[LMB] OT: Terry Pratchett

Matthew George matt.msg at gmail.com
Mon Sep 20 17:14:33 BST 2021

On Sun, Sep 19, 2021 at 7:59 AM tidsel via Lois-Bujold <
lois-bujold at lists.herald.co.uk> wrote:

> The person who told me  about grammar being a way to describe the
> language, rather than 'correct' language, was a language professor btw, so
> I sincerely hope he knew what he was
> talking about.

People who study - well, anything, really - expend a lot of effort training
themselves to see what is there and describe it accurately.  When language
and culture are involved, people try even harder, especially given
awareness of how past disdain for 'foreignness' damaged both societies and
scientific understanding.  Sometimes features of high-status languages were
imposed inappropriately on other tongues, or some languages or cultures
were considered superior out of familiarity and prejudice.  So there are
good reasons for them to back away from value judgments.

Which often takes them so far away from the perspective of actually *using*
a language that they lose sight of why prescriptivism is necessary.
Standards are frequently obnoxious, but they're essential for
communication.  Imagine the results if people spelled words however they
felt like, and so we collectively lost the ability to distinguish
homophones; imagine if some people began using negative concord while
others didn't, and the intended meaning of a statement became impossible to
parse.  Correctness is a matter of definition rather than recognizing
objective truths, and so it can and generally will change, but not freely.

Matt G.

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