Tuesday, June 02, 2009


In linguistics, we are supposed to be rigid descriptivists. We describe how language actually works, not how it's supposed to work according to the self-appointed language mavens. And so, when I come across comments like the following:

who cares about the finals stern is a fraud he made the lakers and magic go to the finals i could care less honestly

I should, as a linguist, describe what's going on here in neutral terms based upon established theories and providing evidence in support.

I'd like to take off my linguist hat for a moment, so that I can scream:


Really. It's not that difficult. Look:



That took so long. I mean, I don't want to ask too much, such as employing both commas AND periods in appropriate places so as to enhance communication. I understand apostrophes are right out. And I will never push you into amazing feats of dexterity like using the shift key periodically. So, we'll just take it one step at a time. A little period here, a little period there.



See, it's easy.

It's a button on your keyboard. Use it!


Anonymous said...

Oooh. Are you part of my People Who Didn't Like The Road club?

writtenwyrdd said...

It is a bit difficult to discern meaning when words are sort of random looking and strung together without punctuation.

I think you might write a song for Kiersten: "I'm taking off my linguist hat to shout Where Are the *@@$%#()!!! periods???"

fairyhedgehog said...

I think the whole describe don't evaluate thing is great as long as you can discern the meaning.

The trouble with the word period is that I never think of it in terms of punctuation. (I would call it a full stop.)

blogless troll said...

actually stern is a fraud but the magic beat him and the refs and the lebrons anyway that guy is obviously from cleveland

Precie said...

It turns out you're an English major in linguist's clothing! ;) Welcome to my world.

Re: descriptivist...As much as I've been fascinated by the history of the English language and its linguistic developments AND love the concept that words are essentially neutral objects, one of the reasons I didn't pursue linguistics is that words rarely stay neutral for very long. There was a study discussed on NPR about languages recently---the study found that in languages in which nouns used specifically male/female articles (la playa is Spanish for "the beach"...playa is feminine vs el bano for the bathroom, which is masculine), the adjectives those native speakers used to describe those nouns tended to be gender-inflected.

The primary example used in NPR and in the study were the different gender-inflected adjectives used to describe a bridge in German and Spanish. (In one language, the word bridge is feminine while, in the other, it's masculine...I can't remember which right now.)

So anywayyyyyyy....

Anonymous said...

lakers suck

pacatrue said...

Aerin, I'm guessing The Road often lacked appropriate punctuation? Then count me in!

WW, I spent about 10 minutes after your comment imagining myself playing the piano and singing that lovely ditty. thanks.

Hedgehog, "Just Stop" would have been a catchier title for the post. I'm going to become English now just for that purpose.

troll i have no idea what you said sorry cant read without punctuation

Precie, me? an English major? Never. I'd have to pretend that the only thing worth saying about literature is what it reveals about the power and gender structures in the society from which it came. Everything else would be just an expression of the analyst's power. Ugh. :) Anyway, being a descriptivist doesn't mean that you ignore the relationship between society and language. In fact, that's a whole subfield called sociolinguistics, and naturally one of the main topics within that is the relationships between language use and gender roles.

anonymous, thanks for the contribution.

Robin S. said...

Paca and BT - you make me laugh.

Chris Eldin said...

HAHAAHAH! Just throw in a Southern accent, and you'll be in Robin's world of runon sentences...


Precie said...

Now you tell me. Sociolinguistics...sigh...Is it too late for me to change my major?

pjd said...

I keep reading "descriptivist" as "deceptivist," which I think could be much more fun full stop

Oh, and I totally agree with both Anonymous and Robin full stop