The Humanities view of variation and deviation

Looking at these items:
• Deviations are due to natural flaws in humans –

laziness, slovenliness, stupidity, ignorance.

• The best is selected out and into the ideal.

Deviations can only be of a lower order of L.

• Deviations from the ideal do not have value

Yes, these comments attributed to those in the Humanities may seem strong, slanted in a way so as to make that orientation seem elitist, but I can say they are taken from many conversations, posts on fl listservs, and books and articles. While many fl teachers may wish to back off the extreme position, nevertheless, I believe a good deal of what is said and written in the Humanities does cast variety and deviations into a negative mold. Somehow there is something wrong with utterances and jottings that do not conform to the ideal.

To reiterate from other annotations to this commentary, there is nothing inherently wrong in this position the way some others are flawed. Not all of these Humanities positions are wrong in and of themselves. For instance, there is nothing wrong with setting up an ideal. It is when deviations are condemned and characterized in inaccurate ways that the harm finds entry. Language variation does not occur because of slovenliness, laziness, carelessness, etc. even though that is commonly heard.

Language variation and language change are exceedingly complex but subject to natural laws, if you will, regularities within the change and variation that can be teased out by scientific research.

Here, perhaps, is where my bias toward linguistics comes through most strongly: the Humanities approach usually, in my experience, does not explore issues like grammaticality in a scientific way. Esthetics dominates the value system of the Humanities and, again, that is fine. But when the system of esthetics is turned toward denigration and condemnation, we have a problem.

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