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8 Comments

  • Great post, Gill, and a clarion call for an approach to language teaching that acknowledges (and glories in) the fact that language is a flexible, ever-changing thing. The fact that language is more like a living organism than anything else makes the rulebound fingerwagging of self-appointed experts particularly inappropriate. But it has just occurred to me that maybe they have simply misunderstood the fact that ‘rule’ is a polysemous noun and are confusing the kind of rule that says ‘You must not run in the corridors’ with the kind that says ‘This is how this (type of) thing behaves’.

  • This is a nice summary of so many interesting recent trends. And I think Liz is spot-on re. the way ‘rule’ is misinterpreted y the pedantic tendency. Linguists agree that most things in language (how it works, and how it changes) are ‘rule-governed’ – not in the sense of top-down ‘do this-but-don’t-do-that’ rules, but in the sense that if you observe enough language in use, you discover that it follows rules (or recurrent patterns).. As Gill says, we don’t have to like everything new that happens in language, and we may find some trends irritating. But talking about it in terms of right and wrong isn’t helping anyone.

  • This is a great post Gill and amen to those comments Liz and Michael. In relation to Gill’s last paragraph, I don’t know whether you spotted Michael Rosen’s metaphoric description of the situation which for me hits the nail on the head: It’s like getting young people to learn the names of the parts of a car without teaching them how to drive …

  • Great post, Gill. I completely agree with you. I think there will always be a tension between how language is changing and what we should teach as Standard English in the classroom, but the likes of Gove and Heffer are invariably wrong on this. It’s deeply depressing to see that the new GCSEs will focus so narrowly on spelling, punctuation and grammar while ignoring where so much new language is being generated – spoken English and computer-mediated communication.