Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Deep in the Grammar Mines

In fixing English, the hardest part is a text which is only slightly wrong.
Combine that with a significant and growing familiarity with certain kinds of mistakes, and the mistakes start looking not so wrong. Nobody will really misunderstand the sentence, but still, it's just not right. It's not the way a real anglophone would write.
OMG, does that mean I'm not a real anglophone any more?
A study on...
A study of...
It's like taking a wrong turn to go someplace, then the next time taking the same wrong turn, and on further trips the wrong way looks so familiar you keep taking it!
Then of course the content is not exactly my usual domain. It's all fuzzy, and slippery. (fuzzy and slippery at the same time?? that's permitted; that would be algae growing underwater.) It's appropriate in a way that a discussion of relaxation techniques would resort to massaging the data. In one place we're going to group together similar studies in order to get a more meaningful result: we've got two papers on hypnosis that set up a model, which is used by 'a whole set' of other studies, and we permit ourselves to add studies -plural- that use guided imagery. Add that up and it somes to a minimum of six papers, perhaps many more. Mmm. A minimum of five, since technically one is a set even if it would be strange here to mean it that way. But whatever. The actual total is four.
It's hard to build a field of study with just four bricks.
And they're kind of squishy bricks.
I do exaggerate. It's fun to exaggerate in blogland. Or is it nitpicking? Yes, nitpicking. Four is not an exaggeration; it's four.
Besides, the point is to show that there is in fact a crying dearth of data, that more work needs to be done. I guess. And from that angle, well, four is good for the cause.


Butler and Bagman said...

And at what point does the wrong turn, the grammatical mistake, become the new right place in evolution of language. For instance, I now believe that except for the most formal writing it is perfectly acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition. But very few people do it that I am aware of.

steven said...

hello nanu - i'm a teacher. for nineteen years a teacher. but, i grew up in an era when my province followed a report. the report said let children grow at their own pace, learn in their own way, learn what they need to learn, and don't worry about spelling and grammar. i loved it. i grew more as a learner in that time than at any other time until grade 10 when i skipped tow months straight and self-educated but that's another story. i write this blog entirely in lowercase because it looks softer to me. so don't worry so much is what i would say to you!!!! have a peaceful evening. steven

NanU said...

Language does evolve over time; I'm not against that. And I take it pretty easy in other contexts. It's not so pleasant, though, to get a paper back from a journal for revision and see the editor requires us to have a 'native english speaker' go over it! Thanks! (and speaking of linguistic evolution, "scan" now has the green light from several online dictionaries to mean "skim". Yet woe to the researcher who makes that mistake in a paper!)

Most of the bitching and moaning comes from the fact that I really really don't enjoy the task. (see, the second 'really' shows up in Word with a little red underline, meaning it's a mistake for some people) It takes me forever, too.

Creativity in language has its excellent place in many forms of writing, but not this one, Steven! And I do make up words, in a sort of German fashion, inspired by my admiration for their way of just running adjectives all together into intimidatingly large words that are quite tame if you know the trick. Like catfoodtime, that special 10 minutes of the evening when the cats gather around their bowls for the daily serving of the good stuff. And I'm partial to starting sentences with 'and'. Not to mention fragments of diverse composition.

Barry said...

And I love starting sentences with "and" and ending sentences with prepositions too.

Although a "native English speaker" editing professional articles for journals would not likely get away with doing the same.

Interesting post Nancy!

Ann said...

Hi Nanu,

Do you remember the TV show Nanu Nanu? Mork and Mindy? Where did you get your name Nanu.

Not that I agree, as an Englsih teacher, New Zealand does what steven commented. The little ones are encouraged to sound out their words and write them they way they think they sound like. Do you believe it, one day, I tried to spell annuerism. I tried sounding it out, and came out with anniorism. I googled search, and even found anniorism.

Thanks for visiting my site, with you as a frequent traveler, have you ever been "randomed checked."

I did have a great holiday.

NanU said...

Hello Ann, yes I do remember Mork & Mindy, loved that show! But NanU is derived from my name, Nancy U...

As for being checked while traveling, I've not yet undergone a really detailed check that I found to be offensive. American airports tend to single me out because I use my passport as ID even for domestic flights. France has never checked me, which is a good then when I've got a bunch of blood samples in my luggage!

And english correction - verb conjugation and spelling I just fly through. It's sentences where the elements are there but in some strange order that take so much time. I've never corrected the grammar of an english speaker, but I would suppose that correcting the english of non-native speakers is quite a different thing.