Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘linguist’

I have an idea for a novel that I work on periodically in my spare time.  For Christmas I got some books on plotting and character development that I’m really excited about since I’ve never taken a creative writing class.  One issue that I’m hoping to find guidance on involves writing dialogue that is consistent with the setting for my fiction.

In this fantasy world I’m exploring, I visualize a landscape that is not as technologically advanced as ours.  I see an intricate network of islands organized in two opposing empires with some islands that aren’t aligned with either side.  I visualize island fortresses and war on horseback and marauding pirates.  However, I stumble again and again with getting the content of the dialogue to be true to this setting.  How do you write fantasy without incorporating song lyrics?  I’m pretty obsessed with song lyrics and find it difficulty to excise them from my writing.  I always skipped over the parts of Tolkien where the dwarfs sang and I don’t fancy writing poetry for my characters to quote at each other.

My main character is part of a guild of interpreters who serve an important diplomatic function.  How can I represent multiple languages in this story without actually resorting to using real languages?  If I do, how would I explain the presence of Spanish and English in a landscape with no Spain or England?  How do you know what kind of modern slang is acceptable to use in dialogue?  For instance, would people in these island kingdoms say “okay?”  I think anachronisms have the potential to yank a reader out of a believable story and I don’t want to stumble into that pitfall.

I’d also like to incorporate aspects of the story of the Tower of Babel and other themes from Christianity.  I see these interpreters being like priests in a sworn brotherhood of public servants.  They struggle with protecting the confidentiality of what they hear in their professional capacity and with the existence of God during times of terrible conflict.  How do I include Christianity in a setting with no Israel?

I’m honestly asking.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Dear FierceLinguist,

Why do you make fun of prescriptivists who write into your blog when you are a prescriptivist yourself?

Sincerely,

Someone who knows you IRL and knows you lecture people about grammar all the time
Dear Someone,

Let’s unpack these terms.  (Isn’t discussion always more warm and welcoming when it starts with “let’s” like we’re going to do something together?  Let’s do the dishes.  Now you get started.  I’ll catch up.)  A “prescriptivist” describes language the way it “should” be and by nature judges the current usage of language according to some standard.  A “descriptivist” merely observes how language really is and makes no value judgments about language variation.  Variation and change are considered natural and beautiful and not to be feared under the descriptivist paradigm, while prescriptivists are archaic and stodgy *boo hiss*.

These are very nice ideas, and I agree in principal that the most scientific approach to studying language is to be a descriptivist.  However, I went to school for a long time to be able to more effectively mock people who disagree with me for being prescriptivists, while still enforcing grammar rules that I find relevant with the kind of pedantic zeal that comes from having a very expensive framed diploma that I’m still trying to pay off.  And that is my right.  So even if you are my brother, I will still use my lofty position as a trained linguist to tell you that it’s stupid to worry about ending a sentence in a preposition.  And that you’re using the word “peruse” wrong.  I don’t care if it’s the wave of the future.

Sincerely,

A prescriptivist in sheep’s clothing

Read Full Post »

Dear FierceLinguist,

Why do you feel so free to end sentences with prepositions?  Don’t you fear reprisal?

Sincerely,

A Prescriptivist

Dear Prescriptivist,

I’m so glad you asked.  The first book about English grammar was written in Latin, because of course that makes a tremendous amount of sense.  In Latin, you can’t end a sentence with a preposition.  Early grammarians based their rules for English grammar on Latin.  That was stupid, and modern linguists don’t hold with that nonsense.  Also, modern English speakers are mostly unaware of that nonsense.

Sincerely,

FierceLinguist

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: