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Crystal's Applied Cultural Linguistics
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
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Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 10:12 pm    Post subject: Crystal's Applied Cultural Linguistics Reply with quote

Do you think Crystal makes a compelling case for an ACL?

http://www.davidcrystal.com/DC_articles/Linguistics2.pdf
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woodcutter



Joined: 19 Jun 2004
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 12:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Linguists will continue to try and cut custard with a knife and go to conferences and say they haven't yet quite worked out the correct theoretical models for doing so, that's for sure.
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woodcutter



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 2:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is a bit more of Crystal from the Guardian - an easier read concerning texting (same old message of course).

http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/referenceandlanguages/story/0,,2289259,00.html

A bit of John Humphrys thrown in too. I misspelled his name the other day, but he deserves it.

(The linked article within my link is interesting - Will Self doesn't seem to understand that there is a difference between written and spoken English!)

There's also review here in which "Ian Sansom" takes on Crystalism with the idea that languages can be degraded in horrible ways for political purposes. A few well utilized "whoms" would have kept Hitler at bay, no doubt.

http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/referenceandlanguages/0,,1707078,00.html
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

John Hump/Humph-rys - spare us. Lost for Words was crap (pretty dull and uninformative) - "I could put it down!".
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woodcutter



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 12:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My sister, who is a languages graduate from Cambridge University currently pursuing a PhD, sent the Humphrys book to me in the middle of my linguistics MA. I therefore read very little of it - there are some good observations here and there of course but it is basically uninformed stuff and you don't want that kind of input buzzing around your head while you are trying to be a serious linguist.

My English teaching mother would no doubt also consider it a very suitable gift. If people like them cannot tell a journalist's ramblings from interesting linguistic observations, what hope is there? Someone has to make some authoritative body they will listen to, I says once again.........

Since I'm off on this topic again I may as well mention that the language loggers also refuse to get to grips with the problem of ultra-liberal-Crystalism; the difficulty being that "descriptivism" and "prescriptivism" both state "rules", and yet descriptivists have a problem about what they are going to declare to be "wrong". You have to be arbitrary at some point, or you can't use that word, and linguistics without that word is daft.


See here: http://158.130.17.5/~myl/languagelog/archives/001843.html
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 1:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I suspect that your sister didn't read more than the first few pages, and probably thought that, compared to her, you wouldn't be fit for much more than a journalist's ramblings anyway LOL.

Not sure I'm up for another argument about the supposed failings of description generally, and in an EFL/EIL/ELF context, we're hardly likely to be teaching the forms frowned at by prescriptivists anyway (no, we'll go for that nice safe correct for if not used by everyone Standard English). A descriptivist can simply state, 'This form is widely used, but if you use it in more formal contexts, some people may think you incorrect'. Ultimately, a sound description cannot be incorrect, and arbitrariness really doesn't have to come into it, but of course, sometimes one plumps for the wrong theory (and the obvious way to correct such an error is to continue to be serious about data, its collection and analysis etc).

BTW, for anyone who's not read that LL post before, it was linked to several times in rapid succession on an AL thread a few years ago.
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woodcutter



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 11:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, you seem to be up for it.

A descriptivist can make a long description of how a word is used, and by which percentages of people. They can also make statements concerning patterns which English usually follows. They will be faced, after doing so, with items which do not agree with the "rules" they have formulated. It will seldom be a unique mistake, there will usually be a certain percentage of people doing the same sort of thing. They can therefore pursue the exact magnitude of the percentage and type of people violating the rule in such and such a way, I suppose.
They don't though. They just use correct, ? and *. They make an arbitrary judgement.

Can you link the old discussion? Was I in it? Confused

Anyway, what's a more formal context where the misguided correctness judgers are to be found? This here forum? Can I tell people "If you use this form on Dave's eslcafe then somebody who describes themselves as a descriptivist may well leap down your throat and ignore your argument"?
Do you mean to say that in pure minded informal contexts no mistakes are ever picked up?
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 11:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can you give us some examples of these "items which do not agree with the rules/description formulated and which therefore reduce even the most fair-minded and resourceful linguist to become arbitrary and start making things up"? I'm not sure what you're on about here.

The old discussion ('Why do we teach prescriptive grammar?'):
http://forums.eslcafe.com/teacher/viewtopic.php?p=14434#14434

Things like typos sometimes get picked up on by people who, whilst they might not exactly have lost an argument, aren't working hard enough to win it. I can't think offhand of any instances where the forms/means used in these discussions have become the focus, to the exclusion of the points being made.
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woodcutter



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 12:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd rather be lazy if possible - can't you simply accept that there is no definite clear barrier between correct and ?, and ? and *. That a judgement is necessary? That a descriptive linguist will, like a prescriptivist, say things like "In English, uncountable nouns do not take the indefinite article" but then have to fumble with the details of that? (O.K, you can say "usually", but then we are confused about whether a violation of our rule is serious or not)

I was in the other thread, but I suppose I forgot on account of it being a general bun fight, as well as my weak memory. (makes a nice change from wordreference.com English only forums where I've been hanging about recently though. The faintest whiff of naughtiness or off-topicness is met with extermination over there, from a moderator with a nun avatar! ).

One point that wasn't made in the old thread is that even descriptive linguists are also often concerned with what is acceptable in formal English in particular. That makes things much trickier. Corpus linguistics is less helpful there.

Here at David's ESL cantina, the most rabid descriptive non-elitist linguist that ever was or could be once had a habit of ignoring the point of native and non-native speakers alike, in order to note they had made a mistake with usage that proved they were a dunce. Go figure.
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 1:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Woody, you seem to be mystified (a little miffed, even?) how we can talk of let alone have a non-prescriptive standard in especially writing, but I ask you, how much influence do those who concern themselves with matters linguistic really have? Mavens focus on only a fraction of the possibilities (or problems, as they see them), and serious linguists probably won't ever be able to predict much less tell us (especially us native speakers) how we "should" write (we write by joining letters to form words, then placing word after word, and all about who knows what until after the event). About the only thing we really need guidance on is how to consistently transcribe the sounds of our language in ways that others will process without undue difficulty, hence the value placed on literacy, standardized spelling etc (it is probably easier on balance to learn spellings by rote than to have the orthography keep up with changes in pronunciation - and whose pronunciation!). Do you prefer prescription? I must admit that I find it hard to tell quite what your views are (except that you often mention setting up an English Academy).

Of course, language was created out of (some might prefer 'refined by') myriad judgements and implicit agreements, but despite (or should that be because of) its collective history and nature, I don't ultimately see how any one person or even group of people (however educated and clever) can really tell others how to speak or write (how should be obvious to any non-illiterate).


Last edited by fluffyhamster on Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:54 pm; edited 1 time in total
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woodcutter



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(reply to non-edited post: I'll reply to edited shortly)
I didn't say "writing". I said formal English. Not the same.

David Crystal has marked essays or student presentations, looking for correct formal usage, and the people who gouge out eyes on forums are usually objecting to native speaker "mistakes" that they think are not correct "formal English". This especially happens in spelling of course. 99% of people think that the dictionary is God (forgetting variation between dictionaries) , not usage, and even Crystalists must work under the powerful influence of that. The dictionary has grammar guidelines too, but nobody reads those, so they won't usually bring them up.

It's not easy to select a corpus of "formal English". Would this forum qualify? Would the the wretched Korean forums? We must also rely on the "rules" people carry in their heads, and the reference works they value, for these influence the judgements they make about "standard" or "formal English".

As to a non-pedant society, I think you are perhaps mistaken. There is no society, however "backward", that doesn't deal on some level with whether what person A has said is gibberish, and if some people are living away from the chief and his gang, they will also deal on some level with whether what non-central person B has said sounds like status-bearing talk. Different villages have different ways of speaking, and only pedants and powerful elites will act as an antitode to continual divergance, when contact is minimal.


Last edited by woodcutter on Fri Jul 25, 2008 12:15 am; edited 2 times in total
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry Woody, I was doing a "total" rewrite of my previous post. Hope it isn't asking too much for you to go back and fashion a new reply yourself. Smile
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woodcutter



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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 12:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is the informal prescription - the fact that you should copy the elites - and the formal prescription - the conscious codification of elite talk. The former influences everything. The latter is most influential over the kind of field that you mentioned, including spelling. However vocabulary is also strongly influenced, and famous grammatical dictums are also not entirely irrelevant.

Since we all go to school, we are challenged to come up with language which apes the elite day after day, and corrected if we do not do so in the way that pleases the teacher. Through that process, many aspects of prescriptivism become influential regarding the language of the populace.

I don't know why you say language was created out of judgements. The naming of nouns, etc? I just mean that you need to make arbitrary judgements, to some degree, in order to describe it. To attempt to catch all the variety and the complexity of the situation without doing so is hopeless and pointless. Descriptivists are less arbitrary, but still arbitrary. They need rules - but they know history, and (should have!) open eyes.
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think people nowadays ape the elite (elite in terms of what? Mastery of language? The less priveleged are all monkeys?), and the elite do somehow manage to communicate with the oiks...could it be that they all in fact speak much the same language? But let's agree with you that there are arbitrary standards set if not followed (for linguistic research purposes at least). So what? The description will never be the language, and established frameworks are probably more blessing than curse (would you prefer to start from square one and perhaps reinvent the wheel?). The main thing though is that most ESL students don't really need (even if they appear to want) painstaking formal detail, so we teachers can organize the input in whatever way we think will be most illuminating, useful and/or meaningful.
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Stephen Jones



Joined: 18 May 2003
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 31, 2008 11:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
It's not easy to select a corpus of "formal English".
The British National Corpus divides it's entries by register and so does the American Corpus at BYU.

Now judgement calls need to be made. However those judgement calls are going to be based on evidence; too many prescriptivists simply make statements that are plain wrong.

To put it crudely, good description is a prerequisite for prescription.
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