The battle over the way we should speak

On the increasing usage of improper English, Joan Acocella of The New Yorker notes:

English is a melding of the languages of the many different peoples who have lived in Britain; it has also changed through commerce and conquest. English has always been a ragbag, and that encouraged further permissiveness. In the past half century or so, however, this situation has produced a serious quarrel, political as well as linguistic, with two combatant parties: the prescriptivists, who were bent on instructing us in how to write and speak; and the descriptivists, who felt that all we could legitimately do in discussing language was to say what the current practice was.

But the most curious flaw in the descriptivists’ reasoning is their failure to notice that it is now they who are doing the prescribing. By the eighties, the goal of objectivity had been replaced, at least in the universities, by the postmodern view that there is no such thing as objectivity: every statement is subjective, partial, full of biases and secret messages. And so the descriptivists, with what they regarded as their trump card—that they were being accurate—came to look naïve, and the prescriptivists, with their admission that they held a specific point of view, became the realists, the wised-up.

Source: New Yorker

I guess that will make me closer to a descriptivist since I think there’s nothing wrong with Singlish.

Evolution vs Creationism

From The Genius of Charles Darwin Uncut Interviews. Seriously this is one of the worst interviews I sit through watching. Richard Dawkin interviews Wendy Wright, a Christian from Concerned Women For America. I watch it terribly annoying.

Richard Dawkins Interviews Creationist Wendy Wright (Part 1/7)

Richard Dawkins Interviews Creationist Wendy Wright (Part 2/7)

Richard Dawkins Interviews Creationist Wendy Wright (Part 3/7)

Richard Dawkins Interviews Creationist Wendy Wright (Part 4/7)

Richard Dawkins Interviews Creationist Wendy Wright (Part 5/7)

Richard Dawkins Interviews Creationist Wendy Wright (Part 6/7)

Richard Dawkins Interviews Creationist Wendy Wright (Part 7/7)

The misconceptions of evolution

Addressing some misconceptions and explaining some of the basics.

Evolution

I tried so hard to explain to a friend what evolution is last time. This video explains a lot better than I did. Makes me feel like starting a conversation on evolution again. Evolution is perhaps one of the most misunderstood concepts. It was never about religion. It’s happening all the time in bacteria and in humans too. It upsets me when people link evolution to something anti-religious.

English is evolving, nothing wrong with Singlish

Wired wrote something that got me tinking a bit. I’ll quote in excerpts, the full article is here. I’m more interested in the Singlish portions.

How English Is Evolving Into a Language We May Not Even Understand

An estimated 300 million Chinese — roughly equivalent to the total US population — read and write English but don’t get enough quality spoken practice. The likely consequence of all this? In the future, more and more spoken English will sound increasingly like Chinese.

It’s the 1.3 billion people can’t be wrong thing. If more Chinese speak in their Chinglish, they would be the majority. We can’t say the majority of English language speakers are speaking it wrongly, can we?

In Singaporean English (known as Singlish), think is pronounced “tink,” and theories is “tee-oh-rees.”

Dude, it’s Singapore English, not Singaporean English. I never heard of tee-oh-rees in Singapore anyway. Do we say that? I don’t tink so!

One noted feature of Singlish is the use of words like ah, lah, or wah at the end of a sentence to indicate a question or get a listener to agree with you. They’re each pronounced with tone – the linguistic feature that gives spoken Mandarin its musical quality – adding a specific pitch to words to alter their meaning. (If you say “xin” with an even tone, it means “heart”; with a descending tone it means “honest.”) According to linguists, such words may introduce tone into other Asian-English hybrids.

I haven’t thought of the ah, lah, loh stuff this way leh. To me, it was added to sound more casual and to fit in. If everyone doesn’t add this, no one would use it. It’s just to fit in. But our government launched a campaign to go against it – clearly not fitting in well enough.

And it’s possible Chinglish will be more efficient than our version, doing away with word endings and the articles a, an, and the. After all, if you can figure out “Environmental sanitation needs your conserve,” maybe conservation isn’t so necessary.

I tink we’re in some sort of transition. If the Chinese can end up standardizing English by bastardizing the current standard of English, so be it. We would see a bunch of English purist crying but hey, we switched old English to middle English to our modern English. Yeah, it took ages but today we are experiencing an acceleration on technology advancements, globalization etc.. Maybe we forgotten that language developments can accelerate too.

Welcome to post-modern Asianglish.