It's hard to defend a strict prescriptivist view when I have lived in three English-speaking countries all with different dialects and even spelling conventions. That's the synchronic linguistics aspect of the debate. Dr Crystal likewise grew up in two separate parts of the UK, with different dialects.
The way English has changed over time, i.e. diachronic linguistics, makes it even harder to be a strict prescriptivist. Different eras had different quirks, as the book documents. E.g. when Caxton brought the printing press to England, he hired Dutch printers. In Dutch, their g is like the ch in German and Hebrew, so to make our g sound, they added an h. Hence the silly spellings "ghost" and "ghoul" Another was trying to be helpful by linking words to their Latin source so people would learn the meanings. This is why a silent b was added to debt and doubt, to connect with debitum and dubitum. A split infinitive often sounds more rhythmic in English because our speech likes to use alternating weak and strong stresses, e.g. Stark Trek's "to BOLDly GO where NO man has GONE beFORE" rather than "to GO BOLDly …"
But Dr Crystal makes it clear he doesn't support "anything goes". There is a place for the right language for the right situations.
- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press UK; 1 edition (1 December 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 019920764X
- ISBN-13: 978-0199207640
- Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 2.3 x 13.5 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 381 g
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