Re: [NTLK] Re, Lord G

From: Lord Groundhog <>
Date: Sun Sep 02 2007 - 15:49:23 EDT

~~~ On 2007/09/02 14:17, dotline7 at wrote ~~~

> Thanks a lot. It is like you say.
> Being more private I can confirm all this and tell you that I was in the
> same situation when one Scotsman talked to me and I didn't understand a
> word, I got very nervous, but his wife, to easy the situation, translated it
> for me.
> I rise the question. As we know, good God has created languages to confuse
> and divide us! Are we not confusion ourselves MORE and MORE by having the
> rules you speak about? I would like to ask other question. Is it not a
> matter of politeness and good taste to speak understandable language, not a
> local one, especially officially. Some time ago, a student, who could not
> speak properly would not dare to ask a question. Now, it is the professor
> who is embarrassed by the fact that he, the professor, doesn't know the
> dialect. New times. But where are we going?
> BTW. Is these facts and other problems within the education systems make
> that Apple cannot reinvent new "Newton like" software. Best example is HWR.
> Graffiti is a joke?
> John

Dear John,

Briefly, it may be a matter of politeness and good taste as you say, but the
last 30 or so years has seen a gradual swing from a "social" concept of
language to an individualistic concept, and in connection with this a
gradual swing in education from emphasizing "prescriptive" grammar (how a
languaged ought to be spoken) to "descriptive" grammar (how it actually is
spoken, mistakes and all). The first is illustrated by some of the trends I
mentioned in my earlier post, including the changes in the BBC's requirement
on "RP" instead of regional accents, although the BBC still requires
broadcasters, especially news readers, to use a prescribed list of
pronunciations especially for foreign names and place-names. By contrast to
the BBC, in much of society it is now a matter of politeness and good taste
not to insist upon the proper use of English, let alone do anything so crass
as to comment upon someone's linguistic misuse. Even here in England,
except in academic circles there is a very informal, even "loose" approach
to spoken (and sometimes written) English. I won't even mention the
tendency of some otherwise well-educated people to include profane and
obscene words in their speech instead of selecing the correct word to or
expression of their meaning.

As for the subject of "prescriptive" vs "descriptive" grammars, and how the
issue developed, that is far too big to include here so I'll refrain. It's
also well off-topic, but it's fairly easy to research.

Anyway, this shift towards less formal and idiosyncratic English is a source
of some irritation to some of us who not only learned standard English
(whether North American or British or wherever) but enjoyed it and enjoy it
still. The inescapable fact is that anyone who has mastered the rigours of
standard grammar, syntax, vocabulary and pronunciation is far better
equipped to make his or her thoughts clear to others at a far deeper level,
than someone who has been allowed, or worse, encouraged, to let his or her
version of the language become limited by personal whim, laziness or
ignorance. Some reasons include the ability to make more precise
distinctions of thought, and the ability to avoid ambiguities,
misunderstandings and confusion.

The point of all that is to say that however frustrating it is for someone
to speak a form of English that isn't easily comprehended by his or her
hearers, it's hardly blameworthy if that person has never been required, or
even encouraged, to learn anything more than his own dialect and
pronunciation or anything more precise than informal grammar and syntax. He
or she is doing the best they can, given the declining state of grammatical
training in more and more modern schools.

I can only give a personal opinion on your question from my *very* limited
experience in programming. This shouldn't affect Newton-like software much,
since we're talking largely about problems to do with spoken language and
with grammar and syntax, whereas HWR operates outside the scope of these
things, recognizing letter forms and letter combinations. AFAIK Newton
software doesn't really deal with the things we're talking about, unless
there's a "grammar-checker" knocking around somewhere.

Hope that helps.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

łAny sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from a Newton.˛
            -- What Arthur C. Clarke meant to say
(With thanks to Chod Lang)

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
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Received on Sun Sep 2 15:49:32 2007

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