Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Personal vs. Possessive.

I realize this might not be your cup of tea. Skip it and I won't be offended.

Grammarians and linguists are strange people. But aren't we all? It's the odd way they talk around the subject, using words for types of words. Linguists are worse than plain grammarians. I was pondering, why are our approaches so different. Why don't I want to be one of you? If I were teacher, then I  would just jump right in and describe what is going on without using specialized language to do it. (I wouldn't use the word "possessive" but I would use the word "possess." Then I understood our goals are different. Mine is to handle a language fairly well for my own fun and their goal is to become interpreter, top in one's field, to pass exams, to break into the business, to translate technical messages, to be totally ace and erudite with PHD in their pursuit.

I was looking for a translation is ASL for "She's come undone" because I thought it would be funny to include in a post to something like the Jennifer Rubin one. There isn't a video, unless I make it myself. Bummer. But on YouTube, for some reason unknown, this grammar video appears within three search results. I wasn't going to bother watching but I'm glad that I did. It's a guy explaining English in sign, so apparently teaching hearing students how English personals and possessives are done. It's all extremely easy, the words all virtually pantomimed, all of them very natural movements. A few things arrested my attention.

First, although common movements, his signs are perfectly formed. Each frame could be used to illustrate a text book, his fingerspelling looks like a typewriter, his sign-handwriting is gorgeous. He is clear as a bell. He looks like a book.

Second, English to deaf is like Egyptian hieroglyphics to us. We put all types of extra things in it. Extra words that are not needed to convey clear thought, extra decorations, extra letters in spelling verbal serifs and elaborations all over the place. I know this because that's how they make fun of me.
"On, I got this. I got this, I understand Bo's way of talking. (very gracefully) Here, watch me, allow me to interpret Bo for you. Then get into elaborate sign with way too many movements, way too may words, loaded with archaic language in their version of Shakespeare, adjectives stacked up, unnecessary perfects, and pluperfects, double and triple  "have had had" all over the place that doesn't even make sense in that language, frilly exaggerated fingerspelling with extra letters thrown in randomly. Then laugh like loons at the way that I speak.

Hardy har har. Very funny.  So funny I forgot to ... put down my cocktail before laughing so hard. You dopes.

I take a lot of abuse.

The way the guy explains grammar is for English speaking people. Not for deaf. This wouldn't even make sense to them. They'd recognize all the words, of course, but why be so particular? Why so exacting?

The third thing that gets me is how do you explain possessive with saying "have?" Or, "own." Or, "possess."

How can you explain "personal" without saying, "do?" Or, "are." Or, "will." Or, "be." It's the discussion of language by grammarians and by linguists using tweezers and chopsticks that gets me. The paradox for me is, I think I could teach this better, but along the way I'd learn a lot less.

I have another thing to show you that's making me think about this. I'll show it later. It's Egyptian, and it's outrageous. I'm re-writing a book instead of just reading it, to really drill it in. And while drilling, I keep asking, why are you talking like this? I suppose you must. Prove your bonafides by tweezing out each phoneme and its precise position along with its historic usage. You have a million words for words and sounds and grammar and it's achingly technical. But when the writer reverts to plain English the insights are quite good. Things like, "giraffe tails were highly valued because they were used as fly whisks."


edutcher said...

OK, let me entertain you.

Or weird you out.

This business of personal vs. possessive really does matter because it helps clarify the language. The reason it's fallen into some disuse would appear to be laziness. Union teachers are more interested in teaching oppression and regimentation than the English language because patriarchy, imperialism, racism, sexism, etc.

Consider a simple example drawn from a T-shirt of a similar complaint, to wit:

Let's eat Mom

Let's eat, Mom.

Rabel said...

That's a robot. Give him the captcha test.