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Bad Language: Are Some Words Better Than Others?

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Overview

Is today's language at an all-time low? Are pronunciations like cawfee and chawklit bad English? Is slang like my bad or hook up improper? Is it incorrect to mix English and Spanish, as in Yo quiero Taco Bell? Can you write Who do you trust? rather than Whom do you trust? Linguist Edwin Battistella takes a hard look at traditional notions of bad language, arguing that they are often based in sterile conventionality.

Examining grammar and style, cursing, slang, and political correctness, regional and ethnic dialects, and foreign accents and language mixing, Battistella discusses the strong feelings evoked by language variation, from objections to the pronunciation NU-cu-lar to complaints about bilingual education. He explains the natural desire for uniformity in writing and speaking and traces the association of mainstream norms to ideas about refinement, intelligence, education, character, national unity and political values. Battistella argues that none of these qualities is inherently connected to language.

It is tempting but wrong, Battistella argues, to think of slang, dialects and nonstandard grammar as simply breaking the rules of good English. Instead, we should view language as made up of alternative forms of orderliness adopted by speakers depending on their purpose. Thus we can study the structure and context of nonstandard language in order to illuminate and enrich traditional forms of language, and make policy decisions based on an informed engagement.

Re-examining longstanding and heated debates, Bad Language will appeal to a wide spectrum of readers engaged and interested in the debate over what constitutes proper language.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Battistella has indeed identified issues central both to our society at large and to the American educational system. He shows us that all too often, what citizens and teachers believe about language, grammar, and so-called proper English reflects folk-beliefs from deep in centuries past. These common myths about the nature of language carry vast ripple effects in how we treat people and educate our young. In user-friendly and lively terms, linguist Ed Battistella explores bad language—a topic both timely and crucial to our nation."—Rebecca S. Wheeler, Department of English, Christopher Newport University

"Important"—Alex Ross, The Rest Is Noise

"The beauty of this book is that it responds to widely held beliefs about the nature of language—that there exist fairly monolithic language standards that people ought to aim for. ... The author of Bad Language astutely recognizes that these beliefs provide fertile ground for introducing fundamental perspectives and findings from linguistic research to students, scholars in other fields, and the general public."—Carolyn Adger, Center for Applied Linguistics

On Chicago Tribune's Top 10 books on language in 2005: "This book reminds us that language is the basis of the last acceptable prejudice: There is no snobbery as safe as looking down your nose at people for their grammar, vocabulary or accent. As Battistella shows, this kind of condescension often comes from misunderstandings and myths about the way language works."—Nathan Bierma, Chicago Tribune

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195337457
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/1/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Edwin L. Battistella is Dean of Arts and Letters and Professor of English at Southern Oregon University. He is the author of two previous books on grammar and language, including The Logic of Markedness (OUP, 1996).

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Table of Contents

Preface
Bad Language: Realism versus Relativism
Anything Goes
A Culture of Engagement
Bad Writing
The Craft of Writing
Clear and Direct
The Relativity of Style
What is Good Writing?
Bad Grammar
Prescriptive Grammar
The Emergence of Prescriptivism
The Doctrines of Usage and Utility
The English Language Arts and Beyond
Conservatives and Progressives
The Necessity for Grammar
Bad Words
Cursing in the Media and the Arts
Offensive Language
Bad Words as a Social Construction
Slang as Bad Language
Political Correctness
Conventionalism and Comfort Levels
Bad Citizens
Birth of a Nation
Native American Languages
Manualism versus Oralism
Restrictions on Foreign Languages
Bilingual Education
English Only
One Flag, One Language
Bad Accents
Broken English
Attitudes Toward Regional Dialects
Ebonics
Accomodating to the Idealized Mainstream
Images and Engagement
Imagining Language
English Made Hard
Beyond Simplistic Characterizations
Notes
Reference
Index

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2013

    Ty

    G

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2013

    Bad wooordz

    Suck but they dint really ssund bad O: cuz sh*t an f*ck and a** dont sound bad or dick vuz its a name plus jacka** is a rabbit and n*gger desnt sound badit sounds like a car plus m*t is like a basevall mitt and p*ss means boobs which isnt that bad and it sounds likepussy cat witout da y in it soo dont say bad words even though they dontyou bette shush ur moyth cuz aint wanna get in troubledo u foks huh i forgot da b word b*th means female dog dumb hm that aint a bad word to baddies so dont be one ppl or ur littke butts goonna b in big fat trubble

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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