[DWJ] timetravel/and other things

Colin Fine colin at fine.me.uk
Tue Jun 24 14:04:09 EDT 2008

deborah.dwj at suberic.net wrote:
> On Tue, 24 Jun 2008, Elizabeth Parks wrote:
>> And I think part of what we're not saying clearly here is how much we
>> are discussing grammar and how much we are discussing language.  When
>> I talk about grammar, I only kind of mean "grammar;" more, I mean that
>> I wish more people had a sense of -language.-
>> I do think that language is more mathematical than people give it
>> credit for
> I get in long conversations with my linguist friend where we
> realize we are speaking at cross purposes because when I say
> "grammar" I mean the set of prescriptivist rules, some arbitrary
> and some not, which are taught in English classes in order to
> generate a shared formal spoken and written English, and when he
> says "grammar" he means a set of descriptivist semi-mathematical
> rules which describe the language as it works. Both of them are
> interesting, and they serve different purposes. Sometimes when I
> get frustrated at people using incorrect grammar they are only
> using incorrect prescriptive rules, but sometimes when I get
> frustrated by people using incorrect grammar they are also using
> language in a way that doesn't follow the descriptivist rules.
> Although that is far more rare.
I recognise the prescriptivist rules as a social phenomenon, and (as I 
have indicated in other posts) rank them with the rules of fashion or 
cookery, or for that matter bridge. What I react against is people 
treating them as though they were something far more weighty.


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