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comment by user-inactivated
user-inactivated  ·  180 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Teaching is Fulfilling: what TFG's been up to #3

The argument my Grammar teacher in the uni replied with was that we study "the language of the educated", and "as soon as the changes of the language [using past simple where past perfect is due, e.g. I just found it] are incorporated by the majority, we will study them as well".

What are your thoughts on that? Do you think it encourages stagnation? Do you think it encourages grammar nazism?




kleinbl00  ·  180 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Dante chose to write The Divine Comedy in Florentine rather than Latin so it would be more accessible to the masses. Petrarch, Bocaccio and Macchiavelli followed suit and before too long, Florentine was Italian and nobody spoke Latin anymore.

It is the people of a language that speak it, not just its scholars and when scholars are allowed to codify language, the language dies. Europe had a mother tongue uniting scholars from Sweden to Sicily but by keeping it inaccessible to all but scholars, it became nothing more than a pompous, elaborate system of taxonomy.

I'm "the educated" and I find the quickest way to provoke a stranger into antagonism is to talk like it.

user-inactivated  ·  179 days ago  ·  link  ·  

It's a damn shame I'm not educated enough to dig deeper into the subject. There must be something better to talk about here than just "language of the scholars vs. language of the people".

kleinbl00  ·  179 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Ignorance is one of the easiest things in the world to correct. But I get what you're saying. If I were to provide my own counterargument, it's that the "language of the educated" is far more likely to extend and buttress the beauty and utility of a language than the "language of the personal ads" and that Latin died out because it wasn't being taught to the people. Now that we're teaching people "the language of the educated" we're making it available to the masses.

Here's the problem: it takes scholars a generation or two in order to reach consensus about anything literary. Nobody is a genius while they're alive; you will never see a literature class pulling anything off the NYT Bestsellers' list to teach. From the perspective of the student, the only examples of literature and language held in high regard are old and dead and therefore irrelevant. From the perspective of the teacher, exposing students to old, dead but brilliant works of literature helps them appreciate it more than if they didn't get it at all and hopefully that appreciation will rub off on them as they create tomorrow's literature.

Really, one side is saying "I hate peas" while the other side is saying "peas build a healthy body." Neither are wrong. I'm more of an "I hate peas" guy because my mom's parents were Harvard/Radcliffe while my dad's parents were blown off their farm by the Dust Bowl and never finished 8th grade. I can still imitate my mom's parents' inflection and manner of speech; it's an extremely pompous dialect that offends anyone who isn't monied East Coast. I can imitate my dad's parents inflection and manner of speech, too, but I also remember their wisdom, their simplicity, and their insight into the world. And lemme tell ya - there's a reason I tend to deliver my hardest truths with cuss words and misappropriations of language.

People pay closer attention.

If you say something smart while sounding like you went to Harvard, people tune you out. If you say something smart while sounding like you just got off a tractor, people think you're sagacious. Not just because they assume you should be stupid - but because they understand you.

It is the easiest fucking thing in the world to put together a well-constructed, erudite sentence that says fuckall. When forced to take an English class in college I would often construct words and arguments in such a way that they actually said the opposite of their face value to see if the TA would notice. He never did. When you can stack words like a legal briefing you can get away with murder; there's a reason graduate theses tend to be written like a build-your-own thesaurus kit.

It's harder to hide your ignorance in simple language, which makes your knowledge come across more clearly. But the art of using simple language well? Yeah, they don't teach that. They teach you how to navigate byzantine jargon so that you can snow undergraduates with it.

user-inactivated  ·  179 days ago  ·  link  ·  

What kind of language did you write your thesis in? Did you follow the high consensus because that was required of you, or did you simplify it somewhat?

    But the art of using simple language well? Yeah, they don't teach that. They teach you how to navigate byzantine jargon so that you can snow undergraduates with it.

Can you tell me more about this? I'm curious but can't find a sufficiently specific question.

kleinbl00  ·  179 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I have an engineering degree. My thesis was in engineering english, which means strunk'n'white with lots of jargon and equations. It was also only like 20 pages because they don't require theses of undergraduate engineering students. So really, it was more of a sales brochure for a device Procter & Gamble asked me design. With way more equations.

    Can you tell me more about this? I'm curious but can't find a sufficiently specific question.

-I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.

Blaise Pascal

So the above paragraph is five run on sentences. It is literally how I speak conversationally, rendered as type. As is this paragraph. The way we speak is different from the way we communicate formally using the written word, however, and the art of writing is the art of knowing (and exploiting) the difference.

If I were writing the above for an editor, or for anything other than the ephemera of the Internet, I would write

Engineers don't write theses. My capstone design project involved a presentation of the device I created for Proctor & Gamble, but it was a brief, not a thesis. It was written in English, with lots of jargon, figures and tables.

If you write that way in technical English you will be graded down. They make you start sentences with participles and bury it in jargon and if you don't do that, you're an idiot.

My Finite Element Analysis TA graded our assignments based on how much they weighed.