As a student of Language and Linguistics, I find all of the discussions here to be of great interest, (usually). ;-0)>
I came across this while doing some research and wondered what everyone might think about it.

You Can't Write Writing
by Wendell Johnson, Ph.D.(1906-1965)
(Late) Associate Professor of Psychology and Speech Pathology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
(for whom the University's Speech and Hearing Center is now named)

beginning of excerpt The point of view which I have to present with regard to this problem has gradually developed during the decade that I have spent, sitting near the end of the educational conveyer belt, helping to put certain finishing touches on the human products of the scholastic mill. This is a way of saying that my experience has been chiefly with graduate students. When they arrive in the graduate college they have had, as a minimum, sixteen years of formal education.

During practically every one of those sixteen (or more) years they have undergone some kind of training specifically designed to enhance their skill in the use of the English language. In spite of this, there falls upon me, as upon other directors of Masters' and Doctors' dissertations, the task of teaching graduate students how to write clear and meaningful and adequately organized English.What are the linguistic shortcomings that the teachers of English seem unable to correct? Or do they in some measure nurture them? First of all, it is to be made clear that grammatical errors are not particularly serious. Whether or not they find anyone to "talk it to," the majority of graduate students have been taught most of the rudiments of "correct" English. In fact, it appears that the teachers of English teach English so poorly largely because they teach grammar so well.

They seem to confuse or identify the teaching of grammar with the teaching of writing. In any event, what they have failed to teach my graduate students about writing is not grammar. It is skill in achieving factually meaningful statements, and skill in organizing statements into an order consistent with the purposes for which the statements are made. The students have not been taught how adequately to achieve either precision or systematic arrangement in the written representation of facts.

This can be stated in another and more significant way by saying that they have not been taught how to use language for the purpose of making highly reliable maps of the terrain of experience.
end of excerpt
You might be interested in more about Wendell Johnson from a speech made by his son.
http://www.uiowa.edu/~cyberlaw/rcntpubl/korzyb.html

The next meetings of the Heinlein Readers Group
will be Thursday 3/24/2005 @ 9:00 P.M. EST
and Saturday 3/26/05 @ 5:00 P.M. EST
The topic for these discussions will be:
"Your Least Favorite Heinlein work"
See: http://heinleinsociety.org/readersgroup/index.html
1 2 3 4 5 6
As a student of Language and Linguistics, I find all of the discussions here to be of great interest, (usually). ;-0)>

I get it: you have a goatee, are troubled with snoring, and have to sleep with one eye open because you live in a bad area. (Sorry!)
I came across this while doing some research and wondered what everyone might think about it. From: http://www.dfwcgs.net/sampler/wj write.html You ... not been taught how to use language for the purpose of making highly reliable maps of the terrain of experience.

First thoughts:
(Well, with a leaden example like that, what chance does a youngster have? And, while I'm at it, the whole point of language is that it isn't anything like a map. And experience isn't anything like terrain, either. And this is one of the guys on my side!)

It's all subject teachers who should take the responsibility for teaching clear expression, not just English specialists: what proportion of a high-school or university pupil's time is spent specifically on English? Clearly a student's papers should be rewarded more for understanding of the subject than for clarity of expression; but I think we penalise poor writing too little, as the two can't be wholly separated. I assume that teachers don't hesitate to penalize poor maths in science papers.
I worry, too, about multi-choice testing: it has its place, but doesn't promote self-expression. Languages are now much better taught, in theory, than they used to be; but the grammar-translation method was much better for developing a pupil's precision in English . I don't really know a way round that: perhaps more importance should be attached to translation of connected passages?

The other thing is that young people don't read as much as we did: little can be done about that, as the culture's changed.

Mike.
As a student of Language and Linguistics, I find all of the discussions here to be of great interest, (usually). ;-0)>

I get it: you have a goatee, are troubled with snoring, and have to sleep with one eye open because you live in a bad area. (Sorry!)

Hah!
I came across this while doing some research and wondered ... http://www.dfwcgs.net/sampler/wj write.html You Can't Write Writing by Wendell Johnson, Ph.D.(1906-1965)

(snip)
First thoughts: (Well, with a leaden example like that, what chance does a youngster have? And, while I'm at it,

Do you really mean 'leaden' or 'lead-in'? If 'leaden' then is it a metaphor for something?
the whole point of language is that it isn't anything like a map. And experience isn't anything like terrain, either. And this is one of the guys on my side!)

If you don't agree with the 'map-terrain' or 'map-territory' analogies, then how would you describe language?
It's all subject teachers who should take the responsibility for teaching clear expression, not just English specialists: what proportion of ... as the two can't be wholly separated. I assume that teachers don't hesitate to penalize poor maths in science papers.

I would agree for the most part. My son teaches college and is now and has been shocked by the quality of understanding and abilities of incoming college students with respect to being able to write either grammatically or clearly.
I worry, too, about multi-choice testing: it has its place, but doesn't promote self-expression. Languages are now much better taught, ... . I don't really know a way round that: perhaps more importance should be attached to translation of connected passages?

I'm of a mixed mind about that. I learned German using the grammar- translation method and as a consequence, I read and understand German fairly well, but am weak, relatively so, in speaking. Whereas, I learned Russian in an intensive 8 hour day/12 month course and am fairly good, even after 45 years at speaking, but very poor in reading.
The other thing is that young people don't read as much as we did: little can be done about that, as the culture's changed.

True, sadly.

David Wright Sr.
To find the end of Middle English, you discover the exact date and time the Great Vowel Shift took place (the morning of May 5, 1450, at some time between neenuh fiftehn and nahyn twenty-fahyv). Kevin Wald
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First thoughts: (Well, with a leaden example like that, what chance does ayoungster have? And, while I'm at it,

Do you really mean 'leaden' or 'lead-in'? If 'leaden' then is it a metaphor for something?

I meant "leaden". Perhaps it's out of use over there, but it survives Otherpondly: "made of lead", like "woollen", "wooden", but always or virtually always in a metaphorical sense. In this case opposite of "light" and "bright", of course.
the whole point of language is that it isn't ... is one of the guys on my side!)

If you don't agree with the 'map-terrain' or 'map-territory' analogies, then how would you describe language?

By any analogy, I don't know that I could; certainly not in any way which you'd find original or illuminating. My objection to the map analogy, though, is that a map is a sort of picture, while language is a complete and arbitrary abstraction. I think it's more, rather than less, helpful because in fact a map is a slightly fuzzy compromise between language, symbol, and depiction. I didn't like "terrain" there because the terrain is where experience happens, not the experience itself; a terrain is the same for everybody in it, while experience is usually unique.
I think it's reasonable to declare translation a valid and useful language skill; in fact I think it's most unreasonable to neglect it. Bright teenagers enjoy the challenge of the puzzle. I used to be a teacher of English as a foreign language, and I noticed that modern-language teaching was gradually learning the lessons of EFL's success, but not entirely critically. One of the things which, for practical reasons, "classical" EFL teaching doesn't lay stress on is translation and sustained reading.

As I say, this was largely for practical reasons, but there was also an unfortunate influence from ill-digested linguistics doctrine, which underplays the importance of the written language. (You don't have to follow many arguments in AUE, for example, before you'll notice somebody trained in linguistics affirming the secondary status of written language. As a matter of observation of language development, and apart from special cases, this is true; but it cannot be taken to imply that written language is of secondary importance .)
The other thing is that young people don't read as much as we did: little can be done about that, as the culture's changed.

True, sadly.

Yep. The best we can do is read them lots of bedtime stories to set the pattern: I've even been known to read a bedtime story to those in their twenties! A great experience to get feminist interruptions from student daughters!

Mike.
As a student of Language and Linguistics, I find all of the discussionshere to be of great interest, (usually). ;-0)> ... they have notbeen taught how to use language for the purpose of making highly reliable mapsof the terrain of experience.

All the way up the chain from high school to graduate school one hears teachers complaining that their students can't write. What's going wrong? Writing is in the curriculum at every level; it's taught at every level. My experience is mainly from Britain, but I've seen plenty of schoolbooks from both sides of the Pond that carefully explain how to write a report. So I'm sure the situation has improved somewhat since Johnson's time, but the fact that the complaints can still be heard suggests that it's the teachers' fault. This would be partly because many teachers aren't the best at writing themselves, and partly because they really don't have the time to do the job properly of training their students to write. Corners are cut: "Does it have an introduction and a conclusion? Okay, good enough."

You and Mike agree that "The other thing is that young people don't read as much as we did: little can be done about that, as the culture's changed" but I'm not so sure that either of these claims is true. Children's literature is big business, and many children who wouldn't otherwise have read are doing so "thanks to" computers and cellphones.
It'd be interesting to know whether those students who spent their childhoods reading are better writers - it's likely that some research into this has already been carried out.
Adrian
(snip)
You and Mike agree that "The other thing is that young people don't read as much as we did: little ... literature is big business, and many children who wouldn't otherwise have read are doing so "thanks to" computers and cellphones.

I think a valid question is when do they stop reading? Many lose interest when they hit the upper grades.

David Wright Sr.
http://home.alltel.net/dwrighsr/index.html
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Do you really mean 'leaden' or 'lead-in'? If 'leaden' then is it a metaphor for something?

I meant "leaden". Perhaps it's out of use over there, but it survives Otherpondly: "made of lead", like "woollen", "wooden", but always or virtually always in a metaphorical sense. In this case opposite of "light" and "bright", of course.

Ok, then I don't get the point.
If you don't agree with the 'map-terrain' or 'map-territory' analogies, then how would you describe language?

By any analogy, I don't know that I could; certainly not in any way which you'd find original or illuminating. ... experience happens, not the experience itself; a terrain is the same for everybody in it, while experience is usually unique.

Yes, indeed, experiences are unique, but the 'real world' is the same for everyone. Everyone, however, abstracts a unique picture from what they perceive the 'real world' to be. That's the point of the 'map' metaphor. They are mapping their internal experience to abstracted aspects of that 'real world' through their senses, and instrumentedly augmented senses.
(snip)
Yep. The best we can do is read them lots of bedtime stories to set the pattern: I've even been known to read a bedtime story to those in their twenties! A great experience to get feminist interruptions from student daughters!

And keep them interested, if possible, after we stop reading to them.

David Wright Sr.
Have you ever stopped to think, and
forgot to start again?
To e-mail me, remove 't' from dwrightsr
(snip)
Yes, indeed, experiences are unique, but the 'real world' is the same for everyone. Everyone, however, abstracts a unique picture ... They are mapping their internal experience to abstracted aspects of that 'real world' through their senses, and instrumentedly augmented senses.

Sorry, that should be 'instrumentally' augmented senses.

David Wright Sr.
Have you ever stopped to think, and
forgot to start again?
To e-mail me, remove 't' from dwrightsr
I meant "leaden". Perhaps it's out of use over there, ... In this case opposite of "light" and "bright", of course.

Ok, then I don't get the point.

Ever heard the old cliche about going over like a lead balloon? The language adverted to is as lively as if it was made of lead. Indeed, you can look upon "leaden" as an antonym of "lively." If even that doesn't work, try looking "leaden" up in a few dictionaries.
As to the prose of the original quotation, I agree with Mike leaden. I'll give the writer this much credit: He did get his point across.

If I may, language is kinda like a set of directions to a given place in the terrain. It picks and chooses those characteristics it wishes to emphasize, while omitting others, and strives to present clearly what it does present. Thus, one might give directions to driver in terms of service stations, or traffic lights, or places where the road widens and narrows, or other such things, or any combination, picking and choosing those that will most easily get the person seeking the directions to the desired destination. Accuracy is important, as is clarity. Tell someone to turn left at the third light when the correct maneuver is to turn left at the second light, and you may send him on a wild goose chase. Say "widdershins" to someone who has no idea what it means, and confusion will result.
Eric Walker's notion of transferring thoughts from writer or speaker to reader or hearer with minimum loss of information also has some value in describing the process, though his applications of it tended on occasion to make one wonder if he was paying attention to himself.

Liebs
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