The Web of Language

blog navigation

Dennis Baron's go-to site for language and technology in the news

blog posts

  • Webster's lays down the law

Comments

sara.jameson@oregonstate.edu Jun 16, 2011 12:46 pm

And this is why our class in argumentation teaches stasis theory / arguments of definition. Many people never consider that dictionaries might not agree (especially over time and over cultures). This touches on the difference between belief in Platonic idealism and Sophistic socially construted knowledge. Once people see what can be at stake in terms of a definition - is this property a wetland or not? How wet does it have to be to meet the criteria? Who decides? Therefore can the Wal-Mart be built there or not? etc - and this is an easier case than "what is freedom?" - they begin to realize how complicated and significant arguments of definition are.Thank you for the post.Sara Jameson

Reply to sara.jameson@oregonstate.edu at 12:46 pm
Carolanne@grammarinfo.ca Jun 25, 2011 5:42 am

hmreading about shall/will, methinks the comments indicate a lack of knowledge/understanding of grammar.shall/will are rather complicated.shall in the first, and will in the second and third person, convey simple future.They switch (will for first, and shall for second and third) as an order, promise.I shall be in the last row, and you and john will be in the front row.cfcommitment/orderDo you take this man as your husband? I will.Thou shalt not kill.Then as a question, chairs shift a bit again.Will we go through the Panama on the way? (question of simple future)Shall we go by boat or fly? (question of choice)Dictionaries vary -- prescriptive or descriptive -- as do ppl and ppl's language.fyi, my guide is the Chambers, but the knowledge grammar is helpful if not essential.

Reply to Carolanne@grammarinfo.ca at 5:42 am
michaelt4two@gmail.com Jun 26, 2011 6:14 am

ash: The powdery residue, composed chiefly of earthy or mineral particles, left after the combustion of any substance.volcanic ash: the similar powdery matter ejected from volcanoes.These are OED definitions. I note that the word "similar" does not rescue the definition of volcanic ash because it is not the product of the combustion of any substance. A legal argument could fail on this point.Michael Tremberth, UK

Reply to michaelt4two@gmail.com at 6:14 am
laruandrews@yahoo.com Jun 26, 2011 12:04 pm

Other than resting on the exhortations of other prescriptivists, dating back to Bishop Lowth in the 18th century, upon what authority do you shall/will people base your judgments?What do you mean "you people"? Close reading never hurts.

Reply to laruandrews@yahoo.com at 12:04 pm
carolanne@grammarinfo.ca Jun 29, 2011 7:50 pm

This reply appeared briefly then disappeared.Was the explanation insufficient? It is complicated but I did not want to write too much, however if more clarity or examples needed, happy to do so.-----------June25:hmreading about shall/will, methinks the comments indicate a lack of knowledge/understanding of grammar.shall/will are rather complicated.shall in the first, and will in the second and third person, convey simple future.They switch (will for first, and shall for second and third) as an order, promise.I shall be in the last row, and you and John will be in the front row.cfcommitment/orderDo you take this man as your husband? I will.Thou shalt not kill.Then as a question, chairs shift a bit again.Will we go through the Panama on the way? (question of simple future)Shall we go by boat or fly? (question of choice)Dictionaries vary -- prescriptive or descriptive -- as do ppl and ppl's language.fyi, my guide is the Chambers, but in addition, the knowledge grammar is helpful if not essential.

Reply to carolanne@grammarinfo.ca at 7:50 pm