Episode 49 – Linguistic Correctness

In this episode I talk about linguistic correctness. That is, the idea that there are correct ways to speak and write languages that conform to grammatical standards and conventions (“rules”), and that anything else is wrong.

There are three kinds of grammatical rules or conventions:

  1. Rules that everybody follows. For example in English, articles and adjectives precede nouns – you say the word and not word the, and a long word, not a word long.
  2. Rules that distinguish the standard varieties of a language from other varieties. For example, in standard English you might say ‘I don’t have any money’, while in some varieties you might say ‘I ain’t got no money’.
  3. Rules that are written in grammar books and which many people believe you should follow. For example, in English infinitives should never be split, sentences should never end with a prepostion, and you should never use a double negative. Many of these were just pet peeves and preferences of 18th century writers.

Then there are spelling and punctuation conventions, such as the use of commas, semi-colons and apostrophes.

I discussed what grammar is and where it comes from in Episode 16 and talk about the origins of some linguistic pet peeves in Episode 16

Further reading
What Is ‘Correct’ Language?
The Notion of Correctness
Definition and Examples of Correctness in Language

Theme tune

Friday Afternoon / Prynhawn Dydd Gwener

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One thought on “Episode 49 – Linguistic Correctness

  1. One of my pet peeves is when people confuse “its” and “it’s” in writing. I have tried in vain to correct people, to no avail. You can tell them that “it’s” means “it is” and you know the usage is right if you can substitute them, but the advice falls on deaf ears, I am afraid.

    Another pet peeve is the confusion of transitive vs. intransitive verbs. Writers seems clueless about this, probably because it has so much become part of “accepted” writing, it’s no use now to correct it. For instance, you can “grow” a flower, but you can’t “grow” a business. You can “enlarge” or “expand” a business, but you can’t grow one. “Grow” is transitive only when the meaning relates to the growth of plants (and similar grammatical constructions).

    What is a language policeman to do? Sigh.

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