Prescriptive Linguists

David A. Daniel dad at POKERWIZ.COM
Tue Jan 29 22:47:09 UTC 2008

Well, there ya go. This is what you get when you have "fluent, but not first
language". You get syntax creep and vocab creep from one language to the
other. Actually, you get this whenever you have a speaker who is
multilingual, whatever the first language is, if the other languages are
strong enough and the speaker is, especially, speaking informally and not
paying real attention. If Texas had a preponderance of Russian descendants,
rather than Hispanic, we would find folks arguing that "I doctor" or "He my
friend" is understandable, good English because enough people are using it
like that. If said descendants were Portuguese/Brazilian we would get a lot
of "I go to the cinema with the my friend Carlos," or "The your mother is
you calling," or "Where is the my car new?" (Italian too). Just because a
seemingly fluent speaker says something doesn't make it correct even
acceptable, or even understandable, among those who do not share the same
multi-linguistic background/knowledge.

>Just this last weekend I overheard my father and mother (both L1 Spanish
>speakers but fluent in English) discussing a certain doctor. My mother
know which doctor my father was talking about. He said to her "He's the one
saw you your hands."

>My English ears didn't like it but of course in Spanish 'El que le vio las
manos" and it makes perfect sense.

And it's sounding better and better to my English ears now.


Quoting William Salmon:
> QSubject: Re: Prescriptive linguists
> >>
> >> *Which car did you put Mary in the garage?
> >>
> >> So this is supposed to mean "Which car did you put in the garage for
> >> (or at Mary's behest/request)?"?
> >> DAD
> The starred sentence is fine for me, a native speaker of Texan English.
> I remember a syntax class, though, where my judgments on these kinds of
> sentences were met with such disbelief that I felt like I had insulted
> the instructor, who incidentally was a non-native speaker of English. I
> didn't press the issue after that. :-)
> > Yes, that was his interpretation.
> > The fun part was, that no one else in the class was a native
> > speaker--they were all international students.  I'm Jewish of the usual
> > Ashkenazic background, which he knew, and he took my rejection of the
> > sentence as further evidence that Chomsky and I ;-) were not native
> > speakers, having grown up solely around immigrants, and thus not exposed
> > to the full 'RANGE' of American dialects.
> >
> > Geoff
> >
> >
> > I am, among other things, a translator (Portuguese, Spanish, French,
> English
> > in various combinations) and it seems the non-native speaker syndrome is
> > common to both the translation and linguistics games. That is, there are
> > non-native speakers who believe the best defense is a good offense, and
> they
> > come up with all sorts of convoluted reasons why it is actually better
> be
> > a non-native than a native speaker when studying/translating a language.
> Of
> > course, given reasonably equal levels of education, experience, smarts,
> > etc., they are wrong. I direct anyone who feels differently to
> > "I put Mary the car in the garage" would fit right in
> > that site.
> > DAD
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > --
> > Geoffrey S. Nathan
> >


   English Language & Linguistics
   Purdue University
   mcovarru at


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