Author Topic: Grammar Questions and Observations  (Read 1486 times)

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Offline stands2reason

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Re: Grammar Questions and Observations
« Reply #30 on: July 01, 2019, 12:41:28 PM »
Grammar is important, but really only when writing in a formal context. Most other times as long as communication was did.

Problem: English grammar redundant. Remove words without remove meaning.

The best example I can think of is the use of subject vs object pronouns. In most cases, due to sentence order, whether a noun is a subject or object is obvious. With an informal style, one might say "he shot" or "him shot". Technically, both are sentence fragments, and further having an object before the verb makes one sound like one doesn't understand English grammar. But if word order were merely style instead of a grammar rule, then we would have to use the pronouns to determine if he was the subject or object of the action.

A related issue is using reflexive pronouns inappropriately, since a reflexive pronouns is both the subject and the object. Similar to using whom to sound smart, people will say "myself" for similar reasons. The various "-self" pronouns are only supposed to be used for reflexive verbs, where the thing is performing the action on itself.

"They did this to themselves." is valid. "I fixed the problem myself." is not valid, but "I fixed myself." is.

Offline stands2reason

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Re: Grammar Questions and Observations
« Reply #31 on: July 01, 2019, 12:49:28 PM »
My other favorite grammar issue is related to the use of punctuation around quotations. (see previous post)

In C and C-based languages, you write:

string s = "hello world";

not

string s = "hello world;"

It makes sense to me that whatever punctuation you put inside of a quotation is part of the quotation, the same way regular languages are parsed. As I understand it, in British English, it is normal to put a period after the close of the quote, not inside of it. Similarly, I like to put commas that separate quotes after the close-quote, for the same reason.

If I quote someone as saying "X is the right answer.", that means I quoted a full sentence from them. According to American English, it is incorrect to put a period inside of a sentence like that, but it would be valid to put a ? or ! in its place if applicable, which is inconsistent. Conversely, if the quote happened to be at the end of the sentence, we would put the period in the quote, making it look like we quoted a full sentence from someone: All you need to know about this politician is that they said, "X is the right answer."

Offline The Latinist

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Re: Grammar Questions and Observations
« Reply #32 on: July 01, 2019, 01:56:54 PM »
I don’t see that C has anything to do with it.  It’s a style thing and, as I understand it, is a result of some historical requirements of early typesetting.  At this point there doesn’t seem to me to be much point in changing, since although it is possible to devise examples that might be ambiguous, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything IRL that I felt was actually ambiguous because of it.
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Offline stands2reason

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Re: Grammar Questions and Observations
« Reply #33 on: July 01, 2019, 02:27:09 PM »
I don’t see that C has anything to do with it.  It’s a style thing and, as I understand it, is a result of some historical requirements of early typesetting.  At this point there doesn’t seem to me to be much point in changing, since although it is possible to devise examples that might be ambiguous, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything IRL that I felt was actually ambiguous because of it.

It's not strictly related to C. It applies generally to regular grammar. If you decide that the end-of-statement punctuation can be placed anywhere other than the end of the statement, it introduces ambiguity.

Any situation in which a sentence ends in a quotation, which is itself a sentence ending in a question or exclamation. There is no grammatically valid way (in American English) to distinguish whether the punctuation belongs to the quote or to the sentence, except going out of your way to make sure such a quote never appears at the end of your sentence.

I can't believe they said, "We should make healthcare illegal!"

vs

When they quipped, "We should make healthcare illegal?", as a debate response, I couldn't believe it!

Offline The Latinist

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Re: Grammar Questions and Observations
« Reply #34 on: July 01, 2019, 02:29:58 PM »
I can’t believe they said, “We should make healthcare illegal?”!

But better would now use a direct quote here at all:

I can’t believe they asked whether we should make healthcare illegal!
« Last Edit: July 01, 2019, 02:34:26 PM by The Latinist »
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Re: Grammar Questions and Observations
« Reply #35 on: July 01, 2019, 02:32:24 PM »
I don’t see that C has anything to do with it.  It’s a style thing and, as I understand it, is a result of some historical requirements of early typesetting.

Agreed, I think the only reason such a rule exists is for consistency within any particular newspaper or magazine.


With an informal style, one might say "he shot" or "him shot". Technically, both are sentence fragments, and further having an object before the verb makes one sound like one doesn't understand English grammar. But if word order were merely style instead of a grammar rule, then we would have to use the pronouns to determine if he was the subject or object of the action.

"He shot" can be a vernacular form of "He has been shot".  McWorter had a whole episode on similar constructions.  I have surrendered to the vector of English evolution.
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Offline jt512

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Re: Grammar Questions and Observations
« Reply #36 on: July 01, 2019, 02:33:03 PM »
I can’t believe they said, “We should make healthcare illegal?”!

Yeah, the rule for question marks and exclamation points is they go inside the quotation marks if they part of the quote; otherwise, they go outside the quotation marks.
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Offline brilligtove

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Re: Grammar Questions and Observations
« Reply #37 on: July 01, 2019, 02:37:35 PM »
Brilligtove asked, "Did jt512 just say, "Many punctuation marks in a row sure looks awkward."?".

...I'm not sure we have an elegant way to handle this sort of thing in written English.

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Offline The Latinist

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Re: Grammar Questions and Observations
« Reply #38 on: July 01, 2019, 02:44:04 PM »
Brilligtove asked, "Did jt512 just say, "Many punctuation marks in a row sure looks awkward."?".

...I'm not sure we have an elegant way to handle this sort of thing in written English.

Brilligtove asked, "Did jt512 just say, ‘Many punctuation marks in a row sure looks awkward’?"

But I would avoid the direct quote entirely:

Brilligtove asked whether jt512 had just said, ‘Many punctuation marks in a row sure looks awkward.’
« Last Edit: July 01, 2019, 03:00:33 PM by The Latinist »
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Offline jt512

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Re: Grammar Questions and Observations
« Reply #39 on: July 01, 2019, 02:52:18 PM »
Brilligtove asked, "Did jt512 just say, "Many punctuation marks in a row sure looks awkward."?".

...I'm not sure we have an elegant way to handle this sort of thing in written English.

I think I would write it this way:

Brilligtove asked, "Did jt512 just say, 'Many punctuation marks in a row sure looks awkward'?"
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Offline brilligtove

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Re: Grammar Questions and Observations
« Reply #40 on: July 01, 2019, 03:26:58 PM »
Brilligtove asked, "Did jt512 just say, "Many punctuation marks in a row sure looks awkward."?".

...I'm not sure we have an elegant way to handle this sort of thing in written English.

I think I would write it this way:

Brilligtove asked, "Did jt512 just say, 'Many punctuation marks in a row sure looks awkward'?"

Recognizing that human languages are not the same as programming languages, that approach leaves the inner and outer phrases unterminated. It still feels awkward to me, though it is definitely cleaner and easier to read.
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Offline The Latinist

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Re: Grammar Questions and Observations
« Reply #41 on: July 01, 2019, 04:01:33 PM »
Brilligtove asked, "Did jt512 just say, "Many punctuation marks in a row sure looks awkward."?".

...I'm not sure we have an elegant way to handle this sort of thing in written English.

I think I would write it this way:

Brilligtove asked, "Did jt512 just say, 'Many punctuation marks in a row sure looks awkward'?"

Recognizing that human languages are not the same as programming languages, that approach leaves the inner and outer phrases unterminated. It still feels awkward to me, though it is definitely cleaner and easier to read.

It is the ‘correct’ style in American English, and I don’t think it is likely to cause any genuine ambiguity.  That said, as I pointed out above, there are much better alternatives that avoid the issue entirely.
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Offline PANTS!

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Re: Grammar Questions and Observations
« Reply #42 on: July 01, 2019, 04:25:23 PM »
Brilligtove asked, "Did jt512 just say, "Many punctuation marks in a row sure looks awkward."?".

...I'm not sure we have an elegant way to handle this sort of thing in written English.

I think I would write it this way:

Brilligtove asked, "Did jt512 just say, 'Many punctuation marks in a row sure looks awkward'?"

Recognizing that human languages are not the same as programming languages, that approach leaves the inner and outer phrases unterminated. It still feels awkward to me, though it is definitely cleaner and easier to read.

Well, considering that, that "that" that that Brilligtov uses is grammatically incorrect.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: Grammar Questions and Observations
« Reply #43 on: July 01, 2019, 08:43:45 PM »
Real writers rewrite to avoid the problem.

The main reason I tend to advocate for good grammar (aka. be a grammar nazi) is readability. The vast majority of what we read is written with correct grammar, and it is what we expect to see when we read. When it is not there, it is jarring and we have to take a little longer to interpret what we are seeing.

Although, with less grammar taught in schools these days and the emergence of social media, I suspect that this reason is getting less and less important over time.
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Offline stands2reason

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Re: Grammar Questions and Observations
« Reply #44 on: July 01, 2019, 08:55:07 PM »
"He shot" can be a vernacular form of "He has been shot".  McWorter had a whole episode on similar constructions.  I have surrendered to the vector of English evolution.

You mean this guy (https://slate.com/human-interest/lexicon-valley/) ? Which episode?

 

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