LINGUISTICS & CULTURE
|Data:||10/OUT/2003 6:27 AM|
|Assunto:||Re: MODALS - Answer to PAT|
Dear Jose and List-readers
I hope my friends on the list agree that the interesting point is to discuss the way language works, accepting that if the established current of the debate forces us into ‘squadra/teams’ which are diametrically opposed, or seeking to explain to each other concepts which each believes the other cannot appreciate, that that is a result which we do not seek.
I feel sure that in fact, stepping out of the artificial constraints that the descriptionist/prescriptionist dichotomy places upon us, we find a common ground of appreciation of language.
On the descriptionist/prescriptionist spectrum neither of us is at the extreme of the range. We are both able to appreciate that every spectrum implies a large grey area and so recognize the various points in favour of each position – as well as the negative features.
I have entered the debate, apparently, on the descriptionist-side and, as the devil’s advocate, I challenged the (perceived) prevailing orthodoxy by proposing an alternative interpretation.
This involved me in the ignominy of defending a position which is in fact not mine and returns me to the point that our common ground is the pursuit of info/data/viewpoints about language and related stuff because it merits our, and others, interest.
Despite the provocative nature and direct tone of some of my posts I feel that the overall position that I have set out is not a prescriptivist one.
Jose draws our attention to the absurd prescriptivist debate regarding ‘onde/aonde’ in Brazil – this is a classic example of the excesses of prescriptionists and brings to mind a grouping of medieval theologians disputing the number of angels that can stand on a pinhead.
And, as you say, language is complex and in flux, like nature, and can only be described in a way which takes account of this feature - thereby striking a fatal blow to any description (ie prescriptionist) which attempts to pin it down too rigidly
I certainly met English and American/Canadian mother-tongue speakers when I was in Europe teaching English who, like myself, appreciated the fact that they had studied (‘been taught’) Latin at school and lamented the manner in which they had been ill-equipped to account for the patterns in their own language. I can confidently affirm therefore that the phenomenon cannot then be ascribed exclusively to that most isolated and remote nation, Australia.
Thanks for your thoughtful response
This conciliatory and exhausting account has made me realize how much easier it is to simply adopt an opposing position and argue reactively from it.
Enjoy the rugby world cup - good to see teams from Portugal, Uruguay and Argentina here in Sydney
Have a good weekend
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