Improspectives

Improv skills lead to success

Language and Acceptance

leave a comment »

I’ll take a quick break from my series on listening to point you to a New Yorker blog post by Ryan Bloom. Improv and business are all about language, whether used to share ideas, to include others, or to exclude them from your group. In technical fields, you get jargon. In social circles, you’re often differentiated based on your grammar.

Is this inclusion and exclusion fair? Of course not. Human interaction and grouping at least implies (I’d argue requires) a sense of “member of the group” and “not a member”. To me it’s not surprise that how you communicate identifies you as part of a group. Bloom also points out that individuals are members of multiple groups and adapt to fit the situation. The “correct” usage appropriate for one circumstance would sound dorky in another.

As you might suspect, academics have found a way to differentiate themselves based on their approach to grammar and usage. There are two general schools of thought when it comes to language and “correct” grammar. The purely prescriptive outlook argues that there is a single, correct way to speak and write. The purely descriptive outlook argues that there is no “correct” way to speak or write — all that matters is current usage. Descriptivism is a push-back against the “blackboard grammars” of the prescriptivists. Bloom argues that descriptivists, whatever their motives, don’t adequately describe social realities:

People who say otherwise, who say that in all situations we should speak and  write however we’d like, are ignoring the current reality. This group, known as  descriptivists, may be fighting for noble ideas, for things like the  levelling of élitism and the smoothing of social class, but they are neglecting  the real-world costs of those ideas, neglecting the flesh-and-blood humans who  are denied a job or education because, as wrong as it is, they are being harshly  judged for how they speak and write today….

This is not even to mention the descriptivists’ dirty little secret. When it  comes time for them to write their books and articles and give their speeches  about the evil, élitist, racist, wrongheadedness of forcing the “rules” on the  masses, they always do so in flawless, prescriptive English.

You can find the full article here: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/05/language-wars-descriptivists.html

 

Written by curtisfrye

May 29, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: