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Language is important It helps us understand each other and helps us confuse each other It holds groups together and keeps them apart There is a story in the Book of Judges about language The Gileadites and Ephraimites were at war The Gileadites took control of some fords on the River Jordan When somebody came to cross the river at the ford, they asked him if he was an Ephraimite Then they would ask him to say shibboleth, a word that means either a flowing stream or a head of grain The Ephraimites couldn t pronounce the sh sound they said sibbolet instead This gave them away, and the Gileadites killed them We still use shibboleths today And, like then, it isn t about proper pronunciation as much as it is about group identity.In this book, Greene does a great job of showing what modern language battles are really about First, he takes apart some of the language myths that many outspoken grammar lovers believe you know, those rules that aren t actually rules Why do some people loudly insist on those rules, then Because it makes them feel smart to play gotcha, and correcting someone s usage is often an acceptable way to disguise their aggression.An even bigger point of the book, though, is about how language battles are too often about class or ethnic prejudices People have been complaining about the decline of language for centuries Greene shows that change is a part of language Speakers are always changing the way the language is used That is inevitable And while there ARE rules that speakers and writers must follow to be understood and taken seriously, a lot of the sticklers and grammar grouches are actually not talking about those rules at all Most of our conflicts about usage but about politics, culture, and group identity For example, Greene writes about Ebonics and the English only movement Standard English is not in danger in America immigrants are learning Englishquickly than they did in the past the English only movement isabout trying to preserve a certain culture and group identity than it is about helping immigrants learn English And Ebonics was actually an effort to help teachers in Oakland understand the way their student spoke so they couldeffectively teach them Standard English But it got caricatured and turned into a culture battle And the French Academy s efforts to keep French pure and free of foreign words is basedon a dented self image than real threats to the language.I suppose that the best lesson from this book is for people that love language and love to hear it used properly First, it is okay to encourage others to follow the rules of the language Second, double check those rules before speaking, because a lot of the rules aren t real and never were I recommend Garner s Modern American Usage for this it s the best out there Third, remember that language always changes and there is little use in complaining about that process And fourth, think about why you are itching to correct someone is it because they are really making a mistake, or is based on some sense of aggrieved conservatism, as Greene calls it The first half of this book is essentially a tirade against prescriptivists those who push the idea that there is a proper way of speaking, spelling, writing and or punctuating English Usually popular writers are most often the target, but there are alsoserious contenders who are equally attacked for their temerity The main argument is that they are attempting to impose rules that are evaluative and emotive, and that in some cases their arguments in favour of the proposed rule s may even be incorrect or mistaken The preferred and apparently only appropriate approach is to eschew the evaluative and emotive aspects, and simply describe as scientifically as possible how a language is spoken preferably or written less preferably based on strict linguistic principles aka descriptivism The general tenor is that the rules prescribed by these prescriptivists aren t really rules at all, and efforts are made to provide counter examples, and even to point out that the author might not follow his or her own prescriptions Lynne Truss, extremely popular author of Eats, Shoots Leaves The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation comes in for special treatment Incidentally, the Australian version of Truss main title I had heard related to a deprecatory description pun intended of the typical Australian male, who is identified as a Wombat because the Wombat eats, roots, shoots and leaves translation for non Australians he is only interested in food, participating in sexual activity, having an orgasm, and remaining non attached and uncommitted, regardless and this interpretation is caused solely by the insertion of the first comma only The second half of Greene s book concentrateson the specific problem of the political imposition of some kind of linguistic diktat relating to the extension of prescriptive language rules for a State or Nation Where this has occurred it has often resulted in intended discrimination on a number of policy issues often with dire results particular examples relate to this approach catering for racism, nationalism, patriotism, religious rites and practices, etc and which can result in punitive and sometimes deadly actions by individuals against those who flout or otherwise disobey the rules As historians have pointed out, over time, such politicisation has not been entirely successful,often resulting in killing off the language i.e it becomes a Dead Language rather than a living one Even so, this approach has had some influence in the lives of people, particularly if the particular political influence has lasted several decades, or even several lifetimes And apparently we should start at stopping the Grouches and Pedants and Sticklers for proper language usage before they have a chance to develop worse atrocities.And I guess it is just about here that I have concerns are the descriptivists being proscriptive about prescriptivists At pages 265 6 Greene writesIf we accept that language islike music or traffic rules a set of conventions, which can be violated harmlessly in most cases music, most like speech or which are best observed most of the time traffic rules, most like writing we realise that we have been tearing our hair out over nothing in the language wars Accept that speech and writing are different that some situations call for highly formal and rigid styles and some call for innovation and rules be damned daring accept that every country houses people who speak different dialects or even languages that even speakers of the same dialect speak differently that it has been this way throughout human history and will always be and some of the anger and urgency will come out of our language debates Relax, everyone Language is too enjoyable to get so angry about it I agree with all of this and indeed, I feel I have always maintained this perspective on language so what was all the fuss about in the first half of this book I must admit that, deep down, I do have an attraction for populist pedants and grouches precisely because, from the right perspective, they provide much to smile about so I was naturally perplexed about the ferocity of the attacks on them, andparticularly annoyed at the often ad hominem and non sequitur fallacies used by the anti sticklers This resulted in my questioning the terms descriptive and prescriptive Perhaps they are merely two sides of the same coin Certainly one must start with a description, but once that description is made, it would follow naturally that subsequent prescription requires that the previous description is the proper way to either speak or write a language until the next description comes along, say, some hundred years later, when perhaps a different way of speaking and or spelling has developed, at which time a new prescription will emerge Consequently I have overcome my temerity to provide some of the grouches I found in reading this book p 251 Greene is in France, checking on the number of adopted English words along the walk between the Saint Michel M tro station along the Seine to the French Academy He writes In just those few hundred meters, I saw here M tro is capitalised and the e is accented in acknowledgement that this is the way it is spelled to in Paris but this same acknowledgement is not extended to the spelling of the French word metre This is a particular bugbear for me a metre is a specific length a meter is an instrument which measures something The words are homophones, not homographs the difference is useful, and instantly recognisable In any case, as an American, why didn t the author simply use yards p 250 But the Toubon Law still did provide for punishing individuals who flaunted the requirement for French in public domains such as advertising The Toubon Law effectively insisted that their prescription be flaunted i.e displayed ostentatiously so it would be ridiculous for such flaunting to be punished The correct word here is flouted i.e openly disregarded chokengtitiktitikchokeng 164 Hindi is written in the Devanagari script, characterised by the vertical line that connects the letters from above I find it difficult to imagine how letters can be connected from above with a vertical line I suspect that vertical here should be horizontal chokengtitiktitikchokeng 158 But South Africa is no monodecilingual paradise Greene is referring here to the officially equal eleven languages in South Africa s Constitutional Court Monodecilingual is a neologism it does not exist in any dictionary It is a mix of Greek and Latin and is obviously meant to refer to the eleven languages but Latin for eleven is undecim while the word in Greek is hendeca, both using 1.10 to indicate eleven To use mono which means sole the same alone for the number 1 hena in Greek unum in Latin is misguided In English, the prefix for eleven has always been taken from the Greek, so the correct usage here should be hendecalingual.And for a final grouch the title of this book is You Are What You Speak , with the sub title Grammar Grouches, Language Laws, and the Politics of Identity I initially interpreted this to be a positive assertion, something like be proud of your language, it identifies who you are This interpretation is reinforced by the cover image of a fingerprint inserted into a speech bubble By the time I had finished reading this book, I suspected that another interpretation was in order the proscriptive use of languages to make political identification as a basis for social action and interaction and not always for the better for those so identified In these circumstances, one could interpret the title to mean be careful of how you speak, because otherwise you might find yourself in trouble Then, theI thought about it, the weirder it all became Canadians, Americans, New Zealanders, and Australians to name but a few all speak English does that make them all English And what about the cases where speakers of one language can also speak fluently in one orother languages do they change their identity when they are speaking different languages In the end, the kindest thing I can say is that I have no idea what the title of this book means any @Download Book ⚤ You Are What You Speak ç What Is It About Other People S Language That Moves Some Of Us To Anxiety Or Even Rage For Centuries, Sticklers The World Over Have Donned The Cloak Of Authority To Control The Way People Use Words Now This Sensational New Book Strikes Back To Defend The Fascinating, Real Life Diversity Of This Most Basic Human FacultyWith The Erudite Yet Accessible Style That Marks His Work As A Journalist, Robert Lane Greene Takes Readers On A Rollicking Tour Around The World, Illustrating With Vivid Anecdotes The Role Language Beliefs Play In Shaping Our Identities, For Good And Ill Beginning With Literal Myths, From The Tower Of Babel To The Bloody Origins Of The Word Shibboleth, Greene Shows How Language Experts Went From Myth Making To Rule Making And From Building Cohesive Communities To Building Modern Nations From The Notion Of One Language S Superiority To The Common Perception That Phrases Like It S Me Are Bad English, Linguistic Beliefs Too Often Define Us And Distance Them, Supporting Class, Ethnic, Or National Prejudices In Short What We Hear About Language Is Often Really About The Politics Of IdentityGovernments Foolishly Try To Police Language Development The French Academy , Nationalism Leads To The Violent Suppression Of Minority Languages Kurdish And Basque , And Even Americans Fear That The Most Successful Language In World History English May Be Threatened By Increased Immigration These False Language Beliefs Are Often Tied To Harmful Political Ends And Can Lead To The Violation Of Basic Human Rights Conversely, Political Involvement In Language Can Sometimes Prove Beneficial, As With The Zionist Revival Of Hebrew Or Our Present Day Efforts To Provide Education In Foreign Languages Essential To Business, Diplomacy, And Intelligence And Yes, Standardized Languages Play A Crucial Role In Uniting Modern SocietiesAs This Fascinating Book Shows, Everything We Ve Been Taught To Think About Language May Not Be Wrong But It Is Often About Something Than Language Alone You Are What You Speak Will Certainly Get People Talking As a linguist, I think we generally do a poor job of explaining our obsession with language to the general public I wish this book was required reading, especially for anyone who has ever complained about a language deteriorating because of those darn young people Most books about language by journalists are frustratingly bad and filled with inaccuracies, but this is very well done I ll definitely be recommending it to others. I won this book in a contest pose a question on a friend s grammar website.PLUG Arrant Pedantry is a terrific grammar blog if you care about language or are at all curious about where rules come from, or how language affects politics and wealth, this book is important If you just like to think about language from time to time, this book is just plain fun.Robert Lane Greene is a linguist He is not a stickler or a purist He is not a prescriptivist But people who are sticklers, purists, or prescriptivists still will find much to like about this book, even if it does put those viewpoints into humbling perspective.Greene tackles muchthan language venturing into politics and economics He may go outside his areas of true expertise at times, but he always remains conscious of the departure and is careful to contain most of his points to influence of language and language policy on the social political economic events.He is decidedly NOT a left leaning academic elitist I don t know that he s right leaning He s just data driven I found it refreshing to be presented with facts and a frank discussion of their possible meanings and limitations.I want to buy this book for friends I want my friends to buy it for their friends Bravo And I shall henceforth split my infinitives whenever I choose. A truly enlightened attitude to language should simply be to let six thousand orflowers bloom Subcultures should be allowed to thrive, not just because it is wrong to squash them, because they enrich the wider culture Just as Black English has left its mark on standard English Culture, South Africans take pride in the marks of Afrikaans and African languages on their vocabulary and syntax New Zealand s rugby team chants in Maori, dancing a traditional dance, before matches French kids flirt with rebellion by using verlan, a slang that reverses words sounds or syllables so femmes becomes meuf Argentines glory in lunfardo, an argot developed from the underworld a centyry ago that makes Argentine Spanish unique still today The nonstandard greeting Where y at for How are you is so common among certain whites in New Orleans that they bear their difference with pride, calling themselves Yats And that s how it should be Robert Lane Greene, You Are What You Speak Grammar Grouches, Language Laws, and the Politics of Identity Readable, funny informative, this book is not for those who want ammunition to scold the less erudite among us It welcomes word and syntax changes which refresh the language and help to improve communication.For those of us who worry about the state of the English language, a reminder that language is not static it lives and changes as population, technology, and culture changes Those who fear the influx of non English speakers will kill the king s English should find comfort in the fact that English has been able to accommodate and embrace these intrusions by enlarging its vocabulary and improving the nuance of the language Besides being entertained I left the book with agenerous attitude toward other s language foibles and words that describe questionable phenomenon Even though it seems that the language is diminished when we accept words like twerking, it is actually being augmented there is no existing word that would otherwise describe this booty movement. If you ve ever found yourself smugly correcting someone s grammar mistake, Greene s book will make you think twice I ll admit, I fall firmly in the category of what Greene calls grammar sticklers Greene argues, however, that language is muchfluid than most of us admit and stubbornly insisting that any given set of grammar rules is the correct way to speak or write is perhaps true, but only for right now, and only in certain settings What we consider appropriate grammar rules probably weren t so a century ago and certainly weren t so beyond that Additionally, it has always been true that people speak differently in a casual setting than they do in a formal setting Doing so doesn t make one less educated or sophisticated Greene does a nice job of discussing language and nationalism and political identity. Readable Enjoyed some particular parts, such describing some writers familiar with, such as Strunk White and Bryson I used to worship Strunk White and Bryson Once again, I learn how little I know.Also, I appreciated learning how language binds unbinds Isreal An important part of Western Civ. To reply to an honest question that is perfectly understood with grammatical outrage is a sin against decency p269.My linguistics lecturer recommended this to me last semester and I finally got around to reading it Studying linguistics was eye opening Realising that language was fluid and ever changing Realising that words such as nice and silly had wildly different meanings a few hundred years ago Allowing the penny to drop about the progression of the English language from the time of Beowulf to Shakespeare to the King James Bible to now as it constantly changes It reminds me that language serves us, not the other way around.One thing I found fascinating was the idea of full formed dialects, such as Aboriginal English in which the speakers conjugate some verbs in ways that prescriptivists find abhorrent or American Black Vernacular English which is mocked all over the Internet but is a legitimate dialect of English with complex rules like any other language.I love the idea that you could put 26 city states in a row call them A, B, CZ , and the citizens of town A B would speak mutually intelligble languages, likewise BC would have no trouble communicating, CD, DE, and so forth However citiziens from town A would likely find the language of town H to be unintelligble The idea that rather than distinct languages, it really is a single planet with a whole lot of dialects.Okay, it is farcomplicated then that, and that is what this book is about Explaining the notion that we should describe not prescribe the rules of a language, and discussing how language shapes and is shaped by the nations that it is used by, adopted by, or even prescribed by.My eyes were opened during my university studies of linguistics For me, all language is valid If you understand me then I am doing okay, if you are offended because I made a grammatical error then you really should go read this book Saying This is informal, and many usage books recommend against it istheir the linguistics style Pullum is the rare one who will add but you should feel free to tell them where they can shove it p81I like this Pullum fellow, and I like Robert Greene s book. One of the reviews of this book faults Greene for writing about linguistics without being a linguist I don t find the same fault in the pages here Certainly, this has the density one would expect from an Economist writer, but don t let that fool you.As an English major and English teacher who has been thinking about these things for some time, the initial introduction to prescriptivism and descriptivism did much to act as a refresher for the topics and lay the foundation of the different global perspectives of the book.From a historical understanding of the resurrection of Hebrew to the formation of modern Turkish an subsequent distance from pre 1930 Turkish texts , I m walking away from this book with much richer and deeper understanding of language and it s formation around the world Perhaps most helpful for me was Greene s clear love of language If there were any impediment created by his lack of training as a linguist, his love of language makes up for it handily.Reading about language from the perspective of one who is so clearly curious and in love with language shapes the book as a tool for infectious love of language.If you re curious about language, read this If you re passionate about language, read this If you are hungry for a appropriately dense text acting as a primer to understanding linguistics, read this It s not a book for everyone, but it s definitely a book for those who love and are fascinated by language.