DailyDirt: English Curiosities

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

The English language is one of the hardest languages to learn. There are countless irregularities and significant differences between written and spoken English grammar that can trip up almost anyone. Here are just a few linguistic analyses of slightly older versions of English .

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If our understanding, perception and even recognition(!) of language was fully consistent in the first place, then a lot (but not all) of the ‘problems’ we have with it wouldn’t really exist – (because we’d understand why they’re not truly ‘problems’ in the first place) – and vice-versa, some of the actual problems we have are not even being recognised, either, for the same reasons.

But I’m working on it…!

(On the Functionality and Identity of Language.)


The most significant change to the English language is...

Judging by what I’ve been seeing on the net, the next big change to the English language will probably the acceptance of making any word past tense by adding “ed” to the end of it.

You may have even seen people do this and not even noticed it, but then when you thinked about it later, something striked you as odd. I’ll admit that it drived me nuts at first, but then I sleeped on it and it growed on me. Suddenly, it all maked sense. Why learn complicated alternate spellings for past tense words when you can just add “ed” to the end of a word? Isn’t that betterer? ­čśë


Waste of my time in 9th grade

I had an English teacher that LOVED sentence diagraming. That is all he had us do was diagram sentences and graded us on how well we diagramed. A colossal waste of time.
In the article one sentence did stick out to me: “Parsing was almost insufferably tedious”
In this class I remember leaning over to my friend and saying: I hope the guy that invented this diagramming thing is dead, because if not, I?m hunting him down and force feeding him pencils until he dies of lead poisoning.


Re: Waste of my time in 9th grade

Good god that first picture brought back bad memories I thought I had repressed. It was 7th/8th grade at my school, but yeah, it was the same deal. Diagramming sentences over and over and over and over again.
I hadn’t thought of the diagramming part in years till I saw that picture, but I still subconsciously break down sentences into their parts when I read them. Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives, Adverbs, Prepositions, Conjunctions, I’m almost 40, why the hell do I still do that!

Leigh Beadonsays:

Re: Waste of my time in 9th grade

Sentence diagrams are potentially good but, like most things in education, they are way overused and/or used completely wrongly by the school.

Doing a couple sentence diagrams throughout the course of learning about grammar would be fine — but the focus should be on developing a keen intuitive sense for English grammar, and knowing the basic idea of how to do things more scientifically only when needed (which it rarely will be for most people). But, of course, you can’t test intuition…

It’s very similar to what’s wrong with math class. Students are given a solution upfront, then made to use it over and over and over again until they memorize it, without ever checking to see if they understand it. And nothing is more baffling to a student than being forced to prove or solve the obvious — tools, like a sentence diagram or a piece of mathematical notation, should emerge from problems. That’s how we created them. No human being ever diagrammed a sentence until someone was faced with some really complex language and had a reason to want to parse it out in detail, just like no human being did long division until they had some numbers they couldn’t divide with their brain and a few fingers.

If anything, the best way to teach sentence diagrams would be to first get students to spend a day examining sentences of increasing complexity, and encourage them to use pen & paper to help separate out the elements and draw it all out in a way that makes sense. Then, after they’ve developed a dozen of their own quick methods for sentence diagramming and are discovering the limitations of them, show them the standardized solution (but let them keep using their own if they like it better). Of course, such a process wouldn’t fit into a standardized testing model at all.


English is the hardest language? No, actually, it’s not. Where’s your evidence for this substantial claim? I’d wager it’s actually one of the easiest. Little tense, no declension, no gender or noun class, alphabetic script. The irregularities of English are dozens of times more regular than what most other languages call a perfectly regular paradigm. Try learning some Czech verbs sometime.

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