A Conversation for Declining English
gooofy Started conversation Mar 18, 2004
English is not declining. Languages do not decline; they change.
If I write
"its a book"
"put it on it's side"
the reader will understand what I mean because of the context. And isn't that the important thing?
If what I write is understood, why get so upset over arbitrary rules?
Gadgeteer Posted Apr 2, 2004
I think you missed two key points.
Firstly, the word 'decline' has several meanings, and you chose the wrong one in your posting. Personally, I'd never come across the particular meaning of 'decline' used in this article before, but when the article started using the word 'declension', I guessed that the two words were related. A quick check of my dictionary confirmed this.
Secondly, I'm afraid your three examples do look wrong, and when used in a real-world situation, could be confusing to understand.
gooofy Posted Jun 15, 2004
you're right, I did think the article was using another meaning of "declining." that's funny.
my examples only look wrong because you've been taught to read a certain way.
Even though you were taught that the examples are wrong, you do understand what they mean, don't you?
They might make a reader pause because the apostrophe is not used as they expected, but it will not make the meaning ambiguous. I'd like to see more than a few examples where the presence or absense of an apostrophe will cause ambiguity. I'm sure they're are examples, but one can find examples for anything.
The apostrophe should be done away with, children should be taught that it is optional, and generally people should lighten up about it. We don't pronounce the apostrophe, so why should we write it?
englanggrad Posted Dec 30, 2005
You're both right about your three examples - although they are not grammatically correct in writing, there is no audible difference when spoken, so any listener would automatically understand them when he/she heard them out loud.
You will be glad to know that the apostrophe is on its way out as part of the process of language change - I doubt it will be used at all in 50 years' time, and certainly not in 100. This language change is a natural process that happens when a feature starts to become redundant - firstly, the feature (apostrophe in this case) begins to be used 'incorrectly' and appears in all sorts of strange places where it has no meaning - eg inserting it randomly before a plural marker such as when is in the plural, not the genitive. Secondly, people forget what it ever signified in the first place and realise they can manage without it!
Although people say this impedes understanding and is confusing, in most cases, most people can understand what is meant. As this 'misuse' of the apostrophe increases with time and it gets used in all sorts of places, it will lose its original meaning/signification, and finally will become redundant as a marker of contraction or genitive case (how can it mark these when it is being used everywhere?) and will fall out of use completely. This is language change in action.
I daresay the same fuss was made when the second person singular familiar form started to fall out of use, to be replaced by the multifunctional - a difference we no longer need to worry about.
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