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Old 04-01-2016, 08:48 PM
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munchlet munchlet is offline
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 67

Is that beer still chilling, seven months later? I'll take Blue Moon, Sam Adams, or Heineken.

Closed out the Comments page on this quote -- accidentally -- so my two cents remains right here. I will check out Fowler's "Dictionary of Modern English Usage," which has been revised a few times since 1926. Do you have the original publication, Ms. Lapp? My local library system does not. How about 2nd edition, revised by Sir Ernest Gowers, published in 1983 by Oxford University Press and reprinted with corrections? As a purist, I won't touch the "New Fowler's," published in 2000, even granting large changes in the vernacular since 1926. My interest is historical as well as prescriptive, and that includes hearing the author's original voice.

Then I might dig out Strunk and White.

My own suggestion would be "Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen," by Mary Norris, 30-plus year veteran copy editor at the New Yorker magazine. Her book combines reflections on usage with autobiography and biography, e.g., Noah Webster, who published the popular "Blue-Back Speller" and invented American English -- thus ensuring that the United States and Great Britain would ever remain two countries divided by a common language.

Finally, you referred to Noam Chomsky's theory of Universal Grammar, an ability that is hard-wired into the brain. This seems obvious now, but at the time he introduced it, B.F. Skinner was arguing that language learning is essentially stimulus and response, with the human mind a tabula rasa or blank slate. Chomsky insisted otherwise.

I don't begin to understand the specifics, but despite huge differences among the world's languages, there is in every normal child a "Language Instinct" (Steven Pinker). Just expose that child to spoken language at the right age, and he or she will learn to speak automatically, using the correct rules. So there must be properties shared by all natural human languages, an innate grammar built into the brain, encoded by our genes, incorporated into all true languages or dialects.

Hmm. Did I earn that beer yet? If anyone else is still reading, my turn to buy.

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