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Grammar


MillionLiraMan
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Hey there,

It's a subject that comes up from time to time on forums as regards users' adherence to conventions and use of fluent English (or lack of in some cases), but I was just wondering how much attention you pay to your grammar, and does bad grammar really bother you, or do you not care?

 

I thought to start this thread after seeing that Acid Christ had taken an interest in Noam Chomsky, a renowned linguist in generative grammar theory, but several things have made me think about staring this kind of discussion, so that only really provided the final push for me to do it.

 

In fact, one of the bad habits of grammar misuse that I've noticed primarily among Scottish people is the tendency to overuse past simple verb forms in perfect tense situations in place of perfect tense past participles. I'll explain that in plain English. Let's say you want to say 'I go' only in perfect tense rather than present tense. To form the perfect tense, you use 'have' and a past participle. For instance, 'I start' put into perfect tense would be 'I have started'. So, with that in mind, how would you put 'I go' into perfect tense? Have a think about that while I explain this a bit more to any fellow Scots reading this.

 

For those of you in Scotland, or wherever the paper is available, have a look at the Daily Record 'Winner' column in the separate sports section in the middle of the paper. Go to Jim Traynor's column, where the tag line is 'Scotland's voice of authority' (what a joke!). Read the article where he is talking about Ron Atkinson. He talks about Big Ron putting his foot in it, but those aren't his exact words. What he actually says is "he's went and did it now". Think about that - he's went and did it now, meaning 'he has went and did it now'. How can this be "Scotland's voice of authority"?

 

So that's one thing that I find annoying. Of course, "he's went and did it now" should read "he's gone and done it now" as 'went' and 'did' are past simple verb tenses, while 'gone' and 'done' are past participles to be used with perfect (and pluperfect, i.e. 'had gone' or 'had done') tenses. Traynor even said that "he's went and did it now" would be something Atkinson might say himself. No he wouldn't, because although he might be racist, and might even be an idiot, he at least knows the difference between 'went' and 'gone' or 'did' and 'done'.

 

Everyone makes typing mistakes, I certainly do, so I think you have to cut people some slack having said all of the above. Also, if foreigners make mistakes with the language, I hardly think that's anything to hold against them as long as they're making an effort. However, this trend is something I've noticed among Scots - someone said "he's went" during a football match a couple of weeks or so ago (can't remember who it was now), Aiden McGeady after the Celtic game yesterday said "he's became", while the worst exponent of bad grammar has to be Charlie Nicholas. He has had some real classics. 'It wasnae as good as what he did' - he said that maybe a couple of years ago and that has always stuck in my mind, plus it's more comedy with Charlie Nick than something at which to get annoyed. He went through a phase of that sort back then where virtually every week he would say 'what' where either it would be more correct to leave it out or where the correct word would be 'that'. Geordies do the latter a lot - 'the thing what I found', 'the shopping what I've bought', although strangely enough never 'the grammar what I've learned'!

 

Another thing Scots and Geordies tend to say on occasion as well is 'brung' instead of 'brought'. How did this 'word' come into existence? I await with trepidation the day when someone combines the whole thing to form a sentence like "he's went and drank the tea what I brung".

 

The worst thing about bad grammar in my view, however, is something far less trivial than those minor points, which is the infringement of 'text' language into English. I really worry about how future genrations will actually communicate, as the way things are going it seems unlikely that there will actually continue to be any coherent English language in the not too distant future. First of all, the word is spelt 'you'. It has three letters, not one. The one that really annoys me though, is when people apparenty don't realise that 'another' isn't written with a 'v'. Although the supposed logic of abbreviating words in text language is to save time, it only serves to make them indecipherable. If people wrote in proper English, things would be understood, and subsequently done, much quicker. When Prince started writing song titles in that style over twenty years ago it had a novelty value to it, but wasn't supposed to be considered the most logical form of written communication, because you had to think about it and work out what it said. Why, now, is it supposed to be normal?

 

This doesn't just happen in English, to be fair. In Spanish it happens, where 'por' has become 'x' and 'qué'/'que' has become 'q', with the result that 'porque' (meaning 'because') is texted as 'xq'! Pupils at schools write this on pieces of work - this has even happened with work that students have shown me to mark! I'm the bloody foreigner, don't you think you could cut me some slack? No, because you haven't mastered how to write your own language. The same thing is happening here in Britain. I've heard of teachers complaining of pupils writing 'u' instead of 'you' in exams among other things. How can this be happening?

 

That's enough ranting from me anyway. What do you think? Have we gone into the linguistic shitter, or do you think things are OK as they are? If not, what can be done about it? Tell us!

Edited by MillionLiraMan
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I used to think I had pretty good grammar till I started reading some of your posts MLM!

 

Obviously if you're younger you can't be expected to be perfect Nic! However, the fact that Charlie Nicholas communicates in the way he does (sorry, communicates in the way what he does!) when he should know better is quite surprising to me. Also, this Traynor guy is a newspaper columnist, what sort of message does that send to Scots when he publishes "he's went and did it"?

 

The text thing annoys me because I think it appeals more to younger people, who wish to use it all the time rather than learn more 'difficult' grammar and spelling, which in turn means that when they become older they won't have learned proper spelling, grammar and punctuation skills. Eventually the day could come when the head of a multinational starts off a business letter with 'wot r u up 2'. In the U.S. they've already suffered enough at the hands of a vice president who used to spell 'potato' with an 'e' on the end.

Edited by MillionLiraMan
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Yup, MLM has covered everything in this particular area that I feel is noteworthy.

 

I bet I'd surprise a few people with the way I talk, opposed to the way I type. I'd like to think that people do associate me with good spelling and grammar, and I do try to make an effort in every post to get things right. Being born, and living for the first few years of my life in the West of Scotland has had an extremely detrimental effect on the way that I speak, and I rarely speak a sentence without starting it with "Haw", "Bytheway" or "Awright troops, whit's the Hampden Roar?".

 

You could say that under my ned-ish exterior beats the heart of an English teacher. Myself and Dean Douglas used to spend most of our time in the TWO chatroom discussing how we were the only people bothered enough to make sure we spelled everything right, and used the correct grammar and punctuation.

 

These days, as MLM pointed out, text speak is taking over the world and pissing on the English language. I can't stand how people are so keen to get their messages across that they don't care how they look, and how people are supposed to interpret them. I have a feeling that in the office of tommorrow, I'm going to be the only one pressing F7 in MS Word 2030.

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Choosing to quicken the speed at getting your message across makes you un-educated? Hmm ok, I use "text talk" in text messages to save time and leave room for more things to say, but on forums where I'm open to interpretation by the way I type I try to use all the right grammar, does that make me uneducated?

 

Text talk should be saved just for conversations with friends on MSN or through texts though, there's no need for it on a forum.

 

Also seeing my maths teacher write about the "area's" of shapes is ****ing annoying, that's just being too retarded to not know when and where apostrophes are needed though.

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As I was saying elsewhere... it seems to me that maybe I was lucky in my education; maybe going to a total of eight schools made me remember things a little easier. It's always seemed natural to make an effort in my speech and writing. I don't spell check when I'm on the forums as it doesn't seem necessary - there are few words that I'm really unsure of (necessary being one of them, I always do a double-take when I type that).

 

Text-talk is a pain in the behind. I can't stand receiving a message that I have to spend ten minutes trying to decipher. I also have a habit of reading things how they're written so "THX" is pronounced "THICKS", "UR" is "URRR" (not yoo-arr) &c.

 

I make a point of using complete words and proper punctuation in my text messages. This is especially important in texting a girl you've just started seeing (I'm speaking from my current experience in this case). Shades of meaning don't come across well in a badly-written or punctuated text message. An exclamation mark or a pair of brackets can make all the difference.

 

On the forums, spelling doesn't bother me in a huge way. If someone can't spell a particular word or mis-typed then who cares? It's an unedited medium. However, I do take offence at people who seem unable to use paragraphs, full-stops, the <shift> key to capitalise (or <Caps Lock> to stop themselves SHOUTING) - this is just laziness and shows a certain lack of respect for your fellow users. Luckily, at TWO, this is the exception and certainly not the norm.

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Just to make a point, if someone has learning difficulties like dyslexia or typing difficulties, I don't think it's fair to jump on them about grammar or that sort of thing. My main gripe was really that wth text language becoming so widespread in any circumstances these days, my concern is that future generations, learning difficulties or not, won't even attempt to master basic English spelling, grammar and punctuation. My experience is that people with dyslexia or other genuine learning obstacles which can't be helped tend to make more of an effort to get things right and are encouraged to do so, so much so that much of the time I really don't notice it, especially when people who don't have any such problems don't make the same effort and end up with a far worse command of grammar and spelling.

 

I'm like AC in that I always attempt to type in proper English when using text messages. Most of my friends do the same, so I suppose I'm kind of fortunate that way in that I don't have to decipher gibberish very often. Even so, I can accept text language in a text, even though I don't really do it myself, it's just the fact that it seems to be everywhere that I find annoying and worrying, since it suggests that the whole planet is becoming that little bit less intelligent.

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MLM - you are so right :thumbsup :worship I have a hell of a time reading what some people have written sometimes, both on here and on other forums I visit.

 

With regard to text talk - guilty as charged when sending text messages, but that's because I'm trying to fit as much in as possible in a limited number of characters. There's no real reason to use text talk (txt tlk - ick :evil) online when everyone else is typing stuff out proper like :P

 

Bad spelling, fair enough, if someone is in a rush, then they may make the occasional typo - can't count how many I've already made in this alone but I correct it before pressing the post reply button. Lack of capitalisation, fair enough, again you might be in a hurry. Fair play to people with dyslexia or who don't speak English as a first language but are making the effort. But just being lazy is plain...lazy, I guess!

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I HATE text language. Hate it with a passion. I am also one of the subscribers to writing out text messages in full, coherant sentences, with correct punctuation and capital letters. Only if what I have written goes over the 160 character limit on a text message do I go back and edit it, changing my "you"'s to "u"'s and such-like.

 

My big, fat dorky problem though is that I am passionate about correct English, not so much that I go around correcting people, that's what's called "being an arsehole", but I love the complexities and massive regional differenciation that English has, especially in Great Britain.

 

I studied English Language and Linguistics at Masters level and my thesis was on "Regional Variation and the Evolution of Language". MLM with reagards to your point on the Scottish, and Charlie Nicholas in particuar, there are two schools of thought.

 

1. They are not speaking proper English

 

2. English is evolving, they're speaking English, alright, just not Recieved Pronounciation. Regional differences form dialectical differences, dialectical differences form pidgen differences, pidgen differences form creolic differences, creolic differences form resentment.

 

Just because a form of English has evolved away from Received Pronounciation, doesn't make it wrong. English is a language, language isn't English. They can understand each other clearly, this consitutes a language. Just like Spanish, French or German, maybe we could learn it instead of labelling it "wrong".

 

I do follow your train of thought, however, that this shouldn't be printed in a newspaper. Perhaps a bit more editing should have been done. Just because this peculiar Scottish breed of English is/may be evolving, it hasn't been recognised as "English" just yet. It's still a dialectical difference.

 

Cheers!

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The Scottish form of English is still English, just with a few differences, just as the Geordie form of English, or the Yorkshire form.

 

Even in Scotland, there's vast diferences in the way English is used - Aberdeen is a universe unto itself, parts of Edinburgh are practically in the dark ages, and even where my dad is from, Stranraer, they speak in a weird Irish/Scottish/English hybrid.

 

It does annoy me when I see 'txt' language posts in forums, and it's got to the point that I just delete questions from the Guru questions that I have to spend more than 5 seconds trying to decipher.

 

Yet, when I say this on some forums, I get accused of being stuck up and the like... meh. I can live with it.

 

As with Russ, my speaking accent bears no relation to the way I write... thankfully for you reading peeps :)

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Boyo, what a great post. When you make the point about dialectic differences, however, I'm not sure whether to say that you are right, or that you are wrong, or that you are wrong now but will be right! The main reason for my criticism of the examples I gave was that the people to whom I referred were media or press journalists, or other people addressing the nation on television. At that level it's not a question of speaking with received pronunciation, but speaking generally acceptable English. For instance, if you wanted to phone your bank and a Jamaican answered your call, you wouldn't expect them to use their thickest creole dialect when dealing with your enquiry. You seem to agree with the basic principle of that though, as you say, you shouldn't see "he's went and did it" printed in a national newspaper.

 

As you also say, correcting people in general conversation can be a bit much, and can rather be an example of the person doing the correcting acting like a sanctimonious arsehole rather than being helpful. This was something I found difficult to do even while teaching abroad. When people make a genuine effort or communicate in a reasonable way, you don't want to say to them that they should have said or written a phrase differently, since it makes you look pedantic and excessively judgemental. However, for a thread like this I thought it was worth mentioning a few things of gramatically deviant (if you'll pardon the expression) nature, just to make people think about them. Schooling and education should teach people correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, not people in everyday situations. However, it is sometimes worth mentioning the subject, especially when speaking out against filthy text 'language'.

 

As regards the aspect that I mentioned about Scottish deviance from the perceived ways of using past simple tenses and past participles (the did/done/went/gone discussion), it is something I've noticed in the instances I've mentioned but not something of which I'm aware as being widespread enough to be labelled a dialectic difference. I have noticed it among some Scots in particular, just like I have noticed some characteristics as being typical of Geordies, because those are the regions of Britain that I know and with which I associate. It may well be more widespread than that. Personally I've noticed it creeping into Scots' speech patterns more often recently than before, but I don't know that it is such a popular thing, hence why I think it's something we should attempt to curb now if we can. People who will say "we've went there" or "we done it" often come to say the phrase on other occasions in the correct forms "we went there"/"we've been there" or "we did it"/"we've done it". It seems more like a case of not having a clear form, whether deviant or according to the norm, rather than it being a conscious and consistent regional variation.

 

On the evolution of language, if you look back at previous generations of English speakers (as I'm sure you must have done Boyo), you can occasionally notice certain variations or deviances which were present then but are not present now, variations which perhaps may have been recently introduced but which didn't catch on with people enough to be sustained. There was a case of this I remember having seen in an English literature class some time ago, although now I can't remember what the word was. It looked so odd, but was apparently fashionable among the élite classes at the time. Within about twenty years or so it was no longer used.

 

However, the evolution of language, as you point out, is one reason why we shouldn't get too wound up over minor things, as languages develop and evolve no matter how much people try to preserve them. This has been the case if you look further back in the development of English. In Tudor times in England, for instance, the word 'divers' (as it was spelt at that time) was used to mean 'several' or 'many'. Nowadays, however, the evolved modern word 'diverse' has a different meaning, along the lines of 'various' or 'different', which isn't the same as 'several' or 'many'. Even the word 'English' was actually written as 'Englyshe' at that time.

 

Spanish also has a particularly good example of evolution. By the later Middle Ages the forms of address 'vuestra merced' and 'vuestras mercedes' were created to distinguish between formal and informal manners of address for saying 'you', as both forms had merged over time and no distinction was made between the two outside of recognising the context of a phrase. Through deviance from norms and corruption of the forms over time, nowadays those forms are 'usted' and 'ustedes'. In fact these forms of address are often abbreviated in letters and correspondance, but you can still find many examples (it's still very common) where the abbreviated form is given as 'Vd' or 'Vds'. These abbreviations come from the previous variations 'vusted' and 'vustedes', before the 'v' was dropped in favour of the present forms.

 

I also agree with Tony, and Russ before him, that spoken English and written English constitute two different things entirely. Scottish is certainly no unified dialect. I got a personal kick out of when Tony said "Aberdeen is a universe unto itself" - I remember my father watching a business video in a meeting and a sheep farmer from Aberdeen coming on and talking in the broadest Aberdonian dialect. Everyone else looked at my father (who is from Edinburgh) as if he was supposed to know what the guy had said - no-one else understood it! Of course, my father didn't have a clue what the guy had said either, and had to remind some people that just because he is from the same country, that doesn't mean that he should be able to follow everything anyone from any region there says. That's like expecting any Englishman to understand the heaviest Dudley dialect, or any Spaniard to understand the broadest spoken Andalusian. My own speech patterns depend upon to whom I'm speaking and how sober I am, but even so, you have try to make yourself as clear as people listening to you will require you to be.

 

The moral of the thread, I think, should be that regional variations and dialectic differences can be markers of cultural identity or diversity. However, horrible misuse of aspects of language when it isn't an accepted regionalism or developing trait, along with the disgusting overuse of text language which isn't misuse or variation of aspects of language but in fact misuse of the language as a whole, are more markers of poor education and lack of intelligence. Do you really want future generations of your family to grow up in a ned culture, with a ned-like command of the English language? If the answer is no, which it should be, then this at least is something which we can attempt to prevent ourselves, with just a little bit more of a collective effort.

Edited by MillionLiraMan
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MLM, great post.

 

The most difficult thing in the world of Linguistics (perhaps ever) is to collectively preserve a language we speak. I have no doubts that when push comes to shove, you can speak in as good English as you write! You are aware of language, aware of the value of it and enjoy using it, you don't take it for granted; one of the main reasons why you want to hold on to this English you speak.

 

When I say "this English" I mean, the words you use (mainly in speech, as written English is far easier to preserve), the context in which you use them, the meanings they have and double-entendres they may contain (and not just smutty ones!).

 

Try as you might, in ten years time, you'll be speaking a different English, it will still be grammatically correct, but you will use the same words to mean different things. The most common example is "bad" meaning "bad", then "bad" meaning "good". And how many phrases can you think of that refer to money? My point is, evolution is unstoppable, even to the most linguistically aware.

 

With regards to the Scottish speak you are referring to, I could not be more in concurance that "he's went..." should never be seen in print. It's an abhorrant misuse of English, and does not deserve to be in print.

 

However, language is more powerful than us, more powerful than any computer. Language is a juggernaut. To some people, language is the best disease ever: as soon as you pin it down, it mutates into something else. What constitutes language? Words written or spoken that two or more people can understand. That's all. And this is where it gets muddy.

 

If you have read Charlie Nicholas' article in the paper, despite your reservations about it, and you have understood what he is saying, does that make you bilingual? You can speak, and understand in print, two languages. And Charlie Nicholas clearly speaks another language!

 

However it's too close to English to be called another "language", so it gets called something else. A dialect? No. A creole? No. A difference? Yes. So if what Charlie Nicholas writes is not a dialect of English, or a creole derived from English, but is just different from standard written English, does it make it bad English? No. Does it make it wrong English? Yes. In other words, it shouldn't be in print. Yet.

 

I can't really add to anything with reference to your Spanish argument, I don't know anything about it.

 

I had loads of Tudor, Elizabethan and Norman references and word changes, but I can't think of anything relevant right now. The only thing I can add is that some linguist found out that there is only one insult that you can call a man which actually insults a man, the rest insult a woman in some way, such is/was the profound sexism in language. That word is "wanker", by the way. Pretty much every other insult mocks a female in some way.

 

Cheers!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I can think of a few that insult men mate, and that one could be applied to women easily enough. But anyway....

 

Sorry to bring this topic up again, but I just want to say that bad use of language is one thing, but will everyone stop with the damned text talk!!!! Use punctuation, anyone remember full stops and capital letters? I'm dyslexic and don't need to open a page to be confronted with " i fink u r wrong austin is da best in wwe ". If you cannot be bothered to write out in English then please find a different forum, or in your language- if u cnt b boverd 2 write english then bog off.

 

Sorry about that everyone, its just more and more people are text talking. I will start reporting text talk posts, petty yes, but I'm fed up.

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