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

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Comments  (Page 6) 
JulielaiI don't understand why so many academic papers are written over something that is basically common sense.
You have missed the whole point of the social sciences. Emotion: smile
Yes, indeed. Emotion: big smile Emotion: big smile Emotion: big smile
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As you shall please... All I have made thus far can be summarized as:

1. there can be no clear distinction between a 'language' and a 'dialect', save approaches based on the vague idea of 'spectrum' and 'linguistic region'.

2. there can not be an absolute definition of a 'standard language' vis a vis 'language variations', although there must be a vague idea as such in L2 learning.

3. 'prescriptivism', defined as an explicit manner in which a person generalizes rules, is not necessary in L1 acquisition, on the grounds that it does not fulfill the take - up requirement, whereas it is virtually a spontaneous action amongst L2 learners.

That you suggest we attend Chomsky's next lecture to see if he is egocentric bewilders me as much as that there are so many papers discussing something that is bascially 'common sense' bewilders you. It depends on whether you have an end to your endeavours: even if Chomsky is 'egocentric', as most academics are, does that mean we shall discard his theories for good? I think the facts will tell: he is one of the most frequently quoted scholar known to the modern world. His theories are most influential in the fields of mathematics, psychology, computer science, and philosophy. At any rate, this appears to me an approval of his 'egocentric' manner.

I think your question you can well answer yourself: I was discussing the loopholes of the traditional approaches as to the study of language, coming slightly across the word Chomsky, which I presume is rather trivial relative to the topic I was discussing. Then voila, a chap asks me to give the name of the book from which I quote, and then comes the comment that Chomsky is an egocentric egg - head, where I can see no relationship between the allegation that he is such an egg - head and whether my point shall stand. This may be analogous to the 'common sense nonsense papers' you thought of.

This is not the case in examining whether 'Non - native speakers need more explicit rules / guidelines that native speakers'. This is a hypothesis from which linguists derive methods: If this is true, then... (maybe a higher degree of prescriptivism in L2 teaching); if this is not true, then... (maybe making L2 teaching more akin to L1 teaching). Therefore it is a must that the hypothesis be put to scrutiny. By the same token, if 'Chomsky is egocentric' is a hypothesis from which a theory (perhaps 'the theory of egocentric linguists'!) is derived, I believe there will definitely be a bunch of scholars writing such 'nonsense papers'.

This is true of any scientific and philosophical studies, as they hold the belief that intuition (what is called 'common sense') is not always correct. eg. 1. the earth was once thought of as a cube, cloaked with a dome - shaped sky 2. a crime was (and somehow still is) thought of as something immoral, which is not always the case (Smith and Hogan, <Criminal Law>, 1992ed., p.16 - 17) 3. Bertrand Russell's examination into 'how the logical function works' in the Epimenides' fallacy ('All Cretans are liars'. If this primary premise is true, whereas the secondary premise 'I am a Cretan' is also true, then am I telling a lie?) works.

BTW, even if there's a point in looking into whether Chomsky is egocentric, I think to attend his lectures will be unnecessary. I have a 6 - hour .avi file showing him lecturing. Online transcripts of his debate with politicians and other linguists are also available at www.chomsky.org (If I remember aright).
MrPedanticWhat are we to make of the fact that adult native speakers often "self-prescriptivise"?


"Oh, hello, MrP. MissQ was just telling Randy and me – Randy and I – about L1 acquisition."


I read your question wrong... oops.

Um, I think that does not resemble 'self - prescriptivism' at all, at least according to my definition thereof. It is, nevertheless, an instance showing an L1 speaker having the tendency to correct himself of speech errors. That he generates a nominative, instead of accusative at the objective A - position (tell sbd, that 'sbd' is the 'Object') is inexplicable with UG, except with a more careful examination as to whether, when the speaker was acquiring the language, he was given sufficient evidence as to the fact that English has an explicit accusative 1st person form. If he was not, then he would treat that inflection as a covert one, resembling the invisible case system in Chinese. If I say 'I love him' in Chinese:

(i) 我愛他

without regard to the grammaticality of the translation, the clause can be roughly translated as:

(i) I love he

in which the verb is constant (Chinese verbs do not have tense morphology) and the case is covert (ie. no inflectional morphology).

If he constantly generates a nominative at objective A - position, then he has already acquired the setting that English does not have morphological case for the singular 1st person pronoun. It does not, therefore, amount to prescriptivism, but actually the acquisition of a (perhaps new?) variant of English case morphology.

Hi Randy,

I'm afraid you've made some connections where none existed. I wasn't tying everything back to a thesis. This is not a paper; I'm just chatting (and like most chats, we make side comments), which is what this forum is for.

I'm not picking on anyone in particular; I'm skeptical about the over-scientific approach (grammar, theory, etc.) - esp in HK-- to studying language, which, in its highest form, should be more of an art. That's partly why Eng. ed. in HK fails.

Though not directly on point, I think this poem summarizes neatly what I feel about lang. studies:

Introduction to Poetry

Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem

and hold it up to the light

like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem

and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room

and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski

across the surface of a poem

waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do

is tie the poem to a chair with rope

and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose

to find out what it really means.
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3. 'prescriptivism', defined as an explicit manner in which a person generalizes rules, is not necessary in L1 acquisition

Thanks for stating how you define it. But don't dictionaries serve as a prescriptive tool according to this--to explicitly state the general usage ("rules")? Dictionaries provide explicit guidelines on word usage for both L1 and L2 learners (and the generally accepted pronunciation).

Why should the explicit/implicit nature of the process define whether the approach is prescriptivistic? The goal is the same either way--to conform to a prescribed norm.

'But don't dictionaries serve as a prescriptive tool according to this--to explicitly state the general usage ("rules")?'

As I said earlier, what a native speaker looks more on is the meaning (which, if broadly defined, can be regarded as a 'rule'. After all, language as a whole can be defined as a 'social institution'.) instead of the structural rules which constitute the language, as it is something 'inside'. This reminds me of my exam paper yesterday, asking me to define the distinction between 'primary grammar' and 'secondary grammar'. Neither is, in my view, a sine qua non for the other, provided that, for 'secondary grammar' (a set of rules generalized by linguists), there's a means to acquire the knowledge without the use of language: you can well use Cantonese Chinese without explicitly generalizing rules: is that an 'SVO' language? Does the complement come before or after the thing it complements? All these appear to a native speaker without training in grammar something really queer, I mean, even redundant. However, L2 learning sees learners constantly generalize rules. I would like here to draw your attention to some 'live' examples.

1. http://www.miniforum.org/showpost.fcgi?MGID=1786259&page=1&tempid=2

2. http://www.miniforum.org/showpost.fcgi?MGID=1783876&page=1&tempid=2 (the 8th post)

3. http://www.miniforum.org/showpost.fcgi?MGID=1785359&page=1&tempid=2

4. http://www.EnglishForward.com/English/ThatAfterComma/crjjc/Post.htm

All this suggests to me that L2 English speakers tend to generalize rules, as though they having a lesson jot down some notes. Dictionaries therefore, apart from serving as a thesarus, become a 'grammar' (the so - called secondary grammar I mean) book as well. That the 2 kinds of language users use the dictionary does not mean they are looking for the same thing. To take an analogy, both a young lad and his old man will probably read newspaper, but whereas the lad may look for the sports column, his daddy may probably look for some porns (___' but that's true), or the jobs column.

Why should the explicit/implicit nature of the process define whether the approach is prescriptivistic? The goal is the same either way--to conform to a prescribed norm.

It is somehow a refuge for the term prescriptivism to take, and hence at least some useful theories can be derived: If the distinction between the explicit and implicit manner whereby an individual formulates rules not be taken to define 'prescriptivism', then, since there exists virtually no occasion where the human cognitive system acquires a knowledge (or to be more precise, 'learn / acquire a language') without establishing rules of some sort, the statement becomes a tautology. eg. a black horse is black, in which there can be no exceptions.

ie. 'If formulating rules equals prescriptivism, and since the human cognitive system by nature acquires knowledge by establishing rules, then a human is by its nature prescriptive'.

In this case the term is an include - all word, which has virtually no meaning, and resembles 'All human beings have a physiological brain.'

PS: I will not have access to the Internet hereafter till... some 3 or 4 days I think, as I will be kicked out of my home during the intervening time.

What we are discussing is no longer related to the topic, so I moved the last two posts to a new thread. http://www.EnglishForward.com/English/LanguageStudyBeingScience/crmpq/Post.htm

I also deleted your duplicate post.
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Linguistic inquiry has found that no variety of a language is intrinsically superior or inferior to another. In the case of UK English, there is widespread misconception that 'standard' English somehow equates to superior, and that regional dialects are slovenly and spoken by the poorly educated in relation and subsequently inferior to the supposed standard.
All varieties of any language adhere to their own grammatical rules. There is no native speaker of a language who speaks it badly (or poorly, for morons who mistakenly think they have a clue). Regional varieties have their own grammar which is just as inviolable as those of standard language, with the notable difference that regional varieties are rarely subject to prescriptive grammatical rules.
The subject of expressiveness is perhaps more amusing. Regional dialects tend to include all the vocabulary of standard varieties, as well as words which are unique to that variety; strictly, that means that regional language varieties have the capability to be more expressive than standard language varieties, given that there is a larger vocabulary to draw upon.
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