obscolent forms

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banderas

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I can not figure something out. Why are most of the English exams exactly about parading of obsolescent forms. The forms ordinary speakers would rarely use as they just sound prissy...:shock: like inversion, passive voice and others.

you do not need to answer the question below, this is just to present what am I talking about:
Which one is correct ?
All the long-distance calls were made by who?
All the long-distance calls were made by whom?

I know that you teachers do not have the influence on it,however I would like to know your opinion.
 

Anglika

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I don't know what you mean by "obsolescent". The example you have given is correct, and the fact that people misuse words is due to a combination of laziness, bad teaching and inevitable change that occurs within all languages.


If you look at your own language, I suspect you will find very similar situations.
 

banderas

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I don't know what you mean by "obsolescent". The example you have given is correct, and the fact that people misuse words is due to a combination of laziness, bad teaching and inevitable change that occurs within all languages.


If you look at your own language, I suspect you will find very similar situations.

I meant questions in tests based on these forms:
Scarcely had we started our meal when the phone rang.
Hardly had I begun to speak when I was interrupted.
Only after the meeting did I realize the importance of the subject.
Are they not obsolscent :?:.

What's more why are students taught how to use these forms if the primary function of language is to make people speak. An ordinary speaker never says: scarcely had we started our meal when.....
 

stuartnz

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I'm not a teacher, but I would suggest that it can be helpful to think in terms of registers of language. Learning the more formal registers, illustrated by what prescriptivists call the "correct" use of "whom" instead "who", is useful to students both as a learning exercise in istelf and for providing an historical context for the language they're learning. It also enables them to shift between registers, choosing their vocabulary to suit their audience. There are many situations in which using the more formal registers will sound prissy, pompous and unnatural, but there are also situations in which the use of less formal registers will convey an equally negative impression to the hearers or readers. This is true in some business or academic settings, for example.

So, just as one wears different clothes when working in the garden than when attending a wedding or funeral, so one can "change clothes" linguistically by altering the register used to suit the situation. This is only possible, though, if one has more than one "set of clothes", or in this case, has familiarity with more than one language register.

I would recommend that students learn the more formal register but that they try NOT to adopt the attitude of many who use that register almost exclusively. As a generalisation, and I know how odious generalisations are, these the sort of people who are irritated by the "slovenly" use of "who" for "whom" is the sort of person who would insist that it is against the law to split infinitives, end a sentence with a preposition or use 'they" as a singular epicene pronoun. Familiarity with social norms is the only thing that restrains me from expressing just how risible I find such notions. So I would say, buy the 'fancy clothes', the formal register, but keep it in the wardrobe for special occasions when you really need it. The rest of the time, use the 'everyday clothes', the common language.
 
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banderas

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So I would say, buy the 'fancy clothes', the formal register, but keep it in the wardrobe for special occasions when you really need it. The rest of the time, use the 'everyday clothes', the common language.
Thank you, Stuart, for your suggestions, I feel I am meeting you halfway.
What concerns me is that I sometimes see "some pieces of the fancy clothes" I am buying, I will never wear...:oops:
 

stuartnz

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Thank you, Stuart, for your suggestions, I feel I am meeting you halfway.
What concerns me is that I sometimes see "some pieces of the fancy clothes" I am buying, I will never wear...:oops:


In those situations, it helps to reflect on the value of being able to recognise and understand those elements of the more formal registers when they are used by other people. Bureaucratic or legal writing, for example, will often use constructions and vocabulary that are light-years from the reality of everyday speech, but if one has learned those arcane, and increasingly archaic, elements, then one can defeat the authors' best efforts at obfuscation. Being able to translate such language into everyday English is a very useful skill, one which can at times be of critical importance.
 
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