Thursday, June 23, 2005

The long decline of our once great language

With ENA5 coming up (tomorrow- yikes) I thought I'd better look at Language Change and attitudes towards it. And where better to look than the mighty Language Legend blog by Julie Blake?

In the latest posting, she draws attention to the furore over the views of linguist Kate Burridge who has argued that the possessive apostrophe (and various other rules of English she sees as confusing or nonsensical) should be dropped. Burridge has received a hostile reception from prescriptivists (with many posing her as the antithesis of Lynne Truss and her Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and some even suggesting she's pretty much the anti-christ personified).

So what's the problem? Is our once great language now in a state of permanent decline (rather like Jean Aitchison's "crumbling castle" model), where even linguists - dammit! - can tell us not to speak proper-like? Or is this just a rather hysterical over-reaction by pedants and "language mavens" (as Steven Pinker calls them in his Language Instinct) which reflects their insecurities about the challenging and ever-changing linguistic landscape? And anyway, what's a bloody Australian doing, telling us how to use our language, mate?

Well, as you might expect from a descriptivist, I'd argue that Burridge is mostly spot on with her observations. But it's not for me to decide and you're the ones who're taking the exam, so have a look at this link and see what you make of it all.

But on the other hand what would the contracted form of "who are", as used in the paragraph above, look like without an apostrophe? Oo-er...

1 comment:

*Chrissyfloss*- ex SFXian said...

great stuff- i'm loving the "glorious garden" theory (that's so getting used in the xam), and the audience guy who commented on Burridge's use of "sort of" made me smile too- he needs to discover Lakoff's 10 features of female lang..

in addition, if the OED can't even define the use of hyphen, why should we be marked down for it in our exams?! who's with me!!
[ans: no one, i'm off to my xam now.. :( ]