1221: "Nomenclature"

This forum is for the individual discussion thread that goes with each new comic.

Moderators: Moderators General, Prelates, Magistrates

User avatar
Pfhorrest
Posts: 5474
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:11 am UTC
Contact:

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Jun 07, 2013 4:39 am UTC

For a recent example of the kind of thing I would prescribe against, I present the latest sense of the word "ratchet". No, not the socket wrench, or the verb meaning what you do with a socket wrench, but an adjective meaning "wretched", or a noun meaning a person who such an adjective could be applied to. This is an obvious error; the word "wretched" was mispronounced and misheard enough that eventually someone started conflating it with the word "ratchet", and now there is the potential for confusion in one word between a kind of tool or a thing you do with that tool, and a completely unrelated sense meaning a kind of person or a quality of such a person.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26820
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jun 07, 2013 5:01 am UTC

And do you suppose that a typical descriptivist, unaware of your proposed "limited prescriptivism" idea, would do anything different? I for one would certainly advise against that particular usage on the grounds that it isn't in general circulation and would therefore likely confuse people who only know of the "wretched" spelling. Are you under the impression that this makes me atypical among advocates of descriptive linguistics?

If ever it does enter common usage, however, my advice would be lessened to simply informing people that it's not considered standard and should thus probably be avoided in more formal contexts.

And if it eventually becomes widely accepted even there, then I would no longer advise against it at all, because there would be exactly zero reason to do so.

The reason it's a "bad" usage at present is precisely because it's not going to be widely understood, and a significant portion of the people who do understand what you're getting at will additionally be led to believe that you're not very literate or well educated, which is presumably not often the kind of belief you'd want to instill in your audience.

Edit: but the point I kept trying (and apparently failing) to get through to you in that other thread was that particular linguistic constructions can only ever be "good" or "bad" in the context of how they are understood by language users. When I argue that a construction should or shouldn't be used, I only ever justify that argument on the basis of how people use and understand the construction in question. If you're using the word "mistake" to describe things almost no other English user would describe as mistakes, even in possession of all the same information you yourself possess, then I would object to your use of the word "mistake" as disconnected from the understanding of your intended audience. If your audience began using the word the same way you wanted to, though, then I would no longer have grounds for such an objection.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
Eshru
Posts: 146
Joined: Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:51 am UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby Eshru » Fri Jun 07, 2013 6:47 am UTC

da Doctah wrote:Even Abbott and Costello weren't the originators of the basic idea. For that you probably have to go back to when Odysseus tells Polyphemus that his name is "Nemo" (Latin for "nobody"), so that later when he blinds him and escapes, the other cyclopes ask who did this to him and he's forced to say "Nobody did it".

Wait wait wait... So the movie was 'Finding Nobody'? Lol

User avatar
orthogon
Posts: 3099
Joined: Thu May 17, 2012 7:52 am UTC
Location: The Airy 1830 ellipsoid

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby orthogon » Fri Jun 07, 2013 8:32 am UTC

Angelastic wrote:
speising wrote:well, judging by the line voulez vous coucher avec moi, that must be a more recent development. or canadian?

That's a pretty unusual line; the best explanation I've heard of it is that it could be said by a high-class prostitute who addresses her potential clients rather formally. But apparently (according to the French wikipedia article for the phrase, which gives this as a reference, and only describes the expression in terms of its popularity in English) it comes from a 1921 novel written in English by an American, so… if that was actually something that was often said by the average francophones back then, there's been plenty of time for more recent developments.

That song always jarred with me (linguistically I mean; musically it's damn funky!), but I have come to terms with it in the following way:

1. It was not written by a native French speaker (I didn't know it came from a novel, though - I assumed the song coined the phrase)

2. In the past, most native English speakers learned French as a classroom discipline. Judging by my (baby boomer) parents, the emphasis was very much on the "vous" form, with the "tu" form very much glossed over. You were learning French in order to order in restaurants, possibly do business in France, write letters, study texts etc. That you might befriend a Frenchman and thus need the "tu" form - good Lord, the very idea!

That's in the UK, but I also cite as a reference the Simpsons episode in which the teenage Marge is helping the teenage Homer with his French. He gives her a flower (or something) and says "Marge, pour vous". This suggests the same emphasis on "vous" in the US in whatever decade that was supposed to be (it's a little difficult to say owing to the Dorian-Grayesque properties of the Simpsons).

3. There is, I believe, a convention in German (?) cinema/TV/literature which a shift from "Sie" to "du" between two characters indicates that the two have "got it on", as it were; they have made the beast with two backs. I don't know if the same exists in French, but in this context, "voulez-vous coucher avec moi" would be the conventional way to ask somebody the first time.

Klear wrote:It's possible I may have misused the word grammar. In Czech, "pravopis" (literally "right-writing") is used in almost all the same contexts as grammar is in English, certainly a lot more than "gramatika". It seems its literal meaning is orthography, which is a word I haven't even heard before now. That is, however, quite irrelevant from the point I was making.

Sorry, I was being a bit mischievous. My point was that what you wrote, spoken out loud and with pauses in the right places, was perfectly grammatical.

Thanks for the other comments on T- and V- pronouns on fora in various languages. I'm aware of the wide differences even between countries that speak the same language, so I guess forum use just follows from the IRL use. But it's interesting to think about what real-life situation people consider writing on a form to be analogous to.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

Eowiel
Posts: 166
Joined: Sat Jun 12, 2010 5:57 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby Eowiel » Fri Jun 07, 2013 10:22 am UTC

orthogon wrote:
Angelastic wrote:
speising wrote:well, judging by the line voulez vous coucher avec moi, that must be a more recent development. or canadian?

That's a pretty unusual line; the best explanation I've heard of it is that it could be said by a high-class prostitute who addresses her potential clients rather formally. But apparently (according to the French wikipedia article for the phrase, which gives this as a reference, and only describes the expression in terms of its popularity in English) it comes from a 1921 novel written in English by an American, so… if that was actually something that was often said by the average francophones back then, there's been plenty of time for more recent developments.

That song always jarred with me (linguistically I mean; musically it's damn funky!), but I have come to terms with it in the following way:

1. It was not written by a native French speaker (I didn't know it came from a novel, though - I assumed the song coined the phrase)

2. In the past, most native English speakers learned French as a classroom discipline. Judging by my (baby boomer) parents, the emphasis was very much on the "vous" form, with the "tu" form very much glossed over. You were learning French in order to order in restaurants, possibly do business in France, write letters, study texts etc. That you might befriend a Frenchman and thus need the "tu" form - good Lord, the very idea!

That's in the UK, but I also cite as a reference the Simpsons episode in which the teenage Marge is helping the teenage Homer with his French. He gives her a flower (or something) and says "Marge, pour vous". This suggests the same emphasis on "vous" in the US in whatever decade that was supposed to be (it's a little difficult to say owing to the Dorian-Grayesque properties of the Simpsons).

3. There is, I believe, a convention in German (?) cinema/TV/literature which a shift from "Sie" to "du" between two characters indicates that the two have "got it on", as it were; they have made the beast with two backs. I don't know if the same exists in French, but in this context, "voulez-vous coucher avec moi" would be the conventional way to ask somebody the first time.




French is a lot more formal with respect to communication with other people than most other languages. Also, moving from formal language and courtesy forms to more normal language requires you know the other person you're communicating with a lot better than is usually required in other languages (or at least as far as I know).

It shows in their common usage of "vous" instead of "you" but also for example in how they end their letters. Where in English you would close a formal letter with the words "Yours faithfully" or something similar, a much used French expression at the end of a letter is "Veuillez agréer, Monsieur, l’expression de mes salutations distinguées" which would more literally translate to "Please accept, mister, the expression of my most distinguished greetings". French is full of that sort of long formal expressions you have to use if you want to be polite. I'm not entirely sure though if this is common for the French language in general or only more specific for French speakers in France.

mooncow
Posts: 48
Joined: Fri Jan 15, 2010 2:12 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby mooncow » Fri Jun 07, 2013 10:45 am UTC

blowfishhootie wrote:Mooncow, since ancient language use is the only right one (assuming your claims are even correct, I don't know and I agree with goofy that it's irrelevant), why are you addressing me with the pronoun "you" here? Don't you know that historically that is only a plural pronoun? You really need to be using thou, thee, thine, etc. How ignorant of you!


Ancient language use is not correct usage today. Except in parts of Yorkshire. However, ancient language use supplies the explanatory logic behind many features of usage today. It was the logic (or "scientific basis") that was asked for.

User avatar
Klear
Posts: 1965
Joined: Sun Jun 13, 2010 8:43 am UTC
Location: Prague

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby Klear » Fri Jun 07, 2013 10:53 am UTC

orthogon wrote:3. There is, I believe, a convention in German (?) cinema/TV/literature which a shift from "Sie" to "du" between two characters indicates that the two have "got it on", as it were; they have made the beast with two backs. I don't know if the same exists in French, but in this context, "voulez-vous coucher avec moi" would be the conventional way to ask somebody the first time.


I hate it when a translator to Czech (often in Czech subtitles or - shudder - dubbing) clearly chooses wrong word to translate "you". There are time I think there's no way these two would use the one that's used in the translation.

goofy
Posts: 911
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 3:32 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby goofy » Fri Jun 07, 2013 11:34 am UTC

mooncow wrote:Ancient language use is not correct usage today. Except in parts of Yorkshire. However, ancient language use supplies the explanatory logic behind many features of usage today. It was the logic (or "scientific basis") that was asked for.


Speaking of which, do you have any evidence that Mr. and Mrs. used to be written M.r and M.rs?

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26820
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jun 07, 2013 2:22 pm UTC

mooncow wrote:
blowfishhootie wrote:Mooncow, since ancient language use is the only right one (assuming your claims are even correct, I don't know and I agree with goofy that it's irrelevant), why are you addressing me with the pronoun "you" here? Don't you know that historically that is only a plural pronoun? You really need to be using thou, thee, thine, etc. How ignorant of you!
Ancient language use is not correct usage today. Except in parts of Yorkshire. However, ancient language use supplies the explanatory logic behind many features of usage today. It was the logic (or "scientific basis") that was asked for.
It provides an explanation for what we say, but mere historical change doesn't ever get us from is to ought.

The fact that humans like the taste of sugar has a clear and simple evolutionary explanation. So tell me: based on that explanation, should I or shouldn't I add sugar to this food I'm preparing? If your answer is that it depends on what I'm making and for whom, then congratulations on getting the point everyone else is making about language.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
histrion
Posts: 183
Joined: Wed Apr 03, 2013 8:34 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby histrion » Fri Jun 07, 2013 2:38 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:So, it appears I wasn't one of yesterday's lucky 10,000 after all, but am instead an old-timer who hasn't watched the series since the early '80s.

OP Tipping wrote:There's a Dr Who and a Dr Watson but know Dr Idunno or Dr Idon'tgiveadamn.


Sure there is. Dr Idon'tgiveadamn is the brother of Mr Frank Lee Idon'tgiveadamn. I thank you.


But which one of them's been doing all the face-swallowing?
histrion, a.k.a. Sir Water of Ten, OKT, Archimandrite of Amicable Apostasy. Cheering on Blitzgirl, just because!

Time is a molecular acid.

User avatar
histrion
Posts: 183
Joined: Wed Apr 03, 2013 8:34 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby histrion » Fri Jun 07, 2013 2:50 pm UTC

blowfishhootie wrote:Nobody can freeze language use in a moment and say, "this how people speak."


Except for Cookie Monster.

(Sorry, me would have let that go without comment if thread were not heavily about grammar, standards, and intelligibility. Yeah-yeah-yeah.)
histrion, a.k.a. Sir Water of Ten, OKT, Archimandrite of Amicable Apostasy. Cheering on Blitzgirl, just because!

Time is a molecular acid.

User avatar
Wnderer
Posts: 640
Joined: Wed Feb 03, 2010 9:10 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby Wnderer » Fri Jun 07, 2013 2:54 pm UTC

The fifth doctor liked to be referred to as as Doc Whovee (Doc Who (roman numeral five)), but there are those who don't consider 'Horton Hears a Who' canonical.

blowfishhootie
Posts: 486
Joined: Wed Sep 21, 2011 11:13 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby blowfishhootie » Fri Jun 07, 2013 3:30 pm UTC

goofy wrote:
blowfishhootie wrote:I'd say it depends on the business being written about, your role in it, the intended and expected audiences for the writing in question, and also what is considered slang. Many, many words we use everyday and wouldn't consider slang were considered slang in the past, but I know you know this already. Any "rule" you can produce, it is incredibly simple to provide any number of scenarios where that rule doesn't apply, which means it's not actually a rule.


But language has rules. It must have rules, or we couldn't communicate at all. You know this, you talk about subconscious rules. I can produce rules that are actual rules and that apply in every scenario. Here's one: "determiners proceed nouns."

blowfishhootie wrote:
I should begin sentences with capital letters, etc.


People start sentences without capitalization all the time, and it is not even a recent thing. In most cases, it does not obscure the meaning. Sometimes it does, and I admit it can make it hard to read, but I also think that's probably because we've trained our brains to look for capital letters to start sentences. Like everything else about language, that is arbitrary and it doesn't mean it must be a universal truth.


Whether or not it obscures the meaning is irrelevant. Its recency is irrelevant. Of course it's arbitrary, all language is arbitrary. In many kinds of formal writing, writers begin sentences with capital letters, so you should begin sentences with capital letters in those kinds of formal writing if you want to communicate effectively. This seems a reasonable position to me. It's not a universal truth, I never said it was, but it is a reasonable rule.

I wish I hadn't mentioned capital letters, because orthography and grammar are two very different things. Orthography is manufactured, while grammar is grown. Grammar doesn't need formally imposed rules but you could argue that orthography does. That is, without some guidance on how to spell and how to use punctuation, we could potentially have some miscommunication.

blowfishhootie wrote:It's not that I believe "anything goes" - it's that to whatever extent rules exist, they are linked to our brains' ability to process the language we find ourselves trying to understand, and so trying to force those alleged "rules" on someone else really makes no sense - if they have a brain, they already subconsciously know the only "rules" that matter.


But subconscious rules are not the only rules that matter. We all know more than one language. The language we learn on our mothers knee is not the same language we write our formal essays in. The rules of standard written English do matter if we want to communicate in standard written English.


I guess I object to them being called rules because it's still totally subjective when and how you follow them, which is kind of the opposite of a rule, as far as I'm concerned. I think it's natural to find and use the best way to communicate that you can - you say you don't use slang in business writing (I bet you do at least a little and don't think about it, but I digress), but that's not because there's some rule against it, it's because you don't think it's the best way for you to communicate. I can surely find examples of business writing that use slang; I'm sure I can find many, many such examples.

gmalivuk said exceptions don't disprove rules, and of course that is true. But with the huge volume of exceptions that exist to these so-called rules, I think they discredit them in this discussion. The sentence "don't use slang in business writing" is so open to interpretation, so if it really is a rule you have to be more specific by defining slang AND business writing. Those are things that are up to the individual, which again, kind of makes it not a rule from my perspective. At the very most, it is a "rule" that an individual imposes on themselves based on their own interpretations of these concepts, and that's it. It's not a universal rule of the English language. Also, even if we do call this a "rule" it is more a cultural one, not a linguistic one. You don't not use slang because it can't communicate your point, you don't use slang because it will cause others to judge you in a negative way. That is a conditioned thing, not a natural feature of English.

Regarding "determiners precede nouns" ... I guess so, but that is mere semantics, because you can rewrite the sentence to say the same thing but just without what we would call a determiner. For example, in these two sentence:


"When you come over, can you bring my books?"
"When you come over, can you bring books belonging to me?"

The second one sounds awkward to me and probably to you, but it's a valid English sentence. But I also would argue that something like this:

"John, can you give book?" [accompanied with a nod toward the book in question]
or maybe, "John, can you give me book that there?"

... while not "correct grammar" by whatever made-up definition we want to use, communicates the point just as well as, "John, can you hand me that book?" Why wouldn't it be, as long as John can understand what book is being referred to? I've lived for years in countries where English is not the primary language, and have heard sentences like these many times. If it's a rule that "that" must come before book in the last sentence I typed, then why would I be able to understand the sentence?

For me, for something to be called a rule when it comes to language, it has to be the case that it is impossible, or nearly impossible, to communicate without following it, and you haven't given me anything that I think falls under that category. I'm not saying there's nothing that falls under that category - I've already acknowledged that there is - just that this example doesn't. In my opinion.

Also, "standard written English" is a myth.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26820
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jun 07, 2013 4:30 pm UTC

blowfishhootie wrote:I guess I object to them being called rules because it's still totally subjective when and how you follow them, which is kind of the opposite of a rule, as far as I'm concerned.
A rule can be subjective and still be a rule, it just might end up being a rule of your idiolect rather than of your whole dialect or language.

However, there absolutely are universal rules for entire languages, with no exceptions among native speakers. Regular verbs in English have <ed> added for the past and past participial forms, and this is pronounced "ed" after /t/ or /d/, "t" after other voiceless consonants, and "d" after everything else. Regular nouns take <s> or <es> for pluralization, with similar rules for how to pronounce it.

Other rules are universal across a particular dialect, such as was/were for singular/plural (with "you" as plural) in most dialects, but switched for some.

gmalivuk said exceptions don't disprove rules, and of course that is true. But with the huge volume of exceptions that exist to these so-called rules, I think they discredit them in this discussion.
A "huge volume of exceptions" just means you don't have a well-phrased rule. The rule, "Add <ed> to make a verb past tense," isn't well-phrased, because it only applies to regular verbs and involves some different spelling rules for certain cases (i.e. all you've really added in "liked" is the <d>). And the rule for subjunctive "were", to be a proper rule, should include the fact that this is expected in formal contexts, but many people conversationally are fine with "was" even for unreal situations.

Regarding "determiners precede nouns" ... I guess so, but that is mere semantics
No, that is actually like the exact opposite of semantics, in that it's a matter of pure syntax. And the rule isn't that *all* nouns are preceded by determiners, because that's obviously not the case. But the rule that, in the event you have both a determiner and an associated noun, the determiner must come first, is absolutely a universal rule for English.

... while not "correct grammar" by whatever made-up definition we want to use, communicates the point just as well as, "John, can you hand me that book?" Why wouldn't it be, as long as John can understand what book is being referred to?
Because as I've said elsewhere, what you intend to communicate with an utterance is almost never simply the logical proposition denoted by those words in that order. If you hope to convey that you are a fluent speaker of English, "Family love Michael" is not the way to do it.

For me, for something to be called a rule when it comes to language, it has to be the case that it is impossible, or nearly impossible, to communicate without following it
This *is* a matter of mere semantics, in that you are using an incredibly narrow definition of the word "rule". I'd say that if something is in fact always followed by L1 speakers who are not making a mistake (which I would define as a thing they themselves would correct if given the chance to examine and edit what they've uttered). That it is possible to communicate while following different rules is immaterial. They are descriptive rules if they in fact describe how language is used.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

blowfishhootie
Posts: 486
Joined: Wed Sep 21, 2011 11:13 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby blowfishhootie » Fri Jun 07, 2013 4:47 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
blowfishhootie wrote:I guess I object to them being called rules because it's still totally subjective when and how you follow them, which is kind of the opposite of a rule, as far as I'm concerned.
A rule can be subjective and still be a rule, it just might end up being a rule of your idiolect rather than of your whole dialect or language.


I said this already. I am discussing rules of the English language, sorry if we're talking about different things.

However, there absolutely are universal rules for entire languages, with no exceptions among native speakers. Regular verbs in English have <ed> added for the past and past participial forms, and this is pronounced "ed" after /t/ or /d/, "t" after other voiceless consonants, and "d" after everything else. Regular nouns take <s> or <es> for pluralization, with similar rules for how to pronounce it.

Other rules are universal across a particular dialect, such as was/were for singular/plural (with "you" as plural) in most dialects, but switched for some.


I've also acknowledged twice that there are in fact rules of some sort.

gmalivuk said exceptions don't disprove rules, and of course that is true. But with the huge volume of exceptions that exist to these so-called rules, I think they discredit them in this discussion.
A "huge volume of exceptions" just means you don't have a well-phrased rule. The rule, "Add <ed> to make a verb past tense," isn't well-phrased, because it only applies to regular verbs and involves some different spelling rules for certain cases (i.e. all you've really added in "liked" is the <d>). And the rule for subjunctive "were", to be a proper rule, should include the fact that this is expected in formal contexts, but many people conversationally are fine with "was" even for unreal situations.

Regarding "determiners precede nouns" ... I guess so, but that is mere semantics
No, that is actually like the exact opposite of semantics, in that it's a matter of pure syntax. And the rule isn't that *all* nouns are preceded by determiners, because that's obviously not the case. But the rule that, in the event you have both a determiner and an associated noun, the determiner must come first, is absolutely a universal rule for English.


I think I've provided an example to the contrary. You're free to disagree, but I think what you're expressing is simply your own cultural expectations of language use, rather than some rule of the English language.

... while not "correct grammar" by whatever made-up definition we want to use, communicates the point just as well as, "John, can you hand me that book?" Why wouldn't it be, as long as John can understand what book is being referred to?
Because as I've said elsewhere, what you intend to communicate with an utterance is almost never simply the logical proposition denoted by those words in that order. If you hope to convey that you are a fluent speaker of English, "Family love Michael" is not the way to do it.


Fluency is another thing that doesn't actually exist, because it implies that there is one standard manner of speaking to which all people are aspiring. Fluent, by my dictionary's definition, says only that you can communicate smoothly and efficiently. If you live in a place where it is common to say, "John, book no good" as I have during the years I spent living in Southeast Asia, then there is nothing at all wrong with that sentence. If my desire is to impress you with my language, then yes, I need to speak the way you expect me to. But I don't think impressing you has ever been my motive in speaking.

For me, for something to be called a rule when it comes to language, it has to be the case that it is impossible, or nearly impossible, to communicate without following it
This *is* a matter of mere semantics, in that you are using an incredibly narrow definition of the word "rule". I'd say that if something is in fact always followed by L1 speakers who are not making a mistake (which I would define as a thing they themselves would correct if given the chance to examine and edit what they've uttered). That it is possible to communicate while following different rules is immaterial. They are descriptive rules if they in fact describe how language is used.


I still object to the use of rule here. I agree that you are describing the way many people speak or write. That's not the same as a rule. How many hundreds of million of English speakers are there in Asia? Between India (where many people are native English speakers) and China and Southeast Asia (where many, many people speak English as a second language). Many of them, in particular the latter, don't follow these so-called "rules." You might respond that they are ESL, but I'll respond with ... so? They're still communicating, and it's still in English. You're describing features, not rules.

For something to be considered a rule, it has to acknowledge the incredible flexibility of language:

A sentence, spoken or written, has to have a subject; BUT that subject does not have to be explicitly mentioned, if it is clear from context.
Means of conjugating verbs I would agree can be called a rule.

"Don't use slang in situation X" though is not a rule of English. It is a feature of a particular culture that happens to include English. It is born of a fear of being cast in a negative light, not a fear that the meaning would be unclear. It is a conditioned behavior independent of language learning.

rmsgrey
Posts: 3653
Joined: Wed Nov 16, 2011 6:35 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby rmsgrey » Fri Jun 07, 2013 5:24 pm UTC

Someone a couple of pages back speculated that the reason Chaucer was still popular was that it was still mostly readable to modern audiences - I think they've got the causation reversed - that the reason Chaucer is still mostly readable for modern audiences is that it is, and has been, popular, so, as part of the corpus of the English language, it has had a lasting influence on the language's development - Shakespeare's works are another example, and so is the King James Bible - the words and phrases of these foundational texts have resonance and power today not because (or not solely because) they were written exceptionally well, but because their phrasing has been incorporated into the language - centuries of educated men have studied and quoted them.

Someone else misquoted Odysseus as calling himself "Nemo" - Odysseus is the Greek name for the character known in Latin as Ulysses and called himself "Outis" ("Οὖτις") - the Greek word for "no-one".

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26820
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jun 07, 2013 6:14 pm UTC

blowfishhootie wrote:
And the rule isn't that *all* nouns are preceded by determiners, because that's obviously not the case. But the rule that, in the event you have both a determiner and an associated noun, the determiner must come first, is absolutely a universal rule for English.
I think I've provided an example to the contrary. You're free to disagree, but I think what you're expressing is simply your own cultural expectations of language use, rather than some rule of the English language.
Your examples were
blowfishhootie wrote:"When you come over, can you bring my books?"
(1) "When you come over, can you bring books belonging to me?"

The second one sounds awkward to me and probably to you, but it's a valid English sentence. But I also would argue that something like this:

(2) "John, can you give book?" [accompanied with a nod toward the book in question]
or maybe, (3) "John, can you give me book that there?"
Your examples (1) and (2) don't have determiners, and are thus not subject to the rule as I stated it. Your example (3), while it may communicate the point, would do so confusingly to most speakers, and would be deemed ungrammatical, I believe, by all L1 speakers of English.

Fluency is another thing that doesn't actually exist, because it implies that there is one standard manner of speaking to which all people are aspiring. Fluent, by my dictionary's definition, says only that you can communicate smoothly and efficiently.
That's what I mean by fluency as well. Are you seriously claiming that this is a thing that does not exist? Where in any of my posts have I said that "fluency" only exists relative to "one standard manner of speaking to which all people are aspiring"?

Fluency can be relative to a dialect, or more to the point relative to a particular intended audience. And if that audience is made up of, say, American L1 speakers of English, there are certain rules that are always followed, and furthermore I would argue that many of them, if broken, would in fact prevent communicating "smoothly and efficiently". If your utterances are less clear to your audience, and clarity is something you intend your utterances to have, then you are not communicating fluently on that occasion.

I don't think impressing you has ever been my motive in speaking.
No, but communicating clearly to the other people on this board most likely is part of your motive, which is why apart from examples you separate off from your own words with quotation marks, everything you've posted here has followed the conventional rules of thumb for educated English use. It doesn't matter whether you intend to "impress" me, when you obviously do intend to communicate effectively and clearly with me, what with all the stuff you say that is clearly directed at me in particular. If my understanding weren't important to you, why aren't you communicating with me like you would with your L2 friends in Asia?

For something to be considered a rule, it has to acknowledge the incredible flexibility of language:
Which it can do by explicitly acknowledging exceptions, or by being worded narrowly enough not to have exceptions. Many rules may not be consistent across all dialects, but that doesn't mean they aren't rules within their own dialects. And other rules are consistent across all dialects.

"Don't use slang in situation X" though is not a rule of English. It is a feature of a particular culture that happens to include English. It is born of a fear of being cast in a negative light, not a fear that the meaning would be unclear. It is a conditioned behavior independent of language learning.
No, it is absolutely a part of language learning. Language is more than mere morphology and simple denotational semantics. Pragmatics, after all, is a real thing that people study, and which is an intrinsic part of language learning.

As I've said a few times, the information you wish to convey with a speech act is (almost?) never restricted to mere propositional content. In business correspondence, for example, participants likely want to additionally communicate the fact that they are experienced and educated and take seriously the business matter under discussion. If your utterances fail to communicate this fact, it is every bit as real a failure of language use as if you misspelled something in a way that makes its meaning unclear.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

goofy
Posts: 911
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 3:32 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby goofy » Sat Jun 08, 2013 2:28 am UTC

blowfishhootie wrote:I've lived for years in countries where English is not the primary language, and have heard sentences like these many times. If it's a rule that "that" must come before book in the last sentence I typed, then why would I be able to understand the sentence?


Hold on... I thought by "unconscious rules" we were talking about the rules that native English speakers use to produce and comprehend utterances. But now you're talking about non-native English speakers. This is a completely different issue, and I don't think it's relevant. Learning a second language is a very different thing than acquiring a first language. Non-native speakers have acquired their L2 system imperfectly (unless they are very advanced); their system will have gaps where an L1 speaker's system won't.

The "determiner proceeds noun" rule is a rule for every variety of English I am aware of. By which I mean: every native speaker of English follows this rule when they produce and comprehend utterances. Sure you can understand an utterance that breaks a rule, but you will still judge the utterance to be ungrammatical. I can't believe that this is a controversial thing to say.

blowfishhootie wrote:The sentence "don't use slang in business writing" is so open to interpretation, so if it really is a rule you have to be more specific by defining slang AND business writing. Those are things that are up to the individual, which again, kind of makes it not a rule from my perspective. At the very most, it is a "rule" that an individual imposes on themselves based on their own interpretations of these concepts, and that's it. It's not a universal rule of the English language.

Good grief, I never said it was a universal rule of the English language. Your definition of "rule" is really weird.

blowfishhootie wrote:Also, even if we do call this a "rule" it is more a cultural one, not a linguistic one. You don't not use slang because it can't communicate your point, you don't use slang because it will cause others to judge you in a negative way. That is a conditioned thing, not a natural feature of English.


It still is part of language. Pragmatics, sociolinguistics.

blowfishhootie wrote:Also, "standard written English" is a myth.


Of course it isn't. It is very hard to define, and it contains a lot of variation, but it is a thing that exists. http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/dick/SEtrudgill2011.doc

sfiller
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Feb 27, 2010 10:31 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby sfiller » Sat Jun 08, 2013 11:32 am UTC

It was my impression that the UK "Mr" without the period was simple progress, like our calling Nato "Nato" rather than "NATO." Apart from that, English is interesting in a variety of ways, and I recommend Samuel Johnson's preface to his Dictionary, 17__, and recommend Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621, which I have just got to and whose sheer power seems to be the prose parallel to Shakespeare. Oh, well.

User avatar
orthogon
Posts: 3099
Joined: Thu May 17, 2012 7:52 am UTC
Location: The Airy 1830 ellipsoid

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby orthogon » Sat Jun 08, 2013 4:17 pm UTC

sfiller wrote:It was my impression that the UK "Mr" without the period was simple progress, like our calling Nato "Nato" rather than "NATO."

The OED reckons that Master turned into Mister because it was pronounced proclitically (which was my word of the day yesterday and isn't as rude as it sounds). Mistress turned into Missus in similar way.

It's quite unusual for an acronym to be written with lower-case letters like that (Nato) in English. And even when that happens, we don't seem to go as far as other languages in giving the acronym first-class word status. I can't think of an example like "ONU" in French, which has its own adjective onusien, meaning "of or related to the United Nations".
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

ijuin
Posts: 1148
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:02 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby ijuin » Sat Jun 08, 2013 4:52 pm UTC

Acronyms that are used as proper names, such as the NATO example, tend to retain their all-capitals rendition, but acronyms that are used as common nouns tend to lose it--for example, laser and radar.

User avatar
Klear
Posts: 1965
Joined: Sun Jun 13, 2010 8:43 am UTC
Location: Prague

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby Klear » Sat Jun 08, 2013 5:51 pm UTC

orthogon wrote: (...) because it was pronounced proclitically (which was my word of the day yesterday and isn't as rude as it sounds). (...)


Hilarious.

Anyway, thanks for the word. It might even dethrone "tmesis" as my favourite linguistic term.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26820
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Jun 08, 2013 6:52 pm UTC

ijuin wrote:Acronyms that are used as proper names, such as the NATO example, tend to retain their all-capitals rendition, but acronyms that are used as common nouns tend to lose it--for example, laser and radar.
Except, that's not actually the case in British English, or at least with the BBC. The norm there seems to be decapitalizing the ones pronounced as words, such as Nato.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

WriteBrainedJR
Posts: 160
Joined: Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:08 pm UTC
Location: Right Behind You
Contact:

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby WriteBrainedJR » Sat Jun 08, 2013 10:07 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
ijuin wrote:Acronyms that are used as proper names, such as the NATO example, tend to retain their all-capitals rendition, but acronyms that are used as common nouns tend to lose it--for example, laser and radar.
Except, that's not actually the case in British English, or at least with the BBC. The norm there seems to be decapitalizing the ones pronounced as words, such as Nato.

I've never seen it written any way but NATO or nato, the latter on the internet in posts by people who never capitalize anything.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26820
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Jun 08, 2013 10:24 pm UTC

Then you evidently don't read the BBC website.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

WriteBrainedJR
Posts: 160
Joined: Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:08 pm UTC
Location: Right Behind You
Contact:

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby WriteBrainedJR » Sat Jun 08, 2013 10:33 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Then you evidently don't read the BBC website.

Why would I read the BBC website?

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26820
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Jun 08, 2013 10:54 pm UTC

Because that would have made your reply actually relevant to the post of mine that you quoted in it?
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

SimonMoon5
Posts: 25
Joined: Thu Feb 02, 2012 4:00 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby SimonMoon5 » Sun Jun 09, 2013 1:10 am UTC

Tying this back to "Doctor Who," what about the word TARDIS or Tardis or even tardis?

People on Doctor Who fan forums tend to be obsessed with making sure that the word is always in all caps: TARDIS, even when talking about someone else's tardis.

goofy
Posts: 911
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 3:32 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby goofy » Sun Jun 09, 2013 1:26 am UTC

SimonMoon5 wrote:Tying this back to "Doctor Who," what about the word TARDIS or Tardis or even tardis?

People on Doctor Who fan forums tend to be obsessed with making sure that the word is always in all caps: TARDIS, even when talking about someone else's tardis.


It doesn't stop being an acronym when it belongs to someone else.

ijuin
Posts: 1148
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:02 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby ijuin » Sun Jun 09, 2013 4:38 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
ijuin wrote:Acronyms that are used as proper names, such as the NATO example, tend to retain their all-capitals rendition, but acronyms that are used as common nouns tend to lose it--for example, laser and radar.
Except, that's not actually the case in British English, or at least with the BBC. The norm there seems to be decapitalizing the ones pronounced as words, such as Nato.


I wasn't referring to whether or not an acronym was pronounced as a word/name or not, but rather to whether or not it is a Proper Name--i.e. the name of a place, event, organization, etc. instead of a common object. Thus, NATO is a Proper Name, while "radar" is treated as a common noun.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26820
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Jun 09, 2013 4:52 am UTC

Yes, I'm well aware of what you were referring to. You were wrong.

Being a proper noun means it retains first-letter capitalization, but not an "all-capitals rendition", a case in point being the BBC's use of "Nato" rather than "NATO".
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
orthogon
Posts: 3099
Joined: Thu May 17, 2012 7:52 am UTC
Location: The Airy 1830 ellipsoid

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby orthogon » Mon Jun 10, 2013 8:08 am UTC

Klear wrote:
orthogon wrote: (...) because it was pronounced proclitically (which was my word of the day yesterday and isn't as rude as it sounds). (...)


Hilarious.

Anyway, thanks for the word. It might even dethrone "tmesis" as my favourite linguistic term.


You're welcome, and thanks for "tmesis" in return. Actually I noticed that there's a link to "clitic" in the the "see also" section of the Wikipedia article on "tmesis". I was trying to think of an example of a clitic used tmetically, but didn't get anywhere.

I liked your definitions.net link, too. It reminds me of those Microsoft Help pages that used to go along the lines of "Inserting a grubbet. To insert a grubbet, click on the Insert menu and select grubbet from the dropdown". I always suspected that the entire Help database was auto-generated from the menu hierarchy. (That was before the abomination that is the ribbon, of course).
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

User avatar
Klear
Posts: 1965
Joined: Sun Jun 13, 2010 8:43 am UTC
Location: Prague

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby Klear » Mon Jun 10, 2013 8:14 am UTC

orthogon wrote:You're welcome, and thanks for "tmesis" in return. Actually I noticed that there's a link to "clitic" in the the "see also" section of the Wikipedia article on "tmesis". I was trying to think of an example of a clitic used tmetically, but didn't get anywhere.


That's in-clicti-credible!

jpvlsmv
Posts: 85
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2013 9:43 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby jpvlsmv » Mon Jun 10, 2013 5:31 pm UTC

Angelastic wrote:
speising wrote:well, judging by the line voulez vous coucher avec moi, that must be a more recent development. or canadian?

That's a pretty unusual line; the best explanation I've heard of it is that it could be said by a high-class prostitute who addresses her potential clients rather formally. But apparently (according to the French wikipedia article for the phrase, which gives this as a reference, and only describes the expression in terms of its popularity in English) it comes from a 1921 novel written in English by an American, so… if that was actually something that was often said by the average francophones back then, there's been plenty of time for more recent developments.

Or since "vous" is also used as the second-person plural, it could be asking "do y'all want to sleep with me"?

User avatar
orthogon
Posts: 3099
Joined: Thu May 17, 2012 7:52 am UTC
Location: The Airy 1830 ellipsoid

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby orthogon » Mon Jun 10, 2013 8:28 pm UTC

jpvlsmv wrote:
Angelastic wrote:
speising wrote:well, judging by the line voulez vous coucher avec moi, that must be a more recent development. or canadian?

That's a pretty unusual line; the best explanation I've heard of it is that it could be said by a high-class prostitute who addresses her potential clients rather formally. But apparently (according to the French wikipedia article for the phrase, which gives this as a reference, and only describes the expression in terms of its popularity in English) it comes from a 1921 novel written in English by an American, so… if that was actually something that was often said by the average francophones back then, there's been plenty of time for more recent developments.

Or since "vous" is also used as the second-person plural, it could be asking "do y'all want to sleep with me"?

For. The. Win.

Please accept ten Internets.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

Deuce03
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Jun 17, 2013 2:56 am UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby Deuce03 » Mon Jun 17, 2013 3:09 am UTC

goofy wrote:
SimonMoon5 wrote:Tying this back to "Doctor Who," what about the word TARDIS or Tardis or even tardis?

People on Doctor Who fan forums tend to be obsessed with making sure that the word is always in all caps: TARDIS, even when talking about someone else's tardis.


It doesn't stop being an acronym when it belongs to someone else.

That's assuming it was ever actually an acronym in the first place, though. Susan said she came up with the acronym, but it seems unlikely that would be the standard term for a Time Lord vessel if that were the case (and, thanks to The Name of the Doctor, we know that they were referred to as Tardises on Gallifrey before the Doctor stole his). There are a few answers, I suppose:
1. The standard designation is "TARDIS" as described. This is the origin of the word from ancient Gallifrey; Susan was lying, or otherwise mistaken about coming up with it herself.
2. Susan is an ancient Time Lord who came up with the TARDIS acronym that later became the standard. Seems unlikely given that she's apparently younger than the Doctor, who's relatively young for a Time Lord at the time.
3. The standard designation is and has been at all material times "Tardis". The "TARDIS" description is a backronym coined by Susan.
4. The standard designation is "TARDIS". Susan's coming up with the acronym has been retconned and is no longer true.

If (3) is true, and the Doctor was particularly taken with Susan's imagination, it might be that the TARDIS use is unique to the Doctor's Tardis, but the same term (pronounced identically, but spelt differently) is used for all other Time Lord vessels too.

I'm sure this has been gone over many times and will never be satisfactorily answered, of course, rather like "why are there still Daleks when they've all been completely exterminated multiple times including in their very first appearance?"

goofy
Posts: 911
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 3:32 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby goofy » Mon Jun 17, 2013 11:58 am UTC

Deuce03 wrote:2. Susan is an ancient Time Lord who came up with the TARDIS acronym that later became the standard. Seems unlikely given that she's apparently younger than the Doctor, who's relatively young for a Time Lord at the time.


Susan grew up in the Old Time. That's when she came up with the name.

rmsgrey
Posts: 3653
Joined: Wed Nov 16, 2011 6:35 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby rmsgrey » Mon Jun 17, 2013 12:09 pm UTC

Deuce03 wrote:I'm sure this has been gone over many times and will never be satisfactorily answered, of course, rather like "why are there still Daleks when they've all been completely exterminated multiple times including in their very first appearance?"


That one's easy: time travel. Even if the Daleks are entirely wiped out, they still existed earlier. And the original appearance only left them assumed disabled - since later appearances show more advanced capabilities, they presumably got better...

wyatt8740
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Aug 21, 2013 4:32 pm UTC

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby wyatt8740 » Wed Aug 21, 2013 4:51 pm UTC

Antior wrote:Referring to The Doctor (character) as "Doctor Who" is about the same level of ignorance as mixing up Vulcans and Klingons.

Sorry to bring this up so long after the post was made, but for much of the programme's original run, the credits at the end of each episode were to "Doctor Who" as seen here:
i dot imgur dot com slash M8D0UJw dot png
cant post links, sorry. But i signed up so i could point out this error.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26820
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: 1221: "Nomenclature"

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Aug 21, 2013 7:10 pm UTC

But not, apparently, to read the rest of the thread?
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)


Return to “Individual XKCD Comic Threads”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 101 guests