The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Feb 06, 2008 5:23 pm UTC

Interactive Civilian wrote:On a slight sidenote, I was doing the same thing today with regards to saying, "This is better," or, "This is more formal," verses "This is correct and that is wrong," when who/whom came up and the topic of ending a statement or a question with a preposition.

For the record, I would interpret, "From where are you?" as more likely to come from someone who didn't know English very well than the preposition-ended question, "Where are you from?" It has the sound of someone translating directly from a romance language.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Wed Feb 06, 2008 5:38 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Interactive Civilian wrote:On a slight sidenote, I was doing the same thing today with regards to saying, "This is better," or, "This is more formal," verses "This is correct and that is wrong," when who/whom came up and the topic of ending a statement or a question with a preposition.

For the record, I would interpret, "From where are you?" as more likely to come from someone who didn't know English very well than the preposition-ended question, "Where are you from?" It has the sound of someone translating directly from a romance language.

Heh. Again, I agree. I have never been a subscriber to the "never end a sentence with a preposition" rule (it is something up with which I don't like to put ;) ).

Also, for the record over here, I hate the passive, though I recognize its usefulness at times. I usually try to avoid it unless absolutely necessary, and I try to teach my students to use it sparingly and cautiously. I often demonstrate this by intentionally overusing the passive for a time, and then having them do an exercise (for example, detailing a daily schedule and then converting it to the passive). It doesn't take long to see how ridiculous overusing the passive can be.

The reason who/whom and dangling prepositions came up was because some students were asking about how to make passive questions.

One example that came up was, "Who knows Joe?"

Well, obviously, to make that passive, you might say (formally), "By whom is Joe known?" or "Joe is known by whom?" However, it seems perfectly natural (well, as natural as using the passive can possibly be in this situation, i.e. not really) to me to say, "Who is Joe known by?" or slightly more formally, "Whom is Joe known by?" Both are acceptable (I think...correct me if I'm wrong) in the US.

Like I said, I encourage my students to use the passive sparingly, and if they are using it, I ask them to think about why and think about if it might not be better to use the active. Maybe I've had too much Strunk&White in my diet. ;)

But I digress...

sidenote: I do, of course, teach my students situations when it is a better idea to use the passive over the active (e.g. scientific papers, some kinds of news reporting, legalese, etc.)
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Masuri » Wed Feb 06, 2008 6:55 pm UTC

Wow, gosh. This got really snarky!

It's kind of funny to me how heated these discussions can get. I often wonder - and have wondered 'aloud' in other threads - if this is because the science/math curricula don't give a deep or broad enough English background.

I was an accidental English major, and I think it was a happy coincidence indeed. Having a firm grasp of things like employing slanted language, understanding proper grammar and syntax - even if I don't always use it - and getting the concept that English is a living language has served me incredibly well in the work place.

English is a living language. It changes, it transforms - it ebbs and flows. New words come in, old words die. New rules establish themselves, and the old rules fade out. All of this worry over pieces of it dying is like having a cow because the leaves fell in the autumn. It happens, and it's simply a healthy part of the lifecycle of a living language. When it stops changing, the language becomes obsolete. It 'dies.' Then a bunch of linguists argue over it in various papers for the rest of eternity. ("What did the Ancient Americans mean by 'snark,' Dr. Soandso?")

So, basically, you guys are jumping the gun by freaking out over this stuff now. Give it a few hundred years, then bitch each other out over 'were' and 'was.' You might even make a career out of it at that point.

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Izzhov » Wed Feb 06, 2008 7:32 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:And now a linguistics post instead of a moderator post.

Interactive Civilian wrote:Of course, that all goes out the window when you break the rules because you can't be bothered to follow them.

Nothing of the kind goes out the window. Just like nothing of the kind happened when all the *other* changes in the past happened to make English what it is today.

Do you seriously believe that every single change separating Modern English from Old English was a good thing, while every single change currently happening in Modern English is suddenly a bad thing?

Do you think that the dropping of noun and adjective cases wasn't someone breaking the rules we used to have? Or dropping the dual? Or later dropping the second-person singular "thou" form and its conjugations? Or switching from (e)th endings on third-person singular verbs to (e)s?

Actually, to be honest, I would rather we still had those Old English-style conjugations and declensions, as they were more precise. I think that most of those changes were, in fact, bad. But, obviously, I can't change the past so that we still you "thou" and "-eth" today, so I have to go with the current system.

One thing that I can do is try to prevent even more ambiguity-promoting changes like that from happening to English by enforcing grammar rules.

Also, don't take this post as facetiousness; I really would prefer if we used all that old English stuff today.

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Dextrose » Thu Feb 07, 2008 12:29 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:For the record, I would interpret, "From where are you?" as more likely to come from someone who didn't know English very well than the preposition-ended question, "Where are you from?" It has the sound of someone translating directly from a romance language.

Funny you should mention. The rule on ending sentences with prepositions literally has nothing to do with English. It's a rule that comes from...

...wait for it...

...Latin. The idea was that English sentences should be formed as in Latin, where you cannot end a sentence with a preposition. Unfortunately, English grammar is not Latinate, which makes this 1-0 Germany. Prepositions are perfectly acceptable things to end sentences with.


Interactive Civilian wrote:However, that doesn't necessarily stop me from getting a little of the "damn kids these days" syndrome when I hear someone speaking ebonics.

Racist. Oh, and if you really said anything like "By whom is Joe known?" in the states, people would look at you like you were an alien. I understand you probably would be an alien, but I mean from outer space. Yeah, it's well-formed, but that's something someone who didn't speak speak (American) English but knew the grammar very well would say. Is that really acceptable elsewhere in the world?
Last edited by Dextrose on Thu Feb 07, 2008 12:38 am UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Zak » Thu Feb 07, 2008 12:33 am UTC

Dextrose wrote:
Interactive Civilian wrote:However, that doesn't necessarily stop me from getting a little of the "damn kids these days" syndrome when I hear someone speaking ebonics.


Racist.

Ebonics is just plain silly though.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Dextrose » Thu Feb 07, 2008 12:38 am UTC

Z.A.K wrote:Ebonics is just plain silly though.

Sillist.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Izzhov » Thu Feb 07, 2008 12:53 am UTC

Dextrose wrote:Racist.

One of my biggest pet pet peeves is when people misuse this word. Dictionary.com gives these definitions of racism:
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
Essentially, these definitions mean that Interactive Civilian would only be a racist if he disliked ebonics merely because of the fact that the people who speak it have primarily brown skin (Yes, I describe skin color literally. So what?), but it is fairly clear from his previous posts that he dislikes the grammar structure/word usage itself, rather than the race with which it is generally associated.

Dextrose wrote:Oh, and if you really said anything like "By whom is Joe known?" in the states, people would look at you like you were an alien. I understand you probably would be an alien, but I mean from outer space. Yeah, it's well-formed, but that's something someone who didn't speak speak (American) English but knew the grammar very well would say. Is that really acceptable elsewhere in the world?

That's true, though I wish that weren't the case...

Also, to the people who like correct grammar, here's a fun problem: how would you restate the sentence "Check this out," such that it doesn't end in a preposition? (I don't think the "out" actually applies to the "this." Hmm...)

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Dextrose » Thu Feb 07, 2008 1:04 am UTC

Izzhov wrote:One of my biggest pet pet peeves is when people misuse this word. Dictionary.com gives these definitions of racism:
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
Essentially, these definitions mean that Interactive Civilian would only be a racist if he disliked ebonics merely because of the fact that the people who speak it have primarily brown skin (Yes, I describe skin color literally. So what?), but it is fairly clear from his previous posts that he dislikes the grammar structure/word usage itself, rather than the race with which it is generally associated.
*facepalm*

Izzhov wrote:
Dextrose wrote:Oh, and if you really said anything like "By whom is Joe known?" in the states, people would look at you like you were an alien. I understand you probably would be an alien, but I mean from outer space. Yeah, it's well-formed, but that's something someone who didn't speak speak (American) English but knew the grammar very well would say. Is that really acceptable elsewhere in the world?

That's true, though I wish that weren't the case...

...Why?

Izzhov wrote:Also, to the people who like correct grammar, here's a fun problem: how would you restate the sentence "Check this out," such that it doesn't end in a preposition? (I don't think the "out" actually applies to the "this." Hmm...)

Check out this. It doesn't stand alone well in English, but it's actually a common construction, as in "Check out this mothafucka! Check - out - this - mothaFUCKa!" I think it depends on the rhythm of the sentence. You shouldn't, for example, say "check this mothafucka out," but you could say "check this bitch out" instead of "check out this bitch." Edit: Thereagain, you shouldn't say "check this bee-otch out" unless it was one syllable, like "byotch" - it would have to be "check out this bee-otch." It seems to be a stress pattern problem, but I don't know quite what.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Izzhov » Thu Feb 07, 2008 1:24 am UTC

Dextrose wrote:*facepalm*

Ow, that hurt! Why'd you do that? :(

Dextrose wrote:
Izzhov wrote:
Dextrose wrote:Oh, and if you really said anything like "By whom is Joe known?" in the states, people would look at you like you were an alien. I understand you probably would be an alien, but I mean from outer space. Yeah, it's well-formed, but that's something someone who didn't speak speak (American) English but knew the grammar very well would say. Is that really acceptable elsewhere in the world?

That's true, though I wish that weren't the case...

...Why?

Because it makes slightly more sense to say "By whom is Joe known?" Logically, I mean. And don't start with the whole "English is illogical" shtick, because that has nothing to do with what I wish were the case, okay?

Dextrose wrote:
Izzhov wrote:Also, to the people who like correct grammar, here's a fun problem: how would you restate the sentence "Check this out," such that it doesn't end in a preposition? (I don't think the "out" actually applies to the "this." Hmm...)

Check out this. It doesn't stand alone well in English, but it's actually a common construction, as in "Check out this mothafucka! Check - out - this - mothaFUCKa!" I think it depends on the rhythm of the sentence. You shouldn't, for example, say "check this mothafucka out," but you could say "check this bitch out" instead of "check out this bitch." Edit: Thereagain, you shouldn't say "check this bee-otch out" unless it was one syllable, like "byotch" - it would have to be "check out this bee-otch." It seems to be a stress pattern problem, but I don't know quite what.

It seems that the stress almost always goes on either the object or the "this," so maybe it has to do with natural placement of stress in a sentence. I'm not sure exactly what, either, though. In any case, the "out" probably does, in fact, apply to the object, contrary to what I had previously believed.

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Thu Feb 07, 2008 1:55 am UTC

Dextrose wrote:Racist.

Did I mention race anywhere in my post? Nevermind. My sarcasm detector is in the shop. :P I got one of the stupid Apple iSarcasmos and the damn thing doesn't have a user-replaceable battery. :?

Oh, and if you really said anything like "By whom is Joe known?" in the states, people would look at you like you were an alien. I understand you probably would be an alien, but I mean from outer space. Yeah, it's well-formed, but that's something someone who didn't speak speak (American) English but knew the grammar very well would say. Is that really acceptable elsewhere in the world?
(emphasis mine)

Hrmmm...While I don't disagree, I'm pretty sure I said what I considered to be a more natural way of saying that. I apologize if that wasn't clear:
Interactive Civilian wrote:Well, obviously, to make that passive, you might say (formally), "By whom is Joe known?" or "Joe is known by whom?" However, it seems perfectly natural (well, as natural as using the passive can possibly be in this situation, i.e. not really) to me to say, "Who is Joe known by?" or slightly more formally, "Whom is Joe known by?" Both are acceptable (I think...correct me if I'm wrong) in the US.
(emphasis mine)

In formal correct English, "By whom is Joe known?" is correct. Not many people say it that way, unless they are trying to come off as really "posh" British people, but it is correct. And, yes, as long as it's understandable, it is acceptable, whether the grammar nazis agree or not. Have you ever seen two beginner or intermediate non-native English speakers talk to each other? It's quite interesting to listen to the way they express things, and not much of what they say matches what anyone would consider any kind of "Standard" English. However, they can understand each other and communicate well enough, and that's really all that matters.

However, I said, "Who is Joe known by?" seems perfectly natural, and it is exactly what I would use, if, for some strange reason, I were inclined to use the passive voice for a question like this (which, again, for the record, I would never use to ask such a question).

You understand that American English is not the only English in the world, right? There is nothing about American English that makes it more (or less, for that matter) correct than any of the others. I realize that it is what matters to you, as it is what you speak, but, just as you don't want others to force their views of English on you, please do the same by not forcing your American views of English on the world. I mentioned above, that British English seems to have more of an influence in Thailand, and it also had more of an influence when I was living and teaching in Morocco, but there I was specifically teaching them American English, whereas here I am focused more on international English. In Japan, I was teaching American English as well.

Oh, and for the record, I am a US citizen, born and raised in the United States, so, no I wouldn't be an alien there, regardless of the fact that I have not lived in the US for 7 years. My American English is a mix of Illinois, upstate New York, Pennsylvania, and Florida, but since I moved around so much, I never really developed any region-specific accents or idioms (that I am aware of). Since leaving the US, I have also picked up a lot of British and Australian phrases, slang, and idioms, though not the accents. British people look at me like I'm a nutter whenever I say "nutter" because I say the word with an "American" accent. ;)
Last edited by Interactive Civilian on Thu Feb 07, 2008 3:09 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Silas » Thu Feb 07, 2008 2:53 am UTC

Dextrose wrote:Check out this. It doesn't stand alone well in English, but it's actually a common construction, as in "Check out this mothafucka! Check - out - this - mothaFUCKa!" I think it depends on the rhythm of the sentence. You shouldn't, for example, say "check this mothafucka out," but you could say "check this bitch out" instead of "check out this bitch." Edit: Thereagain, you shouldn't say "check this bee-otch out" unless it was one syllable, like "byotch" - it would have to be "check out this bee-otch." It seems to be a stress pattern problem, but I don't know quite what.


I'm less than enthusiastic about making my first post here a technical note about grammar, but this is just plain wrong. "Check/out" is a verb/verb particle structure. What's essentially universal among English dialects is that when the direct object is a pronoun, it MUST be sandwiched between the verb and particle. You MAY sandwich non-pronominal direct objects, subject to their length; different dialects have different limits on how long a sandwiched object is appropriate. Mine limits me to a few words: I can write all sorts of things down, but I can't drop the sum of a thousand lifetimes' worth of badly written prose produced by an infinite team of monkeys off at the incinerator.

The patter of your sentence will sound bad if you're not careful, but using that to describe the rules of grammar like saying antidisestablishmentarianism can't be used in English because it doesn't fit into a limerick. "Check this mothafucka out" sounds ok to me, as long as you put some emphasis on the "out."
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby 4=5 » Thu Feb 07, 2008 4:27 am UTC

Izzhov wrote:Actually, to be honest, I would rather we still had those Old English-style conjugations and declensions, as they were more precise. I think that most of those changes were, in fact, bad. But, obviously, I can't change the past so that we still you "thou" and "-eth" today, so I have to go with the current system.


Also, don't take this post as facetiousness; I really would prefer if we used all that old English stuff today.

me too

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Feb 07, 2008 5:22 am UTC

Yeah, check...out is a fairly standard phrasal verb. Like turn...on and put...away and about a thousand others. "Check out this" sounds as strange to me as "put away it".

Interactive Civilian wrote:However, that doesn't necessarily stop me from getting a little of the "damn kids these days" syndrome when I hear someone speaking ebonics.

It's not a "kids these days" phenomenon, though. Unless you're talking about suburban white kids pretending to talk ebonics because they think it's cool. African American vernacular English has a history of development as old as there have been Africans in America, which is coincidentally about as long as there has been American English of any variety at all.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Thu Feb 07, 2008 6:08 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:It's not a "kids these days" phenomenon, though. Unless you're talking about suburban white kids pretending to talk ebonics because they think it's cool. African American vernacular English has a history of development as old as there have been Africans in America, which is coincidentally about as long as there has been American English of any variety at all.
Strike out the "white" and you've got it. I really don't care what color someone's skin is. AAVE may have an old history, but that doesn't change that it is predominantly spoke by young people. I don't hear many older people, regardless of whether they are black, brown, yellow, red, white, green, purple, whatever, saying things like,

"You is full of shit. That be whack, yo."

Hence, for me, it is a "kid's these days" thing. Perhaps it is more accurate to say "kids" phenomenon since AAVE is so old? I don't know enough about the history of it to form an opinion.

Or, is it that my perception of what ebonics is that is wrong? The language in the example I just gave is what I meant. I'm sorry, but hearing people talk like that in daily life hurts my brain. Of course, the way I speak would probably sound the same to Shakespeare or anyone else from that era, as Z.A.K. alluded earlier.

Anyway, I was being slightly cheeky with my original "damn kids these days" statement. I'd hoped that the ;) would give that away, but perhaps I should have added a "get off my lawn" to make that clearer.

The whole point of that was that, while we can't stop the language from changing and evolving, it doesn't mean that everyone going through the transition phase has to like the changes or accept them with open arms. Isn't that and hasn't that always been the nub of any "Kid's these days..." statement made by crotchety old men and women all over the world? ;)
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby tendays » Thu Feb 07, 2008 3:38 pm UTC

I realise I'm going to partially contradict my earlier post, but... (I was saying getting rid of subjunctive seems like a good thing, now I am saying that as long as it hasn't actually happened, English teachers should keep teaching it)

I think it is a common thing for language teachers (English or otherwise) to teach the more formal and more "correct" form, which tends to be the older form. So maybe in twenty years it will be considered correct to say "I wish I was", but currently it is not.
I think that as a teacher, one should teach the students to speak a correct and formal (-ish) language, and simultaneously teach them to understand slight variants of it, especially if it is taught as a foreign language - otherwise people can be trusted to learn that by themselves, my French teachers (my native language) never taught me French slang and indeed they didn't have to!
So, Interactive Civilian, I totally support your teaching students to say "I wish I were". If I were you I'd go further and tell them it is *wrong* to say "I wish I was", even if I didn't penalise them for it. (Though apparently it is starting to get accepted in American English? Then never mind.)

Some reasons why I think this is good:

- Forming sentences according to the accepted rules makes them easier and faster to understand. Even if some rules can be broken without creating ambiguity, it takes some effort to understand, especially to someone who's used to interacting in grammatically correct (i.e. according to the generally accepted rules - I think I don't need repeating this disclaimer any more! :) ) sentences.
Such grammatically correct sentences contain some amount of redundancy, which makes them easier to understand, and makes communication less error prone, similarly to error correction codes in computer communication protocols. To take the current example, "I wish I were swimming": when seeing the "I were" construct, I immediately know it is about an hypothetical situation, even if for some reason my eyes skipped the word "wish", or if I didn't hear it clearly, etc. "I wish I was", on the other hand, assuming it is considered incorrect, contains a contradiction (hypothetical present versus affirmative past) which is easily solved, but still takes a slight mental effort to solve.
Some people suggested we could drop verb conjugation altogether (it is almost completely gone in English already, anyway, compared to French for instance). In most cases that would not create ambiguity but you lose the redundancy which is helpful for understanding quickly. Consider for instance the sentence "He is going to swim tomorrow". You have a redundancy for the subject (he => is) which you could remove by saying "he be going to swim tomorrow", and a temporal redundancy (tomorrow => future) which you could remove by saying "he swims tomorrow". You could remove both by saying "he swim tomorrow", which is still not less informative than the original sentence (apart from the "will swim/is going to swim" difference), but takes much more effort to read and understand. Okay I think I did enough on this point by now :)

- This forces some uniformity in the language, which, especially for one as widely spoken as English, is crucial for comprehension. Even if it may take some effort (both trying to speak clearly and trying to understand what the other is saying), this permits people living far from each other (in terms of social contact - geographical distance doesn't matter so much nowadays) to speak English (or Spanish etc) and understand each other. If people were only taught the local slang, this would be gone in one generation or two! And even then it doesn't prevent the language to progress, as eventually new rules get used in informal context and gradually becomes accepted as "correct", thus taught to students, and then eventually used in formal context.

It looks like this will eventually happen for the subjunctive, and "I wish I was" will eventually be the correct form, taught in school, etc, and I don't think this is a bad thing in any way because then the first point won't apply anymore as people will be taught and trained to recognise that form.

- Finally, someone was talking about job interviews, I think that the care someone puts into his language, in trying to follow commonly accepted rules at least in such a formal context tells a lot about that person. If I ever find myself hiring people, I *won't* hire someone who does plenty of grammar/spelling mistakes (unless, for a job not centred on communication, he is otherwise exceptional, or if there's evidence he's trying - i.e. he started learning the language recently or has dyslexia etc).

Okay, sorry for the wall of text ... I'm feeling motivated today :-)

EDIT: added a paragraph for the second argument
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby flyingdics » Thu Feb 07, 2008 5:51 pm UTC

Strike out the "white" and you've got it. I really don't care what color someone's skin is. AAVE may have an old history, but that doesn't change that it is predominantly spoke by young people. I don't hear many older people, regardless of whether they are black, brown, yellow, red, white, green, purple, whatever, saying things like,

"You is full of shit. That be whack, yo."


I volunteer in a school that's predominately black, and you can't correct anyone's grammar without getting a quick reply about how they don't want to "talk white". Lamentable as it may be, there are strong cultural ties between race and language, and it's naive to think that they don't go together because they maybe shouldn't.

Also, as far as the subjunctive goes, it isn't dying, it's changing without losing anything. No one has brought up an example of a case where a new subjunctive structure creates any ambiguity or conflicts. "I wish I was fishing" strictly replaces "I wish I were fishing" as the subjunctive structure. "I wish I was fishing" previously meant nothing, so no previous meanings are lost or diminished (like the generalization of the word "disinterested"). The subjunctive survives at the cost of changing "were" to "was" (which is sort of a bonus, think of the saved ink!).

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby zenten » Thu Feb 07, 2008 6:08 pm UTC

I have never heard of the subjunctive mood before, and any examples I've seen of it here make me cringe. I tried reading the Wikipedia page on it, and I still don't understand exactly how to use it in English.

So in Ontario at least it looks like the subjunctive mood is dead already.

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Feb 07, 2008 7:24 pm UTC

flyingdics wrote:"I wish I was fishing" previously meant nothing, so no previous meanings are lost or diminished (like the generalization of the word "disinterested"). The subjunctive survives at the cost of changing "were" to "was" (which is sort of a bonus, think of the saved ink!).

The issue is that "I wish I was" is sometimes also used in place of "I wish I had been". "I wish I was fishing with you that day" instead of "I wish I had been fishing with you that day".

zenten wrote:So in Ontario at least it looks like the subjunctive mood is dead already.

I really strongly doubt that.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Izzhov » Thu Feb 07, 2008 7:41 pm UTC

zenten wrote:I have never heard of the subjunctive mood before, and any examples I've seen of it here make me cringe. I tried reading the Wikipedia page on it, and I still don't understand exactly how to use it in English.

So in Ontario at least it looks like the subjunctive mood is dead already.

You've never said or heard anyone say, "I wish I were..." or "If he were..." before in Ontario?

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby zenten » Thu Feb 07, 2008 8:30 pm UTC

Izzhov wrote:
zenten wrote:I have never heard of the subjunctive mood before, and any examples I've seen of it here make me cringe. I tried reading the Wikipedia page on it, and I still don't understand exactly how to use it in English.

So in Ontario at least it looks like the subjunctive mood is dead already.

You've never said or heard anyone say, "I wish I were..." or "If he were..." before in Ontario?


Ok, I have heard "if he were here" before, I didn't realize that counted.

"I wish I was" is pretty much standard though. And I may have heard it the other way before, but I would likely have assumed that the person saying it did not have English as a first language.

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Izzhov » Thu Feb 07, 2008 10:52 pm UTC

zenten wrote:
Izzhov wrote:You've never said or heard anyone say, "I wish I were..." or "If he were..." before in Ontario?


Ok, I have heard "if he were here" before, I didn't realize that counted.

"I wish I was" is pretty much standard though. And I may have heard it the other way before, but I would likely have assumed that the person saying it did not have English as a first language.

Yeah, the "were" thing is pretty much all that's left of the subjunctive in English. Hence the topic title. :wink:
If you assume that, when people use "were" there are ESL people, then you were right; it probably is essentially dead in Ontario.

Oh yeah, and I just thought of another thing in the English subjunctive which is also probably almost dead: have you ever heard anyone in Ontario say, "It is necessary that she be there," or something like that? Because that is also the subjunctive. I think.

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Dextrose » Fri Feb 08, 2008 10:24 am UTC

flyingdics wrote:
Strike out the "white" and you've got it. I really don't care what color someone's skin is. AAVE may have an old history, but that doesn't change that it is predominantly spoke by young people. I don't hear many older people, regardless of whether they are black, brown, yellow, red, white, green, purple, whatever, saying things like,

"You is full of shit. That be whack, yo."


I volunteer in a school that's predominately black, and you can't correct anyone's grammar without getting a quick reply about how they don't want to "talk white". Lamentable as it may be, there are strong cultural ties between race and language, and it's naive to think that they don't go together because they maybe shouldn't.


-_- I think it's pretty lamentable that people are so resistive to the dialect spoken by blacks in this country. It's an identity thing. Honestly, it really pisses me off - okay, some of this subjunctive rabble got out of hand, but this actually is a really big deal. When a two types of language are spoken by two groups of people who are of separate race and because of their race, saying it's not a race issue is racist. The only people who think "Ebonics" (a word I loathe) isn't a part of being black in America are the people who want it to go away.

Come on, people.

The reason it's bullshit to call Barack Obama "articulate for a black man" is the same rason it's bullshit to "correct" a black student's dialect. It's not like conjugating 'to be' differently makes you stupid. And if you're going to come back at me saying "well it's better to know how to be more formal," unless you're black, you're still wrong, because the strata of formality in that dialect are still different. True, they converge, and at the highest level of formality, white American English and black American English are basically the same, but they're still different, and probably more different than any other two dialects of American English. Which means that, ideally, the best English teachers for black students are also black.

There's no shame in this. It shouldn't matter at all. It still does in this country, a lot more than people think it does, but I blame a lot of that on this Basically Decent generation trying to disregard the differences that do exist - the good differences - on the basis that "everyone is equal, blah blah blah." I've got news for you: equality and uniformity are two different things. No, your skin tone doesn't determine the quality of your humanity. But I'm damn proud to be what I am - a part of the majority, a part of the minority, but most importantly, a part of a civilised society where people are usually smart enough to be happy about how different we are.

And, coming full circle, that goes for the was/were "conflict," too. It's not a fucking conflict until somebody makes it one by saying one of them is wrong. It's an identity thing. Which means that, especially for ESL students, it's incredibly important that we understand and accept the difference between the two and find our own voice within that space. So I don't want to hear any more of this "I cringe when I hear {phrase unfamiliar to me}." It's neither cute nor fair, and elitism isn't cool when it's wrong.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Fri Feb 08, 2008 1:20 pm UTC

Dextrose wrote:-_- I think it's pretty lamentable that people are so resistive to the dialect spoken by Chinese in this country. It's an identity thing. Honestly, it really pisses me off - okay, some of this subjunctive rabble got out of hand, but this actually is a really big deal. When a two types of language are spoken by two groups of people who are of separate race and because of their race, saying it's not a race issue is racist. The only people who think "Engrish" (a word I loathe) isn't a part of being Chinese in America are the people who want it to go away.

Come on, people.

The reason it's bullshit to call Bruce Lee "articulate for a Chinese man" is the same rason it's bullshit to "correct" a Chinese student's dialect. It's not like not using the verb "to be", not using plurals, and not using tenses makes you stupid. And if you're going to come back at me saying "well it's better to know how to be more formal," unless you're Chinese, you're still wrong, because the strata of formality in that dialect are still different. True, they converge, and at the highest level of formality, white American English and Chinese American English are basically the same, but they're still different, and probably more different than any other two dialects of American English. Which means that, ideally, the best English teachers for Chinese students are also Chinese.

There's no shame in this. It shouldn't matter at all. It still does in this country, a lot more than people think it does, but I blame a lot of that on this Basically Decent generation trying to disregard the differences that do exist - the good differences - on the basis that "everyone is equal, blah blah blah." I've got news for you: equality and uniformity are two different things. No, your skin tone doesn't determine the quality of your humanity. But I'm damn proud to be what I am - a part of the majority, a part of the minority, but most importantly, a part of a civilised society where people are usually smart enough to be happy about how different we are.

And, coming full circle, that goes for the was/were "conflict," too. It's not a fucking conflict until somebody makes it one by saying one of them is wrong. It's an identity thing. Which means that, especially for ESL students, it's incredibly important that we understand and accept the difference between the two and find our own voice within that space. So I don't want to hear any more of this "I cringe when I hear {phrase unfamiliar to me}." It's neither cute nor fair, and elitism isn't cool when it's wrong.

Just out of curiosity, do you still agree with the post given the changes I made (i.e. changing "black" to "Chinese" and changing the ways that the grammar differs, but keeping the logic exactly the same)? Or, if you don't like my example of using the Chinese, change it to Hispanics and Spanglish, respectively, and then choose a suitably well-spoken person of Hispanic descent, or Japanese and Engrish, respectively and choose a suitably well-spoken person of Japanese descent.

Because, if you do, then why do we bother to teach English at all? People who want to learn will pick it up from their own "kind" just fine and, because that is their race and heritage, any "mistakes" they make MUST be acceptable.

Is this what you are saying? Or does it only apply to Africans because they were on the continent a couple hundred years before the Chinese rail workers (etc.) that came over? Or does it only apply for them because they were brought over as slaves, and that crime against them gives them special status? Or does it only apply to them for some other reason?

Please clarify why we teach ESL at all, based on the logic of your post, or please clarify if and how the logic doesn't hold up if you choose another race living in the US.

/postscript: I'm not trying to be antagonistic or an asshole. I'm honestly not understanding your logic and wish to be educated.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Dextrose » Sat Feb 09, 2008 4:49 am UTC

Holy crap, man, I don't see how you can make that kind of distinction. That's...like...more racist than Hitler on Hannukah. (Okay, it's not, but I love that phrase and I'm sticking to it.)

The kind of Chinese you're talking about (you'd better be talking about) is just plain broken English. That's why you don't hear those Chinese people talking to each other in it. Ditto Japanese, Korean. Spanish is the only comparison you've made that's close to making sense, and I'd have to stick by what I said before, given the kid grew up in a bilingual household. Taking away the speech patterns a Hispanic kid uses with his friends in middle school is taking him away from his culture.

But the thing here is, black people don't speak English as a second language. NONE of them, ANYWHERE. "Ebonics" is really just a set of dialects that exist parallel to "Albonics" - and "Hisponics" - in America. It works perfectly well. Poor English as spoken by a non-native speaker is just that: poor. I'm talking about native speakers, though. And Black America does have a special status, because, and I'm being serious here, it exists. Black culture is an entity in and of itself, and it is developed and present. The same claim cannot be made for any other racial group in this country (well, white people, but ih.) Maybe I'm being short-sighted in saying that, but even if I am, I stand by the notion that a developed dialect deserves to stay intact and its speakers deserve its identity.

As for ESL students, what I was saying is that they're going to be living in a community where dialect is spoken, so they ought to learn to speak dialect and be familiar with a wide variety of dialects. Teaching them to speak properly just makes them sound like an ESL student. The best non-native speakers I know (and I don't think you can pick many colleges with a wider variety than we have here) are the ones who speak like my yankee friends in regular conversation. That's not going to stop them from being good formal speakers elsewhere. In fact, they're probably the best at that, too, because they understand the emotion of the language in addition to the dry vocabulary.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Sat Feb 09, 2008 5:55 am UTC

Dextrose wrote:Holy crap, man, I don't see how you can make that kind of distinction. That's...like...more racist than Hitler on Hannukah. (Okay, it's not, but I love that phrase and I'm sticking to it.)

The kind of Chinese you're talking about (you'd better be talking about) is just plain broken English.

Please correct me if I'm wrong:

A Chinese American saying something like, "Where you at?" is broken English.
An African American saying something like, "Where you at?" is not broken English.

Simply because of their heritage? Is that what you are saying?

As for ESL students, what I was saying is that they're going to be living in a community where dialect is spoken, so they ought to learn to speak dialect and be familiar with a wide variety of dialects. Teaching them to speak properly just makes them sound like an ESL student.
Ok, fair enough.

So, should we start beginners off with every variation of the English language that they might use right from the beginning? Mind you, there are at least hundreds of variations of the English language around the world. Or, should we choose some sort of baseline standard? If so, which should we use as our standard? Or should we choose one standard and only a few of the variations, completely ignoring the other variations? Which variations should we choose?

I hope you see where I am going with this. And this brings us full circle back to the topic of this thread. I teach the subjunctive "If I were..." because it is the widely accepted standard in more countries than any other variation of that. If we should teach variations of it, which it seems that you think we should, then which variations should we teach and why those and not others?

I also personally use it because it is the one I am most exposed to these days (as I tend to run into a lot more Australians, British, and others than I do Americans during my travels). I don't use it because I want to feel superior for my "proper" English. I use it because it is what people use, and for me out here in the world, it sounds unnatural to not use it in many situations. Yes, in the US, it probably sounds unnatural to use it, but I have not lived in the US for 7 years.

So, the subjunctive is dying. Fine. Let it die. But until the majority stops using it, I will teach it as the baseline standard for English for my ESL classes (which causes a rather nice Catch-22: it won't die until enough people stop using it. People won't stop using it as long as it's being taught. It will continue to be taught until the majority of the people stop using it). Now, like I said before, I don't penalize students for not using it, and I do tell them that, for example, in the US "If I was" is the standard.

Now, mind you, if I were teaching ESL in the United States, I would probably be more inclined to teach the "local standard", but since I have never taught ESL in the United States, I tend to teach the "international standard".

The best non-native speakers I know (and I don't think you can pick many colleges with a wider variety than we have here) are the ones who speak like my yankee friends in regular conversation. That's not going to stop them from being good formal speakers elsewhere. In fact, they're probably the best at that, too, because they understand the emotion of the language in addition to the dry vocabulary.

I'm curious. Have you ever taught ESL to a student with no English ability beyond making the sentence "This is a pen"?

Of course, advanced students will have the ability to distinguish between formal and informal English and be able to pick up the "local dialect" of wherever they happen to be. However, beginners need to learn the basic rules and get used to the basic thinking style behind the language before they can start applying any of these variations. They get confused enough as it is just trying to reconcile the differences in thinking style with English and their native language. You'd be amazed at how some students can get really confused and have a hard time understanding some things we consider to be very simple, and this happens because they haven't wrapped their heads around the thinking style behind the language. Once they reach a point where they are actually using English thinking style when they use English (as opposed to translating in their heads) then they can start getting used to the variations (and usually that happens automatically because their brains understand how English works on a practical level instead of just an intellectual level). Until that point, however, I prefer to keep it simple and follow the standard.

Again, I'm curious. Are you fluent (to the extent that you think in the language) in any other languages? If so, does that language have many different dialects? If so, then surely you can see what I am saying here. If you had to start off with every variation would you have still been able to pick up the language?

For the record: I speak standard Japanese, using a lot of Yokohama slang, and I can imitate Osaka dialect well enough, and I understand Osaka and Kyoto Japanese with little problems (Kagoshima Japanese and Akita Japanese might as well be different languages to me ;) ). (no, I'm not bragging. I'm just stating my credentials). I learned all the variations after I became comfortable with the basic, standard Japanese. If I had started off with someone trying to teach me, "This is how we say it in Tokyo, this is how we say it in Akita, this is how we say it in Osaka, this is how we say it in Kagoshima, and this is how we say it in Okinawa," then I would never have progressed in the language.

From my position, I am not arguing against variations in the language. However, as a teacher to basic students with little or no English experience, I'm going to stick with the most commonly used (IN THE WORLD) variation as the baseline.

Note: those last questions about your teaching experience and your language ability are NOT intended to judge you in any way. I'm just trying to see where you are coming from. The question about fluency is not meant to compare you and I. I'm just wondering if you have gone through what any and all ESL students go through. Cheers. :)
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Matt_B » Sat Feb 09, 2008 1:20 pm UTC

Dextrose wrote:But the thing here is, black people don't speak English as a second language. NONE of them, ANYWHERE.

You accuse other people in of being Racist but this is the most racist thing I have heard in a long time. Do you really think black people who don't happen to be born in the US, Britain etc. can't learn English or are you just so americanocentric you think all black people are African-Americans (and that ANYWHERE is the US)?
Let me enlighten you with the words of Maddox:
Spoiler:
First of all, the label "African American" is the dumbest, most persistently used phrase in our vernacular. Every time you call someone an "African American," you're making at least two assumptions about the person:

1. That the person is an American. For example, if you saw this guy walking along on a street, you would probably think:
Image

...which is fine, except for one small detail: this man is British, which makes you a presumptuous cock.

2. That the person is African (because it's inconceivable that black people could come from Haiti, India, Trinidad, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Australia, or Jamaica). Nevermind that; BLACK PEOPLE ONLY COME FROM AFRICA.


Not to mention that every time you give a black person the distinction of being "African American" out of a mixed group, you're making an assumption about an entire continent; not everyone from Africa is black. I guarantee all you Basically Decent morons out there have never called a white person an African American. Of course you could avoid all these problems by using the same standards on blacks as you would on whites by simply assuming that all whites are from Africa just as you do for all blacks, but that might be too forward, and in a polite society like ours, people would be all too pleased to point out which of the 192 countries you didn't guess they were actually from.
Source: http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=your_stupid_ideas


PS: I don't really want to flame here but this really got me angry
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby 4=5 » Sat Feb 09, 2008 4:48 pm UTC

chill out a little, they made a small error in terminology
if you're that concerned just say (spoilered for size)
Spoiler:
Image

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Dextrose » Sat Feb 09, 2008 9:31 pm UTC

Matt_B wrote:
Dextrose wrote:But the thing here is, black people don't speak English as a second language. NONE of them, ANYWHERE.

You accuse other people in of being Racist but this is the most racist thing I have heard in a long time.

Oi. Shoo.

Anyway. Interactive Civilian: Yes, a Chinese American, speaking broken English, saying "Where you at?" would be broken English. An black person (note the clever not-usage of "African American," which is a pretty racist term in and of itself, see the Maddox article that was just quoted), speaking fluently in his dialect of English, saying "Where you at?" would not be speaking broken English, by virtue of the fact that their English is not broken. For that matter, it's not broken for a white person to say that, either. Or a Chinese person who speaks fluently. Why? Because a Chinese person, speaking broken English, doesn't know why it's technically wrong or right to say "where you at," whereas a fluent English speaker does. A fluent English speaker is just smushing the word "are" into the word "where" and forgetting about it. The Chinese person you're talking about would simply omit the verb. In light of that I'd say that this is a pretty special case, but my point stands nonetheless.

And I'd have to disagree with you on the "learning how to say things differently from the very beginning" thing. No, I'm not completely fluent in any other languages, but I'm fairly fluent in Turkish, I can understand a good deal of the Italian I hear and I'm working on several others at a beginner's level. The problem is, everyone teaches language like a bunch of fuckups, and literature on Turkish and Italian is just as retarded as ESL teaching practices are. I wouldn't know anything about either of those languages if it weren't for my friends teaching me and if it weren't for me asking the questions I know I need to ask, and most of those questions have to do with dialect. I've taken lessons in Spanish, Korean, Greek and Japanese before, and I know jack shit about any of them that I haven't learned directly from people I've met who speak the languages natively. What I'm saying here, if I haven't made myself clear, is that you've all got it all wrong. Don't worry, you're not alone, so do all my harmony teachers. (But then again, I call harmony a language too, and they suffer from the same problems.) You didn't learn English out of a test-tube. Are there any test-tube babies in here? Sorry if I offended anyone. You learned English by listening to a variety of dialects spoken by various people in your nascent life, assimilating the similarity between phrases that have like meanings.

Then, you got into school, and The Establishment started feeding you lies like, "Language means something, and we're the only people who can tell you what."

Monet wasn't Monet because he grew up colouring inside the lines. Speaking within the boundaries of grammatical rules is never, ever, ever, ever helpful to the learning process. In fact, it's more helpful to break those rules as a matter of course, because then you know what does sound wrong, instead of what your teacher says sounds wrong. But the problem is, nobody really understands that, teachers and students alike, and so this idiotic standard by which language is passed down generation to generation remains stymied in philosophical bureaucracy. No, you don't need to teach an ESL student "this is how we say it in Boston, this is how they say it in Santa Cruz, this is how they say it in Minneapolis...." But for an advanced concept like the subjunctive mood, which you should only be teaching to a fairly fluent student, it's a pretty good fucking idea to let them know when there are two standard conjugations. You don't even have to call it that. If they ask you how they should say "I want to be fishing right now," just tell them it's "I wish I were fishing," but some people say "was" instead of "were," and it sounds more folksy that way to some people.

Which brings me to: FOR THE LAST GODDAMN TIME, STOP SAYING THE SUBJUNCTIVE MOOD IS DYING. It's not "dying." If it were "dying" people just wouldn't say things like "I wish I was fishing" anymore, period. It's still the subjunctive cuntshitfuckall mood, no matter how you say it. It's just that the formerly common conjugation is being supplanted - IN SOME AREAS - by another conjugation. Is 'were' still more formal where 'was' is used? Yes. Which is why the most you should ever have to say to a student that writes "If Al Gore was President..." is that, even though it's not wrong, he should still use 'were' in formal writing. And that's the end of it.
Last edited by Dextrose on Sun Feb 10, 2008 5:12 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby innoby... » Sun Feb 10, 2008 12:41 am UTC

Z.A.K wrote:
Interactive Civilian wrote:However, if we are into rule-breaking without losing clarity, then why not get rid of verb conjugations completely? Nothing seems to be lost by saying any of the following:
"I be tired"
"You be tired."
"He be tired."

This will most likely become some form of slang or another around 30 years in the future, if it isn't already.


It already is, perhaps you should go take a stroll in the "bad" side of town. Where conjugation and sentence structure are dropped for the sake of looking tough. Where hearing a phrase like "Shit, I be done cut myself" is common place.

I just realized how much in common the racist redneck hick's english has in common with the people he hates. (I know it should TECHNICALLY BE HE/SHE, or "they")

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Mandiful » Sun Feb 10, 2008 1:00 am UTC

Z.A.K wrote:One thing that i really hope doesn't happen is having lolcat become standard. I can has worry? :?


I hope it does! I'm already fluent in it!

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Zak » Sun Feb 10, 2008 1:05 am UTC

innoby... wrote:
Z.A.K wrote:
Interactive Civilian wrote:However, if we are into rule-breaking without losing clarity, then why not get rid of verb conjugations completely? Nothing seems to be lost by saying any of the following:
"I be tired"
"You be tired."
"He be tired."

This will most likely become some form of slang or another around 30 years in the future, if it isn't already.


It already is, perhaps you should go take a stroll in the "bad" side of town. Where conjugation and sentence structure are dropped for the sake of looking tough. Where hearing a phrase like "Shit, I be done cut myself" is common place.

I just realized how much in common the racist redneck hick's english has in common with the people he hates. (I know it should TECHNICALLY BE HE/SHE, or "they")

Maybe this what be happening where YOU be, but not where I be.
*waggles eyebrows*

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Mandiful » Sun Feb 10, 2008 1:21 am UTC

This reminds me of when I was working at EB Games, and instead of saying "I did it" my Assistant Manager used to say "I done it." It would make me cringe, every time.

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Sun Feb 10, 2008 3:05 am UTC

Dextrose wrote:Speaking within the boundaries of grammatical rules is never, ever, ever, ever helpful to the learning process. In fact, it's more helpful to break those rules as a matter of course, because then you know what does sound wrong, instead of what your teacher says sounds wrong.

You right be absolutely. Did grammar away rules shall with be. Course of matter broken them as!

How does something sound "wrong" if everyone is saying the "wrong" thing? Hint: it won't, if that is the environment you are in. If there were some isolated community that just ditched all of the rules and spoke the way I just posted, and then they came out of isolation, would we be allowed to call their English incorrect? Should we even call it English? What if they call it English?

Now, before you flame me, let me point out that I am nowhere near being a strict grammarian. However, someone said it very well over in the "One Word Sentence" thread:
tetromino wrote:Look, this whole discussion is silly. Your writing is fine, but the teacher's response is also correct.

The point of school is to learn a collection of arbitrary, useless, old-fashioned rules for every subject. And the reason you have to learn them that is so that when you break them later in your real life, you will do so deliberately and not through ignorance.
I think that sums it up rather well. I break some rules all the time, especially when I write. Sometimes I do it for style purposes, sometimes I do it because that is how the character speaks, sometimes I do it because I'm being lazy, and sometimes I do it because it actually makes the writing clearer.

But for an advanced concept like the subjunctive mood, which you should only be teaching to a fairly fluent student, it's a pretty good fucking idea to let them know when there are two standard conjugations. You don't even have to call it that. If they ask you how they should say "I want to be fishing right now," just tell them it's "I wish I were fishing," but some people say "was" instead of "were," and it sounds more folksy that way to some people.

Which is exactly what I do. Good. Glad to see we are in agreement here. Although, didn't you tell me to stop fucking with my students language earlier in the thread because I was teaching them "I wish I were fishing"? Or is the problem that I teach them and drill them primarily on the more accepted and commonly used (again, in the world, just to be clear) version?

When I cringe (or sigh or whatever) when my students use "If I was..." or "If he was..." it is not because they are being natural in American English, it is because they are just as likely to use "If you was..." of "If they was..." (or are we going to argue that those are perfectly acceptable as well, because rural white people in the south say it like that?). i.e. They aren't breaking the "rule" because it is acceptable and natural to break it in this case, but rather, they are breaking the rule because they don't know any better. Now, if they are intentionally trying to speak a certain type of English, fine. Break all of the standard rules that match that dialect.

I don't care if my students break the rules as long as they are doing it for a reason.

Also, conditionals aren't that advanced a concept, and they seem to be the next logical step after getting the basic simple and perfect tenses down. You don't need to be an advanced student to start using "if". However, I don't teach lessons on "the subjunctive mood". Hell, I didn't even know such a thing existed or, at least, there was a name for it, until I started studying Spanish and French. I tend to take a non-grammar-terminology approach to how I teach. It's not necessary to name the parts in order to use the language. I guess I teach more of a "If you want to say something like this to imply that, then use this structure." kind of approach. Agree or disagree, it has worked very well for me an my students, who progress really well with that.

On a sidenote... shit, I really wish I had used a bit of "redneck" English instead of "black" English for my example before. Then we could have had fun arguing whether "I done did 'dat" or, and this is a direct quote from a movie I just watched, "Him and me, we was working in the fields" are correct or not, without bringing race into it, since it seems perfectly acceptable in today's society to make fun of how rural white people speak.(i.e. I've never heard anyone called a racist for making fun of a redneck) ;) :P

/note: emoticons such as the semi-colon-close-parentheses and the colon-P are often used to show that someone is being lighthearted and less than serious
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby qklilx » Sun Feb 10, 2008 3:10 am UTC

For the record, though I'm not sure on equivalent terminology and the like, there is a conditional form in Japanese "-tara." It conjugates verbs (eg., tabetara), adjectives (eg., tanoshindara), and the copula (eg., dattara) into the past tense, forming a conditional phrase. Might there be a general linguistic reason for this? Can anyone provide examples in other languages?

Dextrose wrote:The only people who think "Ebonics" (a word I loathe) isn't a part of being black in America are the people who want it to go away.


As a speaker of AAVE, I don't want it to go away. My heritage is about 1/8th black. I do not think it is a part of being black at all. If a person chooses to speak it, then that's fine. The more dialects of a language a person can speak, the more easily he or she can communicate ideas to an audience.

Dextrose wrote:white American English and black American English are basically the same, but they're still different, and probably more different than any other two dialects of American English


In Hawaii there is a creole which we call Pidgin (I know the term is general, but we happen to use it to identify our own) which is FAR different from standard American English than AAVE. It's so different that if you move to Hawaii and strike up a conversation with someone who speaks it you probably will only catch a general idea of what's being said. This dialect is so different that some scholars argue that it should be considered its own language, and there are some people who can speak Pidgin and NO other dialect of English, not even the standard.

Can anyone, without doing any research, tell me what "ho cuz, yoah auntie get some killah grinds, cuz" means?

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Sun Feb 10, 2008 3:18 am UTC

qklilx wrote:Can anyone, without doing any research, tell me what "ho cuz, yoah auntie get some killah grinds, cuz" means?

Just taking a guess: "Hey man, your aunt is a good dancer." :?: :)

The Japanese adding "-ra" to the past tense is a common way of making conditionals, and a friend of mine (my girlfriend at the time) broke down really well what the "-ra" is actually short for, as it is the very shortened version of something much more formal but no longer in practical usage.

There are other ways of forming conditionals in Japanese, and though they have differences in usage in Japanese, they don't correspond to the differences between conditionals in English. It took me a while to get used to that idea when I was first learning.

Not very helpful, I know. I just wanted to add some sort of content to my attempt at translation. ;)
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Felstaff » Sun Feb 10, 2008 3:25 am UTC

Fortunately, every staunch grammarian's prayers have been answered: the standard English subjunctive mood has been immortalised, thanks to Fiddler on the Roof.

If I were a rich man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.


...That's another thing we can thank the Jews for!

As for the cultural hullaballoo, it seems a little tl;dr for me, but someone wrote that no black person speaks English as a second language? Zoinks?
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Izzhov » Sun Feb 10, 2008 3:56 am UTC

Felstaff wrote:Fortunately, every staunch grammarian's prayers have been answered: the standard English subjunctive mood has been immortalised, thanks to Fiddler on the Roof.

If I were a rich man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.

But... I always thought they were saying, "If I was a rich man."
Well, I guess you're right. "Were" won the Google battle. :/

Felstaff wrote:As for the cultural hullaballoo, it seems a little tl;dr for me, but someone wrote that no black person speaks English as a second language? Zoinks?

Yeah, I didn't get that either. That's really not true, Dextrose.

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Dextrose » Sun Feb 10, 2008 5:10 am UTC

Man, I'm just going to go with some of you need to read /b/, obviously you're not prepared for the shift in culture that is taking place on the internet. You're behind the times, man. Behind the times.

So.
In Hawaii there is a creole which we call Pidgin (I know the term is general, but we happen to use it to identify our own) which is FAR different from standard American English than AAVE. It's so different that if you move to Hawaii and strike up a conversation with someone who speaks it you probably will only catch a general idea of what's being said. This dialect is so different that some scholars argue that it should be considered its own language, and there are some people who can speak Pidgin and NO other dialect of English, not even the standard.

That's pretty awesome. Yeah, I guess that was kind of an over-reaching statement to make. Alaskan Natives speak a pretty thick dialect, too - don't know if we have a name for it, but I'm guessing you're more up on that info than I am ;)

qklilx wrote:
Dextrose wrote:The only people who think "Ebonics" (a word I loathe) isn't a part of being black in America are the people who want it to go away.

As a speaker of AAVE, I don't want it to go away. My heritage is about 1/8th black. I do not think it is a part of being black at all. If a person chooses to speak it, then that's fine. The more dialects of a language a person can speak, the more easily he or she can communicate ideas to an audience.

I'm pretty sure you misunderstand me, but I'm hard pressed to clarify myself. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the people who don't want AAVE (I'm going to go with you on that one) to be spoken don't really want to identify speaking AAVE as something that's part of the identity of black culture.

Now my favourite:
Interactive Civilian wrote:You right be absolutely. Did grammar away rules shall with be. Course of matter broken them as!

You've...actually proven my point here. See, what you've done is try to break specifically rules of grammar within the language, altering conjugations and word order, attempting to create an incomprehensible sentence. Due to breaking the rules in that specific a manner, we can now learn something about what's written down. Personally I think it's fascinating in the same way that the study that was done with switching letters around in the middle of words. It's like an English optical illusion. I'd go into it more, but I don't really care to. Point is that this would be true no matter what you did. Because to break the rules you know you have to think about the rules you know and how what you've done relates to them. You could even just be utterly random and see what patterns emerge that vibe with your understanding of what you're trying to shape. E. E. Cummings, anyone? I think anyone learning English should read Cummings. (in their Carpet.)

But I'm still for not teaching beaten-up mistruths to children. Breaking rules deliberately and not in ignorance should happen from the very beginning. Why would you want to teach someone wisdom through ignorance and misunderstanding? I'm wholly against that philosophy. You shouldn't (to take the same example from the single-word sentence thread) tell the kid that he's flat out wrong for using a poetic rhetorical device for the same reason you shouldn't tell kids numbers stop at infinity. Frankly, I think if you told elementary math students things like, not only can you keep counting and counting and never stop, there's this number so big you can't even get to it, and beyond that there are even bigger numbers...our world would be a lot more numerically literate. Don't tell me a kid can't understand that. Bullshit. Kids can comprehend the idea that there could be more dimensions of space that we can't see just as well as you and I can. They might not understand what that means - fuck, I don't either. It's like magic to me, too. I still get that smart people think about it, so does a little kid. Shouldn't a child wonder about things like that? Hell, weren't you yourself a little miffed when every one of your physics professors eventually told you that the former was a liar?

I say English is no different, nor is any topic of human interest, because trickle-down doesn't work well on knowledge, either.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Sun Feb 10, 2008 5:35 am UTC

Dextrose wrote:Breaking rules deliberately and not in ignorance should happen from the very beginning.

There is very little in your post that I disagree with. However, how can you break the rules deliberately if you don't know the rules and/or don't really understand them?

To compare to a completely different subject, take photography, for instance. We have the "rule of thirds" (not just in photography, but many forms of visual art, but for this example, I will use photography). We also have other "rules" of composition regarding the use of leading lines, layering, framing, etc. These rules all form a solid groundwork with which to take decent, if not good or great pictures. However, all of these rules were meant to be broken, and some of the greatest pictures ever taken are examples of these rules being broken deliberately.

My point is that, if you don't know and understand these rules, then it is difficult to successfully break them. If you happen to get a great picture while breaking the rules without having any knowledge of them, then you are lucky. However, if you know the rules and know when to apply them and when not to, then you can consistently take good pictures.

The same with language. If you don't know the rules to the extent that you think in them as a basis for your language usage, then it is very difficult to consistently, successfully break those rules, and what the ESL student will end up coming out with is what you (and I, for the record) seem to consider "broken English".
(now, I'm not talking about all of the most obscure rules, but the more basic ones like general sentence structure and grammar...things that can form enough of a thinking framework in your mind that you can build your language ability around... I'm not being very clear, but this is what I mean by knowing how to think in another language).

I posit that it is better to learn the rules first and then how and when to break them, rather than learning the rules and how to break them at the same time. In a small sense, it is like learning Newton's laws of gravity before learning the exceptions brought by Einstein's theories of relativity. I know I wouldn't have been able to wrap my head around relativity without already having some notion of the universe as defined by Newton's laws.

However, this is my personal teaching (and learning) philosophy.

Is this pretty much the basis of our disagreement?

[EDIT] I just want to clarify about learning rules. I think there is some very grey area, especially in language, about when to enforce the rules and when not to. Usually, if I see a student 'break the rules' in a way that is not incorrect, I usually ask them why they said it that way, to see if they understand why it can be correct. If they don't know, or the move to "correct" their "mistake", I stop them and explain to them how and why it can be correct, where and in what situations it might not be considered acceptable, and then say something like, "Though I'm happy that you can do it that way, I would prefer if you do it this way until you fully understand. However, I'm not going to mark you wrong if you do it that way."

Learn and understand the rules, but be lenient on enforcing them. Or something like that. :)
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