Ahh, Conflict

June 22, 2005

I forget which of my many linguistic LJ communities posted this, but on the BBC Website there is an article about Kate Burridge’s statement against the possessive apostrophe.

I’m really torn about this. One one hand, I do firmly believe in a descriptive grammar that fluctuates with usage over time. On the other, I recognize that some prescriptivism is necessary to keep a language from changing TOO fast.

Also a lot of this breaks down into a difference between spoken and written languages. Allowing massive changes to the graphalect based on people taking shortcuts, leaves us with illegibility. Anyone who’s ever hung out in an AOL chatroom or attempted to read a text message full of gibberish knows this.

I think the major problem I have (and this may just be my interpretation) is that she didn’t just observe that it’s dropping from the informal language. She formally stated it should be dropped altogether.

No, bad linguist. You lose your descriptivist license. You broke the holy rule: we do not state how language SHOULD function, we state how it DOES.

However, I should state that I sort of agree with her on the hyphen. No one really knows how it’s supposed to be used. Hell, I don’t really, I just muddle by as best I can. But we can’t fully get rid of it; I’d have trouble writing my last name.


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