Language Standards for Situation

Grammar is self-standing, the specifics of it not really based on anything except for tradition and the ideas of people long ago. It reminds me of societal customs that have kind of just hung around, outliving their original purpose (Christmas Trees).

A thing’s origin need not dictate its current function.

The idea that English is spoken incorrectly or used wrong (view any internet comment section for examples of people complaining about “wrong English”) comes from perspective that English shouldn’t change or adapt. Many of these traditions go back to a man named Robert Lowth, who wrote about the language while English was still just one of many European languages of Europe. Lowth wanted to document and exhibit the structure of English.

Latin was kind of the standard form of language at the time Lowth wrote (and even until 1928 it was the most commonly taught foreign language in schools). He imposed some of the characteristics of Latin onto English, uncovering some false structure about English that simply was not there (the dangers of looking to standards, I guess). One example characteristic that he imposed on English is the idea that we cannot end a sentence in a preposition – an idea that really has no purpose. It reminds me of the time I once received feedback on a paper from a professor about this, quoting that Churchill line about prepositions – I got a great mark and he posted no other comments, so I didn’t bother pointing out to the prof that Churchill was actually making fun of this grammar ‘rule’, and not supporting it.

In Lowth’s time there was a major difference between written language (formal) and spoken, everyday language (practical), perhaps more than our current world. I wonder if this division will become more pronounced in the near future – not so much the formality of the distinctions, but the gap. The once formality of written languages has expanded to include a large variety of styles. This seems to have exploded since electronic text and connective technology has developed and visual language is becoming more like spoken languages that surrounds rather than directs. And, perhaps we’ve moved beyond language standards, and simply need to better look at situations contextual language cues.

Link to the first post in this series is here.

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