Wednesday, January 30, 2013

rebranding of grammatical structures

One of my ongoing concerns about the prevalence of technology is the general rebranding of grammatical forms. By this I mean something like the following.

It has always been a general rule that with non-restrictive clauses which is preferred, whereas with restrictive clauses that is preferred. Thus we say, 1. This is the car that I bought, but 2. Let's take the Honda, which gets better mileage. In the second sentence, we already know which car, so we use the comma (non-restrictive) and can't use "that". But, in the first sentence, is it wrong to use which? No. which can occur in either kind of sentence, although that is preferred in the first.

OK so along comes technology, which is pretty good at noticing when you use a comma and when you don't, and also, by the way, pretty good at insisting that you use which in cases where you must use which. But technology must make a decision about whether to pressure you in the first case, where that is preferred, and pressures you simply because it's preferred. And whole legions of people do what it says. So now, the division of those who still use which and those who follow the computer's line is different. Whereas, in the past, you might use which because it sounded better, a whole legion of followers are now just going with the flow.

Thus your choice of words says a different thing than it used to.

My concern, then, is the way you are "seen" based on your choice of words. Not a concern for me, maybe, who doesn't mind being seen whichever way you like. More later.


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