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Old 5th May 2012, 05:50 PM   #81
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Damon Knight used to point out that we say, "This thing differs from that one," so it was sensible to say, "This is different from that," too.

I'm not aware of any dialect that would use, "This thing differs to that one," or "This thing differs than that one."

I vote with Damon for consistency.
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Old 5th May 2012, 06:37 PM   #82
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I vote with Emerson...
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Old 5th May 2012, 06:44 PM   #83
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Originally Posted by xtifr View Post
Without knowing more about why you consider applied linguistics to be unscientific, it's hard for me to address this, but I suspect I disagree. In any case, xterra might be more qualified to comment on this point than I.
In fact, I am studying a course in Applied Linguistics now, and while it may draw on some of the research that has been done by child psychologists or neuroscientists what I have been studying so far is not particularly methodical, in my view. There are plenty of hypotheses in the field of teaching English as a second language but most of the theorists don't seem particularly concerned with empirical evidence and the field is cluttered up with gurus, ideologies and unfounded assertions (maybe I am making a number of these myself). It could simply be that AL is in its infancy and it may take time before more rigourous researchers dominate the scene but at the moment I think it is as scientific as, say, sociology, economics or political science.


Quote:
Preferences and style are fine. That's not prescriptivism or descriptivism. If you decide to avoid splitting infinitives, that's a personal choice, not a rule of English. It's when you start telling people that they must not split infinitives that you fall into prescriptivism. (And note that many prescriptivists admit that there is no rule against splitting infinitives--the prescriptivists don't even agree with each other, which makes it very hard to say, "well, I'll just follow the prescriptivists' guides, since it can't hurt".)
My understanding is that the taboo against splitting the infinitive came from the belief that Latin was a superior language to the modern languages and given the fact that an infinitive cannot be split in Latin it was thought to be uncouth to do so in English too. I would argue that English provides a greater flexibility of style than Latin by having a splittable infinitive but maybe that is also arrogant.

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It's not unscientific or prescriptivist to prefer a certain style. It only becomes unscientific when you declare "these are the rules of English, given from on high, and any who dare disobey shall be cast into the outer darkness". Even if you're right about a particular rule, that's still unscientific.
Well, maybe we are in agreement after all.

Quote:
Less objectionable--but still unscientific and wrong--is the argument: "this is logical, so it must be the rule". Prescriptivist advice on "that" vs. "which" and "less" vs. "fewer" often fits into this category.
Yes, logic often has little to do with English grammar. Certainly expecting natural languages to conform to logic is naive at best.

Quote:
There's a big difference between condemning someone, and telling someone that their non-standard usage is likely to impact their ability to succeed in life. Descriptivists will not hesitate to do the latter. As for argument ad populum, that's not a fallacy if you're trying to describe the behavior of people in large.
Yes, fair enough. In fact, descriptive linguistics is one area where it almost makes no sense to describe a language use as argument ad populum.

Quote:
A good book on grammar written by a descriptionist (e.g. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, which I would recommend if it didn't cost 300 USD), will tell you that splitting infinitives is fine, and that no reputable guide has ever condemned them.* But it will also warn you that some people have the mistaken belief that there's something wrong with the split infinitive, so you might want to be cautious with them unless you know your audience. That's advice which is both useful and correct.

* not even Strunk and White, though their advice on the topic is quite muddled.
I may be interested in getting it at some point as I think it will be useful for my studies.

Quote:
He's not a prescriptivist for saying that. There's not sign of a "thou shalt" or "thou shall not" there. He's merely wrong.
Well, he is bemoaning a "corruption" of the English language in that people are beginning to speak the political jargon of the day without much thought for its meaning. In some ways, though, Orwell was clearly an anti-prescriptivist in the sense that he was against the enforcement of language that deliberately reduces the scope of possibly communicated thoughts, i.e all positive words are to be replaced with good, plusgood, doubleplusgood and the alternatives are ungood, plusungood etc... I wonder if he had in mind some of the languages that people like C.K Ogden were thinking of.

Quote:
As James Nicoll once said: "The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore."
Yes, I agree it is messy.

Quote:
Orwell was somewhat of a prescriptivist, but like many prescriptivists, he would routinely break many of the nonsensical rules he prescribed. Which could lead one to call him a hypocrite as well. On the other hand, his insight into the political use of language was excellent, but that's outside the domain of prescriptivism or descriptivism. You can lie or mislead using proper/standard grammar or improper/non-standard.
[/quote]

That's right, but I think Orwell was pointing out that some political language was inherently misleading and deceitful by design.


Originally Posted by xtifr View Post
Angrysoba: it's perfectly fine to dislike a usage. That doesn't make you a prescriptivist; it makes you human. Many people dislike the word that starts with "m" and ends with "oist", but none of them try to claim it's not English. Even fierce descriptionists will admit there are things that bug them. Still, if things bug you purely on the basis of being illogical, I have to wonder what you think of the word "terrific", which has a modern meaning completely at odds with its root, "terror".
Yes, there are lots of similar examples of that kind of thing. "Proof" is a word that has developed a similar appearance of illogicality. Bill Bryson has an interesting chapter in Mother Tongue which deals with words which seem to have morphed into having two completely opposite meanings, to move fast and to be stuck fast is one example. It's been a while since I read Mother Tongue but I remember it being an excellent book which dispenses with lots of myths that many people believe about the English language. It is possible that it also perpetuates or has created others but I can't remember.

Originally Posted by xterra View Post
Angrysoba, my rejoinder to "I could care less" is that I could indeed care less, but I'd have to work really, really hard to do so.

(I required my students to write papers in Standard English; that was the equivalent of requring them to drive with traffic, not against it.)
Yeah, I realize that it can be seen that way as well.
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Old 5th May 2012, 07:02 PM   #84
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Just to put this back on-topic a bit more, thanks to xtifr for recommending the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language.

I wonder if either of these two books are useful for Tsukasa Buddah's purposes:

A Practical English Grammar

(I think if this is anything like Swan's Practical English Usage then it should be good, but I've never checked it out).

Collins COBUILD English Grammar

This one presumably uses modern techniques for compiling the way that grammar is used by using large databases of spoken and written English. It may be better suited for students of English, though.
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Old 5th May 2012, 07:49 PM   #85
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Originally Posted by xterra View Post
Rat, most Americans can't tell the difference between among British accents, with the exception of those stereotyped in films and TV shows.

What is the situation in England with regard to American accents? Can you tell the difference between the speech of a person from Iowa and one from Pennsylvania?
I seem to recall that when 'Snatch' came out, there was a spate of YouTube videos offering demonstrations of the 'real' Pikey dialect... and many of them were anything but.
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Old 5th May 2012, 07:56 PM   #86
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Originally Posted by crimresearch View Post
I seem to recall that when 'Snatch' came out, there was a spate of YouTube videos offering demonstrations of the 'real' Pikey dialect... and many of them were anything but.
'Pikey' is quite a broad term (and one that is very offensive to a lot of people). It's generally used in this country to refer to any travelling people in a derogatory way. Some of them are Irish travellers, which is what Pitt was doing, but they're relatively rare in this part of the country compared to other travellers.
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Old 5th May 2012, 08:51 PM   #87
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
I wonder if either of these two books are useful for Tsukasa Buddah's purposes:

A Practical English Grammar
Not familiar with this one, but a quick skim of the reviews shows things like, "makes it child's play to find out, for example, what the difference is between "that" and "which" and when to use each one", which makes me suspicious, since that's such a common target of prescriptivist poppycock.

No idea on the other one you mentioned, but skimming some of the related options, I spotted Oxford Modern English Grammar, which looks promising from the description and the reviews. And it's only 13 UKP. I wonder if anyone has this and can comment?
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Old 5th May 2012, 09:01 PM   #88
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Originally Posted by xtifr View Post
Not familiar with this one, but a quick skim of the reviews shows things like, "makes it child's play to find out, for example, what the difference is between "that" and "which" and when to use each one", which makes me suspicious, since that's such a common target of prescriptivist poppycock.
Yes, I've usually thought that there really is no difference between using "that" and "which" in most relative clauses. There may be situations in which you wouldn't use one or the other (such as *There may be situations in that you wouldn't use one or the other) but I can't think of a hard and fast rule.
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Old 5th May 2012, 09:04 PM   #89
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Originally Posted by Rat View Post
Pleonasm! Tautology! Redundancy!
Don't forget the first rule of Tautology Club!

http://xkcd.com/703/
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Old 5th May 2012, 10:48 PM   #90
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Originally Posted by xterra View Post
Xtifr, one reason I pointed people to the Linguist List is precisely so that they would get a sense of the range of topics that linguists discuss and the complexity of many of the topics. Look at

http://linguistlist.org/issues/22/22-4631.html

for an example of the kind of issues that many researchers are discussing. I frankly admit that I'm on the verge of not understanding some of what Pullum is saying; it isn't where my own interests were.
It looks like a fascinating site, and you can definitely see that there's a frightening range of topics. I'm sure I'll be back to browse more, once I get over my initial feelings of intimidation.

(I also think I may have actually seen that same Pullum post before when it was linked from Language Log, where Pullum is one of the regulars.)

Quote:
As for your comment to Angrysoba, I agree that not liking a particular word or expression or whatever doesn't automatically make one a prescriptivist. But to say that language is logical or illogical is to miss the point. It is neither. It just is without qualification.
I think we're in agreement here. When I said that I found prescriptive arguments based on logic "less objectionable", I didn't mean to imply that I thought they were valid. I merely meant that I find them less annoying than arguments based on blind dogmatism. If someone is trying to use logic to support their position, there's at least a chance you can get them to consider their premises. When they engage in blind dogmatism, it's much harder to build a meaningful dialog.

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This gets us back to usage. Do what works for the situation in which you find yourself. If that means saying "irregardless" or "inflammable," so be it. If you want to show yourself as superior, adopt the accent of the higher class. For the Brits, this means RP. For Americans ... it probably means any English (country of) accent except Cockney, Yorkshire, or Liverpudlian.
Yes, and this brings us back full circle to the starter topic: a useful guide to the gooder English of the people with the purse strings--or some reasonable approximation thereof that we might loosely call "Standard English".

You say you taught a class in this particular dialect? Does that mean you can recommend some good books on the subject?
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Old 5th May 2012, 10:55 PM   #91
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Originally Posted by Rat View Post
'Pikey' is quite a broad term (and one that is very offensive to a lot of people). It's generally used in this country to refer to any travelling people in a derogatory way. Some of them are Irish travellers, which is what Pitt was doing, but they're relatively rare in this part of the country compared to other travellers.
Pikey is offensive, tinker is offensive, Irish Travellers is offensive, Gypsy is offensive... and the various groups who self identify by those labels (and other names like 'Pavees'), weave that into their distinctive subculture, along with various patois.

Similar situation in Lousiana with groups there, and French derivatives.
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Old 6th May 2012, 07:49 AM   #92
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Originally Posted by xtifr View Post

You say you taught a class in this particular dialect? Does that mean you can recommend some good books on the subject?
I said I taught a course that the Department called "Standard English," but that I would have preferred to call "Structure of English" because I was exploring grammar, not usage. (As a reminder to all, in post #62, I discussed the difference between grammar and usage.)

For usage, many of the books discussed in this thread would be adequate, although I have some reservations about Strunk and White and about Fowler because the language has changed since they were written.

For spelling, capitali(s/z)ation, and punctuation, use a style manual that is specific for the country in which you live. For example, there was a discussion somewhere in this thread about whether a period should be placed before or after the quote mark that ends a sentence. As I recall, American style manuals say inside the quote mark; British manuals say outside.

In the 1960s, American computer programmers were caught in a dilemma. They needed to put the period inside the quote in literal strings in their programs, but outside in the rest of their writing. The solution for many was to use the British style simply because they didn't have to worry about where to put the darn thing.

Am I telling you more than you want to know?

By the way, here's a riddle/conundrum/puzzle/challenge. I warn you that there is an insidious little trick definition involved.

Can you think of a legitimate (i.e., grammatical) sentence with five prepositions at the end of it?
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Old 6th May 2012, 07:50 AM   #93
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Originally Posted by xterra View Post
By the way, here's a riddle/conundrum/puzzle/challenge. I warn you that there is an insidious little trick definition involved.

Can you think of a legitimate (i.e., grammatical) sentence with five prepositions at the end of it?
Does it involve a child asking about a book?

ETA: and I can legitimately use the word "had" nine times in a row.

And Buffalo.
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Old 6th May 2012, 07:56 AM   #94
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With respect to Xtifr's comment about arguments based on logic vs. arguments based on dogmatism (which I take to mean "just because I say so"):

The problem is finding the logic. Where does one put the possessive ending when describing a hat belonging to the Queen of England? There are two possibilities.

The Queen's hat of England

The Queen of England's hat

Is one more logical than the other? One can make the argument either way. I'll let you all think about it for a while....
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Old 6th May 2012, 07:57 AM   #95
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Originally Posted by Rat View Post
Does it involve a child asking about a book?

ETA: and I can legitimately use the word "had" nine times in a row.

And Buffalo.
Aha! Don't spoil it for the rest of 'em.
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Old 6th May 2012, 07:59 AM   #96
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Originally Posted by xterra View Post
With respect to Xtifr's comment about arguments based on logic vs. arguments based on dogmatism (which I take to mean "just because I say so"):

The problem is finding the logic. Where does one put the possessive ending when describing a hat belonging to the Queen of England? There are two possibilities.

The Queen's hat of England

The Queen of England's hat

Is one more logical than the other? One can make the argument either way. I'll let you all think about it for a while....
Obviously the first is absurd, and I don't think anyone would use it. The second would be understood by all but the dimmest audience, but that's largely because the phrase "The Queen of England" is well understood as a unit. Using that construction with other words would not work as well.

Personally, I would, as always, recast for clarity, but it seems that this is a failing.
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Old 6th May 2012, 08:24 AM   #97
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Originally Posted by xterra View Post
With respect to Xtifr's comment about arguments based on logic vs. arguments based on dogmatism (which I take to mean "just because I say so"):

The problem is finding the logic. Where does one put the possessive ending when describing a hat belonging to the Queen of England? There are two possibilities.

The Queen's hat of England

The Queen of England's hat

Is one more logical than the other? One can make the argument either way. I'll let you all think about it for a while....
Correct answer is The Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland's hat..
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Old 6th May 2012, 03:15 PM   #98
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Originally Posted by xterra View Post
With respect to Xtifr's comment about arguments based on logic vs. arguments based on dogmatism (which I take to mean "just because I say so"):

The problem is finding the logic.
Problem? No way. Just make some hasty generalizations and false assumptions, and maybe throw in some special pleading, and you too can be a logical prescriptivist!

Some real world examples:

"It would be illogical to have two words that overlap in meaning, so if you can say 'ten items or fewer', then 'ten items or less' must be an error!"

"It would be illogical if third-person pronouns didn't follow the same pattern as first-person pronouns, so singular 'they' must be an error."

False premises and hasty generalizations. It is inefficient to have two words that overlap in meaning, since it forces the reader to make a decision based on context, and a wrong decision can lead to crash blossoms, or worse. Nevertheless, English not only allows this, it seems to revel in it.

p.s. those who are intrigued by the notion of crash blossoms may want to check out http://www.crashblossoms.com/
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Old 7th May 2012, 02:38 AM   #99
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Originally Posted by xtifr View Post
a wrong decision can lead to crash blossoms, or worse. Nevertheless, English not only allows this, it seems to revel in it.

p.s. those who are intrigued by the notion of crash blossoms may want to check out http://www.crashblossoms.com/
I'm pretty sure journalists revel in the above (along with terrible puns).

I enjoyed this headline:

"Lesbian transvestite strawberry patch killer Donna Lee Casagrande ‘ran rampant’ "

Obviously we need now a police lesbian transvestite strawberry patch task-force.
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Old 8th May 2012, 10:52 AM   #100
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Originally Posted by Rat View Post
Incidentally, I went searching for an example of Geordie accents, and it turns out that in not understanding them, I have something in common with Alan Partridge.
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I AGREE
And the actor that plays Michael isn't even a Geordie, though he does a passable comedy impersonation. He is also Alexandr the meercat.

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Old 8th May 2012, 12:37 PM   #101
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Originally Posted by Professor Yaffle View Post
And the actor that plays Michael isn't even a Geordie, though he does a passable comedy impersonation. He is also Alexandr the meercat.
I had a sneaking suspicion that it wasn't his own, but never bothered to check. He at least presumably has a 'northern' accent, which from here means anywhere north of Nottingham or northwest of Derby.

I recall Interesting Ian getting offended by people saying he had a Geordie accent, when he was from Stockton. It really sounds about the same to me. Similarly, some from Birmingham (pace tkingdoll) get offended if you get their accent mixed up with the Black Country accent, since it's apparently completely different, while to me it just seems a matter of degree.
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Old 9th May 2012, 07:33 PM   #102
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Rat,

Please post your version of the child and book story.

Thanks.
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Old 9th May 2012, 07:40 PM   #103
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Oh, you bastard . I've already conceded (by PM) that I can't remember the exact construction. It's something along the lines of a child who doesn't want to have a book about Australia read to him, and says something like "why do you have the book that I didn't want to be read to out of about down under for?"

It is at least as contrived as the 'buffalo' and 'had' quotes, of course. Not least since down and under are not functioning as prepositions in the sentence, but also because nobody, not even a child, would formulate a sentence like that unless they'd drunk at least 16 pints.
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Old 9th May 2012, 07:52 PM   #104
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And, for the record, we have "Bob, where Bill had "had had", had "had", had "had had" had the teacher's approval, [etc.]" The example obviously relies on a teacher asking two children to write a particular sentence, or rather to write a sentence describing a particular event.
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Old 9th May 2012, 07:55 PM   #105
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Originally Posted by Rat View Post
And, for the record, we have "Bob, where Bill had "had had", had "had", had "had had" had the teacher's approval, [etc.]" The example obviously relies on a teacher asking two children to write a particular sentence, or rather to write a sentence describing a particular event.
ETA: and the Wikipedia page on the Buffalo example explains it better than I could.
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Old 9th May 2012, 09:05 PM   #106
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Originally Posted by Rat View Post
Oh, you bastard . I've already conceded (by PM) that I can't remember the exact construction. It's something along the lines of a child who doesn't want to have a book about Australia read to him, and says something like "why do you have the book that I didn't want to be read to out of about down under for?"
Yes, but your version has two more prepositions or pseudo-prepositions than my version, which is:

What did you bring that book I didn't want to be read to out of up for?

(to read : pseudo infinitive; this linguist would say 'to + base form of verb' This is in the explanation only for clarity.)

out of : = from = indivisible prepositional phrase, so the two count as one

be read to: to = preposition with passive form of verb and to + what would be an indirect object in a slightly different grammatical structure.

up : preposition of direction

for : what for = reason = question word + particle

Particles look like prepositions but aren't. Compare
He looked up the street (in a guide, to see where it was).

He looked up the street (to see if the car was coming).


He looked up the tree (in a guide, to determine what kind of tree it is).

He looked up the tree (to find the cat).
In the verb + particle sentence, the particle can move to the position after the object:
He looked the tree up (in a guide).
He looked the street up (in a guide).
Not so in verb + preposition: (* = ungrammatical)
*He looked the street up (to see if the car was coming).
*He looked the tree up (to find the cat).

Rat's version contains

about, a preposition

down under, an indivisible two-preposition slang term for Australia

I have not read through this blog to validate the analyses, but here are some other versions:

http://stancarey.wordpress.com/2009/...-in-under-for/

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Old 9th May 2012, 09:26 PM   #107
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Originally Posted by Rat View Post
Obviously the first is absurd, and I don't think anyone would use it. The second would be understood by all but the dimmest audience, but that's largely because the phrase "The Queen of England" is well understood as a unit. Using that construction with other words would not work as well.

Personally, I would, as always, recast for clarity, but it seems that this is a failing.
Ah, but Queen of England was not considered a unit in Willie Shakespeare's* time. To the educated Elizabethan, it would have been obviously absurd to think that England (country) had a hat.

Logic is a construct of a culture and a society.

*I call him Willie because I am almost as old as he would be if he were still alive. That's what I told my students, anyway.

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Old 10th May 2012, 02:18 AM   #108
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My favourite "problem" sentence is "The old man the boats." which was used in my psych class to illustrate some theories about how we process written language.
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Old 10th May 2012, 06:28 AM   #109
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Originally Posted by Wudang View Post
My favourite "problem" sentence is "The old man the boats." which was used in my psych class to illustrate some theories about how we process written language.
Which in turn puts me in mind of the old chestnut: "Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana."
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Old 10th May 2012, 08:26 AM   #110
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Time flies like a banana. You can't. They move too fast.
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Old 10th May 2012, 08:27 AM   #111
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Slightly off-topic.

Rat, thanks. You're helping me get my post count up.
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Old 10th May 2012, 10:38 AM   #112
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It is a punctuation exercise:


time flies you can not they pass at such irregular intervals
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Old 10th May 2012, 04:29 PM   #113
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Originally Posted by Wudang View Post
My favourite "problem" sentence is "The old man the boats." which was used in my psych class to illustrate some theories about how we process written language.
A good example of the "crash blossoms" phenomenon. It arises from the fact that English words can often serve different purposes: noun, verb, and/or adjective. I think that proper crash blossoms must involve at least one word that is ambiguously a verb (in your example, "man"), and at least one other word that shows some form of ambiguity ("old" can be noun or adjective), but this is still only a hypothesis.

A nicely subtle example of ambiguity is the title of the Vernor Vinge novel, Rainbows End. At a quick glance, the title seems obvious. If you spot the apparent error and learn it's not an error, the title changes completely.
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Old 10th May 2012, 05:17 PM   #114
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"Flying planes can be dangerous."

I might want that for a sig....
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Old 29th May 2012, 03:07 PM   #115
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Follow-up on the descriptivist vs. prescriptivist issue we was discussing above. Here's Ben Zimmer, a linguist (and thus, obviously, a descriptivist), responding to a New Yorker article attacking a Straw Man version of descriptivists which resembles AngrySoba's earlier misinterpretation:

The New Yorker vs. the descriptivist specter

Quote:
Actual linguists and lexicographers who answer to the "descriptivist" label tend to be quite concerned with precisely those matters Bloom claims that they neglect. Is a particular linguistic form considered to be erroneous? If so, what motivates the ascription of error? Would the person who produced the form in question recognize it as an error and chalk it up to a slip of the tongue or pen? Or is a linguistic variant disparaged because it is associated with a stigmatized dialect, and if so, how does the relationship between the "standard" and "non-standard" forms reflect broader social dynamics over time? And finally, which registers of a language are appropriate for which social situations, and how do speakers and writers navigate changes of register in their daily lives?
Much like AngrySoba earlier in this thread, the New Yorker writer, Bloom, starts by recommending a basically descriptivist position and then uses that to try to criticize the (entirely fictional?) "anything-goes" straw descriptivists, with much the same argument ("they say anything's ok, but they always use standard English when writing about it").

Anyone with lingering doubts about prescriptivists vs. descriptivists is strongly encourage to read the linked article.
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