Sunday, March 11, 2007

NUS Debate Club

Location: National University of Singapore, Engineering Faculty.


I think they've also just proven they don't know that starting a sentence with a conjunction is verboten.

Hello chaps... I'm not sure the country needs you, but you sure need a grammar refresher course!

NUS Debate Club. Pffft.

Not impressed!

12 Comments:

Blogger le radical galoisien said...

"I think they've also just proven they don't know that starting a sentence with a conjunction is verboten."

No such rule exists in grammar. Perhaps you're describing something from the Elements of Style which is a prescriptivist manual, not a descriptivist one.

This is a perfectly fine example of English. Please pick something else to pick on.

Many other writers start sentences with conjunctions. Try something called "rhetoric".

This is more absurd than the "you cannot end a sentence with a preposition" rule. Who says? This is something up with which I will not put.

Geez ...

Thu Mar 22, 06:23:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger le radical galoisien said...

Also, since you are a teacher in Latin, surely you know of, "Et tu, Brute?"

Fri Mar 23, 11:43:00 am GMT+8  
Blogger Sprezzatura said...

Having read Gorgias in the original Greek, I think I can say I am reasonably familiar with rhetoric.

Elements of Style is a American publication, and has no standing in the English world. Not starting a sentence with a preposition is a sensible old-fashioned rule of writing, and may only be violated on rare occasions. This is not one of them.

This is clearly an example of infelicitous writing.

Fri Mar 23, 01:09:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger le radical galoisien said...

I did expect you to be. I just didn't expect you to be so marvelously draconian. :-)

I still do protest, though

It's you Latin pedants who enforce these types of rules on a Germanic language that doesn't need them. If the majoriy of native speakers have to memorise the rule, that's usually a sign it's artificial.

It makes sense in French, which is a Romance language. It's very hard to end a sentence in a preposition there because all the prepositional morphemes that generally complement verb (take versus take up versus take down, for example) are contained within the verb morphologically, e.g. en + porter => emporter, whereas English would have to say "take away" or "carry away". "re + a (ad) + amener" => "Ramener", whereas English would say "lead back".

You can't divorce a preposition when it's an integral part of the verb and its meaning. That would be like splitting up the "ex" and "port" into different areas of the sentence.

Latin roots are etymologically fusional, but English is analytic. Note that the verb complement system of English is very similar to Chinese for example. French has words like duquel, auquel, dont, etc. Whereas, "of which" is an artificial English phrase (that you cannot find in Old English works, for example.)

Some things are meant to represent dialogue (this poster reasonably sounds like it). Teachers don't ever seem to correct students verbally for starting oral sentences with a conjunction.

I can't possibly how this "ending a sentence with a conjunction" rule can ever be a sensible part of English. Is this forbidden in Latin too?

A well-known French book comes to mind ....

"Ah! fit le petit prince...

Et il se sentit très malheureux."

"Et il revint vers le renard ...."

So Saint Exupery is infelicitous too?

Especially since I could dig up lots of Romance works that start their sentences with "et" (or y, or e, or the various equivalents).

This rule did not exist in Old English. Try Beowulf:

"And þā Bēowulfe bēga gehwæðres
eodor Ingwina onweald getēah ..."

(and yes, OE "and" corresponds to our "and", but I suppose you know that already)

Please don't defend this artificial rule. The one time where a poster reads fluently and you proceed to pounce on it anyway.

Fri Mar 23, 05:03:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger Sprezzatura said...

'et tu brute' is fine actually - Latin permits this, but here 'et' is not used in the sense of 'and', but 'also' or 'even'.

Latin never ends a sentence with a preposition simply because a prepositioin in Latin always requires a verb to follow. I don't mind prepositions ending a sentence in English if it happens to be the most logical phrasing.

Fri Mar 23, 05:33:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger le radical galoisien said...

Some more Beowulf examples:

"And his mōdor þā gȳt gīfre and galg-mōd gegān wolde sorh-fulne sīð, suna dēað wrecan."

("And his mother then would cry out to you two ...")

"And þū Unferð lǣt ealde lāfe, wrǣtlīc wǣg-sweord wīd-cūðne man heard-ecg habban ... "

("And thou Unferdth led old widows ... ")

"And þā sīð-frome searwum gearwe
wīgend wǣron ..."

No, I'm not an OE student, as you can tell. But if these rules didn't exist in Old English, nor in Romance (French doesn't have them), the other possible source, it sounds like it's artificial, no?

Fri Mar 23, 05:35:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger Sprezzatura said...

ALL grammatical rules are artificial. Besides, if we were to restrict ourselves to rules for OE - we'd be ignoring some 1000 years of development of language. Beginning a sentence with 'and' may be good OE, but it is certainly not good Modern English - just as 'I guess' is perfectly fine for Chaucer, but not for Modern English.

Roma locuta est - causa finita est.

Fri Mar 23, 08:15:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger le radical galoisien said...

" ALL grammatical rules are artificial. "

Er no ...

See creoles, where grammatical rules develop spontaneously, based on the collective perceptions and environmental languages of the children. (See Singlish, which is a creole for the younger generation but a broken pidgin for the older - there's a difference between the two generations that one can observe ... )

There is natural grammar, and artifical grammar - there is a theory by Noam Chomsky of universal grammar, as you know ...


" Besides, if we were to restrict ourselves to rules for OE - we'd be ignoring some 1000 years of development of language. "


Modern linguistics strictly documents the language change from Old English to modern English.

Sound changes (Great Vowel Shift), syntax changes (from the -an infinitive to the "to" infinitive), loss of the declension system, loss of the gender system, a standardisation to SVO structure, a loss of majority of the inflections.

All these are documented changes that can be analysed with comparative linguistics.

On the other hand, I have never heard of the "conjunction forbidden at the end of a sentence" as a change. It is not encountered in linguistics, only draconian prescriptivist "grammar" books (which are arguably deal with "grammar" much as feeling bumps on your forehead deal with psychology) .

I highly doubt the rule, because I have seen this in Chinese, Sanskrit, French, Spanish, Old English, among others. It is artificial. There is no plausible reason for as far as grammar goes (as opposed to say, some languages' forbidding words ending in a consonant, which is based on the rules of euphony for that language).

Fri Mar 23, 08:50:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger Sprezzatura said...

You're the one banging on about conjunctions at the end of a sentence, not me.

Incidentally, I've never read a word of Chomsky, nor do I intend to at any time.

ALL rules of language are artificial - someone had to examine usage to derive them.

Anyway, time to get the bee out of your bonnet. Causa finita est.

Fri Mar 23, 09:34:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger le radical galoisien said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Sat Mar 24, 12:25:00 am GMT+8  
Blogger Kelvin said...

Funny how they used 3 lines to say that.

Tue Apr 10, 01:36:00 am GMT+8  
Blogger Phoenixfire0215 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Fri Dec 28, 02:49:00 pm GMT+8  

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