Darwin-L Message Log 4:2 (December 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.

<4:2>From SMITGM@hawkins.clark.edu  Wed Dec  1 14:32:52 1993

To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
From: "Gerard Donnelly Smith"  <SMITGM@hawkins.clark.edu>
Organization: Clark College, Vancouver WA, USA
Date: 1 Dec 93 12:30:11 PST8PDT
Subject: linguistic drifts or "imbalances"

The gaps or imbalance you refer to, I believe equal linguistic
drift and usually are associated with venacular expressions moving
into dominance, aberrant spellings becoming acceptable, influx of
foreign words due either to conquest or trade, and coinage for new
technology or concepts. These equal the common causes for
linguistic evolution in any language.

The agreement errors which some associate with the gender awareness
caused by political correctness are, as Greg Mayer, points out much
older.  I've been teaching grammar for 15 years and ran into this and
similar errors in agreement from the beginning.  The problem arises
in your inablity to differentiate group nouns and pronouns from
singular ones, especially concerning "everyone" and "everybody".
When "everyone" (every person) is one word it reguires the singular
pronoun, whereas when "every one" is two words it requires the plural
pronoun or noun, as in "Every one of the students."  Most folks don't
realize that there are two versions of this pronoun, thus the error

Other drifts which I've been trying to reverse include: "alot" used
for "much", "more" or  "many."  The use of "its" and "it's"
interchangeagly.  The use of "ain't" for "is not",  "was not", "will
not," etc. The use of "gonna" for "going to."

Who knows when these non-idiomatic expressions and agreement errors
began, but their origins can be traced to dialect differences,
and truncations of words and phrases in speech.  When we speak we
contract expressions, then these contracted expressions creep into
the written language.  Purists try to stem the tied, albiet quite

It may be fruitful to consider changes in the written language
according to these verbal influences.  I can't think of the text off
hand, but studies have been conducted of these "drifts" by noting
their first appearance in written texts.

These errors or aberrances are not often harmful, but they can be
when specificity and clarity are required.  My advice to avoid these
comes is echoed by George Orwell in "The Politics of the
English Language", by Francis Vesey called DECLINE OF THE
ENGLISH LANGUAGE (1920) and, of course, by Noam Chomsky.

Dr. Gerard Donnelly-Smith    e-mail: smitgm@hawkins.clark.edu
English Department           phone:  206-699-0478
Clark College
Vancouver, WA  98663

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