April 15, 2006

Morning Reading

Mea Culpa*, I'm sure:

...I'm neither a critical theorist nor a fluid mechanic; I'm a linguist. But I do find examples of academic prose even within my own field that are a challenge to read because of downright bad or unsympathetic construction.

Here's one: "Using large, computer-based corpora linked to databases of socio-geographical information about speakers does, however, give us access to a bird's-eye view of what present-day spoken usage is, and we must surely accept as 'good' spoken English that which is widely attested across speakers of different ages, genders, social and geographical backgrounds, that is to say, our common coinage, the plain, everyday talk of the plain people of the speech community, and not just that of its super-skilful members who command the airwaves and the public platforms."


This sentence, all 86 words of it, has, lurking within it, eight clauses of various kinds, most of them embedded in others. The vocabulary is not that dense, apart from the words "corpora", "attested" and "socio-geographical". It's simply too long; it could have been said in half the words, or in two or three separate sentences. What is more, the sentence occurred in a general magazine published in another European country and read by locals and expatriates interested in the English language.

Posted by Dennis at April 15, 2006 3:39 AM

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