July 11, 2007

Keeping "wrong grammar" off the air

According to Variety Asia, the Thai government has proposed a new television rating system ("Thai TV sector protests against proposed ratings system", 7/11/2007):

The proposed TV system will give a suitability rating to every TV program that goes to air. Ratings will then be used to specify what time of the day the show can be aired. A show designated as "content requiring parental guidance" will only be allowed to screen between 9am and 4pm on weekdays and 8pm to 5am on weekends and public holidays.

Among the reasons for the "requiring parental guidance" flag:

A program will be assigned a "PG" rating if it shows "people speaking with wrong grammar (except for humorous effects)."

The article doesn't say who gets to be the "grammar cop" -- some colonel with time on his hands, I guess, who would presumably delegate the problem to a clerk. There's potential for a comic novel here. Usually it's self-appointed language mavens who get to make up arbitrary prescriptions. Imagine, however, being a young company clerk in Bangkok, endowed with the power to decide (say) that dai "get, be able to" can't be used with compound verbs, or that theung "although" should never be used to start a sentence. And given the general Southeast Asian areal interest in subtle word-play, you could even invent some politicially subversive grammatical prescriptions.

[Hat tip: Brett Reynolds]

Posted by Mark Liberman at July 11, 2007 11:07 AM