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The Writ of English, but why is it so? September 17, 2015

Posted by wmmbb in Blogging in general.

Why do many of us have some many problems with English Grammar? Linguistics tend to blame the traditional grammarians for being too prescriptive, with varying degrees of intensity.

History can explain help explain, I might imagine some artefacts and artifices of human culture, including language. English is a product of its history. The printing press, seems to have had a big influence on written English in the person of William Caxton, in the 15th Century when the language gains ascendancy in England,. At that time English replaces Latin and French as the language of record and the Law. As it happened the first great English writer, Geoffrey Chaucer, was writing immediately before the introduction of printing.

Prescription is the dictate of the printers and editors who have set the standard for written English. English came with the Empire and was left behind as legacy. It is, for the moment, the language of the increasing Corporate monopoly of international trade and the rules that are becoming that overwrite the sovereignty of the nation state. Lawyers will not be written out of the story. American English may allow difference, as in spelling, but the grammar is common.

Written English has some idiosyncratic features. The capital ‘I’ was  probably judged by printers to look better on the page. It is only when confronted with the failure of a person from a different linguistic tradition fails to capitalize the first person pronoun that I even realize that is what written English does.

With the internet, English has the unique potential to be a genuine language shared by all in which there may be grammatical influences.  In 200 years, if we survive and prosper, despite the inevitability of the climate and ecological crisis, the people on this planet may speak “Earth-lish”.

Dr Harry Ritchie describes in many instances traditional English grammar as “rubbish”:



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