Thursday, May 10, 2012

Language Wars - more skirmishes

As previous posts on this will no doubt reveal, this blog is a big fan of Henry Hitchings' The Language Wars. It's a great read for any student or teacher of English Language because it covers the areas we study and offers an erudite debunking of prescriptivist myths and pronouncements.

It's recently been published in the USA and has had a bit of stick from The New Yorker's Joan Acocella, who basically describes Hitchings as a hypocrite because he uses the "rules" in his own writing that he derides in the preachings of others. She says of the author, "Hitchings went to Oxford and wrote a doctoral dissertation on Samuel Johnson. He has completed three books on language. He knows how to talk the talk, but, as for walking the walk, he’d rather take the Rolls. You can walk, though".

It's a pretty flawed argument, as John E. McIntyre explains here when he says "Identifying a usage does not equate to endorsing it; and even if a usage is endorsed, that does not make in compulsory".

Whatever your take on The Language Wars, the whole spat is very much at the heart of the Language Discourses section of the ENGA3 paper, so well worth a look because of that.

Edited on 14.05.12 to add:
Language Log provides a great response to all of this (with some really good comments afterwards).

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