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You are what you speak : grammar grouches,…
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You are what you speak : grammar grouches, language laws, and the politics… (edizione 2011)

di Robert Lane Greene

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1774118,431 (3.52)2
An international correspondent for "The Economist" draws on his years of experience to analyze the symbiotic relationship between language and politics, providing insight into inherent tendencies toward prejudice.
Titolo:You are what you speak : grammar grouches, language laws, and the politics of identity
Autori:Robert Lane Greene
Info:New York : Delacorte Press, c2011.

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You Are What You Speak: Grammar Grouches, Language Laws, and the Politics of Identity di Robert Lane Greene

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I loved the first few chapters of this book where the author critiques the Stickler approach to language. However, as the book progresses, it seemed to me to get bogged down with one issue around language and nationalism and became too detailed and repetitive. I guess, overall, it covered the issues mentioned in the book title. But, for me, it became increasingly boring as the book progressed. I skimmed the last few chapters. ( )
  spbooks | Jan 21, 2018 |
I started reading this book because of my delight in having someone defend split infinitives and ending sentences with a preposition and taking issue with Lynne Trusse (“Eats, Shoots and Leaves). I kept reading for the interesting experiments in linguistics and the efforts of various governments to control language, particularly that of Ataturk in the early 1900’s. Favorite quote is from Max Weinreich: “A language is a dialect with an army and navy.” I give it four stars for content (accent on the first syllable). ( )
  Jeannine504 | Jan 23, 2016 |
You Are What You Speak

Although I anticipated an interesting and informative reading of You Are What You Speak, I found the ironically close-minded, autocratic approach of the author to be off-putting. He argues for openness to language diversity but then negatively stereotypes those who espouse a more "standards-based" approach ("sticklers" in his terminology). He acknowledges that "Not all sticklers are political conservatives or nationalists. But the rigid thinking behind sticklerism—'You must speak and write this way, and only this way'—dovetails with rigid thinking about group belonging. (p. xvii-xviii). He segues to nationalism, discrimination, and war. Such extremism in defense of the position that language diversity is desirable undercuts his credibility as an advocate.

Greene acknowledges that the purpose of language is communication (p. xx), but seems to not grasp the basic principle that clear communication is, in part, dependent on shared conventions and precision. Communicating creatively and ambiguously in ways that invite or allow multiple interpretations is an art form. As such, it is to be prized when that is the purpose of the passage. However, in many instances, the goal is to communicate clearly and unambiguously. The efforts of those he condescendingly dismisses as "sticklers" is to articulate principles that advance that goal. Each form of communication has its place.

If Green were merely suggesting that everyday language, with a disregard of the "rules" of formal language, should be respected he would be on solid ground. We all speak a colloquial patois in our everyday affairs. However, Green seems unable or unwilling to limit himself to that more moderate position. He equates an effort to encourage a common language with dictatorship and cites examples from Franco, Stalin, and China in buttressing his argument. Even the United States, Ireland, and France come in for criticism for their efforts to promote a common language. Ignored is the reality that we will all have to become conversant in multiple languages—not a bad situation if you have the aptitude and time to become multilingual—in order to conduct our everyday business. Green's arguments might have come across as more of a scholarly consideration of a complex issue if he had given equal consideration to the benefits of a common language.

It is easy to understand that a person who has devoted his life to the study of language and speaks nine languages can be an enthusiastic advocate of language diversity. An essay rhapsodizing about the beauty of language, written by a language enthusiast, would have a certain charm. However, as a scholarly work by a "professional", this book fails to provide an impartial, nuanced consideration of this complex issue.

I recommend that those who are searching for an interesting book on language consider Rosemarie Ostler's Founding Grammars: how Early America's War Over Words Shaped Today's language. ( )
  Tatoosh | Dec 15, 2015 |
Fun. ( )
  pilarflores | May 20, 2011 |
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An international correspondent for "The Economist" draws on his years of experience to analyze the symbiotic relationship between language and politics, providing insight into inherent tendencies toward prejudice.

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