Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What grammar shouldn't be about

Simon Heffer has a new book out and it's called Strictly English. It's a title that, with its twin whiffs of prescriptivism and punishment, calls to mind Lynne Truss's "zero tolerance approach to punctuation" which David Crystal so systematically debunked here.

Heffer sets himself up as an authority on language and then sets about telling us what's right or wrong in English grammar. In fact, he's on record as saying that "English grammar shouldn’t be a matter for debate". This is, for want of a better word, cobblers. One of the key aims of our project here at UCL is to investigate grammar, to open it up for debate and exploration, not to close it down into a set of rights and wrongs. Such a prescriptive view of language doesn't really help anyone.

Language Log have already laid into him here and here, and I've blogged about his appearance on Radio 4 here.

1 comment:

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