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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: December ::
Re: Language and Syntax
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1328  Tuesday, 22 December 1998.

[1]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Dec 1998 10:53:35 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1316  Re: Language and Syntax

[2]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Dec 1998 11:35:00 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Language and Syntax

[3]     From:   Mike Sarzo <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Dec 1998 12:26:11 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1323  Re: Language and Syntax


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Dec 1998 10:53:35 -0500
Subject: 9.1316  Re: Language and Syntax
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1316  Re: Language and Syntax

Stephanie Hughes writes

>Today's English is the lingua franca of the world because it
>has always opted for elasticity and accommodation over
>grammar and syntax.

It might also have more than a little to do with colonialism and
outlawing indigenous languages in the colonies. (First victim: Irish,
which is still the only language a defendant may not utter-on pain of
being held in contempt of court-in a British trial in Northern Ireland.)

>The OED will only follow where usage leads. One can only hope
>that it will not be down the path of  (yuck!) "he/she."

If, as the defenders of "he" claim, the male stands for both male and
female, why not encourage "she" as the universal? To help students to
think about the skewed universalizing principle, I ask them to identify
what is dislocating about me, a man, saying "we must protect our ovaries
from cancer".

Gabriel Egan

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Dec 1998 11:35:00 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Language and Syntax

Questioning someone's syntax or grammar on an e-mail list is a bit over
the top, don't you think? Most of us hammer these little epistles out in
the few spare minutes we have, and most of us do a pretty decent job of
getting across what we intend with a minimum of errors, however defined.

As to the issue of he/she, him/her, etc. The problem is neatly solved if
we turn to DESCRIPTIVE grammar and DESCRIPTIVE linguistics. The real
truth of the matter is that the pronoun they/their/them is rapidly
becoming both singular and plural in meaning.  As for proof, consider
the following scene, which I'll bet has happened in some form or another
to all of us:

Let's say that you are watching TV and your significant other goes to
the door to answer a knock. He/she talks with him/her (whoever is
outside), and you hear from the voices that there is only one person
outside. Then, your significant other comes in, and you say to him/her:
"What did they want?" even though you know full well that there was only
one person at the door!  True or false?

The answer is: TRUE!  In 50 years or so, the pronoun they will have
taken over for he, she, maybe even it!  So what's the fuss about? It's
like discussing whether "different than" is more proper than "different
from." Who cares?

Descriptively,
Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Sarzo <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Dec 1998 12:26:11 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 9.1323  Re: Language and Syntax
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1323  Re: Language and Syntax

> >The passive voice is just a fact of academic writing, most professors
> >don't even seem to notice it.
>
> When I was teaching writing at Brigham Young University, I could often
> tell which major a student was in by the way that student used passive
> voice. The social studies majors were the worst, by the way.
>
> My main objection to the passive voice is that people often use passive
> voice agent deleted in order to distance themselves from responsibility.

I definitely don't like the use of the passive voice to distance
yourself from responsibility, but there are times when it should be
used.

For example, if people come to me and tell me that they found an
employee doing something illegal, I would tell the employee, "I've been
informed that you have done..." rather than "These people (named) told
me you did..." because it protects the source.

Another prime example of escaping responsibility can be found in Star
Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (a very Shakespeare-influenced movie),
when Kirk answered his Klingon accuser with: "Those words were spoken by
me."

> A modest (and I'm sure impracticable) proposal:
>
> A student can far outshine hizzer own work, but only if shehee practices
> diligently at the craft of writing.

My own modest proposal:

Students can far outshine their own works, but only if they practice
diligently at the craft of writing.

Mike Sarzo
 

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