When is a word labelled 'bad'?

If you feel that your question or comment doesn't fit into the categories above, feel free to post it here.
Post Reply

When is a word labelled 'bad'?

Post by Juke Joint Jezebel » Mon Jul 11, 2005 2:41 am

New here
I have a bizarre, but serious question. I don't know if anyone can answer it, but I'm willing ask any way.
I read and write a lot, and for some time I have wondered something. Who decided that certain words were bad? I'm not talking about now, but when the word was first spoken. Like the F-word, for example. When was it decided that it was not a word for polite company? What person or group of people decided this? What was the criteria? How it sounded? How it was spelled? Why one particular word, but not fetch or puppy or Montana? I can find the etymological roots, the country of origin, but not the why. Now, it's all a matter of context, but what about when the word was first coined?
Everyone here probably thinks I'm nuts, (I am), but I've been wondering about this for a long time. I can't seem to understand the concept of the "bad word." Has anyone else ever wondered about this, or am I just insane?
Juke Joint Jezebel
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: "There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high-powered mutant never even considered for mass production. To weird to live, and too rare to die."
Fear and loathing in Las Vegas

When is a word labelled 'bad'?

Post by dalehileman » Mon Jul 11, 2005 2:18 pm

I understand that most were considered vulgar because they were used by the anglo-saxon invaders. No doubt my colleagues here will expand on this. Meanwhile try entering "profanity origin" in the all box and "anglo-saxon" in the exact phrase box

It is interesting to note that bad words don't stay bad. When I was a kid, for instance, hell, damn, piss, and crap were taboo; but now everyone drops them in everyday speech
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

When is a word labelled 'bad'?

Post by Phil White » Mon Jul 11, 2005 11:39 pm

There are some extremely complex mechanisms at work, the vast majority of which are social and not linguistic.

As a massive generalization, words related to sexuality will generally be regarded as unsuitable for use in polite society in societies with a very strict code of sexual conduct, blasphemous phrases will become taboo in strictly religious societies and so on. As perceptions of what is acceptable in society shift, so do the taboo words. With one possible exception, most previously taboo words related to sex have become pretty commonplace, even on prime-time TV. My guess is that it's directly related to the greater freedom with respect sex that has come about in English-speaking societies since the sixties and seventies. Blasphemy also isn't what it used to be as we live in an increasingly secular society.

But exactly when and why words like "fuck" became unacceptable where they had been acceptable in the past is difficult to say.

To take one of the last remaining five-star taboo words from the realm of sexuality, namely "cunt":
The OED cites its first usage as around 1230 in the charmingly named London street name "Gropecuntelane".
Chaucer was quite happy to use it pretty well undisguisedly:
"And privily he caught her by the queint" (The Miller's Tale)
"For certes, olde dotard, by your leave, / You shall have quaint right enough at eve" (The Wife of Bath's Tale)
Particularly in the Wife of Bath's Tale, this suggests that the word, if perhaps regarded as colloquial or perhaps even vulgar, was certainly not taboo.

And yet, some 200 years later, Shakespeare could only pun on the word, suggesting that it was already becoming unacceptable:
"these be her very C's, her U's, and her T's; and thus makes she her great P's." (Twelfth Night)

And after the sixteenth century, it becomes very rare in written records. Perhaps the rise of puritanism in England had an influence (my guess).

And yet gradually, the word is starting to lose its status as the ultimate taboo word. It is no longer avoided in novels, and can very occasionally be heard on TV. It will be interesting to see whether it loses its vehemence with time and can perhaps even be reclaimed as a perfectly acceptable word. (The idea of oppressed groups reclaiming words is nothing new. "Nigger", "queer" and "cunt" are all undergoing shifts as a result of the words being actively reclaimed by the groups concerned.)

So what are our taboo words now? Some would argue that hate words are replacing sexual or religious swearwords as today's taboo words. Recently, I read somewhere (but sadly I can't remember where and can't trace it) that some research in the UK showed that the word "paki" was rated by speakers as being among the top ten taboo words in the UK. Again, it's a reflection of what is and what is not seen as being acceptable in the UK.

Certainly, thirty years or so ago it would not have been possible to call a friend a "daft prick" and for it to be regarded almost as a term of endearment.

But I have wittered long enough and still haven't ansered your question.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

When is a word labelled 'bad'?

Post by Phil White » Tue Jul 12, 2005 12:07 am

Ah, found that research! It was undertaken jointly by the Advertising Standards Authority, British Broadcasting Corporation,
Broadcasting Standards Commission and the Independent Television Commission, and the full text is here. It also detects a shift towards hate words as today's taboo words. Indeed, the entire background of shifting perceptions is quite fascinating.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

When is a word labelled 'bad'?

Post by spiritus » Wed Jul 13, 2005 5:05 am

Phil White wrote: There are some extremely complex mechanisms at work, the vast majority of which are social and not linguistic.
Phil,

I am usually of the mind, that all unlabeled and earnestly expressed "distinctions without differences", are variations of one sophist trick or another. I prefer to believe that your intellectual honesty prohibits such rhetorical ploys.

Phil could you gently explain, for my benefit, the differences between a linguistic mechanism and a social one? It would be really nice if you could make clear to me exactly where one ends, and the other begins.

I am expressing a social "thank you", liguistically.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Che Baraka

When is a word labelled 'bad'?

Post by Phil White » Wed Jul 13, 2005 8:50 am

Che,
Language change generally has a number of causes, some, possibly most, are primarily socially driven ("prestige" language, etc.), others can be physiological (the actual shape of the mouth favouring certain vowel sounds), and others may be of a more linguistic nature (simpler syntactic forms replacing more complex ones).

The use and assessment of slang, taboo words etc. falls firmly within the realm of social influence on language, although there may be some mechanisms at work which are more linguistic in nature (many swearwords have plenty of plosive sounds). Words of Latin/Greek derivation used to name parts of the anatomy appear to be less likely to become swearwords than words from, for instance, Anglo-Saxon roots. It's a social phenomenon, but the distinction between the candidate words is one of historical linguistics.

Unless, of course, you choose to view all aspects of knowledge as subfields of sociology, since knowledge by nature is a social phenomenon?
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

When is a word labelled 'bad'?

Post by spiritus » Sat Jul 16, 2005 8:03 am

Phil,
Thank you for your thoughtful and "gentle" response.


Though I'm tempted to subject this thread to an extended session of discourse analysis; I will minimize the possibility of personally being blamed for any reader's death-by-boredom and address my comments only to your statements:-)
Language change generally has a number of causes, some, possibly most, are primarily socially driven ("prestige" language, etc.), others can be physiological (the actual shape of the mouth favouring certain vowel sounds), and others may be of a more linguistic nature (simpler syntactic forms replacing more complex ones)
"These are reasonable assertions", said the historical linguists in unison. "Furthermore, they are facts when viewed specifically as catagories of language change defined by that subfield of historical linguistics; referred to as the sociology of language", chimed in four very scholarly sounding gents, named Trask, Hendrich, Sapir and Whorf."

Heads were nodding in mute agreement, when suddenly someone loudly asked: "Are these reasonable assertions products of an unreasonable methodology?". This question came from the left side of the room of course.

Every linguist in the room turned toward the speaker.

"Shit!", Whorf groaned.
"Merde!", someone sputtered in heavily accented French.
"It's that !!!#% #!!%#!??!; the Sociolinguist!", Trask grumbled under his breath.
I did bowdlerize this little fiction, since several of my comments reference the semiotic power inherent in "bad" words. Note how effortlessly the symbols for Trask's verbal obscenities are understood as such.

Phil, as you know, linguistic studies, has its opposing camps. Diametrically opposed theoretically to the ideas put forth by the sociology of language is socioliguistics.

Sociolinguistics differs from sociology of language in that the focus of sociolinguistics is the effect of the society on the language, while the latter's focus is on the language's effect on the society.

I note the distinction you made between "socially driven" language variations and those changes of a "linguistic nature". The sociology of language dismisses the former as a language change causation, while making the latter a central factor.


( Trask, R. L. 1994. Language Change. London and New York: Routledge.
Hock, Hans Henrich, and Brian D. Joseph. 1996. An introduction to historical and comparative linguistics. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter ).


Clearly that is not the sole reference point for your comment:
Unless, of course, you choose to view all aspects of knowledge as subfields of sociology, since knowledge by nature is a social phenomenon?
Well, I guess I'd have to agree with your basic assumption prior to answering your question. I'm afraid I don't. I share the socioliguistical notion that all social phenomenon may serve as knowledge and that knowledge by nature is a unified field comprised of all that is knowable. Our subjective perceptions supply the illusions of separate fields, subfields, breaks, separations, fragmentations, disconnections, fallacies, etc.

I choose to not view the lines of demarcation laid down by historical linguists.

Sociolinguistics advocate that social phenomena creates language changes. Physiological, historical, gammatical, pragmatical, synatic, semanatic, and inflectional changes in languages are not the linguistic causes, but rather the effects of complex social dynamics.
All aspects of language changes are caused by sociological catalysts. Knowledge of causation is most effectively acquired by-way of a multi-discipline linguistic methodology which analyses all data supplied by a human agency considered contributory to social structures.


Romaine, Suzanne. 1994. Language in Society: An introduction to sociolinguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Weinreich, Uriel. 1953. Languages in Contact. The Hague: Mouton (repr. in 1968).

Here I need your help in defining the power source for these linguistic mechanisms:
The use and assessment of slang, taboo words etc. falls firmly within the realm of social influence on language, although there may be some mechanisms at work which are more linguistic in nature (many swearwords have plenty of plosive sounds). Words of Latin/Greek derivation used to name parts of the anatomy appear to be less likely to become swearwords than words from, for instance, Anglo-Saxon roots. It's a social phenomenon, but the distinction between the candidate words is one of historical linguistics.
Historical linguists and the sociology of language makes these distinctions, as though the assumptions upon which they are based were derived from universal laws of linguistics. Of course when applied to so called "language families" other then Indo-European, things get quite messy and uncooperative.

The "logic" that is employed by "traditional" linguists in deciding whether a language change is socially or linguistically generated also inform their conclusions in respect to 'good/bad' language variation.

Language change inevitably leads to variation, and variation within a speech community often leads to social valuation of particular features as 'good' or 'bad'. 'Good' variants are typically believed to be characterized by logical superiority or venerability, or both; 'bad' variants must then be illogical and/or recent inventions by the vulgar.

Sociolinguist, Sarah G. Thomason of the University of Pittsburgh employs a greater reasoning:
Neither logic nor great age plays a significant role in the labeling of variants. Consider 'ain't', which may be the English word most despised by schoolteachers and pundits. Far from being illogical or recent, 'ain't' is a legitimate phonological descendant of 'amn't', which was the original contraction of 'am not'. It isn't clear how 'ain't' fell into disrepute, but once there, it left an awkward gap in the system of negative contractions: We have "You're going, aren't you?", "She's going, isn't she?", and so on, but surely no real person actually says "I'm going, am I not?". Instead, people say "I'm going, aren't I?", in part because they have been taught to avoid 'ain't' like the plague; and here logic shudders, because while "You are going, She is going," etc., are fine, "I are going" is impossible for native speakers of English. The point of this example is not to urge rehabilitation of ain't'--legislating language change is generally a losing proposition--but to illustrate the linguistically arbitrary nature of social valuation of the results of language change.




Of course William Labov would not make a "social" distinction between a linguist's "choice of view" and their "textual location".;-)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Che Baraka

When is a word labelled 'bad'?

Post by Phil White » Sat Jul 16, 2005 11:32 am

Che,
I suggest you have a close look at the meanings of the terms "sociolinguistics" and "sociology of language" as used by linguists, and not just the rather dubious distinction in the Wikipedia.

In the introductory chapter to his book "Sociolinguistics: An introduction to language and society", Peter Trudgill writes:
In the following chapters we shall examine some of the complex inter-relationships {my emphasis} between language and society, of which subjective attitudes are just one facet. These inter-relationships take many forms. In most cases, we shall be dealing with the co-variation {Trudgill's emphasis} of linguistic and social phenomena. In some cases, however, it makes more sense to consider that the relationship is in one direction only - the influence of society on language, or vice-versa.
Peter Trudgill, "Sociolinguistics: An introduction to language and society", 2000, p 13.
And in the same book, same chapter:
In Chapter 7 "Language and Nation", Chapter 10 "Language and Humanity", and elsewhere, we shall be dealing with topics under the heading of the sociology of language, which deals with the study of who speaks which language (or variety) to whom, and with the application of these findings to social, political and educational problems.
Peter Trudgill, "Sociolinguistics: An introduction to language and society", 2000, p 22.
Or
The large-scale socio-political issues typically addressed by the sociology of language... and the forms and uses of language on a small scale dealt with by sociolinguistics... are manifestations of similar principles, albeit operating on different levels.
Suzanne Romaine, "Language in Society" 1994
While you're about it, you could also check out your comprehension of the term "historical linguistics".

Why do you attribute the quote from Sarah Thompson "Neither logic nor great age..." and not attribute the quote "Language change inevitably leads to variation..." which is from the same article? You appear to set the quotations against each other, one being the view of "traditional linguists" and the other being an example of "greater reasoning", whereas the entire quotation reads as follows:
Language change inevitably leads to variation, and variation within a speech community often leads to social valuation of particular features as 'good' or 'bad'. 'Good' variants are typically believed to be characterized by logical superiority or venerability, or both; 'bad' variants must then be illogical and/or recent inventions by the vulgar.

But neither logic nor great age plays a significant role in the labeling of variants. Consider 'ain't', which may be the English word most despised by schoolteachers and pundits. Far from being illogical or recent, 'ain't' is a legitimate phonological descendant of 'amn't', which was the original contraction of 'am not'. It isn't clear how 'ain't' fell into disrepute, but once there, it left an awkward gap in the system of negative contractions: We have "You're going, aren't you?", "She's going, isn't she?", and so on, but surely no real person actually says "I'm going, am I not?". Instead, people say "I'm going, aren't I?", in part because they have been taught to avoid 'ain't' like the plague; and here logic shudders, because while "You are going, She is going," etc., are fine, "I are going" is impossible for native speakers of English. The point of this example is not to urge rehabilitation of ain't'--legislating language change is generally a losing proposition--but to illustrate the linguistically arbitrary nature of social valuation of the results of language change.
Sarah G. Thomason, Language Variation and Change, http://www.lsadc.org/fields/index.php?aaa=variation.htm
I also find it difficult to swallow the concept that you wish to deny people with a background in a different discipline any expertise in other disciplines:
R.L. Trask, a fellow New Yorker, for ten years pursued a career in chemistry in the USA. Failing the requirements for a doctorate in the applied sciences in the U.S., he left and sought the same in the universities of Turkey, which had less strident doctoral qualifications. Still stymied in accomplishing his goal, in 1970 he came to England and switched to linguistics, finally obtaining his Ph.D. at the age of 40, from the University of London in 1983. He teaches Computing Sciences at the University of Sussex.

His special interests are historical linguistics, grammar and the Basque language. He is the author of A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics, Language Change, Language: The Basics, A Dictionary of Phonetics and Phonology, Historical Linguistics, The History of Basque and The Penguin Guide to Punctuation.
Given the above particulars. I think we may safely say that Trask's assumed 'authority', as a commentator on post-modern theory and deconstruction methodology, is a matter of relativity.
http://www.wordwizard.com/phpbb3/viewto ... erms=trask
while at the same time not accepting the lines of demarcation which you wish to disallow people from crossing.
I share the socioliguistical notion that all social phenomenon may serve as knowledge and that knowledge by nature is a unified field comprised of all that is knowable. Our subjective perceptions supply the illusions of separate fields, subfields, breaks, separations, fragmentations, disconnections, fallacies, etc.
Incidentally, your scathing condemnation of Trask is based on incorrect boigraphical information. The autobiographical notes he wrote himself for the University of Sussex web site are here. When he died in 2004, he held the Chair of Lingusitics at the University of Sussex.

But your example of "greater reasoning" is magnificent. You choose to ignore the fact that Sarah Thomason makes precisely the distinction that you wish to reject. The whole point that she is making is that the shift from "amn't" to "ain't" is a phonological (linguistic) process, but that the social valuation associated with the resulting form is "linguistically arbitrary".

Good try, but you'll have to do better than that, although I don't in future intend spending hours chasing down whether your quotations are genuine, accurate or even invented, nor to check whether the sources you purport to reference were not simply lifted from a Web page you stumbled across and added to your argument in an attempt to make it more persuasive. (The four sources you reference so convincingly were the list of further reading in Thomason's article, and at least for the Trask, I can say that it doesn't back up anything you say - the remainder are sadly not on my shelves.)

Che, you're a smart guy, but don't insult my intelligence or that of the other visitors to this forum.

(Edited, PW)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

When is a word labelled 'bad'?

Post by Phil White » Sat Jul 16, 2005 5:10 pm

To return to the issue at hand, while scanning Trudgill's book for the passages I used in the response above, I came across one of the two or three sections he devotes to taboo words. I shan't quote it in full, but here are some tasters:
... in addition to environment and social structure, the values of a society can also have an effect on its language. The most interesting way in which this happens is through the phenomenon known as taboo. Taboo can be characterised as being concerned with behaviour which is believed to be supernaturally forbidden, or regarded as immoral or improper; it deals with behaviour which is prohibited or inhibited in an apparently irrational manner. In language, taboo is associated with things which are not said, and in particular with words and expressions which are not used.
...
Generally, the type of word that is tabooed in a particular language will be a good reflection of at least part of the system of values and beliefs of the society in question. ... In different parts of the world taboo words include those for the left hand, for female relations, or for certain game animals. In the English-speaking world, the most severe taboos are now associated with words connected with sex, closely followed by those connected with excretion and the Christian religion. This is a reflection of the great emphasis traditionally placed on sexual morality in our culture. In other, particularly Roman Catholic, cultures the strongest taboos may be associated with religion, and in protestant Norway and Sweden, for example, some of the most strongly tabooed expressions are concerned with the devil.
...
The use of taboo words in non-permitted contexts, such as on television, provokes violent reactions of apparently very real shock and disgust from many people. The reaction, moreover, is an irrational reaction to a particular word, not to a concept. It is perfectly permissible to say ' sexual intercourse' on television. Taboo is therefore clearly a linguistic as well as a sociological fact. It is the words themselves which are felt to be wrong and are therefore so powerful.
...
A further interesting point is the secondary effect that taboo can have on language itself. ... It is often said, for example, that rabbit replaced the older word coney (pronounced "kunny" {my transcription}) in English for this reason. A similar explanation is advanced for the widespread American use of rooster rather than cock.
...
On the other hand, as the English-speaking world becomes more sensitive to issues involving inegalitarian discrimination against people on the grounds of their social or physical characteristics, words such as nigger, cripple, poof are acquiring increased taboo-loading and their use is becoming increasingly shocking.

Peter Trudgill, "Sociolinguistics: An introduction to language and society", 2000, pp 18 - 20.
While I am not convinced by the scholarship of Bill Bryson's entertaining book "Mother Tongue", he does quote an interesting example in the context of the prudery of the 19th century:
Rather more plausible was the anecdote recorded in the same book {Diary in America, Captain Frederick Marryat} in which Marryat made the serious gaffe of asking a young lady if she had hurt her leg in a fall. The woman blushingly averted her gaze and told him that people did not use that word in America. ' I apologised for my want of refinement, which was attributable to my having been accustomed only to English society,' Marryat drolly remarked, and asked the lady what was the acceptable term for 'such articles'. Limbs, he was told.

Bill Bryson, "Mother Tongue", 1991 Penguin edition, pp 216, 217
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

When is a word labelled 'bad'?

Post by spiritus » Mon Jul 18, 2005 8:05 am

Phil,
Thank you for your sincere and honest response. Your posting, prior to your last one, provides a thoughtful metaphor for the illusionary
status of "traditional" linguistics' rationalist-merry-go-round and a
contextually motivated reason for your apparent inability to answer my original question.

In addition, your response to my post reaffirms my belief that more
often then not, the thrust of farcical writing and parody often reveals the 'truth dressed in a clown's suit'. The parodied "subject" may choose to view the clown's suit as being invisible or even mistake it for a very large flesh-colored index finger pointing in their direction.
Phil White wrote: Che,
I suggest you have a close look at the meanings of the terms
"sociolinguistics" and "sociology of language" as used by linguists,
and not just the rather dubious distinction in the Wikipedia.

My only reasons for dismissing your suggestion are my perceptions of
its lacking in sincerity and your failure to provide the 'correct
meanings' you assume to be the "true" ones. But even a bad suggestion may be an unconscious act of generousity. Given that possibility, in reciprocation, I will make two unquestionably good suggestions.

Carefully reread my question and my response to your "answer". Make
note of the question's contextual use of the phrases, 'sophist tricks' and 'distinctions without a difference'. With that in mind, read my answer and see how each paragraph contains a contradicting statement to an assertion made in the paragraph that precedes it. All quotes supplied parrot the either/or paridigm that the sophist term
'distinctions without a difference' appears to reference textually, but in actual meaning does not. Insuring the ironic connections are
clear, I included the "supporting" knowledge sources that to my
thinking are similiarly self contradicting and biased dispite pretensions and earnest claims of scholarly objectivity.

Here Wikepedia and the Linquistic Society share the "dubious distinction". I expressed my opinion of Wikepedia's offerings in another thread.
The Wikipedia site offers fare no less substantial then Wordwizards'. Many of the ingredients in each are common to both.http://www.wordwizard.com/phpbb3/viewto ... erms=trask


My inspired frivolity may be sourced to your use of the terms 'socially driven' and 'liguistic nature' as catalysts for language change. This prompted me to create the layered textual metaphor for a perceptual position that insures double vision.

On these occasions, when explaining a punchline to someone is necessary, I sometimes feel an altruistic urge to complement any aspect of their communicative abilities other then their questionable interpretative skills.

Phil, I think your puncuation is nice.


As for this suggestion
While you're about it, you could also check out your comprehension of the term "historical linguistics".
You first. Perhaps, afterwards you will share your comprehension of the term with me.

and this question
Why do you attribute the quote from Sarah Thompson "Neither logic nor great age..." and not attribute the quote "Language change inevitably leads to variation..." which is from the same article? You appear to set the quotations against each other, one being the view of "traditional linguists" and the other being an example of "greater reasoning"...
Consider differences in attribution, as differiations of distinctions.
I also find it difficult to swallow the concept that you wish to deny people with a background in a different discipline any expertise in other disciplines:
No shit! Me too!
while at the same time not accepting the lines of demarcation which you wish to disallow people from crossing.
Actually I "choose not to view the lines", thus, I usually have no idea as to whom is crossing where.

Regarding Trask:
Incidentally, your scathing condemnation of Trask is based on incorrect boigraphical information. The autobiographical notes he wrote himself for the University of Sussex web site are here. When he died in 2004, he held the Chair of Lingusitics at the University of Sussex.
Truthfully, if you recall, it was more poo-poohing, rather then scathing. I have every intention of being as generous in bestowing accolades upon myself if ever moved to write my autobiography, as did Mr Trask.

Phil sums up what is admirable about Trask:
R.L. Trask sums up the current situation pretty fairly.

quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
postmodernism Intellectual movement which holds that no discoverable objective truth exists and that our version of reality is constructed by means of our language. Deeply fashionable in some quarters, postmodernism, or at least its application to scientific investigation, is dismissed by most working scientists, including linguists, as ignorant nonsense.
R.L. Trask, A Student's Dictionary of Language and Linguistics
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------http://www.wordwizard.com/phpbb3/viewto ... erms=trask




When I state a view that is mine, it stands alone and this occurs once in the posted text in answer to your question:

"Unless, of course, you choose to view all aspects of knowledge as subfields of sociology, since knowledge by nature is a social phenomenon?"
Well, I guess I'd have to agree with your basic assumption
prior to answering your question. I'm afraid I don't. I share the
socioliguistical notion that all social phenomenon may serve as
knowledge and that knowledge by nature is a unified field comprised of all that is knowable. Our subjective perceptions supply the illusions of separate fields, subfields, breaks, separations, fragmentations, disconnections, fallacies, etc.


Thats it. My transparent subjective point of view; open to question, dismissal, agreement or even attack. None of those possible actions are taken personally. I make a clear distinction between a point of view and the person expressing it. My concerns always address the former.

Phil writes:
Good try, but you'll have to do better than that, although I don't in future intend spending hours chasing down whether your quotations are genuine, accurate or even invented, nor to check whether the sources you purport to reference were not simply lifted from a Web page you stumbled across and added to your argument in an attempt to make it more persuasive.
This is a good idea...try asking me for the quotation's source next time.
(The four sources you reference so convincingly were the list of further reading in Thomason's article, and at least for the Trask, I can say that it doesn't back up anything you say
Ungratfully convinced, you engaged in further reading. Yet you neglected to consider that perhaps, nothing I say needs backing up. It is quite possible, the reason for your acceptance or rejection of what I say, is what calls for back-up.

Phil, you wrote:

"Che, you're a smart guy, but don't insult my intelligence or that of the other visitors to this forum."
Telling a person, there're smart is like telling them they have X and Y chomosomes. All human beings are 'smart'. Using your 'smarts' means not equating your point of view with your identity; or confusing criticism of your opinion with an insult to your intelligence.

It's really not smart to imagine you speak for another's intelligence. Poll your visitors for 'back-up' on this.



Now, speaking to that part of Jezebal's inquiry which asked: "Now,
it's all a matter of context, but what about when the word was first
coined?"
.

I have coined the following five words in homage to Juke Joint Jezebel's
question and to the previous five postings. My word creations may be
said to have been caused by a "socially driven" discourse dynamic
inherent in this thread and a language variable mechanism of a
"liguistic nature". Though I am aware of the preceived differences in
these two causations, I choose not to make a distinction between them.

Feel free to question my authority to make this decision or create
these new words. Be informed that neither my good health, finances,
professional standing, mental state nor active social life have been
impacted by this course of action nor will they be, by any reaction.


Philoligomania - one who obstinately holds to an opinion
Philpseudosophy - pretension to wisdom
Philpsilosophy - shallow philosophy; limited knowledge
Philobfuscate - to obscure; to darken; to confuse
Philoligomania - obsession with a few thoughts or ideas

Jezebel,

I consider these words, in respect to their first coinage and within this thread's context, as very, very 'bad'. Their meaning, valuation, and longevity, will of course be dependent upon their pattern of usage within the speech community.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Che Baraka

When is a word labelled 'bad'?

Post by spiritus » Mon Jul 18, 2005 8:25 am

Some observations on the foundations of linguistics.

Quoted from a paper by William Labov, considered the founder of the field of socioliguistics. It addresses issues concerning the opposition between a mentalist (or idealist) approach to linguistics, and the materialist line taken by historical linguists, dialectologists and sociolinguists.
It is agreed that linguistics are not interested in a given corpus of linguistic data in itself, but rather in the rules, system and faculty of language that enable speakers to produce that corpus. It is agreed that that language is a system of abstract categories that are mutually defined by their oppositions;...

At the same time, we can observe a profound division in the foundations of our discipline, that corresponds quite closely to the traditional philosophical opposition of idealism and materialism. (In the linguistic literature, this opposition is sometimes described as ¡Ýmentalism¡Ü or ¡Ýrationalism¡Ü vs. ¡Ýempiricism¡Ü). The idealist approach is exemplified by generative grammar, as originated and developed by Chomsky (1957, 1965, 1981),... The materialist position is exemplified by the practice current in phonetics, historical linguistics, and dialectology. The principles of this position have been developed most explicitly in sociolinguistics, and in particular in the quantitative study of linguistic variation, which will be the basis of the discussion to follow.

The two approaches, idealist and materialist, differ sharply in their approaches to the foundations of the field: definition of language itself, the methods for gathering data and analyzing it, and the goals of linguistic activity.

Linguistics does not have a privileged claim upon language as an object of study; there are many other disciplines that examine it ¡Ù psychology, speech pathology, rhetoric, literary studies, semiotics, and so on. As noted above, linguistics focuses upon abstract language structure, and in particular the phonology, morphology and syntax of the language rather than the vocabulary, idiom or style. Within this area, there are twp opposing answers to the question, ¡ÝWhat is language?¡Ü The idealist conception is that language is a property of the individual, a species-specific and genetically inherited capacity to form rules of a particular type, relatively isolated from other activities of the human intelligence. The materialistic conception is that language is a property of the speech community, an instrument of social communication that evolves gradually and continuously throughout human history, in response to a variety of human needs and activities.
Subjective vs. objective sources of data. The terms ¡Ýidealism¡Ü and ¡Ýmaterialism¡Ü can be seen to be most appropriate in relation to the definitions of data involved. (Italics mine) The idealist position is that the data of linguistics consists of speakers¦Ð opinions about how they should speak: judgments of grammatically or acceptability that they make about sentences that are presented to them. (These judgments are sometimes referred to as ¡Ýintuitions¡Ü, though at the outset it was clear that the intuitions that actually govern the language are not immediately accessible to direct questioning.) The speaker involved is often the theorist, so that theory and data are simultaneously produced by the same person at the same time.

The materialist approach to the description of language is based on the objective methods of observation and experiment. Subjective judgments are considered a useful and even indispensable guide to forming hypotheses about language structure, but they cannot be taken as evidence to resolve conflicting views. The idealist response is that these objective observations of speech production are a form of ¡Ýdata flux¡Ü which are not directly related to the grammar of the language at all.

The opposition between the idealist and materialist position on data resources is a long-standing one in linguistics, long antedating generative grammar...http://www.ling.upenn.edu/~wlabov/Paper ... tions.html
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Che Baraka

When is a word labelled 'bad'?

Post by Phil White » Mon Jul 18, 2005 8:47 am

Philoligomania - one who obstinately holds to an opinion
Philpseudosophy - pretension to wisdom
Philpsilosophy - shallow philosophy; limited knowledge
Philobfuscate - to obscure; to darken; to confuse
Philoligomania - obsession with a few thoughts or ideas
These are genuinely good and inspired. I like them and shall adopt them.

As for the rest, I have no intention of trying to piss more effectively than you. I don't believe it's what the visitors to this forum come here to read. They may wish to correct me.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

When is a word labelled 'bad'?

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Jul 18, 2005 6:27 pm

I agree with Phil. To pissist persist would be a urinous ruinous exercise. On the other hand, who could disagree that Che's neologisms (not to mention his notions overall) are a wonderful innovation in humour, especially the splendid 'Philpsilosophy' coinage? (I wonder if that's anything like Hugh Hefner's so-called 'Playboy Philosophy'?). I also notice that the invented term 'philoligomania' means both 'one who obstinately holds to an opinion' and 'obsession with a few thoughts or ideas'. Che, surely you are merely toying with our feeble minds here? Anyway, it's all simply marvellous! Well done!
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: -- Looking up a word? Try OneLook's metadictionary (--> definitions) and reverse dictionary (--> terms based on your definitions)8-- Contribute favourite diary entries, quotations and more here8 -- Find new postings easily with Active Topics8-- Want to research a word? Get essential tips from experienced researcher Ken Greenwald

When is a word labelled 'bad'?

Post by spiritus » Tue Jul 19, 2005 1:07 pm

Zipping up. My bladder's empty.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Che Baraka

ACCESS_END_OF_TOPIC
Post Reply