lynnem at COGS.SUSX.AC.UK
Fri Jul 26 18:00:55 UTC 2002
--On Friday, July 26, 2002 1:43 pm -0400 Mark A Mandel <mam at THEWORLD.COM>
> On Fri, 26 Jul 2002, Mai Kuha wrote:
># Nice to see this feature making its way to more formal registers. This is
># from a dissertation abstract:
># "(...) In the retelling of previously read stories the three groups
># performed relatively good both at the micro- and the macrolinguistic
># level of processing. (...)"
> Obviously a case of "your mileage may vary". My reaction is "ugh!"
My reaction is also 'ugh' (I've become hyperconscious of this since moving
to England). But it's interesting to note the different linguistic (i.e.
linguists') reactions to changes and prescriptivism. The sentiment that
'any change away from prescriptive ideals is progress/good/praise-worthy'
is a frequent one.
Are such sentiments equivalent to 'Nice to see that people are using their
sleeves as napkins more often'? I mean, accepting the notion that no
linguistic form is inherently 'better' than any other (so long as they're
equivalently communicative), then rooting for the social underdog in
linguistic change is no more linguistically valid than rooting for the
prescribed form. And (not attributing this attitude to Mai--just thinking
about it in classroom discussions) perhaps the rooting-for-the-underdog
position is politically/socially simplistic. (I think increased casualness
tends to be understood as increased social equality, but I don't think
that's necessarily a valid link.)
The other reason why this might not be 'nice to see' is that increased
linguistic sameness across registers/social groups means decreased
Ok, this is off the top of my head, just as I'm going out the door for the
weekend. Not the time to be throwing casual, loaded statements around!
Dr M Lynne Murphy
Lecturer in Linguistics
Acting Director, MA Applied Linguistics
School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH
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