Anne Curzan’s article made me think of what’s considered “proper” grammar in the English. I am willing to admit that i am guilty of several writing faux pas such as the split infinitive. In recent years i have been trying to ween myself off of such mistakes, but Curzan brings up the point of why are such devices forbidden? It is perfectly natural for a person to use an adverb or adjective to modify their verbs in spoken word, but it becomes wrong when it is written.
Curzan highlights how “correct” English can sometimes sound less natural that the standard. She explains the use of the anaphor “they” as inappropriate when the subject is singular such as student. If one were to here the sentence “If a student fails the final exam, the must retake the course”, that person would accept it just as much as “If students fail the final exam, they must retake the course. There is barely a difference.
An example of how English rules such as these can be confusing comes from my own family.Growing up, i heard several members of my family who said “hisself”, much to my chagrin. I explained to my grandmother one day that the usage of that word is incorrect (A horrible choice,on my part). She calmly explained to me that you own your “self” and i own my “self” so why can’t he own “his” self. While she was not familiar with “proper” grammar, she had an intuitive sense of how grammar is used. Who could say that her logic is wrong?
I agree with Curzan that teachers should have a curriculum that reflects not just on “wrong” and “right” grammar but also on the nature of language. Creating a hierarchy of language that devalues standard English has very unfortunate racist and classist implications. Singling out “low” language justifies certain groups of people as uneducated, especially if English is their second language. Having young people understand the reasoning of why language is the way it is allows for them to not only excel by society’s standards, but also be comfortable with their natural language.