Thursday, May 19, 2016

Grammar is Important

"The Quadrilateral Coordination Group, made up of officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China, have been engaged in efforts to facilitate direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

The Taliban, who now control or contest more territory than at any time since they was ousted by a U.S.-led intervention in 2001, have attended none of the group's meetings."

Reuters, 18 May 2016 05:48 EDT
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-pakistan-afghanistan-taliban-idUSKCN0Y9133

It was a minor problem, I admit. From my experience, I guess that the author wrote "... it was... " referring to the Taliban as a collective entity, and an editor changed "it" to "they" without following through.  That error was noticeable.  

Less obvious is the disagreement in the first paragraph. "The Quadrilateral group... have been engaged in efforts..." The noun group is singular. Admittedly, it sounds funny to us to say " a group of people who play softball is meeting at the park." So, we excuse the subject-verb disagreement. Perhaps English is changing to allow the creation of plural collectives nouns. Alternately, the problem also stems from using the objective noun in the prepositional case as if it were nominative.  Prepositions make nouns into objects. "I give him the ball." is the same as "I give the ball to him." (not "I give he the ball." or "I give it to he."). Men are, but a group of men is.  Other languages, such as German and Latin, have stronger, more formal, and older rules for cases: nominative, genitive, accusative, dative, vocative, ablative, locative.  (Hungarian has about a dozen: progressive, regressive, inessive, adessive ...)

Simple as English is - and simplicity is a hallmark of civilized languages: so-called "primitive" people tend to have more complicated grammars - you can still open a can of worms.

"The plank that was approved by delegates at the party's convention this month reads: "Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that has been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nations founders, and shared by the majority of Texans."
Lone Star Q, which describes itself as the state's No. 1 source for LGBT news, asked on Twitter on Wednesday to have a "grammar debate" over the wording.

"In response, grammarians pointed out that placement of the final comma in the plank could lead to understanding it to mean that homosexuality is a chosen behavior shared by the majority of Texans. They also noted that "nations" should have an apostrophe and that by using "has been," the plank gives the impression that homosexuality has been ordained by God.

"Party officials did not respond to requests to comment."
 http://www.reuters.com/article/us-texas-lgbt-idUSKCN0YA2RQ

ALSO ON NECESSARY FACTS
Readability is the Only Metric
Why Democracy is Difficult
The Profits and Benefits in Foreign Languages
Indian English: Totally Legend Like Anything

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