Hayes Introductory Linguistics p. 60 Chapter 3: Normative views of language 1. 2 7 B Introduction Suppose we are eliciting some data on English morphology from one particular speaker of English, and obtain the following: (79) Present Past participle I jump. I have jumped. I place it. I have placed it. I allow it. I have allowed it. I grow it. I have grown it. I cling to the branch. I have clung to the branch. I string the racket. I have strung the racket. I bring it with me. I have brung it with me. The last form would, if I were collecting it from a UCLA undergraduate, startle me, but in fact there are many dialects of English in which the past participle of bring is brung . This is an example of a normative belief — on my part, and perhaps for you as well. Somewhere, deep inside me, I feel that people ought to say brought as the past participle of bring , and that brung is “wrong.” A normative belief involves “ought to be”, as opposed to “is”. Normative beliefs can be about some particular word or construction, or about whole languages or dialects. Here are examples of both kinds. (80) Examples of normative beliefs x “French has a more beautiful sound than German.” x “It is better to say ‘it is I’ than ‘it is me’” x “[Such and such an ethnic group ] speaks a substandard dialect of the language” x “Southern accents sound friendly.” x “Southern accents sound ignorant and uneducated.” Here, of course, our interest in language is entirely scientific; we aren’t going to wallow in our normative beliefs, but try to come to terms with them as an object of study. The questions at hand are: x What might we do as linguistic scientists to make sure that our work remains objective in the face of normative beliefs? x How do we find out about normative beliefs and assess them? x Where do normative beliefs come from? Why do they arise? x Are normative beliefs ever “justified” in a factual sense?
Hayes Introductory Linguistics p. 61 2. 2 8 B The professional practice of linguists concerning normative beliefs Normative beliefs arise for linguists as a methodological issue. We want to do good science, and it’s quite likely that our normative beliefs might impede our scientific objectivity. My own favorite metaphor for this is the clean white lab coat — the emblem that a laboratory scientist wants to keep the samples clean and uncontaminated. As linguists, we keep our lab coats clean (in part) by ignoring what we feel about language, and concentrating on the data. Scientific objectivity is of course a goal that cannot always be attained. Everyone, including experienced linguists, has normative beliefs, and we can’t make them go away. To speak personally on this point: I find that whenever I encounter a phrase like “very unique,” or the pronunciation [ ਥ nukjul ̸ r] (“nucular”) for nuclear , I experience real, unavoidable normative feelings. Both cases are instances where the normative belief is one that favors the older meaning or pronunciation (see more on this below). But as a scholar I know there is nothing
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