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Re: "Question" vs "Doubt"

by ELISHEVA (Prior)
on Mar 19, 2009 at 07:08 UTC ( #751635=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to "Question" vs "Doubt"
in thread Regular Expression Doubt

I agree that choosing words that are mutually understandable is very important, but I think we might be overlooking a core issue: whose dialect of English is normative: UK, US, Indian, African, other.

I grew up in the US and went to college there. I went to grad school in the UK and currently have family there. Growing up, about half my friends were Indian or Pakistani. My father did work for AID. My step-mother worked at World Bank and UN. My high school was a favorite for the children of foreign diplomats. I was born in Uganda. Though I left as an infant, Africans tend to appreciate that detail, so it has become the basis for friendships with people from various parts of Africa. I spent childhood summers in Southeast Asia (Korea, Thailand). And here in Israel, the "Anglo" community has people from places ranging from Australia to South Africa to the farthest reaches of Alaska. Getting used to all of these different versions (and accents) of English has been hard work for me, but I am loath to say that any of them are "wrong" - they all have large communities of mutual understanding.

If, as a site, we want to publish a convention that Perl Monks uses the American (or UK, or whatever) dialect of English, that is fine by me. That's reasonable for the sake of mutual understandability.

But telling anyone that they aren't speaking English correctly because their dialect isn't ours strikes me a bit well, um, arrogant? English grew and developed in the British Isles, so it has a claim to being the authoritative "source" for English. Yet I doubt many North Americans (myself included) would take kindly to a Brit telling them how to speak English: that "jelly" is the wrong word for the thing they eat with peanut butter; that "while" is a corruption of "whilst"; that they are being inconsistent because they say "in the hospital", but "in school".

If Perl Monks has a standard dialect that is great, but perhaps we could be a bit more respectful to others if we called it a norm for our site rather than the "one right way"?

Best, beth

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Re^2: "Question" vs "Doubt"
by tilly (Archbishop) on Mar 19, 2009 at 08:37 UTC
    In an abstract sense virtually any dialect of English can be said to be correct. Yet virtually all of us accept that our colloquial dialects are sometimes wrong, and we accept that there is a "correct" way to say it even if we don't speak that way.

    Why? Because educated people are taught to speak "correctly". So speaking that way makes you sound more educated and intelligent. Which makes people respond better to you. (For instance they are more likely to give you a good job.)

    Admittedly there are actually multiple dialects associated with education. However as far as most of the world is concerned, only two really count. Those two are standard American English (as spoken on most American TV), and the Queen's English (as spoken on the BBC). Those have an undue impact on the speech at the top English speaking universities (who have taught more than their share of world leaders), news organizations and markets. Therefore those are the dialects of international affairs and business.

    Therefore it is reasonable to call something incorrect if it is incorrect according to both of those dialects. Because worldwide people will agree that it makes you sound uneducated. This is true no matter how common or well-established that speech pattern may be somewhere in the world.

    So in an international forum like this, using "doubt" where you mean "question" will cause people to think that you don't know English very well. Perhaps you live in India and everyone you know speaks that way. You still created a suboptimal impression. And this is not just true for this forum. This is going to be true in general.

    That said, I personally respect the fact that we have people here from all over the world, including people for whom English is a second or third language. If I believe effort was put out and I can understand what is meant, I will respond. We're here to talk about Perl, not English. However I still notice it. And I guarantee that others do as well.

      > However I still notice it. And I guarantee that others do as well.

      Sorry, and actually I personally really don't care!

      1. Linguists agree that "correct English" is extremely hard to speak, because of an unfavorable factor of exceptions per rules.
      2. Spelling and phonetics are a mess (... do you know why "island" is spelled with an s? Because educated English scholars in 17th century decided that it should more look like the Latin word "insula".)
      3. I'm fluent in 4-6 languages (depends where I spend my last holidays 8), so how many languages does the average educated English speaker speak fluently?
      4. English neither has a standard pronunciation ...
      5. ...nor a standard spelling.
      6. The English vocabulary is the biggest in the world just after Chinese.
      7. English is subject of a massive decentralization, nowadays in India alone 60 Million speakers consider English as their mother tongue.
      8. Maybe one day Bollywood might replace Hollywood in importance. Will it still help to know words like breakdance if everybody wants to dance bhangra?
      9. And last but not least English is subject of a massive creolization. (I know what a New Yorker means with "be a mensh", but do Brits understand this?)

      Sorry if I sound offensive, I really like speaking languages correctly and I'm constantly struggling to improve my "expressiveness" (had to look this word up ;) but speaking correct educated English is just mission impossible without spending at least a year in Britain or the US, but I hope you got my points.

      It's important to be understood, I don't care if I sound uneducated. And those who are not understood just won't get much help ... personally I'm just ignoring those posts.

      "Just putting this node here so I can refer to it in the future. Thanks for the opportunity."

      Cheers Rolf

      BTW: The best strategy to sound "educated" in English is to occasionally integrate some French words (or Latin, Greek or even German). People will look puzzled and suspect they missed to look up this special expression in the 17th volume of Collins dictionary ... ;-)

        speaking correct educated English is just mission impossible without spending at least a year in Britain or the US

        Spending a year in the US is unlikely to help much. You'll just end up speaking that "not quite English" that the colonials do :-)


        See the Copyright notice on my home node.

        Perl training courses

        As I tried to make clear, while I can't help what I notice, I don't much care either. However regardless of how little you or I care, there are many situations in which it makes a difference.

        Regarding the future, current economic trends do suggest that Indian versions of English will become important. However they are not important now. Similarly if you're seeking to make a professional impression you don't want to use slang that is associated with any particular region or ethnic group. For example I would avoid saying "mensch" in a formal presentation.

        And for the record, you are succeeding in using English well despite the fact that you're complaining about the impossibility of doing so.

Re^2: "Question" vs "Doubt"
by jdporter (Canon) on Jul 01, 2009 at 16:06 UTC
    I am loathe to say

    You mean loath. ;-)

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