the vital importance of grammar in everyday life

A. Vine avine at ENG.SUN.COM
Tue Jun 6 23:38:42 UTC 2000

It seems to me that understanding what the person in the next stall meant by
"the paper" would hinge on whether the person had a non-English accent.  I can
imagine thinking that there was supposed to be a newspaper in the stall I was
in, assuming the person asking for it knew that (perhaps a regular in these
parts), and wanting me to hand it over. OTOH, if she has an accent, I might more
readily understand the need for toilet paper.

Which reminds me of an experience Louis Goldstein (? Larry, is that his last
name?) of Haskins Lab (at the time) related. As a phonologist, he was adept at
pronouncing foreign languages without a discernable accent.  He was in the
Netherlands somewhere, and knew some Dutch.  He would go into a shop, made some
simple inquiries in Dutch, at which point the shopkeeper would respond with a
fluent stream of Dutch which he could not understand.  Since his pronunciation
was impeccable, the shopkeepers would determine that Louis difficulty with
understanding or producing words stemmed from the fact that he was retarded!
Apparently this happened more than once.  I don't know if he decided to try it
just as an experiment after awhile.

Just goes to show the advantage of an accent...
Andrea Vine, avine at, iPlanet i18n architect
"Stew my foot and call me Brenda"
--From "The Angry Child" Aardman Animations

RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:
> In a message dated 6/6/2000 3:58:06 PM, gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM writes:
> << Good point. I would ignore the person in the next stall. My
> *interpretation*
> would be that he was asking for a newspaper. If it were the dorm, I would
> hand over the sports section.
> I would probably assume that the person in the stall next to me *heard* me
> turning the paper. >>
> Well, this just goes to demonstrate the vital importance of grammar in
> everyday life! Here we see a case where a grammatical error could lead to not
> getting toilet paper when it is really needed!

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