word order (was Re: Random DWJ discovery of the day)
rohina at shaw.ca
Tue Apr 5 20:00:36 EDT 2005
> No, this is the crux of my point. I am making the (admittedely
> provocative) claim that 'It is I' is NOT part of English, in the sense
> that it is not (pace Philip Belben) part of the language that *any*
> English speaking child acquires as his or her native language.
Nonsense. I learnt to say it, my child learnt to say it; both of us are
native speakers. I learned this phrase exactly as I learned the rest of
> I am not denying that it is a part of English as that term is normally
> understood, or that some children may be taught to use the form quite
> But that word 'taught' is crucial. Children in the normal course of
> things are not taught their language. They learn it - and there is a
> lot of evidence that it makes very little difference whether or not
> those around them attempt to teach them, correct their mistakes, or
> talk to them at all.
> 'Good' grammar, on the other hand, like reading and writing, is
> largely taught. Some children may have the capacity and motivation to
> begin acquiring these skills for themselves: but they are utterly
> different skills from learning (natural) language, because they are in
> a big sense arbitrary in a way that (natural) language is not.
I don't think this is a valid distinction. When do children, according
to this "theory" stop acquiring language? Before they go to school? I
would suggest that language acquisition lasts an awfully long time. I
mean, I acquire language still; not with the frequency I did as a child,
true, but children who are learning to read at school are actively
> I am claiming that in 'It is I' is not part of any natural variety of
> English because there is no rule that will produce it, that is
> deduceable from the evidence available to an English-speaking child.
> (Actually I have to admit a caveat here - children may learn this
> particular sentence as a chunk - an idiom, if you will - and thereby
> not have to analyse it or apply a rule).
So if there are circumstances in which it is learnt, then how can you
say no child ever acquires it?
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