Author Topic: Linguistics neophyte  (Read 597 times)

Fiddlestix McWhiskers

  • Guest
Linguistics neophyte
« on: January 19, 2018, 06:50:34 PM »
This is a continuation of a discussion started with Daniel after making my first post in the introductions thread.

I think I would like to start with prescriptive grammar.  I have two older brothers who have been elementary school teachers for about 20 years or so and I have plans to become a polyglot and wish to be able to converse using the established formalities.  Watching some of the videos from the Polyglot Gatherings has shown me that I would be doing myself a favor to be able to use the accepted lingo.

I am also a penmanship enthusiast and I enjoy exchanging letters with several pen pals.  Many people in the penmanship circles are sticklers for formal writing structures.

This is not to say that my interests are exclusively in more formal, rules oriented aspects; I am just trying to find the most comprehensive springboard for getting into it without having much formal education. 

It's a bit overwhelming.  It is as if I stumbled across this door in the back of my closet labelled "Linguistics" and, upon opening the door, I have discovered that an incredibly vast city lies on the other side.

I will look into those books you recommended.  Thank you for taking the time to respond in such a thoughtful and helpful manner and for not laughing at such a newbie like myself.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2018, 06:54:51 PM by Fiddlestix McWhiskers »

Offline Daniel

  • Administrator
  • Experienced Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 1723
  • Country: us
    • English
Re: Linguistics neophyte
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2018, 06:57:36 PM »
If you are mostly interested in a prescriptive perspective, then Linguistics in the narrow sense may not be what you are after. Linguistics is almost entirely descriptive. That's not to say that you can't be interested in both, or that you aren't welcome on the forum-- you are. But if you want to focus on prescriptive ideas then you might find more valuable websites for that such as ones that discuss English grammar and so forth from that perspective. Anne Curzan's "Fixing English" book is also a great balanced perspective to explain "why" about all of this.
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.

Fiddlestix McWhiskers

  • Guest
Re: Linguistics neophyte
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2018, 07:50:17 PM »
I wouldn't say that I am mostly interested in prescriptive grammar.  I would say that I am initially interested in it.  I'm also interested in the universality of language, Cryptophasia, why certain sounds have been chosen over others, how sounds are made within the mouth &c.. 

It's like someone who has fallen in love with the physical creation of books.  They want to make them, but they don't know the terms.  They don't know what a spine is or binding or signatures.  They love reading, but don't know the terms like preface or forward or why they are typically located where they are.

One needs to begin somewhere, so I thought I should begin with established "rules" so as to be able to deviate from them in the future and to reference them in the process.

I really have no idea what I'm doing, but I have seen enough discussion in online forums to come to the conclusion that linguists seem to take things more seriously than many other people.  They seem to have a much deeper and thorough understanding of communication and I think I would feel more comfortable being pointed in the right direction from linguists than from people that seem to be shooting more from the hip.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2018, 07:55:13 PM by Fiddlestix McWhiskers »

Offline Daniel

  • Administrator
  • Experienced Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 1723
  • Country: us
    • English
Re: Linguistics neophyte
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2018, 08:02:07 PM »
Sounds like you are in the right place then. (And feel free to explore prescriptive things too; I don't mean to be discouraging either way at all.)

"Linguistics" (and some of the topics you mention) can refer to so many diverse topics it's hard to even know where to start. More specific recommendations can be made for more specific questions once you figure that out.

Curzan's book is a good one if you're not sure and also want to know about prescriptivism, and it may lead to other topics too. You could also start with something more formal, like a textbook, but that's probably not as much fun.

(Without sounding too judgmental, I will say that your observations seem right: anyone who takes language(s) seriously enough to get into Linguistics eventually comes around, at least in some ways, to the descriptive perspective. At least some of the interest in perspective grammar is somewhat superficial: telling people they should speak or write like you do, because you assume that's correct. There are some valid aspects of prescriptivism, for some purposes. But when you start looking more broadly, especially comparing languages, things look different. Familiarity supports interest and acceptance.)
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.