Amid this vague uncertainty, who walks safe?

“Let me decline to enlist on either side of this concocted war of the -ists, and speak instead on behalf of a third group: the Rational People. We believe in making value judgements about language use: some writers are better than others, and even good writers sometimes make poor choices and outright mistakes. But we also believe in the value of facts, both about linguistic history and about current usage. We’re unwilling to accept the assertions of self-appointed linguistic authorities about what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ if these assertions conflict with the way that the best writers use the language. We understand that vernacular forms of English are not faulty or degenerate approximations to the formal standard—instead, they’re just, well, vernacular. We’re willing to accept, as Horace was, that new words and structures, and new uses of old words and structures, can be a valuable addition even to the most formal linguistic registers. In a nutshell: we don’t worship our own prejudices, and we’re more curious than censorious.”—”Amid this vague uncertainty, who walks safe?” Mark Liberman, Language Log.

Posted February 23, 2007

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