Re: Tina the Techwriter Reopens the Great Debate

Subject: Re: Tina the Techwriter Reopens the Great Debate
From: oudeis <oudeis -at- tampabay -dot- rr -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2004 09:25:10 -0400

At 10:32 AM 6/11/2004, Sean Hower wrote:

There have been numerous, way too many in fact, linguistic studies on how people speak that include exact transcriptions. These studies demonstrate, even if in a peripheral way, that people rarely speak in complete sentences. Spoken language is riddled with false starts, incomplete sentences, incomplete thoughts in fact, and misuse of prescriptive grammar. (Hense garden path sentences.) You can interpret this in whatever way you want, but, in my opinion, it comes down to just a few causes.

* We structure our speech as we are structuring the thoughts that we are articulating.
* We respond to the reactions of those who are listening to us.
* We are more concerned with communication than grammatical correctness and when a one-word sentence fragment gets the message across, we use it.

Here's a little experiment. Get a tape recorder and record yourself in normal conversation. Or better yet, get someone else to record you when you least expect it, that way you will be caught speaking in your "natural" voice as opposed to your "oh I'm being recorded" voice. I bet you'll be surprised at how ungrammatical you actually are. :-)

As for thoughts, I can't say because I'm not a mind reader, but I bet if the kitchen stove caught fire, you wouldn't be thinking "With what shall I extinguish this fire." Although, maybe you would. ;-)

this is absolutely Spot On. I'm an ethnographer by trade. I have months worth of taped interviews I've transcribed, uhm for uhm, pause for pause.

After interviewing someone for a couple of hours, I'd write my immediate reactions to the field work: what I thought they'd said, ideas for later questioning, theories to pursue, and so forth. Later, I'd sit with the transcription machine and type out what they had actually said. It was fascinating how, sometimes, what I'd thought they'd said, they never said at all--not with words. Everyone, from butchers to the educated elite, spoke in incomplete, grammatically incorrect sentences full of pauses, uhms, ahhs, changes in mid-stream from one thought to a seemingly contradictory one. They'd shift from singular to plural in mid-sentence, dangling modifiers just dangled precipitously--treacherously, even. "You knows" and "likes" and "like, yannos?" were the main stuff of conversation. Oooo. There were also plenty of double negatives and split infinitives. So much so, with all that doubling over and splitting, I would say they were the linguistic equivalents of that guy in Ocean's 11, the one who could contort his body in impressive ways. :)

These were people with private school educations and elite college training. To the ordinary ear, they were well-spoken.



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Re: Tina the Techwriter Reopens the Great Debate: From: Sean Hower

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