Introvert pedants?

Bridging the Unbridgeable

Robin Queen and Julie Boland, both from the University of Michigan, recently conducted a study on attitudes towards spelling variation, which has now been picked up by The Guardian. What they call “typos” and “grammos” are errors everyone has come across when using the internet and computer-mediated communication. Numerous internet memes illustrate computer users’ outrage about spelling mistakes such as the one below.

 While typos are errors Queen and Boland link to keyboarding issues, such as spelling <the> as <teh>, grammos constitute “traditional peever errors that are only relevant in written language”. Thus, a grammo would be the use of to instead of too, for example. Typos are often considered simple mistakes caused by carelessness and rushed typing. Grammos, on the other hand, seem to be evaluated more harshly and to affect the writer’s personality, as the writer’s abilities and knowledge are questioned. Queen and Boland sought to…

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Continuing the usage game

Bridging the Unbridgeable

On our blog, we often report on current developments in the usage debate, bits and pieces of our research findings and also new publications of usage guides. Being a true book addict, I would like to share two of the most recent additions not only to my own personal library but also to the stock of books dealing with the usage debate.

may i quoteThe first book is most probably the latest usage guide available at the moment. May I quote you on that? A Guide to Grammar and Usage was published in late 2015 and written by Stephen Spector, a member of the English Faculty of Stony Brook University. His take on English grammar and usage is quite refreshing as he takes a rather descriptive approach to the usage debate, but does not eschew providing his readers with rules of Standard English to follow. What makes this usage guide…

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Blaming the media?

Bridging the Unbridgeable

As part of our interactive feature series in English Today, the latest and ninth article has been published today in which I discuss attitudes towards the role of the media in language variation and change.

In my online questionnaire, I asked informants in Great Britain what they thought of the current state of English and obtained more than 170 answers to this rather general question. Clearly not all of them denounced that the end of English is nigh, but I decided to focus on answers containing a negative outlook on the development of English. I was particularly interested in the numerous answers by informants putting the blame for the alleged doom of the language on the media.

Since I would like to investigate this issue further, I launched a survey last December asking for your opinion on this matter. The survey was designed with UK media in mind, which is…

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Try and, only, split infinitives, dangling participle

Bridging the Unbridgeable

What do these features have in common? That is something Carmen Ebner and I are going to figure out in the article we are writing for the online Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics. For this article, we decided to focus on these four usage problems (selected from among the 55 items in Mittins et al.’s Attitudes to English Usage, 1970). My reason for choosing try and may be found elsewhere in this blog, and the placement of only was part of a very early survey I did in the course of the Bridging the Unbridgeable project. Carmen has been interested in the split infinitive from the beginning of her research project (it is a really good example to show how prescriptivsm works or doesn’t work, and there are several posts in this blog that deal with split infinitives). Carmen’s interest in the dangling participle is particularly clear from…

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Please help us with our usage polls!

Bridging the Unbridgeable

If you can spare us a little of your time, and if you haven’t done so already, please take our fifth usage poll. If you do so, we will be able to study the difference in acceptability compared between when Mittins et al. first did the survey in the late 1960s and today. We’ve had a reasonable amount of response for the other surveys, but not for this one. Even lower results were found for usage poll 7. And perhaps, though this would be asking a lot of you, we know, usage polls 8, 9 and 10 as well? Five sentences in each poll only! For the full list, look here in the banner. Thank you very much indeed.

Mittins

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Key player media?

Since I am particularly interested in the media’s role in the later stages of the standardisation process of English, I would like to invite you to participate in a brief survey which also serves as a starting point for a bigger investigation of this subject matter.

The aim of this survey is to identify current attitudes towards the language use of the media. While the majority of questions deals with traditional print media in Great Britain, especially national daily newspapers, a few general questions involve also broadcast media (TV and radio) and digital media (Twitter, blogs, etc.).  The survey, which will take roughly 10 minutes, is available here and your participation is, of course, anonymous and highly appreciated.

 

 

He said, she said or he admitted, she boasted?

Bridging the Unbridgeable

What is wrong with the word said? Personally, I do have nothing against this very useful verb. But as it turns out, some teachers in the US are actively encouraging their students to not make use of it.

sc-9780545083034_lGabriel Roth describes this trend in his Lexicon Valley blog post “Teachers! Please Do Not Make Your Students Use Synonyms for Said,” I Blurted and states examples of teachers including said on lists of banned words or providing pupils with lists of alternatives to use instead. One of the leading proponents of this trend is Leilen Shelton, middle school teacher and author of the book Banishing Boring Words which displays a school boy thinking of words to use instead of said on its cover.  According to Roth, the problem lies in the application of this banning-said approach. While finding useful synonyms and enriching the pupils’ vocabulary are sensible objectives, Roth cautions against…

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