A Bit Of An Explanation

I am not a professional. Not anywhere near it. But I like to think that some little observations I have about language and the social construction of it are worthwhile.

Some of these notes were originally written for acquaintances with no linguistic experience whatsoever, so please be patient through the explanations of basic concepts, and the simplistic tone.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Because This Much Stupidity Needs More Than One Tearing-Down

Oh, the idiocy of ignorant adults preaching about how the "illiterate" kids and texting are leading to a "collapse" of the English language.

BadLinguistics has already torn into Gerald Warner's idiotic, unfounded, and evidence-less arguments, but I think this needs another viewpoint - that of one of those "illiterate" children that is "attack[ing]" the English language.

Globalisation has meant that the predominance of English in computerised societies is making it more vulnerable to abuse than any other tongue.

If by "abuse" you mean "expansion of vocabulary", then maybe your argument could hold any water at all.

English has been left to fend for itself at a time when it is under unprecedented attack.

At this point I just have to quote Ms.Foster, because she says it better than I could: "Dear Gerald, you clearly know nothing of the history of English so get yourself a good book on the subject. Your native tongue has survived a massive loss of word morphology between the 9th and 12th centuries, a massive loss of native vocabulary to French borrowings between the 11th and 14th centuries, and a tidal wave of Latin and Greek terms in the 16th and 17th centuries. What's happening now that surpasses that?" Exactly. What "attack" is English under now? A more sturdy existence than it's had in centuries?

The worst problem, however, is the collapse of literacy within our education system – the forum that should have been the sturdiest bastion of correct practice.

This is the argument that is coming out of the mouths of so many adults (who are not within our education system), and guess what? It has no evidence whatsoever. Because it simply is not true. The fact that I can write these words, and six-and-seven year olds can read them, proves that there is no "illiteracy" going on. Warner does realize the definition of literacy, right? Since he obviously doesn't, maybe he shouldn't be preaching to children about how we can't read and write.

Instead, laissez-faire attitudes towards spelling, grammar and syntax, encouraged by trendy educationalists, have created a situation in which illiterate pupils have now been joined by a generation of largely illiterate teachers.

...The hell? To paraphrase Ms.Foster's response, find me one teacher that is "largely illiterate". If they were, they wouldn't have been able to fill out their job applications, or make it through high school.

There's also some subtext I see here. When he says "trendy educationalists", I can't help but think that he's referring to Special Education teachers. It probably was not the case, but it got me thinking: What about people who are traditionally "illiterate" because of severe dyslexia or other conditions? Are they contributing to the "unprecedented attack" on the English language?

(Also, as was pointed out by Ms.Foster, syntax is a part of grammar.)

The inarticulacy of young people’s speech is not something that will necessarily correct itself with maturity, as optimists rashly assume: where there is no understanding of the basic structures of our language, self-improvement can only be a hit-or-miss effort.

"Inarticulacy"? Is this guy serious? Children understand the basic structures of their language before they even go to school, typically. And if you can understand, at all, what someone is saying, then it is not inarticulate. What, exactly, can you not understand about young people's speech, Warner? And if you cannot understand it, I believe that's a problem on your part. Because children aren't sending English to hell in a handbasket.

Every literate individual has his own pet aversion. I would single out, in particular, the current pandemic misuse of the subjunctive, rampant in media reports. “Gordon Brown may have won the general election if he had had more convincing policies” suggests that there remains some doubt on the subject, that it could yet transpire that Brown had won the election: “Gordon Brown might have won the general election…” is obviously the correct version, which should come automatically to any educated person.

How many times is this guy going to misuse the word "literate" in this article? First, the people writing this media report are obviously not illiterate, because they could write it at all. Second, are people seriously still whining about the subjunctive? People do realize that use of the subjunctive in English has been dead for years, right? And this guy just gets more and more annoyingly arrogant - "which should come automatically to any educated person"? I presume his definition of "educated" is "full of yourself with antiquated knowledge of points of English that really don't matter at all".

Oh, and "his own pet aversion". Why am I not surprised that he's sexist as well? After all, it's not like we women can be literate, right?

And once again, there is no problem with the first sentence. To test whether there is a problem with grammar, conduct the following simple test:

1.Can you understand what the sentence is trying to say?

If you answered A, there is no problem. Now let's move on to his next idiotic point.

Oh, look - in addition to being ageist, he's misogynist too! Don't you just hate this guy more and more by the minute?

Aggravating the current crisis is state-sponsored illiteracy, with central and local government promoting politically correct Newspeak, such as “chair” for chairman, and innumerable hideous neologisms such as “spokesperson”, which are additionally offensive in patronisingly attributing infantile insecurity to women.

Just...stop. Stop it, right now. This man is seriously suggested that there is something horribly wrong with words that properly describe people. I am not a "spokesman". But calling me what I actually am is "hideous"? Honestly, who gave Gerald Warner the right to open his mouth, let alone write?

There is nothing wrong with a language evolving – English has always done so; but what is happening now is not evolution but nihilism.

HAHAHA! HAAA!! Oh, my - oh wait, he's serious? Let's point out the ridiculousness of this sentence, one section at a time:

"There is nothing wrong with language evolving"? He has spent this entire article telling us "AAAH! My language is evolving and we need to stop those damn kids and politically correct women from changing it RIGHT NOW!"

"Nihilism"? Nothing entertains me more than this level of hypocrisy - he's shouting that the sky is falling over misuse of words, yet, again, he completely misuses a word. A nihilistic language would mean no language at all. And guess what? People are still using words.

All champions of literacy will wish the society success in establishing a much-needed Academy of English.

"Champions of literacy"? Really, dude? I'll say it again: He's writing things like this to pat himself on the back and stroke his own ego, and this sentence just further proves it.

Well, that was a lot of stupidity in one article. Now, I suppose I shall go back to attacking the English language with my politically correct neologisms. Who's with me?

1 comment:

  1. I love how he says 'newspeak' like this means that the language makes more sense. I assume he's quoting from George Orwell's 1984, which briefly touches on the government attempting to create a new language called 'newspeak'. The very purpose of this language is that it is clearer, but that the words have no emotional value, for example 'doubleplusgood' would be used to mean 'brilliant' or something similar.

    The book is generally about the corruption of said government, but it still doesn't justify his use of the term.

    I reccomend the book by the way, if you haven't read it already :)