Standard US English Dialect?

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 16 15:10:43 UTC 2008

dInIs rightly kvetches:
>  > professionals here. Instead, I find this list dominated by people
>  > COMPLETELY IGNORANT of linguistics, and it just wastes my time (and
>  > pisses mem off). It's time for me to retire from this list; every time a
>  > professional opinion, analysis, or survey result is offered or every
>  > time a query for such stuff goes out, a host of crap that we wouldn't be
>  > allowed in LING 101 ensues.
>  >
>  > Enough.

Benjamin requests:
>  I'll say to you what I said to Arnold Zwicky--I hope you don't leave.
>  Don't let Tom Zurinskas run you off. There really are more of us than
>  there are of him.
>  And there always is the 'delete' key...

Fellow linguists, on this subject I highly recommend a 2003 paper I
just found, "A Group is its Own Worst Enemy
(, Clay Shirky's
keynote speech on Social Software at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology
conference in Santa Clara on April 24, 2003. Here's a quote that
summarizes why I recommend it.

[short history of a site called CommuniTree deleted]
What matters is, a group designed this and then was unable, in the
context they'd set up, partly a technical and partly a social context,
to save it from this attack from within. And attack from within is
what matters. Communitree wasn't shut down by people trying to crash
or syn-flood the server. It was shut down by people logging in and
posting, which is what the system was designed to allow. The
technological pattern of normal use and attack were identical at the
machine level, so there was no way to specify technologically what
should and shouldn't happen. Some of the users wanted the system to
continue to exist and to provide a forum for discussion. And other of
the users, the high school boys, either didn't care or were actively
inimical. And the system provided no way for the former group to
defend itself from the latter.

Now, this story has been written many times. It's actually frustrating
to see how many times it's been written. You'd hope that at some point
that someone would write it down, and they often do, but what then
doesn't happen is other people don't read it.

The most charitable description of this repeated pattern is "learning
from experience." But learning from experience is the worst possible
way to learn something. Learning from experience is one up from
remembering. That's not great. The best way to learn something is when
someone else figures it out and tells you: "Don't go in that swamp.
There are alligators in there."


And here's one more quote -- the last, I promise -- that summarizes...

                                                      Three Things to Accept

1.) Of the things you have to accept, the first is that you cannot
completely separate technical and social issues.

2.) The second thing you have to accept: Members are different than
users. A pattern will arise in which there is some group of users that
cares more than average about the integrity and success of the group
as a whole. And that becomes your core group, Art Kleiner's phrase for
"the group within the group that matters most."

3.) The third thing you need to accept: The core group has rights that
trump individual rights in some situations. This pulls against the
libertarian view that's quite common on the network, and it absolutely
pulls against the one person/one vote notion. But you can see examples
of how bad an idea voting is when citizenship is the same as ability
to log in.


Mark Mandel

The American Dialect Society -

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