Language Criticism and the Usage Panel. The Role of Language Criticism in a Multicultural Society Linguistics 3430 Fall 2007. Today’s Questions. Why are some people so concerned about other people’s linguistic innovations? What kinds of arguments count for usage critics?
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The Role of Language Criticism in a Multicultural Society
Don Pedro: Runs not this speech like iron through your blood?
Claudio: I have drunk poison while he uttered it. (Much Ado, Act 5, Scene 1)
Each and the rest are singular; that is undisputed; in a perfect language there would exist pronouns and possessives that were of as doubtful gender as they, and yet were, like them, singular; i.e., it would have words meaning himself-or-herself or his-or-her [...] We lack the power of saying in one word his-or-her. There are three makeshifts: A, as anybody can see for himself or herself; B, as anybody can see for themselves, and C, as anybody can see for himself. No one who can help it chooses A [...] it is so clumsy as to be ridiculous [...] B is the popular solution. It sets the literary man’s teeth on edge [...] C is here recommended. It involves the convention that where the matter of sex is not conspicuous or important, he and his shall be allowed to represent a person instead of a man.
In formal English, use a singular pronoun to refer to such antecedents as anyone, someone and nobody. In informal English, plural pronouns are occasionally used to refer to such words.
Nunberg: “The point of traditional grammar was to demonstrate a way of thinking about grammatical problems that encouraged thoughtful attention to language, not to canonize a set of arbitrary rules and strictures.”
The fact that some people are too thickheaded to grasp, for example, that ‘anyone’ is singular, as the ‘one’ in it plainly denotes, does not oblige those who know better to tolerate ‘anyone may do as they please’ [...] And don’t let fanatical feminists convince you that it must be ‘as he or she pleases’, which is clumsy and usually serves no other purpose than that of placating the kind of extremist who does not deserve to be placated. —John Simon, former theater critic, New York magazine
Webster’s has, it is apparent, surrendered to the permissive school that has been busily extending its beachhead in English instruction in the schools [and] reinforced the notion that good English is whatever is popular… It can only accelerate the deterioration of the English language.
It appears that much of my life as a journalist has been devoted to sedulously setting off firecrackers.
Acceptable to 28%
The American Constitution is still nearly unique in that it offers no self-destruct mechanism.
Acceptable to 28%
other singular (e.g., his/her): 48%
other singular (e.g., his/her): 53%
other singular (e.g., his/her): 61%
other singular (e.g., his/her): 60%