Tom Payne tpayne at OREGON.UOREGON.EDU
Mon Feb 10 23:09:34 UTC 1997

Rob Pensalfini wrote:
> On having a construction rejected by a native speaker, who then produces
> the very same construction minutes later in speech:
> I've had this happen a few times too.  I guess it goes to show that
> prescriptivism in grammar is quite independent of having either a written
> language or a standard dialect.

Yes. In Yagua situation I cited, the consultants were working from a
very rough transcribed text. They essentially would take one sentence at
a time with the idea of correcting my spelling, word breaks, punctuation
etc. Since the switch reference system works at a higher level than a
single sentence, when taken out of context much of it seems
ungrammatical, or at least incoherent. It is only in the online flow of
the text that the coherence of the switch reference system becomes
apparent, even to native speakers.

This illustrates not only that prescriptivism is "innate," but also that
grammatical description needs to be contextualized at a higer level than
the sentence. In fact, I believe that the higher the level one can push
one's analysis, while remaining methologically sound, the better. This
is an argument in favor of syntactic analysis embedded within discourse,
and by extension discourse analysis embedded within culture.
Thomas E. Payne
Department of Linguistics
University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403
Voice: 541 342-6706
Fax:   541 346-3917

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