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Is English deteriorating?. Ling 1. Remember!. Language is instinctive -- humans are grammatical beings. Children are grammatical geniuses. All languages are structure-driven. If all this is arguably correct, why is everyone always complaining about the state of English?

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Remember!

  • Language is instinctive -- humans are grammatical beings.

  • Children are grammatical geniuses.

  • All languages are structure-driven.


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Arbiters of English complaining about the state of English?

  • Who decides what is and is not correct spoken language?

  • Why do people get so stressed out about “incorrect usage?”

  • Do we have a moral imperative to protect language?


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Examples of “bad” English complaining about the state of English?

  • “Hopefully, we’ll end early today.”

  • For most of us, the adverb indicates our attitude toward the entire sentence…[One hopes that [X]].


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  • Confusion of lay/lie complaining about the state of English?

  • “I’m going to lay down” - is this bad?

  • “I have lain down” - how’s this sound?


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Regular/irregular? complaining about the state of English?

  • “He snuck into the room late” - ?

  • “She dove off the platform” - ?


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What’s wrong here? complaining about the state of English?

  • I want to gradually save money for a new car.

  • She decided to never touch another cigarette.


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  • That’s complaining about the state of English? John and mine’s favorite song - ?

  • Conjoined nouns are often treated differently than simple nouns:

  • John and me arrived late.

  • *Me arrived late.

  • That’s between you and I.


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Hypercorrection complaining about the state of English?

  • Me and you went to the movies.

  • Rule?

  • Internalize: “Never say ‘you and me’”

  • Hypercorrection:

    • He gave the book to you and I.

    • He lent the DVD to John and I.

  • Hypercorrection: misapplication of prescriptivist rules


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Prescriptive complaining about the state of English? versus Descriptive Grammar

  • Prescriptive grammars describe how one ought to talk.

  • Descriptive grammars describe how people DO talk.


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  • We all have our own likes and dislikes about how others use language. Examples?

  • Prescriptivists, though, feel very strongly that only their definition of correct usage is accurate.

  • “This is an outrage up with which I shall not put” – Churchill in response to being told not to strand prepositions


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Language as Shibboleth language. Examples?

  • Shibboleth: Hebrew for ‘torrent, stream’ - custom or usage that distinguishes one group from another.

  • Judges (12:4-6) recounts the slaying of 42,000 Ephraimites at the passage of Jordon who could not pass as Gileadites because they said ‘sibboleth’.


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They’re everywhere! language. Examples?

  • It’s not just English that’s going to the dogs.

  • Many societies, particularly literate ones, are constantly preoccupied by language corruption.


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  • 1794 Murray’s English Grammar: was not as pure as Homeric Greek.

  • 2 negatives in English cancel each other out.

  • Never put a preposition at the end of a sentence.


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Origin of these notions that English should be more like Latin.

  • 18th century preoccupation that Latin was perfect and English defective unless regulated by ‘experts’.


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ain’t that English should be more like Latin.

  • This is used as a contraction of “am not”.

  • It’s of very old origin and was used even in cultivated speech (and it still is).


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  • (You/we/they) are not that English should be more like Latin. aren’t(He/she/it) is not  isn’t

  • I am not  I’m not (*ain’t)


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Y’all - Y’uns - Yous that English should be more like Latin.

  • Even Tok Pisin, based on English, has a singular versus plural you.

  • yu

  • yupela


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“Conservative” American English pronoun paradigm that English should be more like Latin.

  • I weyou yous/he, it they

  • To fill in the gap, we have all kinds of variants, depending on region.


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Negation and ‘polarity’ that English should be more like Latin.

  • Double negation is considered a solecism.

  • Example “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet”


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  • English isn’t math: two negatives do that English should be more like Latin.NOT make a positive.

  • Double negatives were fine:Chaucer: He never yet no vilainy ne said..“He never said any evil.”


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  • “You that English should be more like Latin.ain’t seen nothin’ yet”

  • You haven’t seen anything yet -or-

  • You have seen nothing (yet).

  • “any” has to occur with neg.

  • “some” “none” “nothing” have to occur with pos.

  • Why?


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But… that English should be more like Latin.

  • Some people use ‘anymore’ without a negative:

  • “Anymore I just work”

  • Dialectal variant = synonym for “these days”


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The StarTrek corruption that English should be more like Latin.

  • “toboldlygo where no man has gone before!”

  • Again with the Latin!… It’s impossible to split an infinitive in Latin because infinitives are expressed via inflections (ama-re) not periphrastic expressions (to go).


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Right and wrong usage that English should be more like Latin.

  • Every generation is accused of corrupting or degrading the language.

  • Languages change generation by generation.

  • Those who get all incensed about correct usage are usually wasting their time.


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