Friday, December 23, 2011

Linguistic Ponderings

So, everyone knows I'm the Grammar Queen. But I should clarify that I'm not necessarily a snob about correctness. I'm perhaps a snob about clarity. But my love of grammar is actually just rooted in my love of analyzing structure and system.

While driving for six hours to Kansas yesterday, Hubby and I happened to wander into a discussion of "Ebonics". I was fascinated, when I took Linguistics in college, at the fact that the urban black dialect has its own structure, rules, and system. It's not just "bad English". That's true of most strong American English dialects, which is why they're hard to imitate and fool a "native speaker".

Hubby talked about how interesting it would be to take a 2011 inner city black kid back in time to speak to one of the founding fathers. He figures some of them would be appalled at the condition the mother tongue has evolved into. Others would find the boy's language remarkable and want to study it. His point was about how the founding fathers were very different individuals and not the unified blob we often picture them as. But I took from it a point about language.

I do think we, as a society, are becoming increasingly poor communicators. Lazy, non-specific, unpoetic, unmelodic, unclear. I once found a letter written by my grandfather, a relatively uneducated farmer from Western Kansas. I was struck not only by the meticulously precise handwriting, but the quality of his vocabulary and sentence structure.

I told Hubby, I think where we started losing it is when we stopped practicing "recitations" in the schools. If you read the Little House books, they talk all the time about the poems and speeches every person in the school had to memorize and recite. They also read aloud to each other in the evenings for entertainment. I think these things make a HUGE difference. They give you an internal sense of the rhythm of language. Complex vocabulary and sentence structures feel more natural, and your thoughts start to organize themselves more clearly and readily with such structures instinctually available to you.

I'm regretting now that I didn't do more of this with the girls. I guess I still have time with Eastin. Gotta break out the old poetry books!

No comments: