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    #51

    Re: use of 'already'

    This excerpt, which contains a key statement, has application for both native speakers and non-native speakers of English. It may also serve to inform one's teaching of ESL or EFL.


    The rules people learn (or more likely, fail to learn) in school are called [prescriptive] rules, prescribing how one "ought" to talk. Scientists studying language propose [descriptive] rules, describing how people [do] talk -- the way to determine whether a construction is "grammatical" is to find people who speak the language and ask them. Prescriptive and descriptive grammar are completely different things, and there is a good reason that scientists focus on the descriptive rules.



    http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/articl...wrepublic.html


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    #52

    Re: use of 'already'

    Quote Originally Posted by PROESL View Post
    This excerpt, which contains a key statement, has application for both native speakers and non-native speakers of English. It may also serve to inform one's teaching of ESL or EFL.


    The rules people learn (or more likely, fail to learn) in school are called [prescriptive] rules, prescribing how one "ought" to talk. Scientists studying language propose [descriptive] rules, describing how people [do] talk -- the way to determine whether a construction is "grammatical" is to find people who speak the language and ask them. Prescriptive and descriptive grammar are completely different things, and there is a good reason that scientists focus on the descriptive rules.



    http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/articl...wrepublic.html

    If you ask people, NESs that is, whether or not "You've finished already" is correct, they will say that it is correct.

  1. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #53

    Re: use of 'already'

    I have the book, it's very interesting and well written. Note that the idea is Chomsky's.

    Also, a scientist who wishes to study and ascertain descriptive rules about how native speakers make prescriptive rules ends up having to be familiar with prescriptive rules.

    And teachers receiving questions from students who are interested in the prescriptive rules might not be giving them what they want by just directing them towards other, descriptive rules.


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    #54

    Re: use of 'already'

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    I have the book, it's very interesting and well written. Note that the idea is Chomsky's.

    Also, a scientist who wishes to study and ascertain descriptive rules about how native speakers make prescriptive rules ends up having to be familiar with prescriptive rules.

    And teachers receiving questions from students who are interested in the prescriptive rules might not be giving them what they want by just directing them towards other, descriptive rules.
    What could make one think that a "scientist", or an ESL-EFL teacher, would not be familiar with prescriptive rules? I think Steven Pinker is correct when he calls these rules "dumb". That's what they are. I might not agree that each and every "prescriptive" rule is dumb, but then again, to me, maybe certain rules are not "prescriptive" or maybe they can be both ("less" versus "fewer", for example).

    I am very well aware of the language mavens' prescritptive rules. As to what each student wants, one has to ask each student, and that's what I do. My explanations are always practical, well informed, and well balanced. That's the sort of explanation that's required. I easily remember the advanced ESL student who asked me why her supervisor at work gave her a strange look when she said "May I go to the bathroom?". Such formality is certainly not expected in many places, including business. And it is certainly not a rule that one must use "may" instead of "can" for a request.

    Some of these prescriptive rules only find their rigthful place in formal language, formal writing, and edited writing. The prescription that "none" is always singular comes to mind. Hardly is it necessary to always treat "none" as a singular. One clearly sees why their is a strong tendency to treat it as a plural, and I don't buy into the derivation of "none" explanation that the language mavens might refer to in this case.

    His writing is compelling, very interesting, witty, and I find myself easily in agreement with it. Once in a while one finds a minor sarcastic comment marked by subtlety, as well as a rather irreverent pointing at people in phrases such as "endive nibbling yuppies" (in another book). I think it's hilarious. I relate to it very well. I recently bought the rest of his books. My reading is all planned for a while now. I don't find it unnecessarily repetitious to listen to his talks on ted.com or the Authors at Google talk-video.

    I became thoroughly interested after listening to his talk on The Stuff of Thought at TED - www.ted.com
    Last edited by PROESL; 28-Sep-2009 at 15:21.

  2. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #55

    Re: use of 'already'

    Nineteenth century proto-anthropologists used to go out and study "the savages," later writing about them in highly judgmental language, and not hesitating to interfere and change the cultures -- where their "savage" concepts of kinship, right and wrong, creation, life after death, etc. differed from their own, "superior" understanding.

    Later people began to realize no culture is inherently more correct than the others, and none deserves to be maligned, ridiculed, defended, spread about, and so on.

    So the way in which English speakers transmit their language and grammar to later generations, a cultural tradition, deserves to be spared our ridicule, in my opinion.

    People care about their language and try to make a case for what they feel are its best traditions. You and I may not agree, we may feel it's futile, we may see it actually doesn't end up making a difference, but calling it dumb? Do we then call learners who want to receive such a conservative education dumb?

    I don't think we do.


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    #56

    Re: use of 'already'

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    Nineteenth century proto-anthropologists used to go out and study "the savages," later writing about them in highly judgmental language, and not hesitating to interfere and change the cultures -- where their "savage" concepts of kinship, right and wrong, creation, life after death, etc. differed from their own, "superior" understanding.

    Later people began to realize no culture is inherently more correct than the others, and none deserves to be maligned, ridiculed, defended, spread about, and so on.

    So the way in which English speakers transmit their language and grammar to later generations, a cultural tradition, deserves to be spared our ridicule, in my opinion.

    People care about their language and try to make a case for what they feel are its best traditions. You and I may not agree, we may feel it's futile, we may see it actually doesn't end up making a difference, but calling it dumb? Do we then call learners who want to receive such a conservative education dumb?

    I don't think we do.
    Well, you said you read the book and thought it was well written.

    Certainly, I, personally, would never say "that's dumb" to someone I disagreed with in a discussion about any particular prescriptive rule or assertion or descritpive assertion. In some cases, mostly on the Internet I believe, I've found that prescriptivists may tend to be more inclined to open ridicule than descriptivists. This does not include you, of course. This dialog is good.

    I strongly feel that many prescriptive rules described as traditional were never traditional in the first place.

    By the way, I side with the prescriptivists when it comes to "were", as in "if * were ... * would ..." and "* wish * were *". I always make it a point to inform learners, however, that many speakers use "was" instead of "were" in these cases. I end by saying that I prefer "were". I hear "was" in place of "were" continually from Americans and on the BBC. The difference is that in AmE, I think, "was" doesn't hold as much currency as "was" does in BrE. There's no denying that billions use "was" in place of "were", and I let students know that this is not to be looked upon as "uneducated usage" or "poor usage" despite what I prefer. Far too many people speak this way to point at it as "wrong". That's my good objective self.



    The first part of your post, I think, should remind me of a book I plan to read: Guns Germs and Steel.


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    #57

    Re: use of 'already'

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post

    I have the book, it's very interesting and well written. Note that the idea is Chomsky's.

    Also, a scientist who wishes to study and ascertain descriptive rules about how native speakers make prescriptive rules ends up having to be familiar with prescriptive rules.
    He is very familiar with prescriptions, Kon and he and every other language scientist I've come across finds them wanting, which they are. They are "at best, inconsequential little decorations. ... [T]hey have no more to do with human language than the criteria for judging cats at a cat show have to do with mammalian biology."

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    And teachers receiving questions from students who are interested in the prescriptive rules might not be giving them what they want by just directing them towards other, descriptive rules.
    It's not a teacher's job to pander to a student's errant ideas. It's the job of a teacher to show students the truth, in this case, to show them how language really works, not how some hope or want it to work. Remember, prescriptions are inconsequential little decorations, at best.


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    #58

    Re: use of 'already'

    Quote Originally Posted by albeit View Post
    He is very familiar with prescriptions, Kon and he and every other language scientists finds them wanting, which they are. They are "at best, inconsequential little decorations. ... [T]hey have no more to do with human language than the criteria for judging cats at a cat show have to do with mammalian biology."



    It's not a teacher's job to pander to a student's errant wishes. It's the job of a teacher to show students the truth, in this case, to show them how language really works, not how some hope or want it to work. Remember, prescriptions are inconsequential little decorations, at best.

    judging cats at a cat show have to do with mammalian biology." <<

    Mmm... That somehow sounds familiar.


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    #59

    Re: use of 'already'

    There's no denying that billions use "was" in place of "were", and I let students know that this is not to be looked upon as "uneducated usage" or "poor usage" despite what I prefer. Far too many people speak this way to point at it as "wrong". That's my good objective self.
    And I understand the logic behind it. The verb "be" is unique. It's the only verb that one can possibly be marked in this way. This sort of thing is impossible with any other English verb, so why should it be possible with "be"? Therefore, the tendency is to simply use the usual past of be for all persons in these cases. It's logical. I can see this even though it's not what I choose to say or write.
    Last edited by PROESL; 28-Sep-2009 at 16:59.

  3. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #60

    Re: use of 'already'

    Quote Originally Posted by albeit View Post
    It's not a teacher's job to pander to a student's errant ideas. It's the job of a teacher to show students the truth, in this case, to show them how language really works, not how some hope or want it to work. Remember, prescriptions are inconsequential little decorations, at best.
    Agreed, in part, but a good teacher recognizes a student's needs. One of mine, who is practising law in Hong Kong, and is a native Cantonese speaker, has frequently been shown frustration by judges (all Brits and Aussies, a few Kiwis) because of his English attainment level.

    He has specifically asked me to help him master the English language as they use it. It's a request I can understand, and can help him with.

    Is that pandering? Are his ideas errant?

    I don't think so, personally.

    People who have gone through the process of attaining a foreign language as an adult, all the way from beginner to intermediate to fluent to near-native speaker to passable as a native, will know that it is far more effective to aim for a strict geolect and dialect at a certain point in their development than the broader outlook that would apply to you or me.

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