April 21, 2013
March 28, 2013
The disclaimer: the adjacent — colored meaningfully yellow — graphic piffle is not intended to mean the Union Jack proper. It is the British grammar nazis logo on Facebook.
Now, I can go on about meaning generally, like the meaning of life. Some guys would be as void of any semantics, as to be afraid of living without a kink. This inherent emptiness, which might be related to the inner speech deficiency characteristic in people of severe literacy impediments, would result in abreaction on the computer screen. The Facebook grammar nazis meet all the criteria for the deep intellective handicap sketched on here.
Naturally, for the functionally illiterate, there is still the verbal tradition, and the spoken lore has a lot on British losses in WWII, Hitler’s miserable linguistic stand, as well as his crude intonation many people would not pay a cent to hear. There is no sense to bring these up, therefore. In case, one can go BBC archives and mind to have the subtitles off, should they suggest the frustrating written language reality.
The literate may agree that Hitler does not deserve admiration as a strategist. Germany might have gotten away — as long as the various Chamberlains of Europe stayed at power — with the invasions on the Austrian, the Czech, as well as Poland and Alsace. Arguments that he had to turn the military power somewhere cannot stand a look at a map of Europe. Attacking Russia and England, as well as getting America involved, Hitler made way for the ruin, poverty, and partition that Germany had to face after the war. The madness of the WWII genocide obviously could not get along with any literary pursuit, either. So much for Hitler, the meaning of life, and intellect. Let me focus on the statistics for the handicap.
The site has about 50 K ‘likes’. Taking the British population alone — and the ‘likes’ could have come from various sympathizers, empathizers and other similars — that would make the maximum of 50 thousand functionally illiterate among about 63 million people. Some might say it’s not so bad, it’s not even 1 per cent. This is fundamentally not my business, as I am not staying in England or planning to go there. Whoever yet would, you’d better think when literacy might be necessary.
Sure you anyway need to resemble your passport photo, and you can get a taxi waving your hand. Shopping, you needn’t worry about anyone’s ability to read labels, as products have bar codes. In hotels, you always remember to tick all relevant boxes and, at least theoretically, you can try hanging your jogging hat on the doorknob to get some peace and quiet. However, when it comes to mailing letters, get the recorded: they have ID strips. If seeking directions with a map, approach people with newspapers: there are odds they can read them. Never ever leave your books or papers, especially open: they might be taken for other utilities.
So much for the handicap statistics. The human ‘specimens’ exhibiting the symptoms are not of my interest as lacking individuality by choice. Important: a search for ‘American grammar nazis’ threw up more or less nothing, and there ain’t the piffle — cheered me up.
Feel welcome to visit my grammar grapevine
and my grammar web log
September 10, 2011
There is not grammar without a mind. There is no mind without reckoning about ‘where’, ‘when’, and ‘how’.
‘Jill is a reedy yet energetic figure, her rebellious and dark, almost black hair flying in the September Paris wind. Jill is a very resolute person, one to walk big steps and breathe deep.’
‘But the large apron knotted on his left hip in a kind of – Jill has never been sure – stevedore or half hitch, you could think he is some athlete, here for a plate of Mussels à la Marinière himself.’
‘ Madame Règle is not a systematic person at all. The only regularity about her would be the two or three books she always carries fastened to her bag with a scarf or, actually, a variety of scarves of many colors and fabrics. That is, the books are not the same books every day, and the choice of the scarf sure depends on some totally unpredictable factor, just like the exact time for lunch, for which you have to assume the broad time frame of about sixty minutes to commence, or not happen altogether.’
‘ There is an anecdote associated with Benjamin Franklin about a man who asked a smith to make his ax especially sharp and ended up turning the grindstone himself. Jill is a grindstone to turn about good food. There is no telling her that good food could be bad and she likes French cuisine.’
‘ Would our egos stay on our cognitive maps for our hearts and minds?’ Travelers Part Two Preview pages 1-34
The work is registered for the ISBN, yet it is still a project.
Feel welcome to visit my grammar web log, http://travelingrammar.wordpress.com/
August 27, 2011
Hat tricks take producing objects from hats. With some theories on language, it seems that these objects could be pinballs, odd spoons, or… even God. Everyone may know about the highly unenviable problems that Adam and Eve had with their garment. Looking to Fred Walter Householder ‘God’s truth linguistics’, one may feel like the forbidden fruit might become language – that for the sake of some yet unknown higher authority.
Metaphysics of linguistics may not become the admirable Crichton to me, not only for the Crichton’s ill fame with epigrams. The simple fact is that ideologies to attempt to build beyond language might turn out intellectually unsatisfactory with regard to basics such as the vertical and horizontal planes cognition (please feel welcome to see my ‘Metaphysics as in this real world’).
This unsatisfactory stand happens to be presented in Language and Ideology: Theoretical cognitive approaches by By René Dirven, Bruce Wayne Hawkins, Esra Sandikcioglu:
‘On the metaphysics of linguistics there are two extreme positions, which may be termed (and have been) the “God’s truth” position and the “hocus pocus” position’. The truth of the “God’s truth” linguists […] is that a language has a structure, and the job of a linguist is (a) to find out what that structure is, and (b) to describe it as clearly, economically, and elegantly as he can, without at any point obscuring the God’s truth structure of the language. The “hocus pocus” linguist believes (or professes to believe – words and behavior are not always in harmony) that language is a mass of incoherent, formless data, and the job of the linguist is somehow to arrange and organize this mass, imposing on it some sort of structure (which must not, of course, be in any striking or obvious conflict with anything in the data).’
You might venture watching a black-and-white television program or movie and arguing that the sky is blue. You’d have to make an assumption, however. I am a linguist and I have specialized in psycholinguistics. I do not have any ‘God’s truth’ approach and I will never care to become a ‘hocus pocus’ dummy. Dualist approaches cannot explain language itself (feel welcome to see my post). Therefore, dualism (‘God’s truth’ or ‘hocus pocus’, just as well, black-or-white) may not provide for any meta-structure to clarify on speech and tongue. I could not be the only person to know this and not mind the Technicolor.
The dualism would be more indicative psychologically and socially. The humanities (and not only the humanities) have had hundreds of years of a more or less behaviorist background. Opposition to it, which psycholinguistics has been, seems to have spurred some to a kind of ‘warfare by attribution’. Psycholinguistics happens to be really effective in language learning, teaching, and remedial. The unfair competition practice would be to try another area of human activity (religion, in this case) in order to give one trouble. ‘Your language thing works, so you be either some “God’s truth phenomenon” or assume an inferior status of a linguist having language for quagmire or hodgepodge’ – would be actually the message. The so-called ‘God’s syndrome’ may never become my special (why not any other figure, like Hammurabi? ;)). Both the labels – ‘God’s truth’ and ‘hocus pocus’ – would belong with social exclusion. Nope, no love lost. I do not need intimacy with competition.
Well then, metaphysical attitudes would be much of trying hat tricks themselves. With two options only, which would be the truth – the pinball or the spoon?
The strangest thing I have ever read about psycholinguistics so far would be coming from a presentation as by Professor Dr. Neal R. Norrick from the Saarland University Lecture on history of linguistics. Obviously, the context remains open, taken this world’s peculiarity…
(I have e-mailed the Saarland University about my reference here).
You’re welcome to see my grammar project, http://travelingrammar.wordpress.com/. It is absolutely not any ‘God’s truth’ or ‘hocus pocus’. It is a working idea by a woman – ‘Language and Ideology’ as quoted above would recognize mostly male linguists. Browsing the book gives 70 occurrences for the pronoun ‘he’, 14 for ‘she’, and 4 for ‘he or she’, the only reference for the ‘he or she’ being to a salesperson figure. Again, no love lost.
Please feel welcome to see my defended language thesis
my poetry corner
my scribbling site
or my other WordPress posts; they are listed at
July 6, 2011
Grammatical and correct, say ye ‘Is this a lie?’ – them scholars tell you at school. You could say ‘Ain’t no real’ after the class. The phrase ‘if I were you’ happens to precede advice of worst of qualities. Could be that the one with the counsel knows he or she is not another person. One feels different about saying ‘if I were in your shoes’.
The Conditional has been criticized and disputed. It yet may help in language learning and teaching as a label. More, students usually compare the guidance they can get, and the Conditional is a real chapter title in quite a number of grammar books. Naturally, we do not need to think about conditioning to talk about the Conditional. Like with those Simple things: they happen to be difficult.
Well, language is not option-ridden, already if we look at the notions of THE truth and A lie. A truth would be less of THE truth. When we compare A lie, it could be THE lie, as well – the thing being just in the articles, the definite THE and the indefinite A, as for options.
The double negative, like ‘ain’t no real’ does not produce an affirmative. In question tags, asking ‘These are not beautiful flowers, are they?’ – about half-dead daisies? – we might get the answer ‘No, they are not’. Anything like ‘Yes, they are not’ would be harder to catch on.
The ‘subjunctive approaches’ in grammar would require option-making. We would need to ‘decide’ what is real and what is unreal – our grammars depending on our knowledge of the world. I like them grammar gimmicks, but wouldn’t swap shoes with an omniscient on this planet. (After all, it takes some reckoning to keep them shoes real, and I do not need my life too complicated.)
Conditionals can show RELATIVITY in time reference. Some people would say that if something ‘would have happened’, it sure did not. Some would say that the ‘have’ just marks an antecedent reference.
Feel welcome to visit my grammar web log
May 3, 2011
Language could not become a fast seduction
With varying degrees of success, humans have professed the idea of destiny since the Antiquity. Basically, the notion was used when trying to gain power over others. The tricky part was that trying this, you ended up most often balancing like on a tightrope – attempts to take over individual will tend to have side effects.Cicero himself, although using the term mostly in an oratorial fashion, had to renounce seeing the fortune to find his fate in the hands of Antony’s soldiers. The imagery behind both the close notions of destiny and fate would be that of a way and its end. The notion of a destination might support the picture.
Manifest Destiny as strengthening the sense of nationality made an impressive career in politics – you are here and you have a reason to be, being the message. Humans have always had some predilection for exceptionalism, group and national identities having inexorably stemmed from individual identification.
There are no groups without the individuals to make them – the fact does not need any polemic. A language classroom might promote group life. Language needs the individual most, however. Professing destiny in the context could make only unmotivated behavior of language work. Could a student be destined to learn or not?
Even if very talented and learned, the human needs to rely on his or her individual capacity for their work – or maybe especially then. To me, there always has been something simply and irresistibly pleasurable about being an individual on her own with language I’d leave destiny outside the language classroom.
‘Travelers in Grammar – The Whole Journey’
April 26, 2011
The potentially most distant and closest of denotations – the pronoun ‘you’
‘And I am happier than you are,
And they were happier than I am’, wrote Ezra Pound in his ‘Salutation’.
‘Whoever you are holding me now in hand,
Without one thing all will be useless’, said Walt Whitman in his ‘Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand’.
The pronoun ‘you’ happens to give readers trouble. The ‘common sense’ reader might try to dismiss Pound, Whitman, or Eliot – all ‘like talking to someone they don’t know’. Well, common sense, Whitman sure wasn’t perorating to a King Kong. The poets use the pronoun ‘you’ – and what does it actually mean?
‘You’ may mean a single person as well as many persons. Basically, a ‘YOU’ is a ‘NOT ME’ – ‘stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven’, says Marlowe.
‘Let us go then, YOU and I’, wrote T.S. Eliot. Again, I have to quash my spellchecker.
Let us now imagine we are telling someone the way, ‘then YOU go left and turn right by the corner, I’ve been there many times myself’. ‘You’ becomes close to ‘one’ and ‘me‘: ‘then one goes left and turns right by the corner; I remember me gone there’.
The pronoun ‘you’ is potentially the most distant and closest of denotations in English. No wonder it became an object of the wordsmiths’ observations.
Feel welcome to visit my language wellspring
and my grammar blog,
April 16, 2011
Moving about and being aware of it naturally belong with this ‘gear’ in the human head known as the brain. The ‘gear’ stores information about motion in cognitive variables. It starts quite early – telling the horizontal from the vertical begins already in infancy. The variables are sets of values that can correlate to other brain activities – importantly, also to language.
Reading riot acts might be not necessary to teach grammar. The thing is in teaching a way to allow learning – for this, you need to take the ‘gear’ into account. Nope, you don’t attempt to influence anyone trying to tell them your way is the only way and it is the way things sure are or should be (like prescriptive grammarians do). There isn’t such an only way on this Earth. Yet, there might be ways more agreeable to the ‘gear’.
Let us think about a correlate to the cognitive variables as they naturally could be. The prepositions on, in, to, and at could correlate with tense aspects. Importantly, with the correlate, the ‘gear’ does not need to operate verbose definitions for the spatio-temporal orientation in language and can save its working capacity. The prepositional correlate would reflect on natural language acquisition – children tend to comprehend ‘on’ before ‘in’, etc. The cognitive variables have those options.
With language, human brains part rely on reflexes – again, to save the working capacity. If you offer your students an incentive to operate the prepositions like parameters – I gave them the choice to volunteer for points – they begin to form reflexes. Importantly, the students know why they do a thing. Still more importantly, they know that you are trying to teach them something you do yourself
‘Travelers in Grammar – The Whole Journey’
The journey consists of four parts. Two parts can be seen at
Please feel welcome to see my scribbling site
my poetry corner
or my other WordPress posts; they are listed at
April 13, 2011
People have the tendency to put things in order and keep them neat tidy. Categories, labels, tags, and markers are to give objects some structured arrangement – sometimes mistaken for meaning.
I do not mean that keeping things regular and straight makes no sense. Already my files on my computer would become unmanageable without folders. Parallels and comparisons may help see things – myself I’d be ‘guilty’ of using the parallel between language and a program. Yet I’m not really a criminal. Actually, I’m about to plead innocent of considering language any programming device.
Why compare language and a program? Imagine you would like to discuss something like feedback phenomena. You don’t like the label ‘feedback phenomena’, let’s name them the Chinese pear. You’d like to write your thesis about your Chinese pear – and your master’s degree is a Buick convertible kind of a feeling to you, that is, really, really good. What do you do? You think about your Chinese pear and apples. There are some similarities and there are some differences. Telling the pear from the apple gives you your fancy.
Please remember that the above is just an illustration, I had to do some hard work for that (my thesis). The work I’ve done has given me ground to go about my another Chinese pear, my grammar book – definitely serious work I am doing at the present.
Back to languages and programs, there is a misunderstanding about the alleged use of IT terms in linguistics. The word ‘program’ comes from Greek. Centuries ago, it meant ‘to set forth’, ‘write before’ – right, it’s a ‘we-were-here-before’ type of a case. IT happens to be used in some, but not all branches of linguistics.
The purpose of those IT models is to try to reflect on how brain cells might be working really when processing language. The reason is the fact that live neurons tend to remain active; they are like a lit structure – the lights being on everywhere, you can’t tell anything by the light. You have to try to make a model to see how things might be working.
Back to humans and their language skills, your language capacity could not be anywhere outside your head. You could not need to ‘connect to a server’ in order to speak. Your language knowledge has to be stored physically in your brain – the brain is a physical structure. This is how language happens to be compared with a program. This is your language knowledge to tell your brain how to work when you want to say something. These are neurons to tell your lungs and tongue how to function in producing speech sounds.
A program may be defined as a formal system to part determine the work of a physical structure. Your language knowledge would be the formal system and your brain the physical structure. Why should your language knowledge be formal? ‘Formal’ relates to form here. People can speak many languages. The brain of a speaker of American English will have language forms different from those in a speaker of French, for example. Obviously, the example does not include American speakers of French and French speakers of American. Your language use can be very colloquial; still, it is going to have a language form.
The parallel might be useful when telling apples (for example, programs) from pears (feedback phenomena). It would not mandate projections, however. Human brains could not be programmed – ‘the pears would not allow it’. The so-called ‘neurolinguistic programming’ would be a projection on natural language processing, in which there is some role of reflex. However, this deserves a separate consideration, in another post (‘Not a lonely reflex‘).
Please feel welcome to see my scribbling site
my poetry corner
or my other WordPress posts; they are listed at
 The case is the same with the word ‘cybernetics’.
 I know I say that my grammar idea is my another Chinese pear. Grammar would be a program therefore an apple, someone might say. Well, there is no need to build referential systems for all comparisons. It’s just my Chinese Pear Please see ‘Grammar – why think about space?‘ or ‘My travel‘ for more details about my grammar project.
April 10, 2011
The archiphoneme or not the archiphoneme – that is the question.
Please try a very simple exercise. Fix your gaze on anything – your morning cup of tea or coffee, your bookcase trinket, or whatnot. The thing you’d be looking at would not matter much. The stunt would be to look at something and think absolutely nothing.
‘I could do that stunt regular’, you might say. ‘It’s starting in the right chapter I’d be less enthusiastic about’.
Hardly anyone would dispute the possibility of the right chapter’s being a different thing. Yet, thinking about literally nothing is more difficult than it might seem. You can keep a wristwatch to see how long you actually think nothing. Sooner than later, something’s sure to pop up in your head. ‘Sooner than later’ meaning seconds.
What is thinking? ‘The action of using one’s mind to produce thoughts; action marked by use of the intellect, cogitation, cerebration’, the dictionary says. Greek philosophers sculpted in pensive body positions could be the picture. However, the fact is that live human brains have a continual tendency to produce a process. The processes could remain ‘in the background’. If you try to focus on them, you notice they involve trace speech qualities. You notice your inner speech.
‘What are those guys with the inner speech about?’ you might ask. ‘Anyone to tell me I got voices in my head? I only notice them and they grab my attention?’
Whatsoever. Inner speech is not a voice and it is not voices. It involves trace speech qualities. This means there aren’t whole phrases, words, or even speech sounds. Inner speech uses only traces, minute aspects of speech sounds. You don’t hear them – you can’t produce a speech sound without using your mouth. Those traces are how you remember your own language ability.