Monday 9 April 2012

Young people's language is crap (always)

This is a very interesting article and includes one of those lovely lists of people moaning about the decline in standards of language going back in time:

Someone Else’s Language
On the Role of Linguists in Language Revitalization
Margaret Speas, University of Massachusetts, Amhers

Daniels (1983) made this point
clearly when he presented the following series of complaints through the ages:

1961: “Recent graduates, including those with university degrees, seem
to have no mastery of the language at all. They cannot construct a
simple declarative sentence, either orally or in writing. They cannot spell common, everyday words. Punctuation is apparently no longer taught. Grammar is a complete mystery to almost all recent
graduates.” -J Mersand. Attitudes Toward English Teaching

1917: “From every college in the country goes up the cry, ‘Our freshmen
can’t spell, can’t punctuate.’ Every high school is in disrepair be-
cause its pupils are so ignorant of the merest rudiments.” -C.H. Ward

1780: “The greatest improprieties…are to be found among people of
fashion; many pronunciations, which thirty or forty years ago
were confined to the vulgar, are gradually gaining ground; and
if something [is] not done to stop this growing evil…English is
likely to become a mere jargon.” -Thomas Sheridan

1st century BC: “Practically everyone…in those days spoke correctly.
But the lapse of time has certainly had a deteriorating effect in
this respect.” -Cicero

Daniels comments, “The earliest language ‘crisis’...that I have been able to
discover occurred in ancient Sumeria.... It seems that among the first of the clay
tablets discovered and deciphered by modern scholars was one which recorded
the agonized complaints of a Sumerian teacher about the sudden drop-off in
students’ writing ability” (p. 33).

As we can see by these comments, it seems
that every generation fears that people (usually young people) are debasing and
corrupting the language. Yet, people still communicate and literature continues
to be produced. The truth is that living languages are always changing. Classical Latin “deteriorated” into French, Italian, Spanish, etc...