Monday, September 21, 2009

Steven Pinker Disussion - Caleb Caswell

My name is Caleb Caswell, I'm taking this course to improve my writing/speaking skills, along with my ability to build a well-structured argument. I can say that I know little of proper grammar. I bump along and hope that speaking English for the last twenty years will carry me through. I hope to do well in this class and gain a better understanding of the basic structure of English.

With Steven Pinker's talk of how dictionaries are dead, I would have to disagree. It's incredibly important to have a written history of our culture, and language is one of the main faucets through which we identify ourselves. Though slang can culturally become accepted and integrated into daily use, it still needs a source to be relevant, and needs standard phrases to replace. We have had dictionaries for so long that we don't have any idea what a world without any sort of literary reference work would be like. A picture of what the world was like before a working dictionary is painted in Simon Winchestor's The Professor and the Madman, which describes the creation of the Oxford English dictionary in detail. A picture of the cover with summary is linked below:

A great read, highly suggested, no where near as boring as it sounds.


The verb serving as the chassis of the sentence is an interesting thought. While the noun can be considered just as important to sentence structure, Pinker does a good job of showing that much of the rest of the sentence is built around servicing and clarifying what context the verb is to be used in. While the noun may be the engine, and your adjectives and adverbs may be your heated seats and cup-holders, it's the verb that gives order to all of these things being used together.

How people use language can be a very transparent view into their personality. Using language to communicate, ultimately the way in which we speak is how we reveal our intentions. There are some that use it at its most basic function, often with uncomplicated words or structure to get their point across in its most simple form. Others will create flowery descriptions and use words outside of the colloquial norm should they feel that common words do not do justice to their intended meanings. Some people wish to be clear, others want to create a fog of conversation, some want to create an impression of who they are through language, others could care less. Many examples of this can be seen in the class blog about the poster project that was completed the week before:

Some are more terse than others, some use slang that identifies them with a certain demographic or age group. We use language to communicate more than points, but also social standings, personal tastes and more.

Whether or not txt speak will ever become 'acceptable' is open to debate, but I feel that as far as fads go, this is yet another style of communication that will go out of fashion with the progress of technology. People's knowledge of morse code had passed away once the technology, really the only technology that used morse code, became cumbersome and out of date. Should something happen to the structure of cell phones to make typing in full less time consuming, text speak will more than likely pass on as well.

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