Re: Something more to put after the full stop.

Subject: Re: Something more to put after the full stop.
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 23 Jul 2002 20:09:11 -0700

Sean Hower wrote:

it seems that the way you learn to speak in a foreign language class is based on the prescriptive grammar of the language.

My understanding is that the first prescriptive grammars in English during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were written for non-native speakers to learn English.

For this purpose, a prescriptive grammar makes sense. When people are learning a language, the over-simplifications of prescriptive grammar are probably useful; they don't overwhelm the students with complexity, and might give them a greater sense of confidence.

I can also see that the same reasoning might apply to young, native speakers of English who are learning to write.

The problem is, the next step is rarely taken. That is, very few ever learn that what they were taught were over-simplifications. As a result, some English-speakers grow up with a tremendous sense of uncertainty about grammar. Others apply and enforce the over-simplifications rigidly.

Either way, the result is that people are distracted from the main purpose of communication. In fact, people seem more concerned with following the rules and being right than in writing well.They make themselves needlessly anxious, and are often less effective writers than they could be.

To exaggerate just a bit, insisting on writing strictly by the rules is like insisting on writing a novel in which the letter "e" is never used: you can do it, but you reduce your odds of saying anything memorable or useful.

Learning to communicate well in English is a lifelong study all ready. So why handicap yourself further by adhering to arbitrary standards, many of which were set by people who had no love for English and thought it inferior to Latin?

Bruce Byfield bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com 604.421.7177

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re: Something more to put after the full stop.: From: Sean Hower

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