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Linguist's Lounge / Re: Linguistics neophyte
« Last post by Daniel 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.)
Linguist's Lounge / Re: Linguistics neophyte
« Last post by Fiddlestix McWhiskers 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.
Linguist's Lounge / Re: Linguistics neophyte
« Last post by Daniel 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.
Linguist's Lounge / Re: Introduction Thread
« Last post by Fiddlestix McWhiskers on January 19, 2018, 06:56:34 PM »
I have created a new thread to continue the discussion here, if anyone is interested.
Linguist's Lounge / Linguistics neophyte
« Last post by Fiddlestix McWhiskers 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.
Linguist's Lounge / Re: Wug giveaway contest, February 2017!
« Last post by Daniel on January 19, 2018, 06:30:22 PM »
Glad to hear of your interest. Yes, maybe we can do something in 2018. There hasn't been too much interest so far but we could try again.
Feedback, Help and Forum Policy / Re: Not receiving notification emails
« Last post by Daniel on January 19, 2018, 06:29:32 PM »
There's a small button below the messages in a thread, next to "reply" and "add poll" that says "notify". See if that works.
Feedback, Help and Forum Policy / Not receiving notification emails
« Last post by Fiddlestix McWhiskers on January 19, 2018, 06:17:17 PM »

I'm brand new here and have already gotten a response to my first post.  However, I have not received any email notification of the reply to my post and can see no place I can elect to be notified of responses to my activity here.  Have I missed something?  Help please.
Linguist's Lounge / Re: Wug giveaway contest, February 2017!
« Last post by Fiddlestix McWhiskers on January 19, 2018, 06:04:23 PM »

Is there any chance of having another giveaway for 2018?  I am a sopping wet behind the ears, new linguistic enthusiast and I would appreciate the chance at being chosen for a pair of wugs for my desk.  I am an antique furniture restorationist and I use only hand tools (due to damage to my ears) and I make many videos showing the restoration process of the pieces upon which I work.  I would love to have the wugs as recurring characters in some of my videos.  Don't let any of that information sway you one way or the other in your decision to hold another giveaway or your choice of recipient.  ;)
Linguist's Lounge / Re: Introduction Thread
« Last post by Daniel on January 19, 2018, 04:58:27 PM »
Hello and welcome. The first thing I notice about your question is that you describe English grammar as if it comes predetermined with labels for things. In fact, grammar is just what internal knowledge we have that allows us to speak-- whether professors or high school dropouts! Linguists are interested in figuring out how all of that works (usually from an abstract, language-based structural perspective, sometimes biologically), although having terms for parts of grammar is of course helpful as we try to describe things and figure out how they fit together. On the other hand, "grammar" as an area of study goes back much earlier to traditional grammatical descriptions, especially of Latin and Greek, where it was thought that there were right and wrong ways to say things (and right and wrong languages). That's what you'll most likely get from a language textbook or your English teacher. That's also where terms like "noun" come from, although we also use them as linguists to describe things.

So from here you have three directions you could go in:
1. Study traditional grammar. Look at the history of grammatical descriptions, perhaps starting with the Greeks, and then up to the 1800s or so with the books when they thought they had it all figured out. They didn't. But it's interesting from a historical perspective.
2. Prescriptive grammar: the idea that there are standards and 'best' ways of doing things, like taught in an English class. There are times this is very useful, like learning how to write a resumé that will get you hired for a job. When to use commas, and so forth. Also useful when learning new languages (in addition to just practicing, of course).
3. Descriptive grammar: where linguists try to describe how people speak (rather than telling them how to), and figure out how language works. People speak. But how? We want to know. And you won't really find linguists doing anything prescriptive, because we're not interested in figuring out the "right way", because we don't believe that one language/dialect/expression/whatever is better than another. We're just interested in understanding more about how people can do this complex thing called language.

As for the labels, they're useful for any of the approaches (and at least the major ones are shared across them). But they're really more like myths we tell ourselves in order to have something to talk about. At least until someone really figures out how everything works, there's no sense in which there are "real labels", just various different suggestions of categories and names for them. Borderline cases are fascinating to linguists, annoying for prescriptivists, and often overlooked historically. (That's what I do a lot of my work on, one way or another.)

Oh, and as for a book I'd recommend, here are some ideas:
1. If you like the topics I've mentioned, I'd recommend Anne Curzan's 2014 Fixing English: Prescriptivism and Language History. It's a nice balanced perspective and would introduce various topics that you might want to learn more about later.
2. For a very accessible and enjoyable introduction to the origin/history of language as well as how it is used in society is Tore Janson's  2012 The History of Languages: An Introduction. It's easy to read with no background but gets into lots of interesting questions. At times I disagreed with the author (like what the future of languages will be like in the last chapter) but it's the sort of book that also allows you to form your own opinions while giving the relevant background. Highly recommended. (There's also an older book by the same author called Speak that might be easier to find at a library and also has a lot of the same content-- the new book seems to be a revised edition of that one to some extent.)
3. Mark Newbrook's 2013 Strange Linguistics is an overview of bizarre (and almost certainly wrong) theories of language. It covers lots of different topics and might point you in the direction of some other questions to explore later, and it's amusing. It is not widely available (even at academic libraries), however. Some of the material is found on a blog here though:

There are of course various other books that are more commonly recommended and others would suggest. These are just ones I happen to like and think might be relevant for you.

For anything else please start a new discussion in one of the relevant sub-forums to discuss more, ask for book recommendations, etc. Questions are welcome.
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