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The state of the English language

A discussion of the peculiarities of languages and the differences between them.

The state of the English language

Postby Brazilian dude » Sun Mar 13, 2005 9:33 pm

I thought of sharing this with you guys:

http://www.pbs.org/speak/

Brazilian dude
Languages rule!
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Postby Apoclima » Mon Mar 14, 2005 12:18 am

The eighteenth-century hope that language could be ‘fixed’ – that is, improved, or changed in a way some self-appointed linguistic judge would approve of until it reached a state of perfection and then preserved so that it would not thereafter degenerate or change in a way the judge disliked – was a chimera. It was an illusion based on misunderstandings about the nature of language, values and human nature.


Language Myth #21

Nice find, BD! Thanks!

I had to laugh when I read what Prince Charles said about the degeneration of English in America. When he talks about British English or English English, he is obviously not talking about all the dialects of English in the British Isles. He is touting just a few of the prestige dialects, one of which he speaks.

...we use language as a social behavior, to solidify or separate ourselves into different social groups.


Sez Who?

This is so true! Social groups are constantly developing their "in-speak" to thwart outside comprehension and to more easily identify their own "birds of a feather."

One thing is certain. Neither the Americans nor the British have any hold or claim on English as the new Lingua Franca; it has slipped quite quickly out of both our respective corners and now has a life of its own as International English.

Talkie-talk later!

Apo
'Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination.' -Max Planck
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Postby KatyBr » Mon Mar 14, 2005 2:48 am

One of the fist things people do when an alignment begins is to make up a language for the liason. Families , Couples , good friends have codes. Companies and scientific groups have Jargon, all specifically to exclude outsiders, often these by-words or slangs are used by a wide group to exclude others outside that group, those are called dialects. Then come reginal accents, or perhaps the reginal accents plus slang become dialects.
I'm just musing here,

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I look for microcosms to explain the macros, perhaps I should, like Stevie Nicks said, "keep my visions to myself".
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Postby ekkis » Fri Mar 25, 2005 3:42 pm

KatyBr wrote:Companies and scientific groups have Jargon, all specifically to exclude outsiders

the statement makes it sound as if the intent is to alienate. but from my experience, jargon surfaces from necessity. stock brokers need to describe conditions and events that have no meaning outside of their realm so they invent language out of such needs and the fact that their language naturally groups them together, exluding others, seems to me as merely incidental
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law -- AL. I.40
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Postby Apoclima » Sat Mar 26, 2005 12:10 am

Katy:
Companies and scientific groups have Jargon, all specifically to exclude outsiders


ekkis:
the statement makes it sound as if the intent is to alienate. but from my experience, jargon surfaces from necessity.


I think that it arises as a necessity and that it is designed to exclude. Jargon is very specific and often an accepted shortcut or abbreviation for a very detailed concept, a way of getting rid of ambiguity and confusion, and conveying those meanings to others with as much clarity as possible.

So whether you are talking to a mechanic or a physicist, the minute you use one of their terms in a wrong way, you are excluded from any further discussion on the topic, or at least, any further discussion on the topic using the jargon.

It isn't long after the few simplistic explanations in "normal" English, that a expert in a given field will give up trying to explain something to you, and perhaps, make a polite analogy that they think you will understand and hopefully end the lopsided discussion.

ekkis:
the fact that their language naturally groups them together, exluding others, seems to me as merely incidental


I believe it is more than that! It is necessary, essential and instrumental. It identifies who is included and who is excluded, that way saving everyone the embarrassment of wasting each other's time.

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Postby KatyBr » Sat Mar 26, 2005 3:17 am

I may have been a bit too melodramatic with my statement about how Certain groups (you know who you are) have deliberate exclusionary jargon, HOWEVER, try calling one of these organizations, and just see if they make ANY attempt to understand you if you do not speak their Jargon, It's like traveling in France with only German and English.

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Postby ekkis » Sat Mar 26, 2005 4:24 am

KatyBr wrote:I may have been a bit too melodramatic with my statement

heh. I do think you made a valid point - jargon is indeed used in certain communities to exclude others, to communicate with certain secrecy, and to discriminate between those who belong and those who don't.

my objection was to your reference to companies and the scientic community doing it for those reasons. I don't think it's realistic to believe that a physicist uses the word "quark" in order to exclude others from understanding what he's saying, or to make them feel like they don't belong; he uses that out of necessity, because he needs to describe something for which there are no words.

HOWEVER, try calling one of these organizations, and just see if they make ANY attempt to understand you if you do not speak their Jargon, It's like traveling in France with only German and English.

I'm out of the loop here... which organisation, specifically?
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Postby KatyBr » Sat Mar 26, 2005 4:57 am

ekkis wrote:
HOWEVER, try calling one of these organizations, and just see if they make ANY attempt to understand you if you do not speak their Jargon, It's like traveling in France with only German and English.

I'm out of the loop here... which organisation, specifically?


Oh, off the top of my head, call an insurance adjuster, or say have a specific problem with your phone land lines, or just about any kind of problem a normal person can have that is just slightly out of the narrow confines of the voice mail..... beaurocracy being what it is, once you get a real person on the phone and try to explain a difugalty without the "jargon" they use.....
Honestly I'm not trying to be obtuse, I've encountered it so much it's difficult to put a single company or group of companies to task here.

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Postby Apoclima » Sat Mar 26, 2005 3:24 pm

I guess I think of human beings as more territorial when it comes to language, including jargon.

We have tried to keep "jargon" to a minimum within the site, however it does come with the territory.


Integrated Regeneration in County Durham- about us

Therefore we hope that our Jargon Buster helps you with this.


A bureaucracy with a built in Jargon Dictionary! Too much!

To write straightforward prose, lucid and open to comprehension, using common language, is to lose face. You do not make your mark unless you add something to the lake of jargon whose waters (bottled for export to the States) well up between Nanterre and the Sorbonne and to whose marshy verge the bleating flocks of poststructuralists go each night to drink. Language does not clarify; it intimidates (Hughes quoted in Altman 1992)


'Media Republics: Intellectuals Strike Back'

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Postby KatyBr » Sun Mar 27, 2005 2:29 am

I really like that last paragraph *sounds of applause* I first saw this in the last posts page and it didn't show the quotes table, so I believed it was yours, alas...

Katy
nice find anyway!
re: jargon, I remember it was about ten years ago I got my very first computer, (I'm almost entirely self-taught) I had to call a helpdesk, the boy I spoke with, I'm sure he was no older than 12, told me to look at my desktop. I had no idea of what he was talking about, I asked what that was, my voice quavering, barely above a whisper, he just kept saying it louder and louder. "LOOK AT YOUR DESKTOP!" This is what I mean about companies using jargon against hapless folks who were born 'unauthorized'. Those doors where it says "Authorized only"? I have never been able to go thru' them. I'm instantly recognized by anyone with any Jargon as an 'unauthorized one'.

I worked at an insurance adjusters once and occasionally I had to take an accident report. I really tried very hard NOT to use any jargon so the person on the other end of the phone wouldn't feel any more upset than they already were.
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Postby Garzo » Sat Apr 02, 2005 11:31 am

I suppose jargon is just a shorthand of saying really complicated stuff most of the time. Shall we use the year B collect for Septuagesima? ... Let's! I've been texting you all evening! ... Texturing? Texting, writing me, switching the TV to text mode, throwing alphabet spaghetti at me?

The problem is, when people forget what their jargon actually means, in English. ... And, how would you describe what a desktop is, dear?

Anyway, what state is English in? ... Arizona?

-- Garzo.
"Poetry is that which gets lost in translation" — Robert Frost
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Postby Garzo » Sat Apr 02, 2005 11:41 am

Tombstone, Arizona, is where the good folk in white hats are preparing for the Mexican Season. The US Border people have given instructions to the volunteers to
"You will offer your assistance and become force-multipliers to assist their monumental task of turning back the tidal wave of people entering our country illegally."

Sometimes I could do with a force-multiplier! And with a hyphen!
If confronted, they are to "remove themselves physically" from the situation. Perhaps US schools should start focusing on the importance of little words, e.g. "walk away", or perhaps the lexicon is as size-obsessed as the automobile across the pond.

-- Garzo, removing himself digitally, for now!
"Poetry is that which gets lost in translation" — Robert Frost
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Postby KatyBr » Sat Apr 02, 2005 11:42 am

Garzo wrote:..*. And, how would you describe what a desktop is, dear?

**Anyway, what state is English in? ... Arizona?

-- Garzo.

*"the screen on your monitor......"(I noticed that Tim didn't jump in on this one, nor did he take offence, whew!)
I suppose jargon is just a shorthand of saying really complicated stuff most of the time.

I suppose it's a lot harder to say monitor screen than to say desktop.....

**and it's in a state of disrepair....jargon for despair.

I still insist that language is intended to communicate not obfuscate.

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Postby tcward » Sat Apr 02, 2005 12:46 pm

As regards "desktop", it's even more complicated, unfortunately.

The "desktop environment" is basically what we would call a graphical user interface that provides control over certain aspects of the operating system running on the PC. Not every operating system has a "desktop". Linux, a key competitor to Microsoft's Windows OS, does not really have a desktop -- you have to run something else "on top" of Linux in order to get the "desktop environment". In the old days, the operating system known as DOS also did not have a "desktop", unless an additional piece of software was running to provide that graphical user interface.

The Macintosh probably should be recognized as the beginning of the "desktop environment" as a popular means of providing user control of the PC operating system. And the Mac OS probably is still the most elegant implementation, providing a simple and straightforward method of controlling the complex file structure that is the basis for modern "personal computing".

-Tim
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Postby KatyBr » Sat Apr 02, 2005 2:17 pm

tcward wrote:As regards "desktop", it's even more complicated, unfortunately.

-Tim

I checked out the definition and yes, it's more complicated, but in context he just meant the screen and could have said screen. It was the tech who was wrong and was obfuscating.

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