Language Rules

That title is ambiguous but only if one admits to vernacular usage. Which is legit.

Huxley is consonantly making grammatical errors that primarily serve to prove how stupid adults are. English has a typical way of marking past tense, for instance, and he uses it all the time, correctly. So he might have hided himself behind the couch. Or, so he sayed. I see-ed him in the bedroom so maybe he hided himself there.

The thing is, we have language rules that are based on nothing more than historical quirkiness and BS, and language rules that are based on the particular system a language morphology and grammar which tend to make sense (within a given language). Within a language, we call “standard” things that have been determined standard by convention, irrespective of how different those things are from the underlying morphology and grammar of the the language. (Between languages we may refer to the quirks as idiomatic when they are not standard.) Language Mavens are specialized humans who have learned most of the standard rules and their purpose is to annoy everyone else by constantly correcting them. Sometime language mavens demonstrate rule breaking by verbal self immolation, especially when things get really bad like when someone confuses “its” and “it’s.”

“Oh my god it drives me CRAZY when someone gets that wrong. I can’t STAND IT!!!” they will say.

I assume that such comments are followed quickly by some sort of suicidal act because, after all, how can one live in a world where possession is indicated in a standard way that people often get wrong to make it look like pluralization, but for the exceptions where one is supposed to make a possessive look like a plural because the contractions are stepping all over the rule of possessives!

Its hard, life is.

Anyway yesterday was international grammar day or some other such nonsense, and as a result someone wrote a post with a list of things people have been yelling at you about your whole life but it turns out you were getting right anyway. It is here.

Comments

  1. #1 Mickey Mouse
    March 5, 2013

    >Within a language, we call “standard” things that have been
    >determined standard by convention, irrespective of how
    >different those things are from the underlying morphology and
    >grammar of the the language.

    Though I agree that the prescriptive grammar can be weird (as opposed to descriptive) It would be beneficial to your understanding of the “conventions” and the “quirkiness” of language if you spent some time studying historical grammar.

  2. #2 Chris Louth
    United States
    March 5, 2013

    AAAAGGH “irrespective”

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    March 5, 2013

    Mickey, what makes you think I haven’t?

    Chris, can I quote you on that? Anyway, I’d respond but by now I’m sure you’ve already slit your wrists, which is the only possible thing to do irrespective of how logical it may or may not be!

  4. #4 Eric Lund
    March 6, 2013

    Language evolves routinely. As an example, consider the word “phenomenon”. It was borrowed from Greek, along with its plural form, “phenomena”. (This pattern of forming plurals is regular in Greek.) But I have noticed a tendency of people to use “phenomena” as a singular form, and “phenomenon” is in the process of disappearing. A similar thing is happening with “data”, which was borrowed from Latin, although the singular form “datum” (again, this pattern is regular in Latin) still occurs in certain specialized contexts.

    “irrespective” makes perfect sense to me (as opposed to “irregardless”, a word that grammar police types have been waging war against for decades, and their argument is at least coherent).

  5. #5 CherryBombSim
    March 6, 2013

    I don’t get fussy over grammatical errors unless I am copy-editing or something, but I feel a great sadness when I read something like “a tough road to hoe”, “I could care less”, or “stock and trade.” Someone who says such things does not actually understand what they mean, and that detracts from the information they are trying to express.

  6. #6 Eu
    March 12, 2013

    Yeah, when you compare our rules (along with the inconsistencies in the rules which makes it worse) to some other languages like, Japanese, for instance, English looks really complicated and exhausting. I feel sorry for people learning English. Japanese vs English is hmm about 1:50… (exaggeration) yet Japanese people can still communicate just fine.

  7. #7 Eu
    March 12, 2013

    & Some rules just make me wonder how they developed… o.O as in “whose idea was it to do this? why?”

Current ye@r *