On Apr 22, 2009, at 1:25 PM, Swanson, Gunnar wrote:
> Yes. But your assumption that "right" is always rewarded and "wrong"
> punished is missing the point. The notion that there are "right" and
> "wrong" ways to use language is just plain silly. Language is a
> communication medium. Our use of language communicates the
> ostensible subject matter of our comments but also all sorts of
> things about class, education, attitude, context, and the like. Most
> of it is tribal--all about group membership. Language that says "I'm
> a a very formal person who listened to everything my prep school
> English teacher taught me" can get you accepted in some
> circumstances and beat up in others. (Just using the phrase "my prep
> school" can have that effect.)
I didn't say that 'right' was always rewarded and 'wrong' punished. I
said that, to the extent I could stretch the analogy, that's how the
syntax police enforced the rules.
All of language is a vast conspiracy to agree on conventions of
signification, arrangement, pronunciation, and delivery of words. This
conspiracy of convention lasts as long as most people agree on its
usefulness and convenience.
English is what I call the most multicultural, diverse institution
You foreign words can join English without going through immigration
control or customs , as long as you follow a few rules.
1. You can keep your own familiar costumes (i.e., spelling) and can do
almost anything you want in English. English will NOT make you look
like other English words by changing your "ph" to "f" or "kh" to plain
2. Unfortunately, you can't bring in your belongings if you're from a
language that doesn't use the Latin alphabet, you can't use your
script in English.
3. Being new in English will cause you to lean over (italics). After a
while, when you've got the hang of it, you can stand up straight.
4. We'll try real hard to pronounce your name correctly, but sooner or
later, we'll probably wind up giving it a native accent, at least a
bit of one.
5. If you're a noun, you have to use the English plural -s; if you're
a verb, the singular -s, and also the -ed overshoes for past tenses
and -ing for ongoing things. If you're a modifier, it's -er this and -
est that, in certain circumstances.
6. Unfortunately, we have a quota on pronouns, prepositions, and a few
other groups. They're not accepting any new members, so if you're a
pronoun or one of the others, you can visit with friends in a set
phrase, but you're on a temporary visa and you have to lean over
slightly with an italic slant like all the other newcomers.
I think that's about it.
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