draw me a sentence as a flying nun [Re: zmjezhd]
tsuwm Offline
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Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10513
Loc: this too shall pass
and yours, Jimbo. (now where did I stick that there smiley?!)

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#206151 - 06/21/12 04:55 AM Re: the migration of tongues [Re: zmjezhd]
BranShea Offline
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Registered: 06/23/06
Posts: 5282
Loc: Netherlands, the Hague
Originally Posted By: zmjezhd
here's a llittle bit of that there evidence.

Really? Really? I read the peeves, the same old "I could care less" peeves, but I saw not the "evidence" that communication is going to hell in a handbasket. Maybe I skimmed.

But dear Jim dear.. how can you expect evidence of something that has not yet happened? That article is about how to keep things clear and understandable now. Nobody there said language is going to hell altogether.

I'm a slow reader. I love to read an attractive sentence twice before I continue. But when I must read a sentence twice or thrice because it gets stuck somewhere or makes no sense, I'm irritated about it. Annoyed. ( hmm.. whistle.. a bit less fanatic then you). And that happens more often now.

I never knew you have been tortured with this in your early years:
Link


Edited by BranShea (06/21/12 05:31 AM)

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#206154 - 06/21/12 07:15 AM Re: the migration of tongues [Re: BranShea]
Faldage Offline
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Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13800
Originally Posted By: BranShea
how can you expect evidence of something that has not yet happened? That article is about how to keep things clear and understandable now. Nobody there said language is going to hell altogether.



People have been saying language is going to hell altogether for at least 400 years. Also, languages don't go through these changes at a constant rate. We can pretty much understand Shakespeare with minimal help from notes, mostly about word meanings but check these samples:

Originally Posted By: Alfred the Great (849-899)
Geenc hwelc witu us a becomon for isse worulde, a a we hit nohwer ne selfe ne lufodon ne eac orum monnum ne lefdon!


compared with

Originally Posted By: Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400)
This frere bosteth that he knoweth helle,
And God it woot, that it is litel wonder;
Freres and feendes been but lyte asonder.


And grammatical correctness is not a guarantee of understandability. Here's a headline from BBC News:

Escaped wallaby caught using huge fishing net

Sure, it could be worded differently, but there's nothing grammatically wrong with it.

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#206155 - 06/21/12 08:31 AM Re: the migration of tongues [Re: BranShea]
gooofy Offline
newbie

Registered: 01/19/12
Posts: 37
Originally Posted By: BranShea

But dear Jim dear.. how can you expect evidence of something that has not yet happened?


Right, so when it starts happening, show us the evidence. Until then, what is the fuss about?

Anyway, the evidence suggests that it is not going to happen. Surely it would have happened already? Between the years of 1100 and 1700 English grammar was not taught, there was no such thing as standard English spelling. And yet some of our best writers produced some the greatest English literature in that period.

Originally Posted By: BranShea

That article is about how to keep things clear and understandable now.


No it isn't, it's about people complaining about usages they don't like. The article presents no evidence that disputed usages or unedited English is causing or will cause any large-scale communication breakdown.


Edited by gooofy (06/21/12 08:56 AM)

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#206156 - 06/21/12 10:23 AM Re: the migration of tongues [Re: BranShea]
zmjezhd Offline
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Registered: 08/13/05
Posts: 3290
Loc: R'lyeh
I never knew you have been tortured with this in your early years:

To be perfectly honest, I am one of those rare students (like Florey) who enjoyed diagramming sentences. It's just that I don't think it helped me to be a better writer.

Somebody, somewhere , mentioned that we are being exposed to a lot more perishable writing because of technology (i.e., the Internet). There is an interesting book in my library, sitting near to the peevers' shelves, written by Charles Frees, an American linguist, called American English Grammar: The Grammatical Structure of Present-Day American English With Especial Reference to Social Differences or Class Dialects (1940). He uses as corpus files of informal correspondence of the US government. His is perhaps one of the first attempts at writing a descriptive grammar of General American English. As you might imagine, he found plenty of examples of where the actual grammar of GAE differs significantly from that prescribed by the peevers.
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#206159 - 06/21/12 03:05 PM Re: the migration of tongues [Re: gooofy]
BranShea Offline
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Registered: 06/23/06
Posts: 5282
Loc: Netherlands, the Hague
Quote:
So when it starts happening, show us the evidence. Until then, what is the fuss about?

By chance ( or devils' play smile ) today I received an email letter from an employee of my insurance company about a damage declaration. Pity I can't copy it as evidence; it is not written in English. The composition showed that the writer was unable to transmit compact clear information. No fun. I answered her to explain that maybe after I would have regrouped her text( typo's, gaps, useless unclear repetitions, misspellings) I would be able to react to the contents. Simply a confusing mess, nt because the case is complicated, but because she messed up the language.

She directly answered with sincere apologies and excuses about pressure and having to send the letter to several adresses simultaneously and proposed to give me a call instead of writing. She proved not to be a dumb person. She only misses the skill. I hope our conversation will be allright.



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#206160 - 06/21/12 04:21 PM Re: the migration of tongues [Re: BranShea]
gooofy Offline
newbie

Registered: 01/19/12
Posts: 37
Originally Posted By: BranShea
The composition showed that the writer was unable to transmit compact clear information. No fun. I answered her to explain that maybe after I would have regrouped her text( typo's, gaps, useless unclear repetitions, misspellings) I would be able to react to the contents. Simply a confusing mess, nt because the case is complicated, but because she messed up the language.


You didn't understand it, so she will explain it to you, and if both of you really want to communicate, then communication will happen.

This sort of thing happens all the time. It happened 50 years ago and presumably it happened 500 years ago. Yeah it's a shame, but I don't see how it means "a loss of grammar", pace Barzun.


Edited by gooofy (06/21/12 05:39 PM)

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#206165 - 06/22/12 05:32 AM Re: the migration of tongues [Re: gooofy]
BranShea Offline
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Registered: 06/23/06
Posts: 5282
Loc: Netherlands, the Hague
No dear, you don't understand. It did not happen 50 years ago.
I've lived 69 of those and it did not happen that a business letter was ever presented like this. I could send you a copy just to show the looks of it, but you would stick to your point of view no doubt.
People like this would get fired.
Of course, after regrouping the message I got the details straight. But why the waste of time and energy. Like for so many wasted things, people don't care or are unaware of their failings. ( good for them )

Sure, we will always be able to communicate. So can the deaf and blind.




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#206166 - 06/22/12 06:25 AM Re: no homo universalis [Re: gooofy]
BranShea Offline
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Registered: 06/23/06
Posts: 5282
Loc: Netherlands, the Hague
Yeah it's a shame, but I don't see how it means "a loss of grammar", pace Barzun.

Barzun may have a tendency to let some facts run away with him. F.i. he writes that Leonardo da Vinci had no use for and even hated music. I have found no evidence of that. Others say he was a great musician. No evidence of that either. There is one tiny line of notes by his hand. Not very impressive. It's more likely that he liked or loved music and even played a lute or so, but could not add "musician" and "composer" to his homo universalis record.

(still I enjoy the read)



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#206168 - 06/22/12 08:50 AM Re: the migration of tongues [Re: BranShea]
gooofy Offline
newbie

Registered: 01/19/12
Posts: 37
Originally Posted By: BranShea
No dear, you don't understand. It did not happen 50 years ago.


No, I do understand. I know it happened recently, but I'm sure things like this also happened 50 years ago.

Originally Posted By: BranShea

I've lived 69 of those and it did not happen that a business letter was ever presented like this.


This is the recency illusion - the belief that because we just noticed something, it must be new. When it comes to language our impression are very unreliable. This is just one letter, and although it's unfortunate, we shouldn't draw any conclusions from it about the general state of language.

Originally Posted By: BranShea

I could send you a copy just to show the looks of it, but you would stick to your point of view no doubt.


It wouldn't matter because I can't read Dutch.


Edited by gooofy (06/22/12 09:27 AM)

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#206169 - 06/22/12 09:08 AM Re: the migration of tongues [Re: gooofy]
BranShea Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/23/06
Posts: 5282
Loc: Netherlands, the Hague
Things like this. Different things, nothing is very reliable. Definitions...all these fantastic definitions: "recency illusion"- "collective recency illusion". Trouble is, as soon as there is a definition for a problem the case can be dismissed. Wrap it up in a dictionary and forget about it.
I'm done. Cheers.


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#206193 - 06/23/12 06:01 PM Re: P.S. [Re: BranShea]
BranShea Offline
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Registered: 06/23/06
Posts: 5282
Loc: Netherlands, the Hague
P.S.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Who will consider that no dictionary of a living tongue ever can be perfect, since, while it is hastening to publication, some words are budding, and some falling away; that a whole life cannot be spent upon syntax and etymology, and that even a whole life would not be sufficient; that he, whose design includes whatever language can express, must often speak of what he does not understand. -Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)

Why thank you Anu and Samuel Johnson!!!!!

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