Future English & Future Britain

The state of education across the world

Re: Future English & Future Britain

Postby Rachel » 07 Apr 2012, 19:39

Elliott wrote:...I saw a fascinating documentary a few years ago whose thesis (advanced by a nice posh woman) was that regional accents are actually dying out in Britain. She interviewed four generations of a Yorkshire family and got each one to say the word "here" and it was amazing to watch. With each generation, the word became less extreme, starting with the great-grandfather as a two-syllable, angled sort of word, and ending with the teenage girl as a one-syllable, very flat word. Elsewhere in the documentary she played WW1 records of regional dialects from all over the kingdom (they were recordings of British POWs made by the Germans) and it was amazing that, in those days, the north of England actually had bits of Scottish in it. For example the word "father" was pronounced "faither" by men from Newcastle. So on the evidence of that, regional accents are actually disappearing.

I'm not sure how that corresponds with the very obvious decline in diction. I think it is the case that accents are being diluted (by mass media) while words and phrases are becoming more localised and spelling is being drastically simplified.


Elliott,
If you ever find the documentary you mention about regional accents disappearing , let me know. It sounds fascinating.
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Re: Future English & Future Britain

Postby Elliott » 08 Apr 2012, 14:50

I've had a look for it but without success, Rachel. In the meantime here's the German sound archive of British POWs:

Berliner Lautarchiv
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Re: Future English & Future Britain

Postby Rachel » 08 Apr 2012, 20:16

Thank you Elliott.
The only accents I listened to were the Yorkshire ones because they are the ones I am most familiar with. They did not much different to how pensioners in 1980's Sheffield spoke. The 20 and 30 something year olds sound older than their age.
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Re: Future English & Future Britain

Postby Gavin » 12 Apr 2012, 14:43

It occurred to me today that the best English I hear these days is actually that on recorded announcements, principally those on checkout machines and on the London Underground. So the best English I hear is not even in real life any more! That's surely not a very good sign, but on the other hand I suppose I should be grateful they have not yet dumbed this down too (they have done in the case of the Orange answerphone - a woman who addresses you as if you are her "mate").
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Re: Future English & Future Britain

Postby Elliott » 12 Apr 2012, 20:15

By coincidence I was thinking exactly the same thing just other day in Tesco's. I was using the self-service checkout and realised that "the woman" is better-spoken than most actors and politicians.

I remember reading a few years ago that TfL were going to change the female voice heard all over the Underground network. The voice had been recorded in the 1950s or thereabouts and they wanted to update it. Did this come about, and if so what is the new voice like?
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Re: Future English & Future Britain

Postby Gavin » 12 Apr 2012, 20:29

As I recall the voice is still good: well spoken without the smug drawl of, for example, the Orange woman. I'll be going down again in a few days so will hear it again. I suppose this will be considered "elitist" soon so they'll get rid of it.

It's when the staff speak instead that there can be a problem. Let's just say they usually don't have English accents and sometimes the accents they do have are so thick it is difficult to make out what they are saying. Unless you're from the same place as them, I guess - so perhaps most Londoners don't have any difficulty.
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Re: Future English & Future Britain

Postby Gavin » 28 Apr 2012, 23:28

Telegraph blogger Tom Chivers usually writes articles of a leftist persuasion, but he's turned out a great one here on linguistic pretentiousness.

The comments are great, as usual. Certainly made me laugh. :) A large number of metropolitan types seem to think they can get away with speaking pretty much a different language now, and expect the rest of us to keep a straight face and even admire them for it. It's better to treat this with the ridicule it deserves. As Dalrymple himself has noted (with reference to Rowan Williams), using long words unnecessarily or writing obscurely certainly does not make one clever. To clever people, it does not even make one appear clever.
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Re: Future English & Future Britain

Postby Mike » 29 Apr 2012, 02:37

Ha! That's a good read.

The erstwhile deputy principal at our school, who is basically a good soul but a bureaucrat to her bootstraps, was legendary for that sort of thing. She has now, appropriately, found herself a cushy gig somewhere within the onion-like layers of the NSW education bureaucracy.

Some of her favourites: "manage/execute/negotiate" (do), "embrace/utilise" (use, i.e. new technologies and the like), "embedded" (added), etc. You can imagine the puns we used to make out of those at staff meetings. She would also slip in the word "actually" as a handy space-filler, with no real meaning at all. Once a colleague and I counted the number of times she used it within one three-minute harangue of the staff. We got to 15.

A former ministerial adviser here in Oz has set up a website devoted to the whole phenomenon. Well worth a look.
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Re: Future English & Future Britain

Postby Gavin » 29 Apr 2012, 10:06

That's a good site there, Mike. I have to quote from it:

'The Academic Outreach team is a strategic delivery channel for the library's value proposition, in a one on one environment with primary stakeholders – academics, researchers and HDR students ... Strategic initiatives and objectives are developed in alignment with University goals as part of the annual strategic planning process in which all Library teams participate. Library goals are met through cross team projects and team plans which are guided by the Vision, Mission and Goals and the Library’s performance indicator framework.'


Your eyes sort of glaze over halfway through these sentences - if not immediately. I think that is the idea. Surely nobody could be this bad a writer otherwise? I said these people were not clever, however I do think there is a special skill to being able to either write, or speak, for a long time, as Rowan Williams can, and not say anything. This is something I don't think I can do. Philosophers are experts in it, however. I remember most of the philosophical texts I read, by modern as well as older philosophers, were couched in the most complex terms possible when they needn't have been. I now invariably conclude that if I cannot understand what someone is saying, they're not saying anything.

This is ridiculous but is certainly also quite dark and dangerous, very 1984, isn't it? Because this is the language of lies, and deception. They use this smokescreen to imitate politeness and intelligence, to deflect people. It's like the language politicians use. Soulless, meaningless. Some readers will look at it and say "Sounds complicated. I suppose they know what they are doing" - then they can continue their evil socialist plans.

Like any kind of pretention it really needs to be called for what it is whenever people try this on: "I'm sorry, I don't understand what you are saying." or even "You're not making any sense" - "Just speak plainly". We're going to have this rubbish on one side and the kind of degenerate language Elliott described on the other if we dont fight back.
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Re: Future English & Future Britain

Postby Damo » 29 Apr 2012, 11:49

This kind of linguistic pretentiousness is now everywhere.

Like a poison, it has infected economics, science, policing, education, finance etc.

Read this paragraph from a policing report for my native city:

In terms of approach and practice, the theme of our new Corporate Strategy – Working with our Communities – is given practical effect through the practical implementation of our Neighbourhood Policing structure and strategy across the districts. Here we see Neighbourhood Policing Teams taking the primary role in the collaborative development and delivery of quality policing services, viz relationship building, positive influencing, initiative taking, knowledge development, investigating and enforcing. Our Neighbourhood Policing Teams will be working in close collaboration with specialist Garda teams and community partners to ensure that organised and determined criminals are challenged, engaged, disrupted, prosecuted and disbanded.


I mean, could you imagine an ordinary Joe Soap reading that, what is he to think of it?
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Re: Future English & Future Britain

Postby Gavin » 29 Apr 2012, 13:07

It's vomit-inducing. They just won't read it, and I suppose that is part of the plan too. Bore them into submission. That way you're still being "accountable" and producing something to explain what you're doing, but no-one will even read it, and you're not saying anything anyway even if a few people do struggle to the end of it.

Most of them are probably not doing anything either. They say most of the people in the public sector would be unemployable in the private sector. Just layer after layer of under-skilled bureaucracy. This goes on in the private sector too of course, but at least then the companies themselves are paying for their own incompetence!

I remember asking a consultant surgeon once, when I was more naive, "What's the problem with the NHS?" (he was sighing) - "Do you need more money?". "No", he said, "No, it's not money. It's all these quotas, middle managers, rules, bureaucrats - the NHS is full of them". This was a while after Labour came to power. I think I know a certain retired physician who would wholeheartedly second his remarks.

I hope there is some sort of "truth and reconciliation" tribunal established in the future to examine what Labour did to the UK.
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Re: Future English & Future Britain

Postby Elliott » 29 Apr 2012, 19:23

evil bureaucrat wrote:positive influencing


I once filled in a job application form which asked how good I was at "objection handling".

I also saw a behavioural expert analysing David Cameron's performance in the election debates:

When Nick Clegg tried to intervene, Cameron did something called "ignoring". He ignored him.


But to be honest, while we can all laugh at these ridiculous management phrases, I had in mind a completely different degradation of language in the OP. At least these bureaucrats are trying to sound intelligent - pretentious it may be, but I find it much more admirable than the opposite, which is what virtually all of our celebrities, politicians and aristocracy try to do.

I hope there is some sort of "truth and reconciliation" tribunal established in the future to examine what Labour did to the UK.


If Labour get back in at the next election, 1997-2010 will seem positively quaint.
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Re: Future English & Future Britain

Postby Elliott » 09 Jun 2012, 21:41

The Queen's English Society has been dissolved. Luminaries of the debased culture sketched in my OP have celebrated this development with sanctimonious articles, but, of all people, a Communist called Brendan O'Neill has written in the Society's defence.
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Re: Future English & Future Britain

Postby Mike » 09 Jun 2012, 22:41

There's a phrase in that moronic Grauniad piece which encapsulates the entire world-view of the pusillanimous academic left these days:

But cultural policing (even of this kind) is always dangerous, because it says that I am right and you are wrong.


A moderately intelligent five-year-old would recognise the basic, inherent stupidity of such a statement, yet it has become holy writ within humanities academia.

As for that excellent Brendan O'Neill piece, he also wrote a very good piece about the riots last year. Although I don't agree with him in every particular, he's another example of that crucial distinction which people on this forum must be tired of me drawing, between the old left and the new (post-sixties) left, with all its obsessions with cultural relativity and individual expression. My father, who's basically an old leftie to his bootstraps, is still a firm supporter of the sort of educational standards that most avatars of the new left would like to see abandoned (except in the case of their own and their friends' children, of course).

TD wrote a superb piece, probably the single article of his which made me such a firm fan of his writing, on much the same topic. Well worth re-reading at times like this.
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Re: Future English & Future Britain

Postby Ana » 13 Jun 2012, 23:26

Elliott, on a quick scan I really like what you have to say. I'm going to print your article out and read it at greater leisure. Like George Orwell, I have a deep interest in proper English usage. The degeneracy of language is a sign of the degeneracy of thought. Thank you for drawing my attention to this. Ana
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