25 April 2007

A pretty healthy swing

I'm taking issue with the idea of Standard English in my dissertation.

From Michael Montgomery's An Introduction to Language and Society.
The fact that some dialects use 'we was' rather than 'we were' or 'we never done nothing' rather than 'we didn't do anything' is no sign of deficiency or even eccentricity on their part. After all, the double negative, for example, was common in the English of Shakespeare and is a normal construction in contemporary French. These features have no intrinsic consequences for our capacity to communicate with each other, in the sense, for example, of restricting the range of meanings we can express. (121)
Seriously, the idea of 'right' and 'wrong' grammar structures or usage is so effing arbitrary. It's one of those things that works if you don't really think about it. 'Yeah, there is right and wrong grammar. Sure.' And then I, as I have been wont to do in the last four years of my life, go, 'Yeah, but why?' The answer is a lot like the other nonsense I hear regarding religion which amounts to, 'Well, we just know.'

Well, I don't know. And I think it's crap.
One of the main assumptions I make in this chapter is that standard languages are fixed and uniform-state idealisations— not empirically verifiable realities. That is to say, if we study the speech of people who are said to be speaking a standard language, it will never conform exactly to the idealisation. (Milroy in Bex, 1999: 18)
Language is one of the things we can see happening. We can observe it and follow etymology and SEE that the idea of Standard English is just someone's conjecture of what English should be. And you know what, with all due respect to people who have strong opinions about how people should and shouldn't talk, its an arrogant, silly way of bullying people. I have no time for people who ignore facts because they don't fit a certain moral or political view they have already decided is right. That's right, I said it: Standard English is for Moralists, Politicians, and Religious Fundamentalists who want to tell people what to do.