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THEORY: Natural language change (was Re: Charlie and I)

From:Thomas R. Wier <artabanos@...>
Date:Monday, September 20, 1999, 5:08
alypius wrote:

> >"Mom gave cookies to Charlie and me" > > > >becomes: > > > >"Mom gave cookies to Charlie and I" > > That's because our schools don't teach formal grammar anymore. Student=
> aren't taught that English prepositions take the accusative case. Heck=
> most students don't even know what an accusative case is. In fact, I'l=
l bet
> some teachers don't even know! ~alypius
But the history of language academies and mass education and other such forms of formal socialization have had a horrible trackrecord when it comes to getting people to use the forms they insist are correct. L'Academie Francaise certainly hasn't prevented many French people from borrowing English words like "weekend" or "teeshirt", nor has there *ever* been a strong tendency even among hyperliterate English speakers to not split any ol' infinitive they want to [ :) ]. Indeed, I'd say it's much the opposite: that langu= age changes on its own, from the ground up, and formal grammars are for the most part encapsulations of one person's or group's own, often arbitrary, decisions about what language should be like (much of English prescriptive grammar). The fact that more and more people are accepting such constructions as "Me and John went to the store" is indicative that something more fundamental is going on at the level of syntax and morphology, that it's not just a lack of education. A point in case: generations of people have been told to say "whom" as an objective relative pronoun, and yet its use has been in sharp decline at the same time as there has been a general increase in the availability of education to the common man. I'd say that the decline in the instruction of formal grammar* is a result of, not a cause of, the general feeling that these changes are in many cases already so extensive that to counter them would require near-fascist tactics with respect to language (a la Atat=FCrk earlier this century), which most people would consider unacceptable, as government policies go. * (and, as Nik has already clarified, it's a good question how much in decline it really is. Certainly my experience in the public education system was not without a good and more or less steady dose of formal prescriptive grammar.) =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D= =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D= =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D Tom Wier <artabanos@...> ICQ#: 4315704 AIM: Deuterotom Website: <> "Cogito ergo sum, sed credo ergo ero." Denn wo Begriffe fehlen, Da stellt ein Wort zur rechten Zeit sich ein. -- Mephistopheles, in Goethe's _Faust_ =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D= =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D= =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D