[DWJ] A grammar realization - Where are we from?
colin at kindness.demon.co.uk
Fri Apr 13 17:23:41 EDT 2007
Robyn Starkey wrote:
> Colin said:
>> Yes, I know, there are cases where potential ambiguities in writing
>> can be clarified in speech, by stress, pause etc. And if all else
>> fails, in conversation you can ask for clarification.
>> But the instances where otherwise clear writing is changed or
>> rendered ambiguous by a misplaced apostrophe are rare as
>> rocking-horse dung. (I carefully said 'otherwise clear', because I am
>> convinced that if you do find an example where a misplaced apostrophe
>> leads you astray you will usually find that the expression is far
>> from clear anyway).
>> The only function of the apostrophe is to let snooty people look down
>> their noses at others. Get rid of it.
> As a member of the snooty, I have to agree with minnow (sorry for the
> inference of snootidity, there, minnow). And I would also point out
> that removing the apostrophe altogether immediately adds ambiguity in
> number of everyday examples. As soon as you take out the apostrophe,
> you can't tell if the possessive noun is singular or plural in most
> phrases like "the girls books," and context won't necessarily help.
As I so immoderately pointed out to Minnow, you can't tell in speech
either. If this gave us a significant problem the language would have
evolved ways to solve it.
Admitted, there are occasional cases of ambiguity (the vast majority of
which, I am persuaded, are formally ambiguous but practically are either
resoluble or insignificant). But I find apostrophes a heavy price for
such a marginal gain. And I can't imagine how you can live without being
able to tell whether 'your books' refers to one or many possessors.
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