Thursday, November 20, 2008

Idaho accents, anyone?

I directed your attention recently to a post of Mark Liberman's about the moral superiority (and logical correctness) of those who do not view accents and other deviant speech acts as signs of intelligence or of the soundness of arguments; now, the often obstreperous and always pungent Cambridge Grammarian Geoff Pullum offers some dissent:

I have to confess that I don't think anybody who regularly engages in this sort of chaotic blurt-and-babble speech in interview situations can be regarded as suited to a position involving political leadership or executive responsibilities in the government of a democracy.

I think being so utterly unable to explain what one wants to say is truly and reasonably regarded as a defect in one's qualifications for office — partly because being so inept at talking in a controlled and sensible way strongly suggests that there was no sensible thought back there, and partly because even if there were sensible thoughts back there somewhere, a leader needs to be more skilled at articulating them.

I can see the value in his position --maybe it's clearer if you read all of his post-- though it doesn't change the insight of Liberman's position; rather, it reveals a different position from which to reach the same conclusions about Sarracuda that prejudice against Idaho (oh right, Alaska) accents would lead you to.

Boy, I bet those of you who read Language Log on your own must be tired of me phoning it in --I can't even be bothered to crack open a dictionary anymore, now I'm reading to you from other blogs. But you'll be soon hearing a lot more from Geoff Pullum, I hope --I'm GOING BACK TO GRAMMAR SCHOOL, by which I mean I'm going to read his A Student's Introduction to English Grammar and tell you all about it. I don't understand the terms he uses in his posts --they're different from what I learned in school, so I need a refresher; and I understand there's a Future Real Linguist in my audience, so I gotta get my shit correct.

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