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9 December: Life after HUGE? Registration now open

Check out our programme for the “Life after HUGE” Symposium! Registration is now open.

Bridging the Unbridgeable

Below, you will find the preliminary programme for the symposium Life after HUGE? which will be held on 9 December at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics. Registration is now open, and you may do so either by leaving a comment to this message or by sending an email to Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade (i.m.tieken@hum.leidenuniv.nl). There will be no fee for the conference, so we hope to see as many of you as are interested in the topic.

Symposium: Life after HUGE?

Speakers:

Rebecca Gowers, “Another One?”

Why I wanted to write Horrible Words. What I thought I was after. Certain ways in which I know the book failed. Other ways in which I hope it modestly succeeded. How some of the responsibility for all this can be laid at the feet of Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade, her colleagues and various of her PhD students. An undertaking never to…

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9 December: Save The Date!

Bridging the Unbridgeable

On 9 December 2016, the Bridging the Unbridgeable project will organise a usage guides symposium at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics. Speakers will include Rebecca Gowers (author of the revised edition of Plain Words and of the recently published Horrible Words), Oliver Kamm (author of Accidence will Happen), Harry Ritchie (author of English for the Natives) as well as the members of the project, including Robin Straaijer (who recently published a review of the 4th edition of Fowler’s Modern English Usage by Jeremy Butterfield). Further details about how to register for the symposium will follow soon.

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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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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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And then there were 4

Bridging the Unbridgeable

After Grammar Girl’s Top 10 Grammar Myths in 2010 and the Guardian’s 10 grammar rules you can forget three years later, linguist and author Arika Okrent joins the usage problem shortlisting club with her 4 Fake Grammar Rules You Don’t Need to Worry About.

Having read quite a substantial amount about usage problems and debunked grammar myths in the past three years, I have become somewhat used to seeing those so-called old-chestnuts pop up every now and again and being declared no longer problematic. Do not worry about the split infinitive! It’s okay to say to boldly go. This is the sort of English up with which you will not put. No wait. You will not put up with.

While the split infinitive rule and the rule against preposition stranding can be found on all three lists, Okrent debunks two further, so far excluded myths on her list which attracted my attention…

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