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LINGUIST List 19.3406

Fri Nov 07 2008

Qs: Empirical Studies of Counter-Intuitive Standards?

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        1.    Wayles Browne, Empirical Studies of Counter-Intuitive Standards?

Message 1: Empirical Studies of Counter-Intuitive Standards?
Date: 29-Oct-2008
From: Wayles Browne <ewb2cornell.edu>
Subject: Empirical Studies of Counter-Intuitive Standards?
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A Bosnian linguistic colleague often criticizes unjustified choices made by
language standardizers. ''While you can make a handful of people say
something that clashes with their native Sprachgefuhl (especially if you
pay them to do so), you can never expect the masses to accept forms of
language that are out of sync with their native feel of language (I have
said and written: probably it would be easier to make people's blood
circulate in the opposite direction than to make them speak
ungrammatically.) Now I would like to find literature in which this claim
of mine was investigated empirically, i.e. which contains results of a
preferably statistical survey showing percentages of people who do speak
according to the prescriptive norm [contrary to their own natural
preferences]. (It would, of course, also be interesting to see what kind of
people follow the norm, on what occasions etc. etc.).''

My own feeling is that standardizers often succeed in eliminating some
feature from the usage of educated people (they got rid of negative concord
in standard English) but have less success in introducing a previously
unknown feature (the paradigm ''I shall, you will, he will, she will, we
shall...'' has never caught on in North American standard English). But
what empirical studies can we cite? Please reply to me at ewb2cornell.edu
and I will pass along everything I hear.

Wayles Browne, Assoc. Prof. of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics
Morrill Hall 220, Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14853, U.S.A.

tel. 607-255-0712 (o), 607-273-3009 (h)
fax 607-255-2044 (write FOR W. BROWNE)
e-mail ewb2cornell.edu

Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics

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