A blog about any and all things linguistic. Topics can range from phonetics to syntax to aspects of specific languages. Updated weekly.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Linguistic pet peeves
Plenty of people have linguistic pet peeves, phonetic or syntactic variants, usually non-standarad, that they cringe upon hearing. I'll admit to my fair share of them: I have a slight adverse reaction when I hear people say "I wish I was..." or "This is him". But I'll tell you what really bugs me: people who insist that their linguistic pet peeves should be enforced upon everyone. When I hear someone say "I wish I was..." I think to myself "I wish I were..." But I don't say anything, and I don't think to myself, "Man, that person is an idiot." Language is what people say, not what's in the Strunk & White. This isn't to say that all prescriptive grammar is hogwash. Some of the prescriptive suggestions really do lead to clearer, better writing. But so much of it is just linguistic peevery. What's wrong with, "I wish I was"? Is it ambiguous? Is there something that the subjunctive adds to the meaning of the sentence? No. It's merely agreement. In fact, the subjunctive is so useless that it shows up in languages very late in their development, and it's often one of the first features to be lost. That's not to say I don't love and use the subjunctive; I just recognize that it's a personal thing, not a linguistic law.
I live in New Brunswick, NJ with my wife Amanda, and am currently a 3rd year linguistics Ph.D. student at Rutgers. My research interests include phonetics, phonology, Optimality Theory, Native American languages (esp. Na-Dene and Algonquian), loanword adaptation, and syllable structure. Send comments/suggestions/questions to:
rdenzerk at eden.rutgers.edu