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Language Learning Orthodoxy You Ignore

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ScottScheule
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 Message 89 of 116
07 December 2014 at 7:51pm | IP Logged 
Jeffers wrote:


Because you haven't read this?


I read that before posting, actually. I'm not sure how it affects what I said. The mistake is still a mistake--it's just a
particularly widespread one. Read the comment thread.

Jeffers wrote:
But there is a large difference between the common "mistakes" made by native speakers, and
common mistakes made by learners.


Sure.
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Ari
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 Message 90 of 116
07 December 2014 at 9:05pm | IP Logged 
There really is something deeply disturbing about "incorrect" language, even for people who are intellectually aware that language change is a natural thing. I wouldn't be surprised if it's actually in our genes to try to slow down language change, since a language that changes too quickly might have been disadvantageous in our tribal past.
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tarvos
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 Message 91 of 116
07 December 2014 at 9:14pm | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
s_allard wrote:
With my usual due respect to iversen, I disagree
strongly here because I think he is confusing historical language change or evolution
with contemporary errors. While it is true that usage and meaning can evolve and give
words totally different meanings, we can observe the change in groups and generations
for whom the new thing becomes the norm. In iversen's example, what we are seeing is
one norm or usage displacing the other.

This happens all the time. In French for example, faire long feu has evolved from "to
fail at a task" to now mean exactly the opposite, i.e. "to succeed at something".
There are still purists who rail against the new usage and claim that the majority of
users are totally wrong.

This is not the case of organe and orgue. There is no evolution of one
into the other. There is not one speaker of French who thinks the words are
interchangeable. This is a totally embarrassing mistake that no native speaker of
French would make.


Are you sure that the influence from English couldn't lead some poor Francophone
native astray? Any change has to start somewhere, and one person may be all it takes.
It is not even necessary that the person who starts the avalanche takes the name of
the instrument in churches into account - actually it is more likely that the person
doesn't even care about church organs, but so much more about the electric gadget used
by rock and pop ensembles. If the 'organ' virus hasn't spread yet in France it could
simply be due to the habit in Anglophone countries to refer to the electrical thing
and the guy or girl who plays it as the 'keyboards'.

'Errors' can be caused by sloppiness or systematic sound changes (like the kind that
transformed Latin 'organum' into "orgue"), by external influences (which may not yet
have led to the use of "organ" for the keyboards in rock/pop, but it could have
happened) or by misunderstandings or 'folk etymologies. But in all these cases a
minority must have started the process, and then it is up to the language community to
adopt the new usage or not.

I have a few things more to say about organs ('orgues'), but I'll do so in my log.


About the organ: 70s prog rock and hard rock bands (think Deep Purple, Yes and so on)
often actually used a so-called Hammond organ in order to mimic the instruments of
yesteryear. In case that that specific instrument is used, it would be incorrect to
refer to it as a keyboard (unless one of the sample settings of the keyboard is set to
the Hammond organ sound).

Keyboards usually have a variety of sample sounds (sometimes MIDI, sometimes not) and
players usually set up a rig which they can switch through during playing and
recording. This is how my ex-girlfriend does it in her band, as far as I know. Hammond
organs are fairly rare on stage nowadays, but some rock bands use them.
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vonPeterhof
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 Message 92 of 116
07 December 2014 at 10:29pm | IP Logged 
Ari wrote:
There really is something deeply disturbing about "incorrect" language, even for people who are intellectually aware that language change is a natural thing. I wouldn't be surprised if it's actually in our genes to try to slow down language change, since a language that changes too quickly might have been disadvantageous in our tribal past.
This reminds me of something I read about Nganasan, a Uralic language indigenous to northern Siberia whose native speakers number little more than 100 by now. The piece of information that interested me is missing from the English Wikipedia article about it, but is featured on the Russian one:

Russian Wikipedia, translated, wrote:
Literary Nganasan

E.A. Khelimsky notes(3) that, unlike most illiterate peoples, Nganasans had a highly standardized literary language and a tradition of cultured speech. The performance of epic songs and legends served as the main entertainment of Taimyr Nganasans during blizzards (and therefore - many weeks per year). The language of folklore abounded in heavyweight polypredicative constructions, rare nominal and verbal forms; it was characterized by systematic and diverse manifestations of linguistic purism. According to Khelimsky many Nganasans were distinguished by a penchant for reflection on various semantic or grammatical subtleties and etymology. Traditions of national attention to the language reflected not only in the wealth of Nganasan vocabulary, stylistic capabilities of the language, etc., but also in an archaic, very difficult, but absolutely consistent Nganasan morphonology, almost completely unaffected by analogical shifts, and in all complex cases motivated by phonetic processes. Khelimsky suggests that it is the existence of a national literary language that led to its virtual disappearance. Under the threat of assimilation the older generation of native speakers was guided by a kind of purist maximalism: better to have the language die out completely than to have it distorted or mangled.
Apparently literacy isn't a necessary condition for prescriptivism, so you might be on to something there.
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Bao
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 Message 93 of 116
07 December 2014 at 10:58pm | IP Logged 
Ari wrote:
There really is something deeply disturbing about "incorrect" language, even for people who are intellectually aware that language change is a natural thing. I wouldn't be surprised if it's actually in our genes to try to slow down language change, since a language that changes too quickly might have been disadvantageous in our tribal past.

I don't really think this is evolutionary biology by itself - for me a simpler explanation is that when you have the choice between somebody else making an effort to communicate with you, and you making an effort to understand them, it's easier to demand from them that they should adhere to a community standard (one that you can set when you're in a higher social position, older etc, which traditionally is linked to having knowledge about your customs), and have them do most of the effort involved in successful communication. After all, you had to do the same when you were initiated into the group (adulthood, a trade, a profession ...)

(It's also pretty easy to make people believe you've been part of a group for longer than you are, and that you know more about the work and the group members than you really do when you just pick up their jargon quickly.)

(... okay, maybe there is some evolutionary biology compound in the way we react to transgressions to that kind of set-up, that we feel like somebody doesn't respect us when they don't adhere to the community standard when we do, that we feel rejected or challenged in our social standing ...)


I don't think this is a bad thing either, it's just one of the quirks of being part of communities that managed to survive over generations. But when people believe that the standard they set is inherently more 'correct' than the standards of other communities I think they ... might be overestimating their own communication skills.
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s_allard
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 Message 94 of 116
08 December 2014 at 1:58pm | IP Logged 
ScottScheule wrote:
Seems to be a deep-seated human urge, to correct other's use of language. I
mean, I know full well that many, indeed all of the words and expressions I use today would have
struck previous English speakers as being incorrect. My language, as Iversen says, is a collection of
fossilized mistakes.

So it's somewhat hypocritical for me to get mad at people who make similar mistakes today, when the
only difference between the mistakes they make and the mistakes I make is that mine have a longer
pedigree.

I know this. So why oh why do I still get infuriated when people say chomping at the bit?

I think ScottScheule is being a bit too harsh on himself or herself here. I really do not think that English
has evolved to the point that "all of the words and expressions" used today would have "struck
previous English speakers as being incorrect." It really depends on how far one goes back.

Most western languages were relatively standardized by the end of the middle of the 18th century with
the development of dictionaries and various reference works. Since then the vocabulary has changed
considerably but the underlying grammar has changed much less. Modern English would probably
seem strange and unusual but not necessarily incorrect to speakers of earlier forms of English. Much
like what an American experiences when visiting Great Britain for the first time. The language is very
different but not incorrect.

If we look at earlier forms of English from a modern perspective, we note that the King James Bible
published in 1611, over 500 years ago, is quite legible and basically understandable even today. One
would hardly say that there are many mistakes in the bible. One would say more like that there are
many uses of archaic and out-of-date forms that should not be used today.

If you were to write today, "Of every thing in the fridge thou mayest freely eat", you would probably
get a laugh. It is not contemporary English but it is not totally incorrect.
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Jeffers
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 Message 95 of 116
08 December 2014 at 2:22pm | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
If we look at earlier forms of English from a modern perspective, we note that the King James Bible published in 1611, over 500 years ago, is quite legible and basically understandable even today. One would hardly say that there are many mistakes in the bible. One would say more like that there are many uses of archaic and out-of-date forms that should not be used today.


By and large I agree with your post, but (specialist knowledge here) I have to correct one point. The King James Bible available today is not the 1611 version, but has been officially updated. Here's the text of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 in the 1611 version:
Quote:
Though I speake with the tongues of men & of Angels, and haue not charity, I am become as sounding brasse or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I haue the gift of prophesie, and vnderstand all mysteries and all knowledge: and though I haue all faith, so that I could remooue mountaines, and haue no charitie, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestowe all my goods to feede the poore, and though I giue my body to bee burned, and haue not charitie, it profiteth me nothing.


Most of the updating were in line with spelling modernisations, so your point remains that the text is still readable to people with a good grasp of modern English.


EDIT: wow, S_allard, you had 2430 posts and 2430 votes. I wrecked it for you, sorry! ;)

Edited by Jeffers on 08 December 2014 at 2:25pm

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ScottScheule
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 Message 96 of 116
08 December 2014 at 4:10pm | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
I think ScottScheule is being a bit too harsh on himself or herself here. I really do not think that English has evolved to the point that "all of the words and expressions" used today would have "struck previous English speakers as being incorrect." It really depends on how far one goes back.


FYI, Scott is seldom a female name.

As you say, it depends how far you go back. My point was that if you go back far enough, everything I say would be incorrect. Not in Middle English of course, but Old English, probably. And if not there, go back to PIE or Proto-World if you like. My point is everything I use would have been considered incorrect at some point in the evolution of my present tongue, but I don't mind these mistakes, recognize they are mistakes, and yet, somewhat strangely, get annoyed when other people make mistakes.


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