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jotham



Joined: 16 Nov 2006
Posts: 507

PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2011 7:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fluffyhamster wrote:
I'd be interested to know what sort of Advisory Committee you'd rate above the leading authorities (Quirk, Crystal, Leech, Biber, etc) on Longman's Linglex one, Jotham.

Perhaps the descriptive camp has an advantage in that the prescriptive camp hasn't produced as many leaders on par with Fowler. Of course American publications are very conscious of their style. The New York Times, for instance, is one of our best written newspapers in terms of style. So there seems to be a universal agreement concerning prescriptivism and fine writing on the American side despite a lack of scholarly people presiding over or shepherding the prescriptive "movement."

Presently, I can only think of Bryan Garner as a modern leader who I believe can take the place of Fowler, if he hasn't already. He's written the grammar section for the Chicago's Manual. Recently, he's written a book with one of our federal judges, Antonin Scalia, which encourages lawyers to write better.

Justice Antonin Scalia & Bryan A. Garner - "Law Book of the Year" Award: 2009 Burton Awards

He's interviewed our Chief Justice about being prescriptive in our words
(as mentioned in this video, our former Chief Justice Rehnquist was even more a strict prescriptivist -- he was known to stop people in an argument for using an expression wrongly):

Chief Justice John Roberts on the topic of writing

This one's kinda funny:

David Foster Wallace on "Prior To"

I think he's written many resources tailored for the law profession and videos like these emphasizing prescriptivism:

Better Grammar Part Four with Bryan A. Garner

A Crash Course in Legal Writing by Bryan A. Garner
Quote:
And I wonder if by 'we had a standing joke at work concerning Longman', it was actually just you who made a standing joke of it, and your colleagues were too polite or busy to disagree with you much. (I mean, if you were teaching English then I find it hard to imagine certainly every native-speaking teacher agreeing with you - then again, ELT can be a pretty uniformed business, eh...that, or were you and your colleagues all Americans, brought up on only the sternest prescriptive fare or something). That isn't to say that the Longman will suit every user (and there are obviously competing titles, most notably the OALDCE7), but like it or not it is one of the very best dictionaries currently available for learners and teachers of EFL. (Usage guides designed for native speakers with inexhaustible appetites [patience?] for lots of argumentative detail don't have enough space beyond extolling or demolishing all the shibboleths to provide much coverage of the phraseological nuances of the wider language. Better then for the purposes of Dave's readers are resources like the COBUILD and Chambers usage guides, and obviously Swan's PEU, which are all pretty detailed and TEFL-oriented).

I didn't coin the phrase, but another American did. It was cute, and it just caught on. (The other editors and writers were Australian, British, and South African.) In fact, we had frequent meetings concerning one of our publications with about 4 or 5 editors and writers. I was probably acting as a leader for prescriptivism in general, (which means I was the most careful and picky about words)but we had experienced obvious printing errors in Longman that has nothing to do with the language wars. (But that was part of it also.)
One British writer, in particular, was very functionalist, from whom I learned about the philosophy in depth. He sat beside me and we had lot of conversations together. He saw the value in being correct in the language whenever he could, so yes, I probably influenced and persuaded him as well, though he was a solid functionalist.

Now Longman was one of many references actually used, but with a grain of salt. We (and anyone) is at a disadvantage in dealing with EFL issues in that prescriptivists don't care about this market. There are almost no books that deal specifically with the hangups foreigners tend to make with the English language. If such prescriptivists endeavored to do so, such resources would be more awesome than what's on the market today. We always had some prescriptivist resources at hand, but the instances they could actually be used in EFL were limited, (but still frequent enough). In many cases, I questioned the linguist view of something, but didn't have any prescriptivt resources that dealt with the issue so as to back up or negate my intuition.

Quote:
As for American dictionaries, I don't use them much (except for the AmE version of the Macmillan English Dictionary, First edition), and have no particular desire to intrude on your nation's grief over the permissiveness of the W3 etc. I doubt though if a British dictionary would ever say (or has ever said) that cultured speakers use ain't - Longman for example says "a short form of 'am not', 'is not', 'are not', 'has not', or 'have not', that many people think is incorrect": http://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/ain-t . (So British works not only don't overdo the prescription, but also actually get the description right, whereas American works would appear to veer between extremes. Landau's Dictionaries: The Art and Craft of Lexicography gives the source of the W3 line on ain't - I'll add it a bit later in an edit). Which is surely even more reason to use dictionaries like the (current) Longman, despite your apparent attempt to lump it in with the W3. (The W3 might however have been a good dictionary overall for all I know - it/1961 was a bit before my time really, and indeed before even the first edition of the LDOCE, published in 1978).

Well, that was a little extreme back in 1961. Other dictionaries seized the opportunity and made a little more lurch to the prescriptive side with descriptive tendencies because of the extremeness. I would say that now, dictionaries have heard the other side and they have moved closer to the prescriptive side than they were before (but still quite descriptive), and they have ways of labeling things so as to diminish confusion or avoid upsetting people. Also, we now have Encarta dictionary, which is probably the most prescriptive dictionary we've had in a while.
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2011 6:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For what it's worth (and because I thought it might be of interest to you and others, Jotham), here's what Landau has to say about Fowler (pp 261-262) and Garner (pp 267-268), among various works, in the section entitled 'Modern usage guides' (pp 261-268) of chapter 5 ('Usage') of his Dictionaries: The Art and Craft of Lexicography:
Quote:
Usage guides are the twentieth-century descendants of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century grammars discussed earlier in this chapter. They purport to instruct and caution us on the proper usage of language and are largely an American phenomenon, even though the greatest of them all, H. W. Fowler's A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926), is British. Fowler's work is distinctive because he brought to it a background in lexicography, considerable writing skill, and, at least occasionally, a sense of humour. He does not seem to have believed that the fate of the world hung in the balance of disputed usages, and his work is noteworthy for the large number of illustrative quotations shown for both "right" and "wrong" usages. He was the editor, with his brother, F. G. Fowler, of the first Concise Oxford Dictionary (1911) and the sole editor of the second edition (1929). Writers on both sides of the Atlantic have found his engaging style and the sheer volume of material encompassed irresistible, and his admirers are legion. In spite of a few instances where his interpretations can be called progressive, he was a defender of the attitudes of the well-educated, upper-class Englishman. The usages he recommended, however, do not reflect the usages of educated people in Britain or America today. Fortunately Robert Burchfield, the editor of the OED Supplements, has skillfully and sensitively revised Fowler's guide to do just that, in an edition retitled The New Fowler's Modern English Usage (1996). Called the Third Edition in order to keep Fowler's name in view, the book, as Burchfield says, "has been largely rewritten" (p. xi). This is no mere updating; Burchfield, though a great admirer of Fowler, well understood the limitations of the original work and has sytematically examined, rejected, replaced, and rewritten everything in it. The citations adduced to support Burchfield's comments reflect current usage, and his judgments are more balanced and less idiosyncratic than Fowler's, without the caustic hauteur that many of Fowler's admirers enjoyed. The book is really much more Burchfield than Fowler, and is a much better book.


Quote:
Bryan A. Garner's A Dictionary of Modern American Usage (1998) (DMAU) is by far the most individualistic of the current crop of usage guides. Garner's Preface has a tone of barely repressed anger at "descriptivists" and "professional linguists," who have "hijacked" usage dictionaries and who are afraid to give good advice. He at least will not be reluctant "to show the confusions into which writers fall," but it will be based on "current linguistic evidence." Garner is vigorously opinionated about style, and many of his discussions employ the standards of analogy and logic to recommend against particular usages, though, to be fair, he is aware of the risk of relying on logic excessively. An immense amount of diligent research has gone into this book, but almost all of his critical comments about style have nothing to do with the research. He does use authentic examples, however, to illustrate his judgments. For example, he calls conceptualize "a bloated word that can be replaced by conceive, think, visualize, or understand." This is followed by a number of actual quotations in which conceptualize occurs, and in which one of the other words could be used as a substitute. The author's attitude is at once informed, aggressively confident, and didactic, but the advice he gives is often not so different from the descriptivist writers of usage dictionaries he complains about in his Preface. Garner is no Goold Brown, nor even a Fowler. His views are actually closer to those of WDEU, but delivered in a louder voice, and with somewhat greater attention to stylistic issues.
In one important way, DMAU foreshadows the future of usage books (as I will enlarge upon in the concluding section to this chapter) by drawing upon two very large proprietary corpora, Nexis and Westlaw (a legal and business research tool), to provide evidence for its conlusions. These corpora consist largely of newspapers and journals and are not representative of the language as a whole (see Ch. 6, "Representativeness," p. 331), but they are nontheless useful. Garner cites the frequencies of certain words in these corpora, showing that self-deprecating, for example, is far more common than self-depreciating. Many of the entries in DMAU include authentic, dated citations with full bibliographic information, and Garner is thoroughly familiar with older usage guides, frequently citing them. The book has two bibliographies, one a historical bibliography of books on usage, the other a select bibliography of books on various aspects of language.


Landau closes the section thus:
Quote:
The basis for most judgments in older usage guides was analogy, logic, and etymology. The nineteenth-century grammars established these criteria, and many twentieth-century usage books have endorsed them in practice to justify their criticisms of many modern usages. In the last decade or so of the twentieth century, however, one could detect a trend marked by an increased willingness to examine the facts of usage before making judgments about acceptability. This is a welcome development. Merriam-Webster had a very large citation file at its disposal for WDEU, but others will rely (as Garner did) on language corpora that computer technology has now made available. Once one actually examines the record of usage, it is hard to ignore it. No matter how one feels about the logic of preferring esthetics in American English, for example, to aesthetics, if one examines an American English corpus and finds that aesthetics occurs about thirty times as frequently as esthetics, this information may check one's enthusiasm for recommending esthetics. Although the recent crop of usage dictionaries reviewed here differ in tone and use different sources for their evidence, none rejects the relevance of linguistic evidence to usage guidance. The linguists whom Garner disparages in his Preface have waited long to see this happen, but it has, and even Garner embraces the essence of their message. When Margaret Bryant's Current American Usage appeared in 1962, it was largely ignored, but it can now be seen as the forerunner of the current generation of usage guides.


Lastly, this part of the section (pg 264) particularly caught my eye:
Quote:
Richard A. Lanham criticizes usage books for their pettiness and shrill vocabulary of dos and donts:

How do you cultivate an "ear" [for language]? [Jacques] Barzun knows the answer as well as the Harper panelists - wide reading. You cannot memorize rules, you will not even want to try, until you have an intuitive knowledge of language, until you have cultivated some taste. Now usage dictionaries, if you browse through them, can help you confirm and sharpen your taste, but they are unlikely to awaken it. They move, again, in the opposite direction, argue that intuitive judgments are not intuitive but conceptual, codify them, render them a matter of rules. They would keep us perpetually on our "p's and q's," and a love for language does not lie that way. The perpetual single focus on correctness kills enjoyment, makes prose style into one long Sunday school. Usage dictionaries, that is, can teach us only what we already know. They tend to be the affectation of, well, of people specially interested in usage. They are most useful as the central document in a continuing word-game played by sophisticated people.

(Richard A. Lanham, "The Abusage of Usage," Virginia Quarterly Review 53:1 (Winter 1977), 47-48 ).


Last edited by fluffyhamster on Fri Sep 02, 2011 11:30 pm; edited 2 times in total
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jotham



Joined: 16 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2011 12:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That last paragraph, I agree that wide reading develops style, and not memorizing rules. Just like reading a dictionary won't help you learn a foreign language. But that isn't to say a dictionary in that language isn't helpful at all -- it certainly is vital in helping one attain language mastery, as is the usage book.

Those are pretty fair judgment I would expect from a descriptivist. Garner calls himself a "descriptive prescriptivist" because he does research evidence for his own well-developed intuition for the language. Both Fowler and Garner respected and were well aware of current trends in linguistics and tried to agree where they could and begged to differ where it required.

It's funny he criticizes Garner for solely using newspapers and journals as being not totally representative of the language. But that is one basic difference between descriptivists and prescriptivists -- surprise, surprise. Descriptivists analyze every single utterance that could possibly be made by any native speaker anytime, anywhere, whereas prescriptivists are interested in training professionals to talk, but mostly write, like educated, professional speakers of a language so as to function better at their tasks or professional job. It is a specialized department of English analysis.

I thought it very descriptivist to praise Burchfield for having carried Fowler's torch. On the contrary, Fowler's name should have been deleted from those later editions, as they turned decidedly descriptivist. Americans who honor Fowler certainly don't Burchfield.
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2011 11:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Just like reading a dictionary won't help you learn a foreign language. But that isn't to say a dictionary in that language isn't helpful at all -- it certainly is vital in helping one attain language mastery, as is the usage book.
But we're talking here primarily about native-speaker usage/"guidance". Obviously a good learner dictionary will help in learning a foreign language, and I refer to them myself (re. our intutions being fallible and certainly exhaustible!) and/or direct seemingly unaware students or teachers to them for information regarding grammar patterns, collocations, phraseology, pragmatics, and semantics. I very rarely refer however to more native-speaker reference works for anything other than checking spellings or (in more encylopedic works such as the [N]ODE, especially when I can't get online) for the bare-bones facts about some person, historical event, or scientific term, and I doubt if I would own any native usage guides at all (not even the M-W[C]DEU) were it not for the apparent need to counter presciptivist thinking, or to at least reassure some student or [generally non-native] teacher that a usage was perfectly acceptable. (I do however find native-speaker thesauruses such as the [N]OTE, or the very similar COT or other spin-offs, very useful).


Quote:
they...begged to differ where it required
Interesting quasi-passive there. Cool


Quote:
It's funny he criticizes Garner for solely using newspapers and journals as being not totally representative of the language. But that is one basic difference between descriptivists and prescriptivists -- surprise, surprise. Descriptivists analyze every single utterance that could possibly be made by any native speaker anytime, anywhere, whereas prescriptivists are interested in training professionals to talk, but mostly write, like educated, professional speakers of a language so as to function better at their tasks or professional job. It is a specialized department of English analysis.
Sounds a bit like Chomskyan linguistics!
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3180


Quote:
Those are pretty fair judgment I would expect from a descriptivist. ..... I thought it very descriptivist to praise Burchfield for having carried Fowler's torch. On the contrary, Fowler's name should have been deleted from those later editions, as they turned decidedly descriptivist. Americans who honor Fowler certainly don't Burchfield.
I think Landau's comments are simply fair (why do you have to label everything 'descriptivist' or 'prescriptivist'?!), as you did too (at least in the first sentence of your second paragraph, which I've quoted but separated from your fourth paragraph by the use of the five dots). Fowler's original work (which Oxford has reprinted to apparently stand alongside Burchfield's revision) may serve as a reminder of what was one of the best usage guides of its generation, but one has to wonder if everyone who buys it nowadays will recognize that some of what it says will be quite out of date.
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2011 12:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just picking up on a few things from your first post at the top of this page (page 3):

Quote:
I didn't coin the phrase, but another American did. It was cute, and it just caught on. ..... we had experienced obvious printing errors in Longman that has nothing to do with the language wars. (But that was part of it also.)
I've never noticed any printing errors in the Longman, so I doubt if there are really that many (at least, not so many as to make it completely unreliable). And it seems a bit unfair if not silly to complain that it isn't a prescriptive (or ~ enough) usage manual, in view of the wealth of accurate usage information (examples etc) that it contains. (Its examples are very likely well over 99% incontestably Standard English).


Quote:
Now Longman was one of many references actually used, but with a grain of salt. We (and anyone) is at a disadvantage in dealing with EFL issues in that prescriptivists don't care about this market. There are almost no books that deal specifically with the hangups foreigners tend to make with the English language. If such prescriptivists endeavored to do so, such resources would be more awesome than what's on the market today. We always had some prescriptivist resources at hand, but the instances they could actually be used in EFL were limited, (but still frequent enough). In many cases, I questioned the linguist view of something, but didn't have any prescriptivt resources that dealt with the issue so as to back up or negate my intuition.
In my experience, most hang-ups that foreigners have with English are due to prescriptivist and/or insufficient rules (but the difference would be?!) rather than in spite of them. All that one can really do is marshall and select representative, relevant examples, and hope that they will help lead the students to relatively painless tacit knowledge > effortless "explicit" ability. (That's not to say however that a good teacher isn't always trying to develop more watertight rules for when a student eventually poses a grammar question).

Last edited by fluffyhamster on Sun Sep 18, 2011 9:54 am; edited 1 time in total
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jotham



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2011 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

fluffyhamster wrote:
Quote:
Those are pretty fair judgment I would expect from a descriptivist. ..... I thought it very descriptivist to praise Burchfield for having carried Fowler's torch. On the contrary, Fowler's name should have been deleted from those later editions, as they turned decidedly descriptivist. Americans who honor Fowler certainly don't Burchfield.
I think Landau's comments are simply fair (why do you have to label everything 'descriptivist' or 'prescriptivist'?!), as you did too (at least in the first sentence of your second paragraph, which I've quoted but separated from your fourth paragraph by the use of the five dots).

Because this is someone writing from a descriptivist point of view, and I allow that it can't be completely fair and will always contain some bias, and since I can't expect that bias to be completely absent, I admit there can be fair as fair can be.....for a descriptivist. Wink

Obviously, you can acknowledge that a "fair" prescriptivist wouldn't write the same way about Garner as did this "fair" descriptivist.
Quote:
Fowler's original work (which Oxford has reprinted to apparently stand alongside Burchfield's revision) may serve as a reminder of what was one of the best usage guides of its generation, but one has to wonder if everyone who buys it nowadays will recognize that some of what it says will be quite out of date.

Well, of course. That's neither here nor there. I don't think anyone would disagree with that. It has much value, however, in that it imparts a way of thinking about style and approach to language -- even though many of the examples themselves are clearly dated, the philosophy isn't.

British English used to be the cultural preservers of the English language, which Fowler amply attests to, especially on the heels of her glorious empire days. About the 50s American English replaced British in world prominence, and so likewise, we have become the new guardians and caretakers of the English language, which we do with pride.
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2011 11:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, all I can really say is that maintaining that impartiality (i.e. any opposition to partiality) is necessarily bad probably makes it harder to make sense of human language. (Sometimes "laissez-faire" really is the way to go, at least in one's thinking).

As for my being "unfair" to Fowler, I thought it was clear that I was being "unfair" only to those who would champion him as some sort of authority even nowadays, and I think I am right in saying that certainly the language if not the whole social ethos has changed (arguably for the worse, but whether the language itself has been the cause of that is debatable). Strife, atrocities, war etc also existed in the supposedly linguistically-"better" days of yore, and do you honestly think that e.g. the present-day bankers (from the better classes, they'd have you know) would be dotting all their i's and crossing all their t's? Looking only at their bottom line, more like. Put simply, I believe the world's problems are due to what people are doing (or choosing not to do/solve) rather than what they are saying (or what they are saying is just a load of flannelly flimflam, smoke and mirrors, mere window-dressing, which even a linguistically-insensitive idiot will eventually see through), and getting caught up in analyzing the exact words used is a pointless distraction (it doesn't matter what you think they said or should've said, if their true intentions were nothing of the sort. And even if they were deluded rather than deliberately deceiving, which may be the case with e.g. Blair's taking the UK to war in Iraq, you and he would still be talking at complete odds, and what difference would it really make after the "fact"?).

So linguistic sensitivity (especially if it comes across as snobbery) can go hang in most people's eyes, and it has always been so. The language does its job pure and simple, and to insist that one's own utterances carry or should carry greater status due to them being more perfect or logical or whatever will elicit a rolling of the eyes if not scorn, not only from one's peers but also "sadly" from those one aspires to be like (but whom one plainly isn't like, in terms of birthright - unearnt wealth, power etc). Good luck with joining that particular club, though!
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just thought I'd bung this one in here!
Quote:
wozburger
2 September 2011 12:57PM

"He is use to, from his Channel 4 days, to the constraints of ad breaks..."

Nice bit of writing there.

( http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/12245543 . Wozburger in his comment there is quoting "industry expert" Andrew Billen's views as expressed in the main article regarding Jonathan Ross's move from the BBC to ITV, and his new ITV chat show).
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