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Autor:  José Roberto
E-mail:  josezambon@merconet.com.br
Data:  16/MAI/2003 1:49 PM
Assunto:  Re: Split infinitive
 
Mensagem:  Dear Pat, You drew the conversation to the point that I really meant at first, passing over the conception of "right" or "wrong" and going to a deeper analysis: You said: " 'told me to not do it' is, I believe, a split infinitive and so probably incorrect." Please take a look at this passage: "Hot linguistic debate often occurs over a number of normative usage rules. One example which leaps instantly to mind is the foolish "one must never split an infinitive." In Lowth's grammar infinitives cannot be split. It is not possible for Lowth because it is not possible in Latin to split an infinitive. Well, of course not. In Latin, an infinitive is one word. However, it is not in English. English infinitives are two words, such as "to split," and there is little logic to keeping them fused together, except that it cannot be done in Latin and Bishop Lowth decided, quite on his own, that English should emulate Latin, and the world followed suit. Thus, one foolish man has made a messy mockery of the rich and dynamic English language. Because of Lowth's erroneous decision, users of English have no end of confusion and difficulty sorting out these illogical rules. With the split infinitive rule the user must struggle to correct what in normal, casual speech might be expressed "I was teaching him to accurately shoot his annoying neighbor," or "I would like you to rapidly run through those crazy grammar rules again." In both of these examples, it is more logically appealing to split the infinitive because the adverb is modifying the core of the infinitive, shoot or run, and to maintain the infinitive by placing the adverb elsewhere disrupts the flow of the modification and decreases its intensity. This is especially true when the adverb is placed before the infinitive, which is where many prescriptivists would assign it, believing it to thus sound more educated. But "rapidly to run," or "accurately to shoot" sounds more affected than it does educated. H. W. Fowler in his Dictionary of Modern English Usage, notes that "the English-speaking world may be divided into (1) those who neither know nor care what a split infinitive is; (2) those who do not know, but care very much; (3) those who know and condemn; (4) those who know and approve; (5) those who know and distinguish....Those who neither know nor care are the vast majority, and are a happy folk, to be envied by most of the minority classes." (579) Fowler was obviously aware of the Latinate models and realized they were inappropriate for English. Additionally, William and Mary Morris in the Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage, explain that since pedantic prescriptivists modeled from Latin, "The pedants reasoned that both elements of an English infinitive should be considered as fused into one--unsplittable and sacrosanct. Only that's not the way English works." (318) Since the infinitive split is generally the preference in speech, prescriptivists have lost ground, and normative usage rules have begun to allow for judgment calls on the part of the writer or speaker as to whether to split an infinitive. This is seen in definitions such as from Mattson, Leshing, and Levi's Help Yourself, A Guide to Writing and Rewriting wherein it states, "As a general rule, to and the verb should be separated...when the separation avoids awkwardness or increases clarity" (372) and The Little, Brown Handbook, 5th Edition states that "A split infinitive may sometimes be natural and preferable, though it may still bother some readers." (312) Strunk and White in their Elements of Style. 3rd Ed. note The split infinitive is another trick of rhetoric in which the ear must be quicker than the handbook. Some infinitives seem to improve upon being split, just as a stick of round stovewood does. "I cannot bring myself to really like the fellow." The sentence is relaxed, the meaning is clear, the violation is harmless and scarcely perceptible. Put the other way, the sentence becomes stiff, needlessly formal. (78) Stilted prescriptivists should especially note H.W. Fowler's observation that "Those upon whom the fear of infinitive-splitting sits heavily should remember that to give conclusive evidence, by distortions, of misconceiving the nature of a split infinitive is far more damaging to their literary pretensions than an actual lapse could be." (580) It would appear that at least some of the Lowth fallacies are being addressed, but if infinitives can break through, why not other illogical or unreasonable forms? On:http://www.newdream.net/~scully/toelw/Lowth.htm Patrick (or any other who wants to) I'd like to hear your opinion about this. I am aware that it is not a good idea to teach a student of a foreign language such rules or enter such a discussion but as native speakers and people who study the language deeply take part in this forum, I want to hear some opinions, as the discussions about future turned out to be quite valuable to me. Please reply José Roberto


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 English Made in Brazil -- English, Portuguese, & contrastive linguistics
Not to do it  –  José Roberto  14/MAI/2003, 2:44 PM
Re: Not to do it  –  Miguel Vieira  14/MAI/2003, 8:40 PM
Re: Not to do it  –  André Oliveira  15/MAI/2003, 12:53 PM
Re: Not to do it  –  Miguel Vieira  15/MAI/2003, 3:03 PM
To Miguel Vieira  –  André Oliveira  15/MAI/2003, 3:39 PM
Re: To Miguel Vieira  –  carmen  15/MAI/2003, 6:18 PM
Re: To Miguel Vieira  –  pat  16/MAI/2003, 7:59 AM
 Re: Split infinitive  –  José Roberto  16/MAI/2003, 1:49 PM
Re: Split infinitive  –  michael robertson  17/MAI/2003, 6:57 PM
Re: To Miguel Vieira  –  Miguel Vieira  16/MAI/2003, 2:32 PM
Re: To Miguel Vieira  –  pat  16/MAI/2003, 3:20 PM

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