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    Default English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    Since we needed a new thread to angrily argue in.

    Quote Originally Posted by SaintRidley View Post
    Jane would have been dative case in Old English too, because English had (and retains in pronouns) a pretty functional case system as robust as German's. France would be genitive in this situation, functioning as a noun behaving adjectivally due to its genitive construction. Just pointing that out.
    Did not know that. Cool, thanks! But I stand by my point: Modern English has ground pretty much all of its cases to dust, a couple of pronouns excepted, and pretending we're speaking Old English is just silly.

    (Also, really? I thought genitive only worked for possessives... the chocolates of France and the chocolates from France aren't really the same thing, are they? )

    Quote Originally Posted by Emanick View Post
    If I were crowned Philosopher-King and asked to design the English language from scratch, I certainly wouldn't have chosen to give so many words a Latin or Greek root when the language itself is Germanic. But that's the way English is today, and forcing it to make a clean break from its past now would just make it harder for future generations to understand why the world's lingua franca is the way it is.
    It's hard enough on its own without arbitrarily canonizing ideas from other languages entirely.

    To be clear, I think a number of obvious rationalizations would be nice - the most urgent being the desperate need for a universally accepted singular third-person pronoun (because "they" simply won't cut it), but also some tidying up of various pluralizations, and maybe getting rid of "whom" once and for all.
    Yes, HA, yes, and yes respectively. Why won't "they" cut it? It's already the spoken English generic third person pronoun, and has been for forever. Why not put it in written English as well?

    But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Separating a language from its history takes away many of the bridges that help plenty of its learners figure out how to grasp it, and makes figuring out the definition of an unfamiliar word via knowledge of words with similar etymologies much, much harder.
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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    Quote Originally Posted by Zyzzyva View Post
    (Also, really? I thought genitive only worked for possessives... the chocolates of France and the chocolates from France aren't really the same thing, are they? )
    If the ablative is available then "from" would be ablative, as in Latin. In Greek, though, where there is no ablative, "from" uses the genitive.

    Of course trying to apply rules from either Latin or Greek directly to English is fraught with problems itself.

    Yes, HA, yes, and yes respectively. Why won't "they" cut it? It's already the spoken English generic third person pronoun, and has been for forever. Why not put it in written English as well?
    There is some clumsiness in using "they" undifferentiatedly, most notably because it's actually a plural and thus strangeness happens when you try to use the reflexive ("themselves" doesn't work in the singular, and "themself" is unfamiliar and alarming, albeit not strictly incorrect). It is however still preferable, I think, to any of the invented pronouns people have created as alternatives.
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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    Quote Originally Posted by Aedilred View Post
    There is some clumsiness in using "they" undifferentiatedly, most notably because it's actually a plural and thus strangeness happens when you try to use the reflexive ("themselves" doesn't work in the singular, and "themself" is unfamiliar and alarming, albeit not strictly incorrect). It is however still preferable, I think, to any of the invented pronouns people have created as alternatives.
    I think thou overestimate'st the difficulty of depluralizing pronouns.

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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    Genitive case primarily deals with possession, but that's not its only function. The word from in the situation you proposed introduces a quality of the thing (these are French flowers) in a noun-based form. The descriptive genitive is still rarely in use, most commonly seen in instances like "Oh, it's [of] a blue color."

    I personally like preserving as much of our sadly atrophied case system as possible because it allows for some really nice experimental or archaizing language use. "Her the king exiled" is completely clear and completely proper English, despite violating our almost rigid SOV word order, because we still have mostly differentiated cases in the pronoun subsystem (it's also why I don't want to see "whom" go away).
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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    "Irregardless"

    *ducks*

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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    Quote Originally Posted by Rodin View Post
    "Irregardless"

    *ducks*
    Why would you even do that

    In any case, that's vocabulary, not grammar.
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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    People generally have a handle on when to use "I" and when "me", but then fail at translating that to other words even though it's the same distinction of case. Oh, and now everyone using "...and I" all the time because people were corrected on using "...and me" incorrectly. Double .

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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    Quote Originally Posted by BannedInSchool View Post
    People generally have a handle on when to use "I" and when "me", but then fail at translating that to other words even though it's the same distinction of case. Oh, and now everyone using "...and I" all the time because people were corrected on using "...and me" incorrectly. Double .
    Ack, incorrect cases really annoy me.

    For example: He dropped my friend and I off at the station.

    NO. When did 'he dropped I off at the station' make sense? When did the nominative and the accusative ever become the same? They are distinct and different and really, it just annoys me so much when people mix them up.

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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    Quote Originally Posted by Technetium View Post
    Ack, incorrect cases really annoy me.

    For example: He dropped my friend and I off at the station.

    NO. When did 'he dropped I off at the station' make sense? When did the nominative and the accusative ever become the same? They are distinct and different and really, it just annoys me so much when people mix them up.
    As BannedinSchool indicates, native speakers tend to have a handle on when "me" and "I are appropriate in isolation; it's that people get confused by the addition of another object (or subject) into the sentence and start misapplying rules, overcorrecting on the basis "my friend and I" is the correct construction because they've never been taught why that's the case and just assume it always is.

    The foolproof rule is of course just to remove the "friend" from the sentence and then the appropriate pronoun will present itself. That's really such a simple solution it almost feels like cheating, but I don't remember being taught it (or indeed, any but the most basic grammar) and only came across it by chance - not that I tend to struggle with it myself, although I have slipped up occasionally in the past.
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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    Coming from Texas means I have a charming touch of a southern drawl now and then, and learned a passable amount of spanish in school/elsewhere.

    As such I found that I always envied "ustedes" because we do not have such a cleanly defined word for "the group of people here which I am addressing", though I can get away with using "ya'll" due to said charming drawl, I suspect ya'll are out of luck.

    I do think English was invented by time travelers to troll people in the past with ridiculous contrivances such as: Will Will Smith's smiths smith Will Smith's will?
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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    Quote Originally Posted by Aedilred View Post
    Why would you even do that

    In any case, that's vocabulary, not grammar.
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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

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    Mesa thinkens this be a perfectilous normal way to speak!
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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    Quote Originally Posted by Aedilred View Post
    The foolproof rule is of course just to remove the "friend" from the sentence and then the appropriate pronoun will present itself.
    Meh. I'd say the appropriate rule is to give up on "he and I", and just decide that anytime there's an "and" in the clause, the dative is correct. "Descriptive not prescriptive", right? Most speakers naturally say "him and me", the only reason they make the opposite mistake is because they've been corrected from that natural habit. So let's just stop "correcting" them.

    While we're at it, can we also decide that "is" is a proper transitive verb and its object should be in the dative also? How many times, in real life, have you heard anyone say "It was I?"
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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    Quote Originally Posted by veti View Post
    Meh. I'd say the appropriate rule is to give up on "he and I", and just decide that anytime there's an "and" in the clause, the dative is correct. "Descriptive not prescriptive", right? Most speakers naturally say "him and me", the only reason they make the opposite mistake is because they've been corrected from that natural habit. So let's just stop "correcting" them.
    That's an insane rule, though. Changing cases based on the presence of a particular conjunction just muddles everything up more.

    Especially since the "dative", in English, has been functionally obsolete for hundreds of years and its properties folded into the objective case, so what would really be happening is muddling subjective and objective pronouns based on arbitrary convenience for some (by no means all) speakers in some instances. Would it only apply to "my friend and I" phrases, or be a general rule for any situation with "and". And what about other conjunctions? Or plurals in general?

    It would just add to the heap of ridiculous exceptions that makes English such an awkward language, and cause more problems than it would solve for anyone actually paying attention to the grammatical structure of what they're saying. And anyone not paying attention to that isn't going to care anyway either way.

    While we're at it, can we also decide that "is" is a proper transitive verb and its object should be in the dative also? How many times, in real life, have you heard anyone say "It was I?"
    Quite a lot, as it happens.
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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    Quote Originally Posted by Zyzzyva View Post
    Yes, HA, yes, and yes respectively. Why won't "they" cut it? It's already the spoken English generic third person pronoun, and has been for forever. Why not put it in written English as well?
    That's just untrue. While it has been used generally when number and gender were both unknown, it has almost never been used as the unambiguously single third person pronoun. There are exceptions, yes, but they are indeed exceptions. All English rules have exceptions.

    Besides, we often need to unambiguously specify a singular subject, and "they" can never do that, since its primary meaning has always been plural.

    If we are trying to clean up the language, first we need to get rid of all the Latin rules that were brought into English by 18th & 19th century grammarians (not splitting infinitives, not ending sentences with prepositions). In their time, knowing Latin was the mark of an educated person, so they tried to make English fit Latin grammar, which it doesn't.

    If they instead the German language had studied, then like this they the English language to be structured would have insisted.

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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    That's just untrue. While it has been used generally when number and gender were both unknown, it has almost never been used as the unambiguously single third person pronoun. There are exceptions, yes, but they are indeed exceptions. All English rules have exceptions.
    I'm not sure what you want for "almost never". Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen not good enough for you? It's well-attested.

    And more to the point it's not the rules that have exceptions in this case: it's that people are ignoring the "rule", because it's stupid. To take an example that you'd presumable agree with, because of your later paragraphs: the no-split-infinitives rule doesn't have an exception for the adjective "boldly" or people named Gene; it's ignored in the Star Trek tagline because it's a silly rule imported wholesale and without due consideration from Latin. Thackeray saying "a person can't help their birth" isn't exploiting an "exception" to the "rule", he's using perfectly idiomatic English to express a thought.

    Besides, we often need to unambiguously specify a singular subject, and "they" can never do that, since its primary meaning has always been plural.
    I think thou standst too hard on the singular-plural distinction. Seriously, the pronouns-can-only-have-one-quantity ship has sailed.

    As for the "singular pronouns fill a need" business: what's confusing about "everyone must bring their own dice"? If you know the intruder's gender, you can still say "he broke in through the bathroom window" and if you don't you now have a way of referring to them anyways.
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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    Quote Originally Posted by Zyzzyva View Post
    I'm not sure what you want for "almost never". Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen not good enough for you? It's well-attested.
    Those examples will do just fine, thank you.
    Chaucer almost never used "they" for the singular, and when he did, it was virtually always when number was unknown, even if the construction was technically singular, like your "everyone must bring their own dice" example below.
    Shakespeare almost never used "they" for the singular, and when he did, it was virtually always when number was unknown.
    Austen almost never used "they" for the singular, and when she did, it was virtually always when number was unknown.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zyzzyva View Post
    And more to the point it's not the rules that have exceptions in this case: it's that people are ignoring the "rule", because it's stupid. To take an example that you'd presumable agree with, because of your later paragraphs: the no-split-infinitives rule doesn't have an exception for the adjective "boldly" or people named Gene; it's ignored in the Star Trek tagline because it's a silly rule imported wholesale and without due consideration from Latin. Thackeray saying "a person can't help their birth" isn't exploiting an "exception" to the "rule", he's using perfectly idiomatic English to express a thought.
    As you say, I brought that up as an example, in contrast to the use of "they" for an unambiguous singular pronoun.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zyzzyva View Post
    I think thou standst too hard on the singular-plural distinction. Seriously, the pronouns-can-only-have-one-quantity ship has sailed.
    I'm from Texas. The plural of "you" is "y'all". In New Jersey, the plural of "you" is "you guys" (often pronounced "youse guys".

    That ship has sailed, but it keeps returning to port.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zyzzyva View Post
    As for the "singular pronouns fill a need" business: what's confusing about "everyone must bring their own dice"? If you know the intruder's gender, you can still say "he broke in through the bathroom window" and if you don't you now have a way of referring to them anyways.
    "Everyone must bring their own dice" is not unambiguously singular, even though that's a singular construction. That's the most common use of "they" as a technically singular pronoun - singular constructions that are plural in fact. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, that's the second definition of "they":
    "Often used in reference to a singular noun made universal by every, any, no, etc., or applicable to one of either sex." All examples are plural in fact, while singular in construction.

    So the usage you cited, ("everyone must bring their own dice") is a normal usage, but it does not replace a third person singular pronoun, since we stopped using "he" for that purpose in the late 1960s. "I have four sets of dice, and five people are coming, so the last one here needs to bring their own dice" is incorrect, since it is unambiguously singular.

    In any event, this is not a classicist ideal, per the thread title. Objections to classical grammar is the topic we're supposed to currently write about.

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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    Those examples will do just fine, thank you.
    Chaucer almost never used "they" for the singular, and when he did, it was virtually always when number was unknown, even if the construction was technically singular, like your "everyone must bring their own dice" example below.
    Shakespeare almost never used "they" for the singular, and when he did, it was virtually always when number was unknown.
    Austen almost never used "they" for the singular, and when she did, it was virtually always when number was unknown.
    Oh, it's more popular in the present no doubt. The point is that it's definitely standard English. And the Thackeray example is unambiguously singular.

    I'm from Texas. The plural of "you" is "y'all". In New Jersey, the plural of "you" is "you guys" (often pronounced "youse guys".

    That ship has sailed, but it keeps returning to port.
    *shrug* If you like. My point is that the singular of "y'all"* is not "thou", and as a non-Texan non-New Jerseyan native-English-speaker, I've always gotten along pretty well with just "you", just like most English speakers of the last three centuries or so.

    *I was told... somewhere... the singular/plural were "y'all" and "all y'alls" respectively? I've met accented Texans like never, so am I just misinformed?

    "Everyone must bring their own dice" is not unambiguously singular, even though that's a singular construction. That's the most common use of "they" as a technically singular pronoun - singular constructions that are plural in fact. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, that's the second definition of "they":
    "Often used in reference to a singular noun made universal by every, any, no, etc., or applicable to one of either sex." All examples are plural in fact, while singular in construction.

    So the usage you cited, ("everyone must bring their own dice") is a normal usage, but it does not replace a third person singular pronoun, since we stopped using "he" for that purpose in the late 1960s. "I have four sets of dice, and five people are coming, so the last one here needs to bring their own dice" is incorrect, since it is unambiguously singular.
    So, assuming a group of entirely men or pre-60s English, "Everyone must bring his own dice": yes or no? You can't run around screaming about defending the sanctity of the singular-plural distinction and then claim that "his" and "their" are interchangeable.

    In any event, this is not a classicist ideal, per the thread title. Objections to classical grammar is the topic we're supposed to currently write about.
    As the dude who started the thread: it was just a snarky title.

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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    English has been shamelessly pillaging every halfway-useful word, phrase, and construction for generations now. Ransacking its own list of pronouns for something useful would just be taking that to the next level.
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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    Dropping the pronoun issue, but this was a question that deserves an answer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zyzzyva View Post
    *I was told... somewhere... the singular/plural were "y'all" and "all y'alls" respectively? I've met accented Texans like never, so am I just misinformed?
    I've heard that, too, but it's not true where I live. Having said that, regionalisms have a disconcerting habit of being regional, and it's possible that that's the case elsewhere. Texas is more than five times as big as England - we have lots of variations.

    Here, "you" is singular, "y'all" is plural, and "all y'all" is universal.

    At the gaming table, if I tell Rob, "You should come over tomorrow," I have invited Rob to my house.

    If I tell him, "Y'all should come over tomorrow," I have invited Rob's entire family over. Even if Valerie and Alex are not there listening, he knows I invited them all.

    But if I say, "All y'all should come over tomorrow," I have invited everyone in earshot.

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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    I've heard that, too, but it's not true where I live. Having said that, regionalisms have a disconcerting habit of being regional, and it's possible that that's the case elsewhere. Texas is more than five times as big as England - we have lots of variations.

    Here, "you" is singular, "y'all" is plural, and "all y'all" is universal.

    At the gaming table, if I tell Rob, "You should come over tomorrow," I have invited Rob to my house.

    If I tell him, "Y'all should come over tomorrow," I have invited Rob's entire family over. Even if Valerie and Alex are not there listening, he knows I invited them all.

    But if I say, "All y'all should come over tomorrow," I have invited everyone in earshot.
    OK, cool. And "all y'alls" is not actually a thing?
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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    Quote Originally Posted by Zyzzyva View Post
    OK, cool. And "all y'alls" is not actually a thing?
    That would be for threats. "All y'alls are gonna get an asskicking."
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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    I think it is safe to say that any language which is actively spoken is constantly evolving. While attempts to impose grammatical rules are admirable, they are ultimately futile. It works for Latin, but not for English.

    Also, "octopus" is Greek, not Latin. So Latin conjugation makes no sense.

    It should be "octopodes".
    Last edited by BootStrapTommy; 2015-03-10 at 06:26 PM.

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    Default Re: English: Fighting Classicist Ideals of Grammar Since 1399!

    We can thank Anne Fisher for the invention of the gender neutral he (which she proposed as an improvement over already extant singular they).

    Singular they dates at least as far back as the fourteenth century, including in John of Hildesheim's translation of the Historia Trivium Regnum toward the end of that century.

    It's time to get over the idea of singular they being a shocking thing.
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