common practices in descriptive "grammars"

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sat Aug 5 17:24:37 UTC 2000

ron butters:

 I'm a little confused when linguists of the stature of Arnold Zwicky
 use--even if only as a kind of shorthand--terms such as "legitimate"
 to describe commonplace practices such as scare quotes, thereby
 consigning emphatic quotation marks to "illegitimacy."

fair enough.  "legitimate" was a poor choice of words, and it drew
attention away from the main point i was trying to make in my original
paragraph, which was that "scarequotes" denotes both form (quotation
marks) and function (some sort of ironic distancing), so that
"greengrocer's scarequotes" would be contradictory, given that
"greengrocer's" denotes a different function (emphasis).

part of the problem lies in the fact that this thread began with
a discussion of departures from prescribed writing practice, so
the implicit point of view was that of the norms for formal writing.
in this context, emphatic quotation marks are literally illegitimate,
that is, contrary to the rules.  that fact was, however, beside the
point in my posting.

i was also in the process of shifting the point of view to that of
linguistic description, where the rules are whatever principles people
seem to be following in their speaking and writing.  given that, it
would have been better for me to have gone back and removed any
allusions to standardness.

arnold (zwicky at, hearing a little barbie voice
  saying, "writing is hard - let's go shopping!"

More information about the Ads-l mailing list