2039: "Begging the Question"

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Pfhorrest » Sun Sep 23, 2018 11:08 pm UTC

You assume all dictionaries are trying to document usage rather than to shape it. If it’s not trying to document then you can hardly call it wrong for “failing” to do something it wasn’t trying to do.

This is the core failing of all “descriptivism”. Describing language is not the only activity one can engage in regarding language. It is AN activity and one someone should be doing, sure, but not the only one, and others trying to do other things entirely are not wrong for failing to do something that isn’t what they are trying to do.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Eebster the Great » Sun Sep 23, 2018 11:40 pm UTC

Again, what dictionary has a realistic shot of shaping the English language as a whole?

Apart from that, the assertion was that because some prescriptivist dicitonary did not list a meaning of a word, therefore that meaning is "wrong." Do you really think that's what determines correctness in a language? Inclusion in a dictionary?

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby ijuin » Mon Sep 24, 2018 2:15 am UTC

Given that the most “complete” dictionaries take up several thousand pages, any smaller dictionary is necessarily incomplete, and thus omission from a clearly incomplete dictionary is not a sign of the invalidity of a given definition.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Sep 24, 2018 3:22 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
you can hardly call it wrong for “failing” to do something it wasn’t trying to do.

No, in that case I'd call it wrong for trying to do something any linguist could tell you is impossible. It still fails, but now does so right from its inception rather than by being a few years out of date or incomplete due to lack of space or whatever.

As a social construct, language has important features in common with other social constructs, which make certain analogies particularly illustrative. The similarity to fashion has been discussed before, including in a previous comic, but I think the similarities with money are also interesting here.

As an analogy to a dictionary, consider something like the Kelley Blue Book for car values. If the book doesn't track what people are actually paying for various cars, it's wrong. If I made a competing guide with the intent of setting the prices of cars, mine would also be wrong. And mine would be wrong regardless of how much research I did or how often I updated my book, because that's just not how prices work in the real world.

(Yes, of course, people do set prices based on blue book values, but that's because they treat it as a guide to how much value other people do in fact put on those cars, rather than as a prescriptive rulebook that everyone needs to follow.)
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Euphonium » Tue Sep 25, 2018 12:38 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:As an analogy to a dictionary, consider something like the Kelley Blue Book for car values. If the book doesn't track what people are actually paying for various cars, it's wrong. If I made a competing guide with the intent of setting the prices of cars, mine would also be wrong. And mine would be wrong regardless of how much research I did or how often I updated my book, because that's just not how prices work in the real world.

(Yes, of course, people do set prices based on blue book values, but that's because they treat it as a guide to how much value other people do in fact put on those cars, rather than as a prescriptive rulebook that everyone needs to follow.)


The conspiratorially-minded might suggest that the KBB has enough influence by now that if its authors wanted to, they very much could turn it into a prescriptive project by ignoring actual data in favor of what they thought it to be, slowly and surreptitiously changing its contents. Depending on how skilled they were, it could be a while before people caught on.

Of course, the difference is that there's no way to do that with a dictionary because unlike car prices, except for a very very few people we're almost all immersed in language from the moment we're born.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Old Bruce » Tue Sep 25, 2018 12:50 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:
you can hardly call it wrong for “failing” to do something it wasn’t trying to do.

....
As a social construct, language has important features in common with other social constructs, ...

I think language is a biological construct, and it may coincidentally have similarities with some social constructs.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Euphonium » Tue Sep 25, 2018 1:55 am UTC

Old Bruce wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:
you can hardly call it wrong for “failing” to do something it wasn’t trying to do.

....
As a social construct, language has important features in common with other social constructs, ...

I think language is a biological construct, and it may coincidentally have similarities with some social constructs.


Distinguish between the fact of language, the constrains upon it, and the content of it.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Sableagle » Tue Sep 25, 2018 2:16 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:Again, what dictionary has a realistic shot of shaping the English language as a whole?

Apart from that, the assertion was that because some prescriptivist dicitonary did not list a meaning of a word, therefore that meaning is "wrong." Do you really think that's what determines correctness in a language? Inclusion in a dictionary?

Does this mean that saying I've been more effected by the events of this week then I were by all what happen last week cores this week been to much too bare is correct English?
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Sep 25, 2018 3:03 am UTC

Sableagle wrote:Does this mean that saying I've been more effected by the events of this week then I were by all what happen last week cores this week been to much too bare is correct English?

Considering it took me four or five re-reads to parse what you were trying to say there, I'd think even a descriptivist would say that that's incorrect English.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Eebster the Great » Tue Sep 25, 2018 3:34 am UTC

I still haven't really figured it out. The correctness or incorrectness depends on usage and intelligibility and perhaps, arguably, with patterns of usage that can be extended to other concepts, constituting rules (which of course still have many exceptions). But it has nothing to do with dictates of specific authorities. No dictionary, even a prescriptivist one, can claim to be the actual author of the rules of English, only to present what they think those rules are or should be. Nobody has authority over the English language.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Euphonium » Tue Sep 25, 2018 3:48 am UTC

Sableagle wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:Again, what dictionary has a realistic shot of shaping the English language as a whole?

Apart from that, the assertion was that because some prescriptivist dicitonary did not list a meaning of a word, therefore that meaning is "wrong." Do you really think that's what determines correctness in a language? Inclusion in a dictionary?

Does this mean that saying I've been more effected by the events of this week then I were by all what happen last week cores this week been to much too bare is correct English?


No, because it does not comport with the conventions that have emerged through the usage of any community of English speakers.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Sep 25, 2018 4:04 am UTC

Old Bruce wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:
you can hardly call it wrong for “failing” to do something it wasn’t trying to do.

....
As a social construct, language has important features in common with other social constructs, ...

I think language is a biological construct, and it may coincidentally have similarities with some social constructs.

The existence of human language is probably biological, but the particulars of any specific language are entirely social.

Pfhorrest wrote:
Sableagle wrote:Does this mean that saying I've been more effected by the events of this week then I were by all what happen last week cores this week been to much too bare is correct English?

Considering it took me four or five re-reads to parse what you were trying to say there, I'd think even a descriptivist would say that that's incorrect English.

Yeah, my simplistic account of "correctness" has to do with accurately conveying the information you intend to the audience you intend. Unless that information is supposed to include things like, "I don't know the difference between any homophones," and, "I don't care if I make readers spend extra time and effort trying to understand this," then you have not successfully used written English with that sentence.

(Beyond successfully conveying information, there are also rules we use to produce language. Descriptivists and prescriptivists disagree on where those rules come from and how we can discover them, but we still agree that rules exist, and thus that they can be violated.)
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Quercus » Tue Sep 25, 2018 8:31 am UTC

As we're discussing this, I thought I'd ask a question that's been bothering me for a while. What do y'all think of having and expressing aesthetic preferences in the use of language that are at odds with how usage patterns are evolving?

One example would be "effect" as a verb as in "they effected these reforms through X piece of legislation". I think it's a beautiful verb, both in its sound (it's almost onamatopeic to my ears) and in its symmetry with "effect" as a noun. I would like to see it more commonly used and it makes me sad and annoyed that its usage appears to be declining or at least not increasing (I think that is the case - it's a rather difficult one to google and find solid trends for).

On the one hand I think that dammit, I'm allowed to find beauty in particular bits of language and mourn the passing of that beauty; in much the same way that I'm sad that prog rock is no longer a popular genre of music. On the other hand I worry that I'm being at best snobbish, and at worst classist/elitist. Thoughts?

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby orthogon » Tue Sep 25, 2018 10:33 am UTC

The symmetry of "effect" is a bit odd, though. The most common sense of the noun effect goes with the verb affect. (To affect something is to have an effect on it). The verb effect presumably relates to the sense "come into effect" of the noun. And the noun affect is kind of on its own.

For me the aesthetic beauty of the language is an emergent effect that results from ongoing careful use of exactly-defined words to mean very specific things. The actual phoneme sequences are almost entirely arbitrary. Even onomatopoeias turn out to be rather conventional, as can be seen in the different sounds apparently made by the same animal in different languages. I think I get an endorphin kick from seeing the ?ffect words used correctly because ... I don't know - perhaps because it's pleasurable to see somebody else using the same rules as me. It's something important that I have in common with the writer.

I guess it's the same kind of beauty that a jet engine has (see other thread). But there's a bit of tribalism to it too.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Quercus » Tue Sep 25, 2018 10:43 am UTC

orthogon wrote:The actual phoneme sequences are almost entirely arbitrary.


For me some words are definitely pretty, and some are ugly. Some words also sound consonent with their meanings, and others sound dissonant with them.

I'm guessing that my various slight synaesthesias might have something to do with that.

orthogon wrote:But there's a bit of tribalism to it too.


Yeah, that's what I worry about. Do I like these words simply because I'm an educated, white person with a middle-class upbringing, and a particular use of language is a group identifier for that demographic?


ETA: The odd symmetry of "effect" is part of why I like it I think - it's like a minor chord, almost simple, but with just enough complexity to keep it intriguing.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby orthogon » Tue Sep 25, 2018 11:04 am UTC

Quercus wrote:
orthogon wrote:But there's a bit of tribalism to it too.


Yeah, that's what I worry about. Do I like these words simply because I'm an educated, white person with a middle-class upbringing, and a particular use of language is a group identifier for that demographic?

I would say that being white and middle class is only part of it. Everyone has to learn to talk or write in an formal and careful way: nobody's natural speech is like that. And being educated isn't something anybody ought to apologise for, in my view. In fact a "standard", formal register of language can be a leveler, rather like a school uniform or standard business suit. By adopting a shared standard, however arbitrary, we can break free of the constraints of background. For sure the playing field isn't level, but I think having a common standard can ease rather than hinder social mobility.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Sep 25, 2018 1:14 pm UTC

No one has a problem with linguistic aesthetic preferences as long as you acknowledge they're aesthetic and don't try to force them on other speakers. (Even when everyone understands they're just preferences, there's a difference between advocating and promoting something you like and discouraging or complaining about something you don't.)
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Sep 25, 2018 1:20 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:I still haven't really figured it out.

"I've been more effected by the events of this week then I were by all what happen last week cores this week been to much too bare"
=> "I've been more affected by the events of this week, than I was by all that happened last week, because this week has been too much to bear."

One of many interpretations of the intended 'correct' version. Not entirely sure if it's better as "all that happened", "all which happened" (one of those is wrongerer) or even "all that did happen" as an alternative.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Eebster the Great » Tue Sep 25, 2018 6:39 pm UTC

Soupspoon wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:I still haven't really figured it out.

"I've been more effected by the events of this week then I were by all what happen last week cores this week been to much too bare"
=> "I've been more affected by the events of this week, than I was by all that happened last week, because this week has been too much to bear."

One of many interpretations of the intended 'correct' version. Not entirely sure if it's better as "all that happened", "all which happened" (one of those is wrongerer) or even "all that did happen" as an alternative.

Ah, I think it was really the "cores" spelling of "'cause" that got me. I've never seen that before. I think "all that happened" is correct here; the relative clause in this sentence is restrictive, and people tend to use "which" only for non-restrictive clauses (though I don't know if that's a "rule" per se). I also don't think you need the comma before "than." Typically we don't put a comma in the middle of a comparison.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Sep 25, 2018 6:59 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:I also don't think you need the comma before "than." Typically we don't put a comma in the middle of a comparison.
I pondered about that at length. It's an entirely removable sub-clause, in my head. Though, having removed it, I'd definitely swap the second "this week" for "it" to make better rhetorical flow.

I could have done without the pre-'because' comma as well, except that the dispunctuated run-oniness seemed unbearable. To me. But you know how I like sub-clausing. Or ()ing things. I very nearly parenthesised the prior-week comparative elements!

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Weeks » Tue Sep 25, 2018 8:31 pm UTC

Soupspoon wrote:Not entirely sure if it's better as "all that happened", "all which happened" (one of those is wrongerer)
This is where I believe the razor sharp rule definition of the language breaks down into almost arbitrariness, because either phrase can be understood to have the same practical meaning: a set of events occurring in the past. In common conversation, the difference would go unnoticed unless specifically given emphasis.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Sep 25, 2018 8:54 pm UTC

'Wrongerer' doesn't mean wrong. Nor plain wronger. Just wrongerer.

8-)

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Weeks » Tue Sep 25, 2018 9:02 pm UTC

hilarious

as in, that's what you meant I think ("one of those is wrongerer" -> "one of those is hilarious")
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby rmsgrey » Wed Sep 26, 2018 12:36 am UTC

I'm now waiting for something to be declared "the wrongeresterest".

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Weeks » Wed Sep 26, 2018 1:27 am UTC

whomst'd've
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suffer-cait wrote:One day I'm gun a go visit weeks and discover they're just a computer in a trashcan at an ice cream shop.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Mikeski » Wed Sep 26, 2018 2:26 am UTC

rmsgrey wrote:I'm now waiting for something to be declared "the wrongeresterest".

That term has already been surpassed.


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