A Conversation for Ask h2g2

Removed

Post 101

Mrs Zen

This post has been removed.


Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 102

kuzushi



<>

If we are talking about the arbitrary convention that certain verb forms are deemed correct, then I think you did:

<>

I contend that they're not meaningless. I agree with you that when it comes to language they are arbitrary conventions, but if we're interested in communicating accurately and being understood, knowing and applying the concept of 'correct' usage is very meaningful.


Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 103

kuzushi


Yes, we're in danger of serious topic drift here.


Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 104

Mrs Zen

I wonder if we're bogging ourselves down in semantics here - in so many more ways than one.

If something is an arbitary convention (which is a good way of putting it) then you cannot call it "correct". You can call it "usually considered to be correct" or "educated" but you can't call it correct. Correct is an absolute. 2 + 2 = 4 is correct, there's no element of convention or judgement there. But a rule like "don't put a preposition at the end of a sentence" isn't absolute, so adhering to it doesn't make your English "correct", it means it adheres to that rule.

You said it yourself in fact: "What is perceived as correct or incorrect is governed by convention, and ultimately it is arbitrary, but I don't agree that it's meaningless. "

The key thing is the perception - if a test for you getting a job or not is how well you write English - then it's important that you can write educated English - the sort that is *perceived* as correct by whoever set the test. The meaning is in the perception, not in the correctness, which doesn't actually exist.

>> but if we're interested in communicating accurately and being understood, knowing and applying the concept of 'correct' usage is very meaningful.

Well communicating accurately and being understood is important, but I would say that knowing and understanding the logic of how language works helps you do that and knowing what usage is considered to be correct is important, but I would always qualify the word 'correct' in this context.

What I am driving at is that there are many ways of describing language, some of which acknowledge that some usage is more effective than others, but "corrrect" isn't one of them. It's meaningless in this context.

Communicating well's not meaningless: it matters a great deal, if only because language is one of the main keys to thought and if you can't use language clearly then it is much harder to think clearly. But "correct" and "incorrect" are meaningless differentiators in the context of linguistic usage.

In haste.


Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 105

Giford

>a rule like "don't put a preposition at the end of a sentence"

"This is the sort of thing up with which I will not put."
- W Churchill (attrib.)

Gif smiley - geek


Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 106

kuzushi



We can get back to Polanski and perverts soon, but first:


<>

For you they may be meaningless, but for most people I think they are quite meaningful.

For example, which of these sentences is grammatically correct, and which is grammatically incorrect?

1) We speaked to the man.
2) We spoke to the man.

I presume that the words 'correct' and 'incorrect' are sufficiently meaningful (even to you, who eschews these terms) in this context for you to be able to answer the question.

Having said that, I do understand what you're saying, in a general kind of way.


Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 107

Mrs Zen

I wonder if the problem is that I've not defined what I mean by 'usage'.

(And I had the nerve to accuse Effers of behaving like Humpty Dumpty - oh well - hypocrites are us).

Made up examples aren't usage, they are made up examples.

I'm thinking in terms of how native speakers - no matter how educated or uneducated - use the language. And we should remember that more people in India speak English as their first language than Americans or Brits combined.

So - I am saying that if your first language is English, then how you use the language is ... well ... it's just how you use the language. It'll be how your parents and siblings and peers use the language. It's usage. English as she is spoke.

English as she is taught is another kettle of anchovies. I am perfectly happy to distinguish between 'educated English' - which in the UK is more or less BBC English; it is English which acknowledges grammatical structures and understands how they work. I think if you are learning English as a foreign language, then you are entitled to be taught this form of Language.

Interestingly, Swedes have the choice between learning "British English" and "American English" at school.

Ben


Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 108

KB



That is interesting. Possibly overkill - but such a degree of specialisation in language classes shows how much healthier academic language departments are then in the UK. Rather than choosing between, say, Austrian and German German, language departments are shutting up shop all around the country.


Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 109

KB

"then in the UK" = "than in the UK".


Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 110

Giford

I've seen cases (when I've been travelling, particularly in the 'third world') where someone is keen to learn English, but won't learn from an Australian because only British or American English is 'acceptable'.

By far the majority of these people are at such a low level of English useage that it really makes no difference who they're learning from. If you don't know what the word for 'family' is, does it really matter if you have an Australian accent?

Gif smiley - geek


Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 111

Dea.. - call me Mrs B!

kzwg


I used pled in my post. I'm Scottish and to me that's the normal & correct usage of the word. I'm not educationally disadvantaged, nor am I a child.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/mobile/uk_news/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/8142108.stm

'McReadie, 22, from Edinburgh, earlier pled guilty to wilful fireraising'

If it's good enough for the BBC - albeit BBC Scotland - it's good enough for me!


Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 112

Mrs Zen

smiley - applause


Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 113

Not-so-bald-eagle


"Ex-prosecutor admits he lied about Polanski case"

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/10/01/polanski.prosecutor.admits.lie/index.html

smiley - coolsmiley - bubbly


Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 114

kuzushi

<>

Oh yes you can. For example, in judo there's a correct way to wear your gi (left over right) and tie your belt. This is an arbitrary convention. On the road in the UK we give way at roundabouts to traffic already on the roundabout (this is arbitrary - in France they do it differently) but not to do so is incorrect and you'd fail your driving test.



<<I used pled in my post. I'm Scottish and to me that's the normal & correct usage of the word.>>

smiley - applause

Of course that's fine. That's your dialect.

At least now you also know the, let's not say 'correct', the proper way to say it too smiley - winkeyesmiley - tongueincheek




Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 115

HonestIago

The OP has suddenly been hidden. How bizarre.


Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 116

Mrs Zen

But the difference with the roundabout thing is that there is governance in place - you have to obey the highway code. The higway code has formalised informal usage, but there is a 'correct' way to drive because it is has been codified.

I assume that the same is true of judo - that there is a governing body that has codified tradition.

The same is not true of the English language, thank goodness.


Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 117

The H2G2 Editors

We're closing this thread. We have been instructed that all posts that suggest guilt in relation to the initial charges brought against Polanski - charges which were subsequently dismissed as part of a plea bargain - are libellous. We cannot run the risk of hosting a long conversation where people are intentionally or unintentionally making libellous comments. h2g2 Eds.


Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 118

The H2G2 Editors

OK, we're reopening the thread for now, all libellous posts having been removed. I would ask you all to please make very careful note of the following: If you make any reference to the initial charges brought against Polanski as *fact* (rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under 14, and furnishing a controlled substance to a minor), or suggest he was guilty of these initial charges, it is libel.

As part of a plea bargain these initial charges were dismissed. He was eventually charged with, pleaded guilty to and convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Any posts that move away from the charges he was convicted of will need to come down as libellous. You can reference the initial charges, but anything that suggests he was guilty of them has to go. This is on strict instruction from our lawyers.

If you want to discuss this case sensibly, please take very good note of this.

Thank you. h2g2Eds.


Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 119

Giford

Eds,

Thanks for giving us clear guidance on what we can and can't say here. I understand that as part of the BBC you have to walk a difficult line when it comes to controversial issues, so thanks for allowing us to self-police on this one.

Gif smiley - geek


Thoughts about the Polanski thing?

Post 120

Giford

Hi WG,

So if there is such a thing as 'correct' English, who decides what is 'correct'? Don't the existence of Laws of English imply the existence of a Law-Giver?

Please be warned that I will potentially be quoting your response back at you on one of the God threads if you use the existence of morality as evidence for God smiley - winkeye

Gif smiley - geek


Key: Complain about this post