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The Decline And Fall Of The English Language
 
# 1 : Sunday 21-3-2010 @ 11:06
 
 
I've been reading HG Wells excellent novella The Time Machine recently and like much of his work certain elements seem eerily prophetic. Essentially some eight hundred thousand years from now humanity has evolved (or should I say regressed?) into two distinct races both of whom communicate via a simplistic purely oral language consisting seemingly solely of a subset of basic verbs. Perhaps Wells was mistaken about the chronology but:

ppl shouldn be protestin on head shopss there is nuttin wrong wiv them and r so handii in these timess

Now, back when I was in school not all that long ago the above snippet would land you in foundation English with a none to subtle inference that any kind of career involving interaction with your peers of any kind just wasn't a runner. Fast forward to 2010 and I've actually received business-related e-mails from qualified and professional people composed almost in their entirety in what popular parlance would refer to as text-speak.

Or is there a more insidious puppetmaster acting behind the scenes, as it were, in furtherance of some new lingua franca not unlike 1984 's Newspeak utterly bereft of descriptive pronouns? Did we reach a peak of refinement in the late 19th century and is Anglophile civilisation now sinking further and further into a linguistic nadir with every new iPhone?

I'd also stipulate that while opinions are welcome please make full use of the keyboard at your disposal.
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# 2 : Sunday 21-3-2010 @ 11:27
 
 
Someone said :
I've actually received business-related e-mails from qualified and professional people composed almost in their entirety in what popular parlance would refer to as text-speak.

Is there any chance you could give us some quotes from these emails...I could do with a laugh?

Text-speak is all fine and dandy when confined to a phone or - at a stretch - a message board - but business emails should be written as if official documents.

In certain circumstances I'd return the email and ask for it to be written properly.

This isn't the first thread on the falling standard of everyday English and it wont be the last but I do fear that we are in a time when people just don't care about the words they are using. Some people don't even know how to conjugate a verb properly - more so in America.
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# 3 : Sunday 21-3-2010 @ 12:19
 
 
She came on here probably HI and she went on this site and talked or chatted the way she normally would, its what she grew up with, Text talk, I'm of that generation who doesn't text and when I do its such a long laborious process it takes ages so I don't bother I ring them. So I understood her, it seemed moronic, but I don't know that language. But I am more worried about the quality of masters degrees in Ireland. Some seem to get them by post.
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# 4 : Sunday 21-3-2010 @ 12:20
 
 
Someone said :

Is there any chance you could give us some quotes from these emails...I could do with a laugh?

Text-speak is all fine and dandy when confined to a phone or - at a stretch - a message board - but business emails should be written as if official documents.

In certain circumstances I'd return the email and ask for it to be written properly.

I wouldn't do that - the person is actually very nice in all other respects. More of an eyes-to-heaven moment than real annoyance on my part. Although standards in teaching which wasn't great back in the 90s has really gone to the dogs. Much of what could fall under the arts umbrella in tertiary education could hardly be found to be much better. A recent incident brought to my attention concerned a lecturer exhorting her students to vote against the Lisbon treaty. Clearly she was more concerned with imparting her politics to the next generation as opposed to sending the time doing was she was paid to do.
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# 5 : Sunday 21-3-2010 @ 13:17
 
 
its interesting you mention H G Wells he was an insider of the Fabian Society, so he had the insider perspective of these social engineers thats why it seems his writing is prophetic (these people think in terms of 20, 50 100years) Where most peoples attention span is getting shorter and cant possibley grasp higher cognitive levels of understanding so it would seem that today there is already a noticeable split between the humans the majority not much smarter than animals (sheep)ie they can have the wool pulled over their eyes, get fleeced and are led to the slaughter. While there Shepards are free to do as they wish because the flock cant possibley comprhend whats going on.

note.. the Fabian socitey is one of the oldest think tanks in europe Spawned both irish and english labour partys and its insignia is a wolf in sheeps clothing
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# 6 : Sunday 21-3-2010 @ 13:47
 
 
Someone said :
But I am more worried about the quality of masters degrees in Ireland. Some seem to get them by post.

Jonh, people from all over the world, and not just Ireland, can undertake primary and masters degrees by post. They are recognised for what they are, and don't hold very much weight. If someone is stupid enough to part with their hard earned to do an online degree from a dodgy online college - well you know what they say about a fool and their money.

Someone said :

Although standards in teaching which wasn't great back in the 90s has really gone to the dogs. Much of what could fall under the arts umbrella in tertiary education could hardly be found to be much better. A recent incident brought to my attention concerned a lecturer exhorting her students to vote against the Lisbon treaty. Clearly she was more concerned with imparting her politics to the next generation as opposed to sending the time doing was she was paid to do.

A few questions here Dolli.

What is your direct experience of teaching in the Arts at tertiary level? Or are you operating on heresay? Were you present at this lecture? Or know someone who was?

In my direct experience, having come up through and still working in, English departments in two different universities, any incorrect usage of the English language will lose a student marks.
Text speak in particular is viewed in a very poor light and a student will lose some serious marks for using it. Grammar and punctuation mistakes are likewise corrected and marks docked (but not as many for using text speak as text-speak rather than being poor English is regarded as no-English and as such cannot be corrected nor can its correct usage be taught).
And as I saw (yet again) only last Friday, plagiarism of any sort will have a student up in front of a disciplinary board, and could result in them being taken off their degree programme.

As regards to a lecturer encouraging students to vote one way or another, I've never seen anything like that. And as you rightly say, its very wrong. I am truly shocked. (But still I can't help wondering what that anecdote has to do with 'the fall and decline of the English Language'.)

As people who mark and correct essays and exams, we are explicitly trained to never allow a student's beliefs or politics to affect their grade. What we look for is how they've made their argument. Has this student debated and discussed the topic in a considered and erudite manner, one which then leads logically to the conclusion they've presented - regardless of whether or not we agree with it?

I've given very high grades to essays where I really did not agree with the politics or the points being made. But the student concerned had presented their argument in a clear, concise and considered manner with quotes and citations from reliable peer-reviewed sources and books to support that. They had argued their beliefs in a very convincing fashion, and demonstrated a sophisticated grasp of the English language that was either appropriate to, or even above, the level they were studying at. Regardless of whether or not we agree with the argument being presented, those students will always merit a high grade.
In the School of English, we take things like text-speak, bad grammar, poor spelling and woeful punctuation very, very seriously. To do otherwise would be similar to a gourmet chef cooking with Tesco Value ingredients. Our message IS IN the medium.

I'd also hope Dolli, that you would feel similar ire with the same lecturer had she espoused a 'yes' vote for Lisbon to her students? Otherwise this thread is in danger of descending into yet another left vs. right slanging match, or another one of your diatribes against an Arts education at university. And we really don't want to do that to a good thread now, do we?

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# 7 : Sunday 21-3-2010 @ 13:59
 
 
Perry, I made it three words into that post. None of your sentences even have any lols or obvs or totes in them. I couldn't make head not tail of them. What sort of version of English is it and is there a dictionary I could buy to help me learn it.
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# 8 : Sunday 21-3-2010 @ 14:10
 
 
@ Perry

Good post Perry, I do agree that tutor's marking assignment will deduct marks for bad grammar, weak construction, lack of bibliography etc, but there is a creeping evolution in the way we communicate.
I for one, try and avoid emoticons here on Gaire. Sometimes they are really annoying, especially when some makes a derogatory or misleading statement and then use an emoticon to make up for a lack of imagination or just plain pernicious obfuscation.
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# 9 : Sunday 21-3-2010 @ 14:13
 
 
Someone said :
hat sort of version of English is it and is there a dictionary I could buy to help me learn it.

Try this:

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# 10 : Sunday 21-3-2010 @ 14:19
 
 
Someone said :

but there is a creeping evolution in the way we communicate.

I think you are dead right. I imagine there's tutors who are in their late 20s or 30s who are less sensitive to the slip in standards and possibly dont correct the work of their students in a fashion that someone more conservative might. I
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# 11 : Sunday 21-3-2010 @ 14:21
 
 
Someone said :

I for one, try and avoid emoticons here on Gaire. Sometimes they are really annoying, especially when some makes a derogatory or misleading statement and then use an emoticon to make up for a lack of imagination or just plain pernicious obfuscation.

Hey quickg - long time eh?
I'm not totally adverse to emoticons on Gaire. Primarily because English is an inflected language which means - apart from the grammatical elements of changing verb endings and pronouns etc - that sometimes in an informal setting such as a message board, we need some sort of indication of the tone of the speaker. I remember falling out big time with a mate of mine due to an online chat in MSN. I was making a joke, she couldn't hear my words, only read them, and thus she took it all the wrong way.
So, although like you I'd try to avoid them, especailly for more serious posts, emoticons can come in handy if you want to display humour or a tongue in cheek post. Like, for example, the last paragraph of my long post above.

Anyway, quickg, how r u? Itz bin 2 lng dollz, cnt wt 2 cth ^ @ da nxt mt ...
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# 12 : Sunday 21-3-2010 @ 14:26
 
 
Someone said :

Hey quickg - long time eh?
I'm not totally adverse to emoticons on Gaire. Primarily because English is an inflected language which means - apart from the grammatical elements of changing verb endings and pronouns etc - that sometimes in an informal setting such as a message board, we need some sort of indication of the tone of the speaker. I remember falling out big time with a mate of mine due to an online chat in MSN. I was making a joke, she couldn't hear my words, only read them, and thus she took it all the wrong way.
So, although like you I'd try to avoid them, especailly for more serious posts, emoticons can come in handy if you want to display humour or a tongue in cheek post. Like, for example, the last paragraph of my long post above.

Anyway, quickg, how r u? Itz bin 2 lng dollz, cnt wt 2 cth ^ @ da nxt mt ...

ha ha, succinctly put!!

But seriously, do you not think that it is a dumbing down of the skills of written communication?
Chaucer, Shakespeare, Poe, Joyce and Shaw produced masterpieces of the written word long before Microsoft Office came along....
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# 13 : Sunday 21-3-2010 @ 14:35
 
 
What is your direct experience of teaching in the Arts at tertiary level? Or are you operating on heresay? Were you present at this lecture? Or know someone who was?

Ah Perry, my old flower. That hackneyed old gambit won't serve you here. I studied Arts for one year myself and attended the ex's lectures the odd time out of casual interest when I'd a free afternoon at the time. One particular lecturer sticks rather well in my mind. Unshaven for a number of days on the trot and attired in a dirty fleece and ill-fitting slacks. Even if his lectures were of a supernova-like brilliance (they weren't) rolling up looking like you're been on the piss all week hardly exudes respect for your students.

As for the Lisbon treaty incident, you're correct in that I couldn't care less if they were advocating a yes or a no. It's nothing got to do with why they're there and what they are getting paid to do. It did remind me of an old teacher of mine who used to wander off on digressions about the evils of capitalism wasting entire classes in the process.
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# 14 : Sunday 21-3-2010 @ 14:41
 
 
Someone said :

ha ha, succinctly put!!

But seriously, do you not think that it is a dumbing down of the skills of written communication?
Chaucer, Shakespeare, Poe, Joyce and Shaw produced masterpieces of the written word long before Microsoft Office came along....

Very true, and I do agree with you. However, Chaucer, Shakespeare etc used long books and three, four and five act plays which spanned several hours in the theatre to convey their message. On somewhere like Gaire, its usually a few lines.
And of course, Shaw is arguable, as he himself promoted a new usage of phonetic English based mainly on Received Pronunciation (or an upper-class BBC accent). Which is why in certain of his plays you'll see words like 'shew' for 'show' etc.

But overall I do agree with you and Colum. English, like any language (or as Melvyn Bragg would argue, like any living thing) is constantly evolving. How it evolves and what it evolves into is a matter of concern.

I feel that one of the issues with correct grammar and punctuation lies not, as previously suggested, at tertiary level, but at primary and secondary level.
Is grammar still taught at any serious level here? At university, unless you're taking a degree in English Language (as opposed to English literature) you're not going to be taught grammar rules. Yes, incorrect grammar and punctuation will be marked and corrected (personally, I'll always refer a student to the appropriate section of Swann's Correct English Usage so hopefully they'll go away and at least read the grammar point they're slipping up on).
One thing that's good is that many third level English tutors have spent some time in the past working as TEFL teachers.
And there is nothing like teaching advanced grammar to a bunch of Greek or Italian teenagers who've had the correct rules of English Grammar drummed into them from infancy for bringing your grammar right up to scratch.
But my point is, from what I can see, English Grammar isn't taught to any serious degree at secondary level. I'm not sure about Primary. But when was the last time you heard of an Irish schoolchild getting a lesson in (for examples sake) when to use 'we used to' as opposed to 'we would'.
How many Irish schoolchildren can tell you the rules and correct usage of the past continuous tense, or the present perfect?
I only know those things because I was a TEFL teacher for a few years.
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# 15 : Sunday 21-3-2010 @ 14:45
 
 
I wonder if they even know what a tense is and how many there are. I dont even know - there's something like 27 tenses in English - innit?
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