Does chancles = slippers?

Ricardo J. Salvador salvador at
Mon Jan 20 07:32:35 UTC 2003

On Friday, January 17, 2003, at 04:56  PM, <nahuatl at> wrote:

> Although my original question was raised without excluding the
> possibility
> of 'bad  grammar' as with the example of:  you all = ya'll

This is an example of a common and perfectly functional contraction
(you + all = y'all) used in southern dialects of American English, and
not an example of "bad grammar" per se.

> One question:  In your experience, do (some) linguistic researchers
> approach their questions while excluding the possibility that "bad
> grammar"  may be one of the results?

A common mantra among linguists is that their science is descriptive,
not prescriptive. The distinctions between proper and improper grammar
within a language are "real," of course, but usually related to the
imposition of standards that are meaningful in a cultural context. As
students of the mechanics of language and its evolution, linguists will
of course take note of such quibbles and distinctions, but their focus
is on the set of processes that adapt a people's utterances to meet
their needs.

> In my limited experience with languages, few speakers of any
> first-spoken
> language are "excellent" at observing grammar in any randomly expressed
> discourse.

It is even more interesting than that. We acquire an understanding very
early in our development about the rules for formulating valid
sentences in our native languages, and even though we continue to
develop this skill into adulthood, and have very clear ideas about what
constitutes proper speech within our native language, few of us are
actually able to articulate explicitly what those rules are. We know
them, but it takes special study to become consciously aware of them!

>   As such, the possibility should exist that 'poor grammar'
> could  be learned as readily as 'good grammar' in the absence of any
> sort
> of 'control' such as a formal education.  Yes, no, maybe, or unlikely
> (is
> this true)?

Sure, with the caveat that to a pure linguist the distinction between
"poor" and "standard" grammar is undefined, or rather is a social
construction. Your "education" is a way of imposing standards on you,
linguistically, culturally, philosophically, morally, politically, etc.

People and their cultures change, therefore their communication needs
change and their languages evolve to suit. The mechanisms whereby that
occurs are the main focus of interest of linguistics as a whole (the
gospel according to moi, with apologies to ACTUAL linguists ;-)).

Ricardo J. Salvador          Voice: 515.294.9595
1126 Agronomy Hall         Telefax: 515.294.8146
Iowa State University        e-mail: salvador at
Ames, IA 50011-1010       WWW:

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