The Fight For English

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The Fight For English

Post by gdwdwrkr » Fri Sep 21, 2007 7:29 pm

by David Crystal

On page 120, Crystal uses a sentence written by Lindley Murray to illustrate Murray's breaking his own rule (the proscription of sentence-endings with "'an adverb, a preposition, or any inconsiderable word' --by which he means [from the examples he gives] pronouns such as it.):

"When they [the elements of a sentence] have
a regular and proportional division, they are
much easier to voice, are more clearly understood,
and better remembered, than when this rule is
not attended to."

I assert that Murray and Crystal both have it wrong; attended to should be hyphenated and then would be correctly-used. (Obeyed would have been a better word-chioce.) Is this not a phrasal verb? Or what might it be called?
Hyphens would not be wasted on clearly understood and better remembered, either.
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Post by zmjezhd » Fri Sep 21, 2007 8:18 pm

At first, it looked like the past passive indicative of to attend to (something), but then, because of the other to, most would consider to attend to to be intransitive, and therefore no passive form ought to be allowed. But, then, the transitive verb to attend is a strange one: e.g., active "many have attended the Ayn Rand School for Toddlers" vs passive "the Ayn Rand School for Toddlers has been attended by many". Maybe it is some kind of interference from the verb to tend (to)? Still, it seems that "when this rule is not attended to" is the passive of "when somebody does not attend to this rule".

What is it that Lindley Murray was complaining about?
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Post by gdwdwrkr » Fri Sep 21, 2007 10:39 pm

Murray, an 18th-century prescriptivist, wrote English
Grammar, adapted to the different classes of learners;
With an Appendix, contianing Rules and Observations for
Promoting Perspicuity in Speaking and Writing
.
I am complaining about Crystal complaining about Murray, who
complained about others who don't obey the rules, while
breaking those very rules, himself, a page or two later.
While I certainly don't know all the rules, I recognise a
missing hyphen when I don't see one.
(How many hyphens did I leave out, I wonder...)
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Post by zmjezhd » Sat Sep 22, 2007 12:24 am

Yes, I know who Murray was. I meant which of his rules had he broken. And, where was the hyphen left out? I saw no place for one in the sentence cited.
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Post by gdwdwrkr » Sat Sep 22, 2007 1:12 am

According to Crystal, he had broken the rule against ending a sentence with an adverb, a preposition, or any inconsiderable word - by which he means (from the examples he gives) pronouns such as it.
Maybe I'm the onliest one to not see a missing hyphen in attended to.
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Post by zmjezhd » Sat Sep 22, 2007 3:06 am

Maybe I'm the onliest one to not see a missing hyphen in attended to.

I sure don't see one. Do you have a prescriptivist authority to cite who deprecates it?
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Sep 22, 2007 5:15 am

James, if you compare the following:

"The chairman of the conference committee tried to strike out a much-fought-for amendment to the bill"

and

"The chairman of the conference committee tried to strike out an amendment to the bill that had been much fought for"

you will see that in the first example, hyphens have been used to indicate that 'much fought for' is being used attributively, i.e. as an adjectival phrase, whereas in the second example 'much fought for' is being used declaratively, i.e. as a phrasal verb, and hence it needs no hyphens.

(In the second example sentence in this pair I have placed the attention that was paid to the bill in the pluperfect tense ("had been" + verb) in order to illustrate more clearly that 'much fought for' is not an adjectival phrase. An example that used "is much fought for" would have been more liable to give rise to confusion in this respect.)

Similarly:

"Murray devised a rule that was not attended to"

but

"Murray devised an unattended-to rule"

I hope this clarifies the conventional usage of hyphens in such cases.
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The Fight For English

Post by gdwdwrkr » Sat Sep 22, 2007 9:11 am

Thanks, Erik.
Always the contrarian, would I be incorrect to write "The chairman of the conference committee tried to strike out an amendment to the bill that had been much fought-for."? And if correct, what part of speech is "fought-for"?
Jim, Eaten, Shot, and Left is still at my daughter's or I'd revisit the chapter about the little used punctuation mark!
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Sep 22, 2007 9:30 am

If you read my posting again more closely, you will see that both your questions have been answered there.
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The Fight For English

Post by gdwdwrkr » Sat Sep 22, 2007 9:41 am

...entering a state of give-up...
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Post by zmjezhd » Sat Sep 22, 2007 2:35 pm

"Murray devised a rule that was not attended to"

but

"Murray devised an unattended-to rule"


Thank you, Erik. I had only anticipated the hyphens being inserted, not rewriting the sentence, which seems to be what gdwdwrkr wants. Something along these lines:

"When [the elements of a sentence] have a regular and proportional division, they are much easier to voice, are more clearly understood, and better remembered, than when this rule is not attended-to."

The convention I learned was to use hyphens as you did in your examples.

Am I the only one who sees the final phrase "when this rule is not attended to" as a verbal one and not adjectival? It is certainly less felicitous to rewrite it as suggested, but to each his own.

"When [the elements of a sentence] have a regular and proportional division, they are much easier to voice, are more clearly understood, and better remembered, than when this is an unattended-to rule."

I have reason to doubt the particular rule which Crystal tells us that Murray was breaking had nothing to do with punctuation and more to do with either (1) ending a sentence with a preposition or (2) using an intransitive verb in the passive voice, these being the sorts of solecisms with which 18th and 19th century grammarians concerned themselves.

Thank you both for the clarifications.
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Post by gdwdwrkr » Sat Sep 22, 2007 2:55 pm

Yes, and thank you, Jim.
I guess I'm in a lonely place wanting hyphens in 'clearly-understood'
and 'better-remembered", too. It's just that the thought crystalizes
into a more precise meaning as a singular concept(redundinabulation,
I know) with hyphens.
I'm hoping that the pendulum will swing back to this within my lifetime
but it is with unabated breath that I wait.
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Post by zmjezhd » Sat Sep 22, 2007 4:00 pm

If you'd like to see Murray's sentence in context, I found the digitized 9th edition (1805) of his famous and influential English Grammar, Adapted to the Different Classes of Learners on Google Books. The text is found on page 313 where Murray is discussing "the members of a sentence with regard to harmony".
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Post by gdwdwrkr » Sat Sep 22, 2007 6:16 pm

Yep. There it is!
"Attended to" is not even the end of the sentence,
though the clause it terminates would be treated
as a sentence.

I am now over two-thirds of the way through this
book, The Fight For English, and it is becomming
tiring, with Crystal whiningly riding Lynne Truss's
coattails. I'll finish it, but it so far has not
earned a spot on my shelf.
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