Friday, July 9, 2010

Noam Chomsky was wrong (and other science-of-writing tidbits)

If researchers at Northumbria University are right, Noam Chomsky was wrong when he declared that everyone in a linguistic community shares the same grammar.

Research into grammar by academics at Northumbria University suggests that a significant proportion of native English speakers are unable to understand some basic sentences.

The findings--which undermine the assumption that all speakers have a core ability to use grammatical cues--could have significant implications for education, communication and linguistic theory.

The research, conducted by Dr Ewa Dabrowska, showed that basic elements of core English grammar had not been mastered by some native speakers.

It seems to me it would be fairer to say that people don't always understand bad grammar--because it's, y'know, bad. Or perhaps that passive construction, in particular, is often found to be incomprehensible. At least now there's science explaining why it's bad bad bad (and wicked and wrong) for passive construction in fiction to be used. (You have no idea how much it hurt to write that paragraph. Only for you, Dear Reader...)

I also came across this nifty explanation for why sensory metaphors really, really matter:

...our use of tactile concepts in metaphors that relate to behaviour, such as having a "rough" day or being "solid" as a rock, might influence our judgement: touching similar textures reminds us of their linguistic links to behaviour.

One day, when I have time, I'll pull together all the posts I've done on writing science: mirror neurons, present tense, first person and more. For now, feel free to use the search function and discover just how sad my tagging skills are. Must improve.

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