Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Grammar Nazis Are Bad!

Right now I'm supposed to be studying for a test in my Linguistics class, but I guess wring a blog post about language is kinda the same thing.
I was reading over my notes and one of the first things in there was 9 Ideas About Language. This stuff is in a textbook as well as other places on the internet. I can cite my textbook later when I get home or just not since it's easy to find on the net. I promise I didn't come up with the idea on my own though. 

1. Children learn their language swiftly, efficiently, and without instruction.
This one kinda blew my mind a little. I am a parent and I thought that I taught my daughter how to talk but apparently, she learned on her own and just got her dialect from me. As well as figuring out what sounds she could make were English. Another part of this idea: Babies make all sounds for all languages and start to filter out the ones they don't need by age 1. So all that babbling your baby does is language based. That's neat huh? Also, there is a critical window for learning language, from birth to 6 where they are sponges absorbing everything. After that, it slows and some researchers think it stops by 10 or 11. This isn't to say we can't learn after that obviously, just that we can't learn like normal speakers after that.

2. Language operates by rules. This one seems obvious but there's a difference in rule types. There are Descriptive and Prescriptive rules. The descriptive rules are unconscious rules that our brains just follow. A lot of them just make it so our brains don't work too hard while still getting our point across. Irregular verbs are difficult for our brains for instance. They have to be memorized. This is why a toddler will say something like "I runned really fast!" instead of "ran". Their brains are following the rules, but run doesn't follow the rules. Prescriptive rules are ones we have to teach in school and are usually about writing, like "don't split the infinitive". A lot of these are based on Latin and don't actually make sense for English. Apparently, that rule specifically came about during the Enlightenment where scholars thought that everything from ancient Greece and Rome was the best thing ever. The thing about Latin is, you can't split the infinitive because they are single words. In English where they come in 2 words, splitting them is fine. The thing about Prescriptive rules is that they are often used to separate us into "educated" and "uneducated" categories, which is really more about privilege than anything else. The irony about this is I'm currently using Grammarly to make sure I'm following all the Prescriptive rules. Another Prescriptive rule example is "no double negatives". Our brains understand this perfectly. Again, because of the Enlightenment, someone decided to bring about this rule. I don't know if they were trying to inject some mathematical logic to language or what but double or even triple negatives are actually grammatical.

3. All languages have 3 components: A sound system (phonology), vocabulary (lexicon or morphology), and a system of grammar (syntax). There's nothing groundbreaking about this other than the idea that just because it's different than English doesn't mean it makes more or less sense.

4. Everyone speaks a dialect. Even if you speak the "standard" version of your language, it's still a dialect. 

5. Speakers of all languages employ a range of styles and a set of subdialects or jargons. We switch back and forth between them in different social situations.

6. Language changes are normal and inevitable. So crying over the fact that teenaged girls talk differently than you is dumb. Stop doing that. In fact, teen girls tend to be the primary drivers of change, in not only word usage but pronunciation changes like vowel shifts.

7. Languages are intimately related to the societies and individuals who use them. There's a lot you can find out about a culture or an individual by studying word choice or the syntax. Time is important to some cultures and their language reflect that. Same thing with snow.

8. Value judgments about different languages are a matter of taste. Just because you prefer yours doesn't mean it's better. Also, just because someone doesn't speak yours doesn't mean they are less intelligent.

9. Writing is a derivative of speech. Writing must be taught. whereas speech isn't taught. Speech also came first. We've been writing for only about the past 5000 years, we've been speaking for much longer. Some languages don't have a written form. Not just tribal languages either, gesture languages don't have writing either. Those that speak with ASL write in English. Otherwise, they would have to "write" by drawing the gestures. Drawing gestures is useful for illustrative purposes but would make a very inefficient writing system. 

Well, thanks for studying with me, I now need to study the other parts of the test (I have flash cards too, ugh). Keep in mind, this has been from a linguist's perspective. I'm sure there would be plenty of people to argue any of these points.

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