sexta-feira, julho 23, 2010

Language and Change — Inglês para professores

This brief activity and discussion highlight the differences between how people actually express themselves and how language experts say they should. Moreover, even among so-called language experts there is not uniform agreement as to what is “correct” or acceptable. One reason for such controversy is the nature of language:

It is a living, fluid entity that changes in response to changes in society. Societal changes are reflected in language. For example, the change in women’s status is reflected in changes in acceptable pronoun reference, as illustrated in Sentence (4) of Discovery Activity 1. Societal changes can also be seen in the new words adopted into the language. Think of the enormous number of new words related to computers and the Internet that have entered languages around the world. Language changes reflect the greater changes of a society. Frequently, changes in grammatical use or even new word adoption are considered “degeneration” or “degradation” of the language with calls to avoid sloppiness and carelessness in language. George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm wrote:

A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

[Orwell, G. (1966/1953). Politics and the English language. In: A collection of essays (p. 156). New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Also available on line at:]

In some countries there are even official language academies charged with maintaining the “purity” and “integrity” of the language. In France, for instance, L’Acad´emiefranc¸aise has been the arbiter of the French language for several centuries. Upset by the increasingly Anglicization of French (i.e. the adoption of English words into French, particularly in the sciences and technology), the French government passed a law in the mid-1990s essentially outlawing the adoption of foreign words into French and requiring instead the use of newly-created or adapted French words.

Yet even with such an academy dictating proper usage, the French language spoken at the beginning of the 20th century is different from that spoken at the beginning of the 21st. A language that does not change does not have any living native speakers, as in the case of Latin or Sanskrit. Thus many argue that changes in language are an indicator of the viability and vitality, of that language.

While American English has no equivalent academy acting as “protector of the language,” it does have manuals of style, language mavens, and others weighing in on the grammaticality of a form or the acceptability of new words and usage. However, since there is no single official arbiter of American English, there is often disagreement among “experts,” particularly in areas that many regard as involving the finer or “more obscure” points of grammar.

Look at the sentences below.

a. Based on your opinion, label each sentence as G for grammatical, N for non-grammatical, and ? for “not sure” or “don’t know”.
b. For those sentences you labeled as N, identify the element or elements that you think are ungrammatical and explain why you think they are ungrammatical.
c. For those sentences you labeled as ?, if you can, discuss why you are unsure.

1. Jackie says she don’t know if they can come.
2. I’m not going to do nothing about that missing part.
3. We sure don’t have any problems with the phone company.
4. Shoppers are used to standing on long lines at this store.

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