The Vocabula Review -- Vol. 3, No. 7

Peter A. McGraw pmcgraw at LINFIELD.EDU
Mon Jul 16 20:50:37 UTC 2001

Sheesh!  Where did they dig up "Mark Halpern," and how do recitations of prejudice and ignorance qualify as worthy of publication?!

Some of this article's pearls of wisdom:

"Language is not living, not growing, and not a thing; it is a vast system of social habits and conventions, inherited from our forebears, and showing
every sign of being an artifact rather than an organic growth."

Wow!  I didn't know that--did you?!

But wait--there's more:

"Certainly languages, or at least aspects of them, exhibit some changes over time ? but then, so do the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the barometer, and the Oregon coastline, none of which we characterize as living or growing. And the most impressive changes observed in any language
? loss of inflected forms, of moods and of tenses ? are in the direction of simplification and economy, not of the enlargement, elaboration, and proliferation we call growth. The changes exhibited by our language in historical times make it plain that it changes only when it is changed by us, its users, and never of its own accord, since it has no accord."

I'm sure there would have been still more pearls, had I chosen to read on, but I didn't have time, because I had to brush my teeth.

Peter Mc.

--On Sunday, July 15, 2001 10:01 AM +0000 Robert Hartwell Fiske <Vocabula at AOL.COM> wrote:

> The End of Linguistics: Taking the Language Back from Nature -- and
> Linguists
> There's only one thing that everyone knows about language -- that it's a
> living, growing thing -- so it seems particularly unfortunate that it
> should be false. It is a metaphor that may once have served some useful
> purpose; today it is a noxious cloud whose effect is to stifle rational
> discussion of language.  It is heard whenever A questions a usage of B's:
> someone, usually C, will counter the criticism by reciting the one thing
> everyone knows -- and with that remark, reason flies out the window.  You
> raise your eyebrows at his use of reticent to mean reluctant?  You think
> him ignorant for using disinterested to mean uninterested? You groan
> because he speaks of running the gauntlet?  I tell you in response that
> language is a living, growing thing; thus I refute pedantry -- and carry
> the day!
> More:

                               Peter A. McGraw
                   Linfield College   *   McMinnville, OR
                            pmcgraw at

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