Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community
I have long been puzzled by the divergence of grammar and logic, expecting (naively, I admit) that logical form and grammatical form would be isomorphic, so that something that is a proposition (such as the 'P' in 'P or Q') in one form would be classified the same way as the same proposition in a logically equivalent form (the 'P' in 'If not P then Q'). Alas, no.

Were I rewriting grammar texts (one of those long-term ambitions, which falls right after rewriting my 1995 guide to the logical fallacies) I would revise the rules to accord with the logic. The result would not be a different grammar - we'd still write and speak the same as we do now - but a different understanding of grammar. The original intent of grammar - clarity and precision - would be restored, and all would be right with the universe.

How naive I was. Writing in Australia, Wayne Sawyer describes how "'literacy' has become a code word for many things, including: allegiance to the Crown and Commonwealth; Protestant religious values; discipline and obedience to authority; mastery of British 'proper speech'; innate intellectual gifts; monocultural Anglo/Australian nationalism; scientific and technological competitiveness; mental and physical health and employability and job competence."

Sawyer strives, I think, to clearly explain why split infinitives ought not to always be avoided, and to usefully help us to ultimately understand why their prohibition has more in common with force than with logic. Via Jo McLeay.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada
stephen@downes.ca

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Last Updated: Jun 24, 2021 11:00 p.m.