Date: Fri, 24 Feb 1995 19:33:35 EST From: Terry Lynn Irons Subject: Re: Looking for some useful arguments Vicki Rosenzweig writes, > Can anyone suggest an argument that will convince copyeditors > (of whom I am one, but a somewhat atypical one) that we/they can't > decide to change the language, and neither can an ad agency or > the US congress, because there are a half billion speakers of English, > and we're only a few hundred people on the copyediting mailing list? > Vicki's question is extremely important, for it resonates in several contexts. An answer to her particular question requires looking at the assumptions/implications of her question and the motives/goals of her copyeditor audience. Her question assumes that "we/they can't decide to change the language, and neither can an ad agency or the US congress." Yet language change occurs, and the change is connected in some way to some innovation by some member of some social network. Ad agencies HAVE affected the lexical phraseology of contemporary speakers of English, and some of those lexical changes will stick. Just do it. In a larger critical sense (a la Foucault), the discourse of consumerism, emanating from ad agencies, affects not only our language, but also controls the subject positions within which we find ourselves. Language planning--shaping attitudes and behaviors of language use--goes on every day in the educational institutions of this country as well as others. Even though these educators may not change what people do in specific cases, they certainly shape what people think of what they do. And in many cases we do change what people do. So the basic assumption of Vicki's question may turn out to be wrong. Even though there may be more like a billion users of English for whatever purposes, the language behavior of a few can have a significant impact on the norms of the language (ALL OF THIS QUESTION RELATES TO STYLE, NOT THE UNDERLYING REPRESENTATIONAL SYSTEM THAT MAKES LANGUAGE POSSIBLE) in certain formal public contexts. So that brings us back to the goals of copyeditors. If they want to ferret out especially pernicious sexist language, I am all for them. Their specific edittings may not change behavior, but the discussion of the issue will have some effect over time. And as a result, the language may change. It really sounds like these copyeditors favor something that Vicki doesn't agree with. If she were more forthcoming, some one of us might could be more helpful. Terry =(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*) Terry Lynn Irons t.irons[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] Voice Mail: (606) 783-5164 Snail Mail: UPO 604 Morehead, KY 40351 (*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)