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"Regional dialects are structurally or expressively inferior to the standard language."

Thanks for your time.
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Comments  (Page 3) 
<Your posts will then appear on the boards much sooner.>

That's OK, I can wait.

Thanks for the invitation though.
I don't think it is even theoretically possible that people use a 'Standard English' to communicate, even in a linguistically homogeneous community. Given the assumption that 'L1 Speakers of English have an idealized set of linguistic expressions (that can be generated from the grammar embedded)', your 'theory' (if a theory it be) will quickly stumble as discrepancies occur when: 1. there exist slight differentiations in the 'grammar' (defined as the state of mind which enables an L1 speaker of English to generate what is profusely called 'English', or, for an L1 speaker of French to generate 'French') of different L1 speakers of the language as their experience during the process of language acquisition may differ 2. people tend to form sub - communities out of a larger community by creating 'community languages' (eg. the legal profession... deliberately pronouncing 'defendant' as though it were 2 words: 'defend ANT', or French adolescents' deliberately reversing the syllablic sequence of disyllabic words such that 'bonjour' is realized as 'jourbon'). 3. Back to the reality, there are many L2 speakers of English who also contribute to English as a language (I treat it here on a par with 'social institution'): eg. Indian literature in English. Some lexical items of the so - called 'standard English' are actually borrowed from other languages (eg. khadive, kowtow, savage [of a relatively longer history though]).
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just wanna make it known that the previous post by an 'annonymous chap' is made by me.
M. Crux,

Your signature... is that a quote from Julius Caesar (Veni, Vidi, Vici)?

Just as you presumably are a Chinese L1 speaker, I want to make use of Mandarin Chinese as an example to further illustrate how painstaking it can be, without government regulations, to define a 'standard language', as to make it impossible even theoretically and in a linguistically homogeneous community to define (satisfactorily) a 'standard'.

The use of 'er' (兒化音) was once made obligatory when Putonghua was first introduced. However, it seems to me that this has been somehow made lax a rule today.

The same thing applies to the '5th tone' (輕聲). The 2nd word (syllable) of such lexical items as 'Ba(1)ba(5)' used to be obligatorily of the 5th tone, yet it is now not that strict as a rule, probably due to the influence of Taiwanese Chinese.

There was a vast influx of Cantonese lexical items into Mandarin Chinese ('standard'): '打的' (hiring a cab)... I can think of nought all out of a sudden though.... most, thereof are now recognized as parts of 'the Standard Language'.

The same is true of French, which was first made 'standard' during Ferry's ministry (1887), although dialects are largely suppressed (eg. Nicois), there happens to be significant lexical borrowings from other languages, esp. English (eg. 'leadership', 'look', 'weekend').

All this shows that 'language' is a dynamic concept, which contravenes the notion of 'standard', which is a static notion, as it PRESCRIBES (rather than describes) the shape of a language.
Randy_TamYour signature... is that a quote from Julius Caesar (Veni, Vidi, Vici)?

Yes, it certainly is supposed to be.

Randy_TamJust as you presumably are a Chinese L1 speaker, I want to make use of Mandarin Chinese as an example to further illustrate how painstaking it can be, without government regulations, to define a 'standard language', as to make it impossible even theoretically and in a linguistically homogeneous community to define (satisfactorily) a 'standard'.

Certain terms of language acquisition (which I presumed 'L1' to be) are foreign to me, no pun intended. If 'L1' indicates that Chinese is my first language, then no, I am not an L1 Chinese speaker.

You do seem to have a line on the evolution of the Mandarin dialect (dare I say, government-imposed standard dialect) and I am very interested in that evolution.
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O, I thought you were, as your quote is in Chinese.

Yes, L(x) is a function indicating whether a language is 'native' or 'foreign' to a person. It is not restricted to Language Acquisition though, as it is widely used in such topics as Language Teaching (see for example, Eric Hawkin's <Awareness of Language>), Psycholinguistics (Fodor's <Language of Thought>... If I remember the name aright), Applied Linguistics (eg. Andrew Radford et al., <Linguistics: an Introduction>).

I am not a specialist in the development of Sino languages though. I am only taking Mandarin as a complusory second language credit course, my L1 being Cantonese Chinese, now considered a 'dialect' for no justifiable reasons, as there has never been a clear distinction drawn between a 'dialect' and a 'language': do the 2 not share the very same traits of a 'language' (a consistent grammar embedded so that an L1 speaker can tell whether an expression is acceptable in his language)? I feel really sorry for my professor, whose views as to a 'language' seem to me simply ignoring the dynamic nature of language. According to her (and the course book), Putonghua was 'designed and standardized (by a committee of linguists... sadly enough), where the lexicon and pronunciations are fabricated according to the dialects spoken around the northern provinces, to be the common language of the entire Chinese population'. Anything that is not in the prescribed list (of words, of the so - called 'syntax', and of pronunciation) is considered 'wrong', the list's constantly changing and being enlarged notwithstanding (direct sources are not available, as I am, as always, but a small potato). The matter on which I want to draw you attention is not this bare matter of fact, but the reason why the list requires constant change.

Given the assumption that the government policy of 'linguistic genocide' (as my French teacher, who used to teach in China and can speak Putonghua even better than most of my classmates, calls that prescription and its making compulsory Putonghua learning in primary schools) is effective, the initial linguistic state of the country ought to be homogeneous, ie. people speaking the 'very same language' at a 'very same standard'... um... to take an analogy from English, if a British calls a person a 'chap', given that policy exists among English speaking countries, you would expect an American, instead of calling a person a 'guy', a 'noob', or a 'pal', to say 'chap' as well. This might well have worked perfectly if 1: people were brainless and non - innovative such that they don't know to invent new expressions or words. 2. if the community (in this case, China) were close against contact with other communities. But neither is true of China (although, from a racist point of view, one may talk of 'chink noobs' as he talks of 'frogs'... no puns here, again... just to name an example). As a language is used in daily discourse, deviations related to 1. the phonemic form 2. syntactic constructions 3. pragmatic uses 4. stylistic variations 5. logical interpretations and the like, make language change inevitable. I quote again the examples I came across earlier: 1. the use of 'er' being more flexible these days (as more non - L1 speakers of Putonghua now communicate in that language, whereas the use of 'er' is simply insane in their native language, Cantonese for example) 2. the more flexible use of the '5th tone' (probably brought about by intercourse between Mainlander Chinese and Taiwanese Chinese) 3. words borrowed from other Chinese 'dialects'. All these blur, if not make impossible, the precise definition of the shape of a language. It is for this reason that even though Putonghua was intended as a prescribed language for the entire population, speech variations nevertheless take place (Though asserted as 'wrongs', Chinese linguists have devoted much effort in addressing 'common errors' of a particular group of speaker, a prelude to 'language variations') and eventually prevail over such prescriptions.
Hi Randy,

Prescriptive linguistics does serve a certain purpose. For one, rules are very helpful to beginning learners.

Of course, no one can stem the tide of linguistic changes. Languages are made to adapt to changes in society itself, so these prescriptivists you mentioned are probably using linguistic rules as a form of societal control.
JulielaiHi Randy,

Prescriptive linguistics does serve a certain purpose. For one, rules are very helpful to beginning learners.

Of course, no one can stem the tide of linguistic changes. Languages are made to adapt to changes in society itself, so these prescriptivists you mentioned are probably using linguistic rules as a form of societal control.

It has never come to my mind, nor that of any (formalist) linguist, that the 'prescriptive approach' should be totally banished on grounds that its aim is wrong. I do not deny its value in language teaching (serving as a model... more precisely a 'float', for beginners to start with). It is of human nature to make life easier by summarizing phenomena into paradigms; pedagogic grammar, in this context, serves this very purpose. After all, that is the major reason why, centuries ago, Latin 'grammar' (some general rules observed from the use of that language) was devised. It is logically necessary that there exist a 'standard' of some sort in this process.

But this concern is one way or another irrelevant to the issues raised here: it seems to me the chap is inquiring into whether there actually exists a 'standard language' and whether other 'dialects' are in their nature inferior. It falls therefore on the domain of 'description of a language' and perhaps socio - linguistics as well. This being said, I conclude from my (rather simplistic) observation that the dynamic nature of human languages makes defining a 'standard' virutally impossible. As a matter of fact, I assuming you to be a Hong Konger as well (guessing from your surname), even the 'standard pedagogic grammar' taught in Hong Kong about English allows for some variations (you may wish to refer to HKEA's report on AS UE). This suggests difficulties in deciding 'what is standard' and what is not.

Personally I think the 'standard' thing is more related to the social position of those who speak a language variant: consider for example 'Vulgar Latin'. French was considered a 'Vulgar Latin' variant much because the Gauls (later the Frankish tribes) were conquered and romanized. But when, some 14 centuries later, the French were at their zenith of power, they claimed their language to be among the best of human languages. Another instance would be English, which was considered 'vulgar' during the 2 centuries that followed the Norman Conquest. But again, in the 18th century, Lord Cornwallis was urging education in India to be conducted in English, basing on the allegation that English was superior in innovating jargons. These are only allegations without much supporting evidence: the notion of superiority is in itself an opinion and therefore cannot logically yield any testable implication.

The point made thus far is clear: it is of little use, in describing a language, to seek for a 'standard'. But it is of course useful for second language learners to first stick to a model of some sort. The dynamic nature of language makes it virtually impossible to define 'what is standard', as the latter is more related to the social position of the speakers of a particular language variant.
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Actually, I'm not interested in the original question, which presumes there's such a thing as an "inferior" tongue. Emotion: smile I'm merely summarizing what people say/think about languages without going into theories.
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