Introduction – All spoken and written languages of the world have their grammatical, spelling, and punctuation laws.
Many factors pose a challenge to the scholars who codify a language. Variations in the laws of grammar in different dialects of the same language, the difference between the language of common usage and the Standard Language, the continuous evolving of a language are some of the challenges faced by the scholars who attempt to codify a language. In this essay, we seek to examine the problems with the laws of a language when applied to the systematic practices of coding.
Codification of a language means standardizing a language.
Codification of a language means documenting the rules of spelling, grammar, and pronunciation, which are thereby accepted as the norms that will be used by that nation. A standard dictionary or dictionaries are created, which contain the standard spelling, grammar, and pronunciation rules. A standard language is developed. A standard language is one that has a legal or quasi-legal status.
This form of language is used for all government work and documents, for example in the court or in the legislatures. Let’s see how a language is codified. We’ll see how the English language was codified in Britain:(1) Norms for grammar, word meaning, and spelling were set.(2) An effort was made to minimize variation within the standard.
(3) Documents using standardized English were published. Some of the documents that published standardized English were:a. Government documents – Chancery printingsb. Religious documents (which were government approved) 1549: The Book of Common Prayer, 1611: The King James Bible (Authorized Version)(4) Documents that described the standardization of English (dictionaries, grammar books) were published.
Some of these grammar books on Standard English were:n 1755: Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English languagen 1762: Robert Lowth, A Short Introduction to English Grammarn 1794: Lindley Murray, English Grammarn 1791: John Walker, A Critical Pronouncing Dictionaryn 1828: Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language Arguments Against Standardization of English – Many scholars wonder why “diversity” is unacceptable in this era of “political correctness” of the English language. They argue that insistence on speaking Standard English is inconsistent with the philosophy of liberalness. They argue why is linguistic diversity not included as part of the diversity that academia considers necessary. One point of view is that Standard English is a myth, or at best, it can be described as a set of vague and unclear rules that people try to follow according to their convenience.
I disagree with the above school of thought. Standardization of a language is necessary to ensure a uniformity of literature and speech. If language was not standardized, there would be a huge number of dialects in which the academic books, government communication, and literary works would be written, causing great inconvenience to students and common people. But, this much is certain that codifying a language is no easy task.
While codifying a language, problems may arise while trying to develop a standard language due to discrepancies and variations in many of the laws of the language spoken in different dialects and different regions. There are many laws of the English language, which have posed a huge challenge to the learned people who have codified the English language. Grammatical Variations – Standard English has most of the grammatical features of the dialects spoken in various British regions. Some grammatical exceptions of Standard English are:(1) Standard English does not distinguish between the various forms of the auxiliary forms of the verb “do.
” For example, there are many dialects, which distinguish between the auxiliaries “I do” and “he do” and the main verbs “I does” and “he does.” in the present tense. Similarly, in the past tense, many dialects distinguish between the auxiliary “did” and “done.” For example, in some English dialects, it is spoken as “You done it, did you?” But, in Standard English, it is spoken as “You did it, did you?”(2) The usage of reflexive pronouns also varies in Standard English and non-Standard English.
Possessive pronouns like “myself” and objective pronouns like “himself” are permitted in Standard English. While most non-Standard dialects use possessive reflexive pronouns always, like “hisself” and “thereselves.” Rule-Based Grammar versus Usage-Based Grammar – There are many grammatical usages, which are correct according to the manuals of Standard English, but which are not commonly used in the everyday spoken and written language. Grammar rules of Standard English are taught to students since they begin to learn.
But, almost all grammar rules of English have exceptions. The average English-speaking person does not strictly follow the rules of grammar of Standard English. In many cases, usage-based grammar has become so widely accepted that they have later been accepted as Standard English. Let’s look at some common variations between Standard English and usage-based English:(1) It is wrong to end a sentence with a preposition – According to Standard English rules, it is wrong to end a sentence with a preposition.
This is one of the most respected grammar rules, which is taught repeatedly to schoolchildren the world over. But, we can see that English syntax very frequently not only allows, but often requires the use of a preposition at the end of a sentence. Let’s see some examples of this. The sentence “We have much to be thankful for.
” cannot be written as “We have much for to be thankful.” Not only does it sound wrong, but it also gives the wrong meaning. Yet, according to Standard English, this is the correct way to write it. Insisting on not placing the preposition at the end of a sentence, but somewhere in the middle can have comical and confusing results.
Objecting to this grammar doctrine, Winston Churchill had said, “This is the sort of English up with which I cannot put.” As we can see in the above example, the usage of a preposition in the middle gives a comical effect. The right way to write this sentence would be “This is the sort of English with which I cannot put up.” Yet, according to Standard English, this is wrong.
(2) Beginning a sentence with a conjunction – It offends the creators of Standard English that many writers commonly begin their sentences with “and” and “but.” According to Standard English, sentences should not be begun with conjunctions. But, in common usage, it is often necessary to begin a sentence with a conjunction. For instance, in response to a conjecture or a statement by a person.
In such a case, a person would say, “But, my dear fellow, it was not possible for me to come to the party due to some prior commitment.” Thus, we see from the above that Standard English is not strictly followed by the common people in their everyday usage. Thus, scholars can’t force people to follow Standard English. They have to flexible enough to make changes to the Standard English documents taking into consideration what the English of everyday usage is.
Slangs – If we study the usage of slang words in English, we will find that many new slang words are being coined each day. With time, these words gain social acceptance and are added to the official dictionaries and grammar books of English. The noted grammar publisher, Webster, publishes a slang dictionary, but it takes years of usage for a new word to find its way into this dictionary, which can be regarded as a codification document. The Webster slang dictionary contains thousands of words, which are added each year.
This proves that English is still changing and evolving. The codification authorities have to keep pace with the fast speed at which new slang words are being added to the English language.Pidgins/Creoles – Pidgins are spontaneously created languages. Pidgins become Creoles when a generation who were speaking pidgin teaches it as a first language to their children.
Often Creoles can replace the existing language and become the native language of the people, for instance Krio in Sierra Leone and Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea. We can also look at the example of a pidgin “Chinglish,” which was spoken in Southeast Asia. Some of the expressions of this pidgin have been accepted into colloquial English. Some of these expressions of Chinglish are: “long time no see,” “look-see,” “no can do,” “no-go.
” Over time, these expressions are also accepted into the English codification documents like dictionaries and grammar books and become a part of Standard English. Thus, in order to codify English language correctly, the scholars have to take into consideration the pidgins and Creoles.Print, Broadcast, and New Media – With the advent of computers, the constant up gradation of computers, and the addition of new computer accessories everyday, new terms related to computers had to be coined. New technology has also led to the coining of new English words, which were hitherto unknown in English.
Slowly, over the years, these terms have become a part of spoken and written English. Some of the words related to computers, which have become an integral part of colloquial English are “boot,” “browser,” cursor,” “floppy,” “format,” etc. Some words related to media and journalism, which have been coined with the development of these fields, are “stringer,” “gotcha journalism,” “news grazing.” Slowly, with time, these words have to be added to the English dictionaries and grammar books, which are the basis of defining Standard English.
Thus, we see that those codifying the English language have to take into account the new words that are becoming a part of common usage with the progress of technology. They have to ensure that these words are added to the dictionaries that define Standard Language. Thus, we see that keeping pace with technology also poses a huge challenge for those codifying the English language.Jargon – The definition of jargon is terminology, which is very similar to slang, but which is limited to a specific activity, profession, or group.
For instance, there is computer jargon, corporate jargon, mathematical jargon, baseball jargon, etc. Like slang, jargons gain popularity over the years and may often be included in the books of Standard English. With time, some of the most popular jargon words are included in English dictionaries like Oxford English Dictionary giving them the status of Standard English. From political jargon, Standard English has got terms like “clout” and “gerrymander.
” From musical jargon, it has got terms like “blues” and “jazz.” From journalistic jargon, it has received terms like “headline” and “editorial.” From the vocabulary of horseracing, it has got terms like “by a nose,” “inside track,” “front-runner,” “shoo-in,” and “sure thing.” From the above, it is evident that commonly-used jargon words become a part of everyday usage and have to be incorporated into the books of Standard English.
They cannot be ignored because they have become too big a part of everyday usage. Thus, jargon is also a factor that needs to be considered while codifying a language. Social Dialects – All dialects consist of a number of social dialects that reflect the age, social class, education, and ethnic identity of a person. The same language differs when spoken by members of different social classes, ages, education, or ethnic origin.
Dialectologists have found that the language spoken by different social strata differs significantly in their word usage, style of speaking, and accent. The same language may also be different in different geographical regions of the same country. For instance, speakers of English in areas north of the River Humber in Britain still speak with a monophthong in words like house (which is spoken as hoose). In contrast to this, speakers to the south of River Humber speak the word as “haus.
” Society tends to attach a social class to the way a language is spoken. If a lower social class person wishes to show that he or she belongs to a high social class, he or she would not want to speak in his or her regional dialect or accent. He or she would try to speak in the dialect spoken by the higher social classes. In fact, during the codification of English, the social dialects played an important role.
The dialect spoken by the upper classes of London was widely accepted by the scholars as Standard English. The cultural supremacy of London led to discarding of dialects from other regions and lower social classes. The “nouveau riche” social climbers experienced a linguistic insecurity in their own regional dialects. They tried to copy the dialect spoken by the elite and the aristocrats of London.
The speaking of regional dialects may also lead to social, employment, or educational-related discrimination. This led to the wide acceptance of the dialect spoken by the upper class of Londoners by all the people of Britain. This dialect was also adopted as Standard English by the scholars who codified English. Conclusion – We see from the above study that there are many problems with the laws of language when applied to the systematic practices of coding.
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