Alan's Linguistics Page
Not updated in a while, 10/25/2006
I created a homophone sentence as a challenge back in May of 1997: Hughes, youse use U's ewes' hues! Click for how to parse it. Click here to see it in Wikipedia.
Rantings and Other Thoughts:
Wrong-Headedness of Linguistic Self-Righteousness: In late 1999, I
was asked to write an article for the Vocabula
Review, a zine that promotes better language. I generally abhor anything
that smacks of prescriptivism and Linguistic Ludditism but was convinced by
the very intelligent, open-minded, and gracious editor there, Robert Hartwell
Fiske. The article appeared in the December, 1999 issue and is now in the
archives at: http://www.vocabula.com/TVRrevisited/VRPagliere.htm.
- An e-mail message I sent to the
Derek McGinty show (on NPR) on August 11, 1997. I listen very often and
love the show. I think Mr. McGinty 99.9% of the time covers important topics
and covers them extremely well. However, on August 10, 1997, he was temporarily
gone from the show and there was a guest host. For some reason, perhaps because
there was a guest host, they decided to do another rendition of the always
annoying, never useful and ultimately moot topic of ... Here's a new book
about the "right" way to write and speak / the current state of English is
a disaster / why do people say things like "hopefully" when they mean "it
is hoped that" and "lie" when they 'really mean' "lay" and so on. Ugh.
Here is my reply (e-mail rant) to that program.
- The issue of Ebonics. There is no reason to get hysterical. There
is no reason to condescend. If the average person knew as much about how language
really works as they do about chemistry (and I know they don't know much -
but at least they know that basic units like molecules and atoms exist; they
don't know about morphemes, phonemes, the very fact that very few things are
universal among languages and cultures, that much of language is arbitrary),
then all these discussions would just go away, poof. Trying to make language
be the way you want it to be (yes, I mean you, Mr. Safire along with all the
other members of the Self-Appointed, Self-Righteous Linguistic Police (SASRLP))
is like trying to say that people should stop wearing hats, or mini-skirts,
or baggy pants, or that the weather should just behave the way you want it
to, not the way it does. People will wear the clothes they wear when it suits
their needs, because of practicality or fashion; they won't when it doesn't.
The weather behaves the way it does because it follows certain complex, interrelated
principles. Language is like this too: a mix of complex natural laws and fashion.
Get over it. Check the
LSA resolution on Ebonics.
- An e-mail response, 9/23/97, to a posting on the
LINGUIST List about Chinese, English and linguistic
- An e-mail response, 10/8/97, to a posting on the
LINGUIST List about verbs that "mean" HAVE cross-linguistically.
- An e-mail response, 1/5/98, to a posting on the
LINGUIST List about prescriptive grammar and
the ignorant views that keep it alive. Similar to the first item on this list,
- From the Linguistics Society of America, a web page with a general introduction
to linguistics, its concepts, its raisons d'etre. Good. Fields
- Also from the LSA, a
resolution it passed about Ebonics. It says pretty much what I have been
saying all along, but with none of my usual ranting tone.
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