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Highly IrregularWhy Tough, Through, and Dough Don't Rhyme—And Other Oddities of the English Language$
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Arika Okrent

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780197539408

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780197539408.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 18 January 2022

Blame Ourselves

Blame Ourselves

Chapter:
(p.181) Blame Ourselves
Source:
Highly Irregular
Author(s):

Arika Okrent

Sean O’Neill

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780197539408.003.0006

This chapter evaluates how, over the centuries, as English became increasingly used in official institutions, written, taught, codified, and standardized, not only did the language change, but our idea of what the language is changed. All languages have rules—even unwritten, uncodified vernaculars. Linguistic rules are patterns, conventions for making utterances, that conform to certain general (though much debated) principles of human language ability. Languages that are written, codified, and standardized also have explicitly endorsed or prescribed rules. Rules that are taught and enforced to a certain degree, but not necessarily followed. Correctness in language can be defined in relation to rules that are either tacit conventions or explicitly formalized prescriptions. Over time, because language is something people do, both kinds of rules will change. Language also interacts with formal logic, the axioms and rules of inference, but it plays by its own rules. Ultimately, when it comes to language, we are creatures of habit and creatures of creativity.

Keywords:   English language, linguistic rules, language, codification, standardization, human language ability

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