The English Language

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comloulou | 11:04 Fri 20th Jun 2003 | Arts & Literature
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Genuine question here and not intended to rile anyone. I am of the view that the English language is an evolving, living entity. It has seen chaucer, a vowel shift, French, Saxon, Roman Asian and American influences and it can never be tied to a set of unmoveable rules. However there are those among us who see English as a fixed cultural standard with rules and a seemingly fixed lexicon. So who is right and how valid is grammar today?


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Whilst I agree that the language does evolve, I will answer by using my reply to the similar question below, but altered so that the spelling is incorrect and little care has been taken with the language used. Which was easier to read? "Surlee the reesun 4 we all u's same speling is 2 make it eeseer 2 unnerstan wot we is going on abaht. If ever1 use same speling + meenings, then we all no wot the bloke what writ it ment. we all make c*ck ups and don't tipe propr but IMO if u keep bad speling and gramma its cos u cant b bovvered 2 take f/ort 2 put dahn ur ideers proper 4 x on 4um weer I go 1 bloke write like this & no1 kno wot he go on abut. howe wee writ change butt it ceem no reesun 2 diss the peeps wot r goin 2 reed ur stuff bcos u cant b a**sed 2 us propr spelin & grammer"
serious answer and none intended.... 1. I understand that the French tried to prevent foreign influences and have failed. 2. Again I understand that much of American speech actually derives from old English and in that respect, may be no righter or wronger than "us" 3. I hope that none of us would consider (for instance) a northern dialect to be less acceptable than English as she is spoken by the Queen? Given the increasing globalisation of the world, are we getting to a point where all English derived variants could be viewed as regional dialects and thus, not right, not wrong but just different?
I don't mean to hog the thread but I've just had another thought. In the total history of communication, even written communication, the concept of one spelling being correct and all the others wrong is a comparatively new idea. What if its also a short lived idea?
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I think youre right ooops 'you're' right. I can appreciate spelling being standard, maybe because thats all I've known, what I find more difficult to accept is the slavish rules of grammar (be honest when has a missplaced apostrophe EVER led you to really misunderstand someones meaning?) and the insistence that new words cannot be embraced by English. I dont believe my language defines me, I'd be the same person if i spoke ancient sanskrit (or was that a written language? whatever) just because words are new or god forbid American, doesnt make them bad or wrong.
I think that speaking and writing 'properly' is overrated. With the birth of the internet and mobile phones, punctuation is becoming less and less relevant... Language is simply a tool and can be used in different ways, individual to each person.. But, then again, sometimes language that breaks the rules can be REALLY annoying...for example it really irks me when people get your and you're wrong. And when people claim to believe that they think standard English is unnecessary I'm inclined to think it's because they don't know how to use it properly... I guess im a hypocrite then.
* I'm a hypocrite (oops)
I wouldn't say that there is an insistence on not embracing new words - in the last (full) edition of the Oxford dictionary over 10,000 words were added (including Girl Power!). As for spelling and grammar, it is easier to read if you all follow the same rules. Having to decipher someones meaning slows you down. This is not too bad for texts, but it gets very annoying for a piece of prose.


I presume that the "those amongst us" part of your question is aimed at me. However, I have said repeatedly, to anyone who bothers to read my postings properly, that English is an ever-changing and ever-evolving language. However, what I am opposed to is the current process of Americanisationl this has nothing to do with the normal process of linguistic evolution, nor is it to do with the standardisation of English. It comes, quite simply, from the process of American cultural dominance which is spreading like wildfire throughout the globe. I happen to believe this is dangerous, as it is dstroying the rich variety of culture the world enjoys. Standardisation can bring benefits, but it can also destroy the diversity that enriches our cultural lives. And this is not just a spelling/grammar thing, it is also about pronunciation, about the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the way we behave, etc. Americanisation of our language is just one manifestation of Americanisation, but as language is central to the culture of a nation it is a highly important issue.
And if you don't believe spelling or grammar are important, ask most employers. They much prefer to recruit people who can spell words properly and make themselves understood than those who have sloppy spelling which appears, on paper, to make them look illiterate or ill-educated. Therefore, if you want a job, certainly in an office or profession, spelling and grammar are important.
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Of necessity, the lexicon of the English language must increase with the advent of new technology and the increasing rate at which new discoveries are being made. However, there are frequent attempts to add new words such as the verb 'to of' as in 'You could of waited for me' This type of addition should and must be resisted. Apart from that, the failure to teach sentence structure in schools must be seen as detrimental for our entire nation. No, I'm not an elderly reactionary, just an external examiner in English Literature who has spent a lot of time in despair over the low standard of English usage in public examinations. I consider that if we do not use our language correctly, if pupils are not taught correct English usage instead of being encouraged to adopt television Americanisms with their limited range of responses, we are in grave danger of being forced by these trendy theories and the media into George Orwell's Newspeak. Doubleplusungood. Here's something to frighten the horses! The average candidate this year described life in the First World War trenches as 'scary'. I rest my case, but please feel free to debate this with me through the medium of this page. P.S. Has anyone noticed how many grammatical errors there are in the newspapers, especially articles about falling educational standards?
Hear hear! Can we also get rid of 'meet with', when 'meet' is all that's required.
To Spellmaster. 'Meet up with' is just as bad if not worse. My personal bugbear is 'Fell Pregnant' I've had two children, and never felt a change of altitude at the crucial time.

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