All The More Reason


What’s the point of debating?
July 6, 2007, 3:09 pm
Filed under: Geoff Nunberg, Language

Here’s a recent post on Language Log by Geoff Nunberg. In it, he cites a passage from a book written nearly a hundred years ago to demonstrate that some debates on the decline of language have been going on for ages. Fair enough. However, I don’t agree with the conclusion he draws upon from this.

Yet over the long run, it all sorts itself out, doesn’t it?

The suggestion, with this rhetorical question, is that time is the great sieve in the literary sea allowing the great works to separate themselves from the others. The assumption then is that one shouldn’t worry so much about, for example, the hot debates on the use of some works in schools. I believe that this assumption is supported by the title of his post, “Plus ça râle…” which is a play on the French expression “The more it changes, the more it’s the same” (râler means to moan).

And yet, time and again one sees these debates especially around the great works in literature. Is it not possible that the very existence of these debates is part of that great sieve which over time helps distinguish some works from others? In any case, that strikes me as just a little bit more interesting than to think it’ll all sort itself out in the end on its own.

J.S.

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1 Comment so far
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oh what!? my tree of wisdom isn’t tall enough!? you stink!

Comment by ass h0le




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