language change

The jumbled-up conditional, er, modals

Tweet My French textbook, French Reference Grammar (1993), has an index entry for the “conditional,” and in the section devoted to it, calls it “the mood of verbs tied to a condition.” My Greek grammar, Greek: A Comprehensive Grammar of the Modern Language (1997) also has a section on the conditional mood. My English grammar, […]

Find the Subject and Verb – “this” and “there” developments

Tweet In previous posts I wrote about Subject-Verb mismatches when a clause intervenes, and when a prepositional phrase intervenes. There is another, perhaps more pernicious, form of mismatching, the There is malformation.  This has become widespread not only in my students’ papers, but on television, in political speeches, and in print articles. Here are some examples […]

Find the Subject and Verb – Prepositional Phrase intervening

Tweet Several previous posts have discussed grammatical problems occurring in my classes this past semester. In the previous post, I discussed mismatched Subjects and Verbs when a clause intervened. This post addresses a similar error pattern, only this time the intervening language consists of prepositional phrases. Here are some examples from my students’ papers: The effects [of […]

Find the Subject and Verb – Clause intervening

Tweet As discussed in a previous post, students have not been prepared in high school to identify the Subject and Verb of a sentence. The argument against teaching grammar is that we need no tutoring to create comprehensible sentences, unless there is some mental dysfunction. Volumes could be written about that contention, and I will not […]

Text messages and language change

Tweet Imagine what a Shakespearean era mom would think of the way we speak today. Moms from a couple of hundred years before that would have been appalled at the way Shakespeare spoke. Language is always changing, sometimes slowly, but always inexorably. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that researchers in Canada and Belgium are studying text […]

Whence English?

Tweet Perhaps you have heard of “World English.” This is not a single language, but a concatenation of versions of English, as spoken in America, England, Australia, southern Africa, the Caribbean, India, Pakistan and neighbors, Hong Kong, Belize — all over the world.  Each version is different in vocabulary, accent, and sometimes in syntax. Standard […]

Language Controversies

Tweet Language seems benign – don’t swear in front of your grandmother, don’t shout “fire” in a crowded theatre, and you’re okay. There are, however, many inflammatory issues which intimately involve language and here are a few. Controversy One:  The New York City Council once debated whether to ban the words, “bitch, “whore,” and “nigger,” […]

Steven Pinker Interview

Tweet An interview with Steven Pinker on the nature of language, and the window it provides into the human psyche and mind, is available on The New York times website.  It would be an interesting short video to show to classes.

The End of English?

Tweet Below is a comment I sent in response to a post on Professor Dennis Baron’s ever-interesting blog, The Web of Language. In this post, he suggests that English may be on its way out.  It’s a bit far-fetched at this moment, at our apogee (or slightly post-apogee), but worth considering.  The level of discourse, […]

Creating new languages

Tweet From time to time, new languages develop in response to local needs.  For example, a deaf sign language was developed in Central America by a small community which was isolated from other deaf communities. A new kind of sign language is developing in the Occupy protests.  To read about it, here is the link: […]