Rules grammar change

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Doyle Redland has the story:

This is yet another reminder of how easy it often is, especially in speech, to communicate with a shared lexicon but no shared syntax.

I was disappointed that Mr. Redland didn't correct the U.S. grammar secretary's chronology, but I guess that journalistic conventions don't allow the reporter to contradict a source in his own voice, and time constraints made it impossible to bring in an expert to date Anglo-Saxon correctly. (I'll pass over in silence the question of what Anglo-Saxon syntax was really like.)

[Tip of the hat to reader SGK]


  1. mand said,

    February 24, 2010 @ 9:46 am

    Can't resist tweeting this (@mmSeason). ;0)

  2. uberVU - social comments said,

    February 24, 2010 @ 10:18 am

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by PhilosophyFeeds: Language Log: Rules grammar change

  3. Karl Hagen said,

    February 24, 2010 @ 10:33 am

    Several years ago, an earlier incarnation of this same piece inspired me to experiment with what Modern English would really look like if one used a reasonable approximation of Old English syntax. The results are here:

  4. Grammar Hammer: Vertigo Swinging the Grammar Pickaxe « The Coming of the Toads said,

    February 24, 2010 @ 1:28 pm

    […] We’re in no race to quickly finish Pullum’s Grammar – a good thing, too, because we’re cutting through it with a pickaxe (for as the back cover tells us, this is a “groundbreaking textbook”), and we don’t want our grammar hammer to be the end of us too soon, Lawd – Lawd. “Let the hammer do the work,” my Dad advised whenever he saw me over swinging and looking dizzy. While I try today to apply that advice to grammar, if you’ve not had enough grammar fun this morning, try this. […]

  5. Andy Hollandbeck said,

    February 24, 2010 @ 2:19 pm

    Beautifully done 'twas so listen twice to it I had to do.

  6. Rules grammar change. « Guns & Verbs said,

    February 24, 2010 @ 3:20 pm

    […] Rules grammar change. Posted in Random by rdjahn on 2010/02/24 Via Language Log: […]

  7. Sridhar Ramesh said,

    February 24, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

    The written version of this article was mentioned on Language Log previously, at

  8. Sridhar Ramesh said,

    February 24, 2010 @ 4:02 pm

    And this same audio was linked to on Language Log previously as well, at

    So… this story's been reported on in December 2007, August 2008, and February 2010 by Language Log, as well as March 1997 and August 2008 by The Onion. Quite a lot of play it's gotten…

    [(myl) At least we're consistent…

    And this time around, we learned about Karl Hagen's lovely exercise of combining modern English vocabulary and morphology with real Late Old English syntax.]

  9. Sridhar Ramesh said,

    February 24, 2010 @ 4:03 pm

    (Oh, and again February 2010 by The Onion.)

    [(myl) Right, that's the month and year we're in now, which is why it came up here again at this time. In any case, our customer relations department stands ready, as always, to refund double your subscription fee in case of less than full satisfaction.]

  10. Sridhar Ramesh said,

    February 24, 2010 @ 5:49 pm

    Oh, no need, I'm fully satisfied. Triple satisfied, even. :)

  11. Addendum said,

    February 25, 2010 @ 2:27 am

    I just played the clip for my wife, a native speaker of Russian. She didn't notice anything unusual until the last two words of the report! I imagine there's some kind of lesson there about the relative importance of word order.

  12. Pearson – Always ESL Newsletter said,

    August 14, 2013 @ 10:24 am

    […] Rules Grammar Change (Language Log) […]

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