January 19, 2007

Stupid wild over-the-top anti-linguist rant

Another standard-issue English-going-to-hell rant, if you can bear it, was published today in The American Spectator under the heading "Among the intellectualoids: Our inarticulate future." The author is Christopher Orlet. Naturally, linguists get a drubbing. Orlet's gloss on the meaning of "prescriptivists" is "those who would uphold grammatical standards". Linguist David Crystal's reference to prescriptivists as "linguistic Stalinists" (a nice analogy, actually, and historically justified) evidently marks him out as a creature of evil. The coming total destruction of all ability to communicate in English "suits some linguists fine", says Orlet. Linguists don't care even if change leads to "a future where communication resembles the squeals and grunts of . . . Neanderthals . . . , even if it leaves mankind with the inability not only to examine and express complex ideas and concepts, but to express anything beyond mere animalistic impulses." Totally over the top. Where does he get these ideas? Is there a single linguist who has ever said anything to support this raving? I glory in the English language, study its complex syntax with great interest, write books on it, and insist on my students writing it accurately and correctly. What am I, chopped liver? At which kinds of parties does Orlet meet the "linguists" of which he speaks, and what do they smoke there? Not that I would want to attend, I suspect.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at January 19, 2007 01:57 AM