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#7578 - 10/11/00 04:22 AM Re: Speaking in sentences
shanks Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/16/00
Posts: 1004
Loc: London, UK
Jackie

Nice to be remembered, even though, oh horrors, I am still a newbie - are you sure your prestige won't suffer from being associated with a tyro? Don't they graduate you just for having been here a long time, whether or not you post? Questions, questions.

Anyway, more germane, of course, is the issue at hand, that of speaking in sentences. And I agree with you almost completely. I too, have the irritating habit of trying to explain, qualify, contextualise (apologies for that neologism) right in the middle of a sentence. My most commonly used phrases, are, therefore, 'it seems', 'it appears', 'probably', 'tend/tendency', 'try to' and so on. I thought about it the other day and realised that, when I speak, I probably (!!) sound like a politician: incapable of providing a simple, unqualified answer to a question. Did someone once say that we are all doomed to turn into that which we most deplore?

cheer

the sunshine warrior


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#7579 - 10/11/00 06:31 AM Re: Speaking in sentences
shanks Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/16/00
Posts: 1004
Loc: London, UK
Marty

For reasons unknown, I tend to be verbose in posts, but terse in e-mail. As for letters, it has probably been a few years since I last wrote a 'real' one.

I believe that the fact of there being a significant difference between the written and spoken languages (in any language) can be referred to by a single word. I don't think it's 'diglossia', but maybe something similar. Anybody here have any ideas about it?

For what it's worth, my nominal mother tongue, Malayalam, suffers from this to an even greater extent than English. Being able to speak the language, and knowing the alphabet, is not enough to allow you to read or write in it, because there are formal distinctions between the way words sound when spoken, and the way in which they are represented when written. This is despite the fact that Malayalam is basically a phonetic language. In passing, most Indian languages are phonetic (or at least, much more so than English), but most, like Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali and others, do not suffer from this problem. Malayalam, and maybe her parent tongue Tamil, might be unique amongst the major Indian languages in this regard.

cheer

the sunshine warrior


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#7580 - 10/11/00 06:50 AM Re: Speaking in sentences
shanks Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/16/00
Posts: 1004
Loc: London, UK
I agree that answering machines can prove to be a great strain upon my powers of spoken English. That's when I most find myself leaving great pauses between sentences, and even mid-sentence, in a desparate attempt to make good grammatical sense. Alot of the time, these delays are due to a desire to be concise (searching for the mot juste?), which, paradoxically, actually makes the message last longer!

Of course, another aspect of my initial post, which was implicit there but hasn't been remarked upon, is that of the social status often accorded to people who 'speak in sentences'. This is similar to the respect (or yawns?) given those who use 'long words', and those (at least in the UK) who use RP. Since I am guilty of all three crimes, I usually find people are polite to me on the phone, refrain from asking me questions once they've got to know me, and often comment on my accent. The comments are usually complimentary, but I rarely comment on others' accents, and wonder if such comment might be considered impolite.

Any thoughts?

cheer

the sunshine warrior


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#7581 - 10/11/00 07:43 AM Re: Speaking in sentences
Jackie Offline

Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11609
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
too verbose in my emails

Marty, good for you!!! I agree completely!! What the heck is this medium for, if not communication??? I adore reading long emails (granted, I am not at a workplace with 95 other ones waiting). I can't really say whether my
emails are considered "long", but I'd say three paragraphs is about my average. My correspondents must be nicer than
yours--I've not been told, outright at least, how my emails
"ought" to be, though I think it was a hint when someone told me they like to be concise.

Shanks, consider yourself hugged, just for being back! Your posts are as wonderful as ever! If I hear an accent I don't recognize, I usually ask the person where they're from, but with a slight questioning in my mind as to the
propriety of it. I don't know what RP is--I gather from your post that people who have that don't use long words?
Socially, it seems to me that when I use long words, people listen respectfully. This is a great way to have them thinking that I actually know what I'm talking about!


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#7582 - 10/11/00 07:59 AM Re: Speaking in sentences
RhubarbCommando Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 08/23/00
Posts: 2204
Well, Shanks, at this rate you will graduate very quickly - at least you are doing it honestly, unlike certain members who shall remain nameless (that's to spare your blushes, Bridget and maverick)

I totally agree about the effect of accent, RP, long words and complete sentences on those who hear them. I use all four when necessary to get my own way, and to cut through petty officialdom. Similarly, the only time I use my academic title (other than at official Uni functions) is when it will help me to do something that p.o'dom (that well known Irishman) is trying to stop me from doing.
I see no wrong in either.

How does the poem go?

Man, vain man, dressed in a little brief authority
Performs such tricks before high heaven
As would make the angels weep."


My mother used to quote this, and I'm dammned if I know where it is from. Any ideas, out there?


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#7583 - 10/11/00 08:57 AM Re: Speaking in sentences
maverick Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/15/00
Posts: 4757
I don't know what RP is

Received Pronunciation is a UK term that largely replaced the term The Queen's English, and was originated I think at the BBC as a codified form of common communication.

Doesn't this get close to the common threads examined here - that there is no such thing as the right and wrong way of speaking or of expressing yourself in various written media? That rather, there is the appropriate and inappropriate.

Just as in modes of dress, most of us find little trouble in changing mode to suit the occasion. This rarely poses a comfort problem, until two separate worlds collide (and the family member hears the email laughter!).

Business communication demands brevity. Sharing a complex of thoughts, feelings and impressions with a friend suggests more languid and exploratory style (often involving discursive byways), and which may employ patterns of speech that rely on shared references, ambiguities, and half-formed thoughts about fishes...

And if everyone spoke in full sentences all the time, I would have been denied many a chuckle through the unconsious humour of elipsis (see Directions thread examples). I would regret that as much as I would regret the absence of the finely-turned and fully-formed sentences found in the prose of, say, Sebastian Faulkes.


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#7584 - 10/11/00 09:14 AM Re: Speaking in sentences
RhubarbCommando Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 08/23/00
Posts: 2204
there is no such thing as the right and wrong way of speaking or of expressing yourself in various written media? That rather, there is the appropriate and inappropriate.

You are entirely correct, maverick. Our ability to select the appropriate mode for the occasion is part of the joy of using language. This is never more apparent than when talking to someone who hasn't chosen the right mode.

Business communication demands brevity. Not necessarily - again, it depends on the occasion. I have, upon occasion, to produce long and closely detailed reports - briefs which are anything but. The ablity to know what is appropriate, once again, is a valuable skill.


And as Spooner himself said, "We all know what it is to have a half warmed fish within us."



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#7585 - 10/11/00 09:59 AM Re: Speaking in sentences
maverick Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/15/00
Posts: 4757
Any ideas, out there?

Avon calling! I think it's around the early part of Act II of Measure for Measure, when Isabella is (despite her initial intentions) pleading with the stern Angelo for the life of her condemmned brother. The whole speech is too long for memory, but I think the key part this refers to goes something like:

".............. Man, proud man,
Dress'd in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As makes the angels weep; who with our spleens
Would all themselves laugh mortal"


I always loved that section of the play, because it shows Shakespeare's mind at work in all its dancing complexity - even down to the fact that punning use of language was, to him, not mere embellishment but a mainspring of his creative process. Early on after Isabella comes on in this scene, she 'thinks aloud' about the quandary she's in over pleading for mercy on behalf of her brother despite a crime she abhors, saying:

"..... the blow of justice
For which I would not plead, but that I must;
For which I must not plead, but that I am
At war twixt will and will not"

The antitheses of these lines shows the wriggling, driving, balancing act of someone's mind at work, trying to resolve a problem 'on the fly' - and the concluding play on his own name is typical of his sheer joy in language for its' own sake!


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#7586 - 10/11/00 10:28 AM Re: Speaking in sentences
shanks Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/16/00
Posts: 1004
Loc: London, UK
Jackie

In reply to:

Shanks, consider yourself hugged, just for being back!




Many hugs to you too. And warmth and goodwill to all who live in this house!


In reply to:

If I hear an accent I don't recognize, I usually ask the person where they're from, but with a slight questioning in my mind as to the propriety of it. I don't know what RP is--I gather from your post that people who have that don't use long words?



RP, as I think Maverick noted, stands for Received Pronunciation. In technical terms (amongst students of the language in the UK), it refers to what used to be called the Queen's English. In fact there's a touch of irony there. Read onů

Today, most scholars divide RP into two types: marked RP, and unmarked RP. Marked RP is what might be called the Queen's English, since it has the exaggerated inflections that 'mark' out the ultra-posh accents. House, for instance, sounds something like hice, and damn sounds like dem. If you want to hear the 'original' version, which sounds a lot like Queen Bessie's clipped nasalities, watch Brief Encounter. It isn't just a classic repressed-Brit-emotion film, but the accents of the children as mummy puts them to bed are genuine archaeological finds. Most modern English-people would be astounded at the change undergone by the 'posh' accent over the last 50 or 60 years.

Unmarked RP, the accent which the BBC encouraged (or used to, before the politically correct makeover), is 'standard posh' English. It is approximately the one that Gwyneth Paltrow uses in Sliding Doors and [Shakespeare in Love. Research shows that, in the UK, most people associate this accent with prestige and authority, so are comfortable receiving their news in this accent. Educated Edinburgh Scottish, for what it's worth, is a close second. The interesting fact about this research is that while it shows RP as being authoritative, it also shows RP as being one of the least friendly of the UK accents. This has resulted, for instance, in Call Centre managers in this country happily setting up their centres in regions where the accents, whilst less 'standard' or 'posh', are seen as friendlier, and perhaps therefore more conducive towards the maintenance of good customer relations.

I wish I could cite the research, but, since they form my main reading, it is likely to be from either The Grauniad (www.guardian.co.uk), or New Scientist (www.newscientist.co.uk).

In reply to:

Socially, it seems to me that when I use long words, people listen respectfully. This is a great way to have them thinking that I actually know what I'm talking about!



You probably do!

cheer

the sunshine warrior



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#7587 - 10/11/00 11:28 AM Re: Speaking in sentences
RhubarbCommando Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 08/23/00
Posts: 2204
Man, proud man,
Dress'd in a little brief authority


Many thanks for that, mav, my friend. M for M is one of several that I have neither read or seen. I should have known - my mother's quotes were nearly always from WS or the Bible - when they weren't from Alice


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