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USAGE: Diversity and uniformity (No rants! (USAGE: di"f"thong))

From:Benct Philip Jonsson <bpj@...>
Date:Thursday, June 1, 2006, 15:41
I can hardly call this "No rants!", seeing how I'm
in rant mode today.  I maintain that ranting for a
good cause is permissible, however! :-)

Andreas Johansson skrev:
> Citerar Benct Philip Jonsson <bpj@...>: > > >>In the Modern age >>'correctness' in spelling and grammar has strangely become >>a powerful tool of social and cultural oppression -- >>strangely because the same age has seen the most advances >>ever in terms of political and personal freedom. > > > I'm not sure if I agree with the later statement, but in any case one of the > strongest tendencies of the post-medieval West is one towards increased > centralization, politically and socially. I'd think normative standardized > spelling fits right in.
Well, agreed, but then IMNSHO political and social centralization is a trend opposed to, even if concurrent with, democratization. At the same time I'm not convinced that uniformization and centralization are necessary corollaries of each other; they are certainly not the same thing. While I am prepared to admit that a certain amount of centralization may be necessary to implement and safeguard democracy it can also very easily be used to abet oppression and totalitarianism, and you must excuse me when I insist that uniformism (in the non-geological sense) is mostly an expression of this anti-democratic side of centralization. The main 'purpose' of uniformism is to define who belongs to the in-group, and who doesn't, and spelling uniformism is no exception: it serves the purpose of dividing the educated and the uneducated in an age when the mere knowledge of writing as such doesn't fulfil that purpose anymore.
>>It wouldn't actually impair any other Swedes' understanding of >>what I write if I introduced a number of new letters and/or >>used some of the old ones slightly differently from them >>-- it's the prejudice that everybody ought to spell identically >>that is the real stumbling block. > > > Call me prejudiced, but I'm quite convinced it would seriously impair my > understanding of your writings if you introduced a number of new letters. > > However, some mild respellings - 'kk' for 'ck', say - probably wouldn't affect > comprehension.
I seriously doubt that you'd be seriously hampered if I threw in some _â, ô, û_, especially since _â, û_ would mostly correspond to _a, u_ in the traditional spelling, and _ô_, which would be the most frequent of them, would correspond to _o_ or _ö_. You would probably be more bothered if I started to use _e, ö_ against traditional _i, y_ in some words, although this is actually a far more common expression of dialect spelling! (Simplified explanation for non-Swedes: the circumflexed letters are used in dialect spellings for sounds that are more centralized than the corresponding unadorned letters. These sounds are allophonic in the dialects that standard spelling is based on, but phonemic in many other dialects.)
>>Again if spelling wasn't so rigid maybe people wouldn't >>be so unaware and surprised about how speech differs! >>IMNSHO what makes these YAEPTs so annoying is that people >>don't just take an interest in how speech differs, but >>there is somehow a more or less unexpressed assumption >>that this is strange, undesirable and/or problematic! >>why are you all conlanging if linguistic diversity is >>strange, undesirable and/or problematic? > > > It's all about context. > > In a conlang set in a non-modern setting, intended as an aesthetic exercise, > variant spellings add a measure of verisimultude. In a modern text which you > are reading because you are interested in the content, not how that content is > conveyed, it is just an obstacle to rapid comprehension*. I do not think it at > all strange I have different attitudes to it the respective cases.
I think you missed my point: I was not talking about spelling variation as part of a conlang set in a non-modern setting, but of (artlang) conlanging generally as an expression of linguistic creativity, diversity and non-uniformism, and what surprises me is that the same individuals can embrace one form of linguistic creativity, diversity and non-uniformism, but be snooty conformists in another aspect of language. (BTW scratch 'snooty': conformism is snooty by definition, although I guess I'm trying to get people to conform to my anti-conformism! :-) Ah well, I guess seeing the paradox in democracy is necessary for being a real democrat -- or should I say 'democracist' not to be misunderstood by American readers? ;-)
> * From many years' participitation on various mailing lists and online fora, I > think I can say with some authority that nonstandard spelling decreases > effective reading speed, and that it not infrequently impairs understanding.
I think you missed my point again: it's just a matter of what one is used to. English speakers may be bothered by British- American spelling differences *initially* -- and the same is true of 'new' versus 'old' German spelling(*), and the differences between the mainland Scandinavian languages, or even between Spanish and Italian -- but after a while you do get used to a variation that is not only limited but even principled. That it *my* experience from reading rather more than most people in Norwegian and Danish and archaic Swedish. The same is of course true of spoken dialects: the more often you listen to other dialects the more easily you catch up on new 'foreign' dialects just because you are already used to variation as such. (*)To be sure I would probably not even notice if a German text I read was written in the 'new' orthography, and when reading English texts it is usually different lexis and turn of phrase, not different spelling that makes me realize if it is British or American. The only spelling difference that really makes me stop is that between -ize and -ise, but that's clearly only because I'm prejudiced against the latter. I have no feelings concerning the number of l's in _travel(l)ing_, and only mild feelings against -our versus -or, and only because I generally prefer shorter spellings against longer. It seems you are a mental-effort conservationist and I'm a physical-effort/dead tree conservationist! :) -- /BP 8^)> -- Benct Philip Jonsson -- melroch at melroch dot se "Maybe" is a strange word. When mum or dad says it it means "yes", but when my big brothers say it it means "no"! (Philip Jonsson jr, age 7)


Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>