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View Diary: Daily Kos Elections Weekly Open Thread: Good Friday Edition (309 comments)

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  •  Okay the point I was trying to make (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    is that it just isn't all that sad if you consider this: the way that the brain learns language has absolutely zero to do with how we spell things and English spelling in particularly is incredibly arbitrary with respect to linguistic properties of the words. I do concede Michael's point about spelling/grammar/etc for career purposes and obviously I try to spell everything correctly and write papers and apply for jobs I try to write much less informally, but to infer something about English speaker's intelligence based on spelling when they use the proper linguistic grammar (not written grammar, which is slightly different) when speaking is just doing those people a disservice, especially because there are so many dialects of even American English and English is particularly hard to learn as a foreign language.

    Anyway, the point is that if/when I start teaching political science, I could never see myself grading on spelling or grammar if it were issues like "if it were" vs 'if it was" or "none has" vs "none were" when the meaning is completely unambiguous due to context. I might let the student know of the 'mistakes' if they were trying to publish it, but I've always thought that the ideas expressed are what is valuable. Basically substance over form. Another problem with this is that there are certain dialects such as African American English (as it's referred to academically) where the grammatical rules that are correct for the dialect are considered 'wrong' by non-dialect speakers and it causes those speakers to think of those who speak African American English as being dumb because they don't know the rules when in fact they just have acquired different rules. This is true to a lesser extent among white American dialects such as 'southern' English (y'all) or even northeastern English (yous guys). Essentially this way of speaking is 'correct' in that it follows the psychological rules of that dialect.

    The one area of language/grammar where I think it is ridiculous when people make mistakes is non-idiomatic expresses such as "I couldn't care less" when people say "I could care less." This isn't an idiom; people have meant exactly what the words have literally meant for a long time with that phrase, and when you screw it up you completely change the meaning, which is to say that it becomes at best ambiguous, or at worst the opposite of what you meant. Another one is where people use "literally" for emphasis or hyperbole which is the opposite of what the word means. Obviously this is how language keeps evolving and that's just it, language is a living thing, but in the age of popular recorded sound and the internet our language shouldn't be evolving contradictory meanings, just different (slang) ones or contextual ones.

    English would be a whole lot easier if we spelled everything with the IPA, but that's difficult to do with myriad regional dialects. That's one thing that makes me hate that having every human being learn English would still make more sense than any other language. It's just not a remotely efficient language based upon spelling (or regularization).

    I say all of this as someone who used to be a total stickler for spelling and grammar and could type with perfect spelling and punctuation at 150wpm when I was 18.

    •  English weirdness (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, HoosierD42, sacman701

      A house burning up and a house burning down means the exact same thing.

      20, CA-18 (home), CA-13 (school)
      politicohen.com
      Socially libertarian, moderate on foreign policy, immigration, and crime, liberal on everything else.
      UC Berkeley; I think I'm in the conservative half of this city. -.4.12, -4.92

      by jncca on Sat Mar 30, 2013 at 05:27:16 PM PDT

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    •  I tolerate "I could care less" (0+ / 0-)

      It's very rarely ambiguous in meaning. I use "I couldn't care less," though. "Literally" for emphasis does bother me, though. I think that diminishes the richness of the language, because there are so many other words that can be used for emphasis, but there isn't any other word that has the exact meaning of "literally" (though "exactly" and "actually" are close).

      Using non-standard dialects says absolutely nothing about a person's intelligence, but to be successful in the professions, people have to know how to code switch, and part of my job is to help them know how to do that.

      I don't grade papers down for a few small errors, but if there are lots of mistakes, I do lower their grade somewhat because part of my job is to make sure that students have strong incentives to learn how to write in standard English. At least if they learn how to do it once, they might not forget everything once they graduate.

      Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

      by MichaelNY on Sat Mar 30, 2013 at 05:43:17 PM PDT

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    •  I don't think (0+ / 0-)

      that English is especially hard to learn compared to, say, Mandarin or Japanese.

      •  Japanese pronunciation (0+ / 0-)

        is more phonetical. Mandarin is not easy for English-speakers but I think its grammar is not as complex as English. I only know a bit of survival-level Mandarin, however.

        Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

        by MichaelNY on Sat Mar 30, 2013 at 09:38:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  writing (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          English uses 26 characters. Japanese uses about 2,000. Chinese uses...something like 4,000? and for both of the Asian languages that figure only includes characters used in a regular setting (as opposed to specialized).

          Living in Kyoto-06 (Japan), voting in RI-01, went to college in IL-01.

          by sapelcovits on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 03:26:01 AM PDT

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          •  Yeah, if you want to learn Kanji (0+ / 0-)

            Hiragana is not nearly as complex. And there are way more than 4,000 Chinese characters. The 4-year-old child of the couple I shared a hard seat section with in 1987 already knew several hundred characters. There are tens of thousands.

            Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

            by MichaelNY on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 04:26:45 AM PDT

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            •  well, if you don't learn kanji (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MichaelNY, jeffmd

              you might as well be illiterate. and I know there are tens of thousands of characters in existence, but to my knowledge only 4,000 are used "regularly" (i.e. outside of specialized fields).

              Living in Kyoto-06 (Japan), voting in RI-01, went to college in IL-01.

              by sapelcovits on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 04:55:15 AM PDT

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              •  I disgree (0+ / 0-)

                If a 4-year-old girl already knew hundreds of characters, you think a literate adult knows only about 4,000?

                To your other point, I think we can distinguish between learning how to speak a language and how to read and write it.

                Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                by MichaelNY on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 01:06:31 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  sure (0+ / 0-)

                  of course reading/writing and speaking are different, all I'm saying is learning hiragana alone means nothing and for all practical purposes doesn't amount to literacy because kanji are so ubiquitous.

                  as for Chinese, Wiki gives two figures for the number of characters in common use, but 4,000 isn't too far off from either. also, if this girl was someone you were with on a flight, I'm guessing she was from an urban/reasonably privileged background, but if you look at all of the people in the countryside who don't have as many resources, do they learn as many characters? Somehow I doubt it.

                  Living in Kyoto-06 (Japan), voting in RI-01, went to college in IL-01.

                  by sapelcovits on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 02:39:35 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  She was with me in the hard seats (0+ / 0-)

                    (lowest class) of a long-distance local train. Her family was proletarian, as I remember. She had a little book she doodled in and had also written probably 300-400 some-odd characters.

                    Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                    by MichaelNY on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 10:32:01 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Where were you going? (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      MichaelNY
                      •  From Wuxi to Beijing, 21 hours or so (it was late) (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Audrid

                        And again, this was in 1987. The hard seats were actually vertical benches padded with foam covered by green plastic. I got about 3 hours' sleep between 4 and 7 AM or so by putting my head on the table we 4 people shared. The couple was very nice; they gave me some of their food for breakfast (basic good noodle soup). I hadn't brought food to share with them, so I made sure I brought food on the train to share with fellow passengers the next time I took a long-distance train - from Beijing to Guangzhou (33 hours).

                        Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                        by MichaelNY on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 10:53:55 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                •  4,000 - 5,000 characters (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MichaelNY

                  ...are really all that are needed; sapelcovits is correct. They account for the vast, vast majority of characters needed, even in fairly specialized fields.

                  Taylor and Taylor (1995) discusses this on p. 54.

                  3,800 characters account for 99.9%, and 5,200 characters account for 99.99%.
                  Your reasoning may apply to words as we conceive them in English, but not "words" (that represent distinct ideas) in Chinese. For example, "telephone" is its own word in English, but its Chinese equivalent (电话) is comprised of two separate characters (symbolizing "electric" and "talk" respectively), and is not its own word.

                  Incidentally, I also agree with sapelcovits' assessment of the necessity of Kanji. In my experience, most places names as written using that script. For me (as a Mandarin speaker/reader), this has the side benefit of letting me navigate in Japan (...which I had to do as a 10 year-old traveling alone once) even without any knowledge of spoken Japanese (thought the fairly ubiquitous English signage helps too, I suppose...).

                  Editor, Daily Kos Elections. IL-07.

                  by jeffmd on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 02:40:50 PM PDT

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                  •  Very surprising (0+ / 0-)

                    I was thinking that because many Chinese words are made up of 2 or more characters, you'd actually need to know more and not fewer characters. I'm guessing most regulars on this sub-site know over 10,000 English words.

                    Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                    by MichaelNY on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 10:33:00 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

      •  Mandarin isn't that hard (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        compared to Cantonese. The most difficult concept for English speakers is probably tones.

        23, D, pragmatic progressive (-4.50, -5.18), CA-14.

        by kurykh on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 04:02:11 PM PDT

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