FACTS, IDEAS, OPINIONS AND MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT LANGUAGE

Dr. Tina L. Hanlon, Ferrum College
Home page for Linguistics

True or False?

1. You learned to speak English (or whatever your native language is) because your parents carefully taught you how to form and use words.

2. Learning languages is easier for children than for adults.

3. At the age of four you knew enough grammar to fill several textbooks.

4. An American child older than three or four who consistently says things like "We saw some mans today" or "They talks funny" probably has a learning disability or comes from a culturally deprived background.

5. Everyone speaks in dialect.

6. The spread of mass media is reducing the amount of dialect variation in the language of the American population.

7. English is the official language of the United States.

8. An idiolect is the language spoken by people who have low IQ's (idiots).

9. Rules for correct English never change.

10. Speech changes faster than written language.

11. You should never use dialect or slang in writing.

12. You should write the way you speak so it sounds natural. (Try writing down a phone conversation word for word.)

13. There is no such word in American English as "ain't" and it should not be listed in the dictionary.

14. There is such a word in American English as "hisself."

15. "Laid" is never a form of "lie."

16. The sentence "Me and Jim got throwed off a horse" is ungrammatical.

17. A double negative, as in "They don't have no money" is illogical (since two negatives make a positive) and should never be used.

18. When people say "irregardless" they mean "regardless."

19. A sentence like "They came a-riding across the field" was acceptable in Shakespeare's English, but is unacceptable today.

20. The word "drownded" is an example of substandard usage.

21. "I never eat oysters" is present tense and thus describes an action occurring in the present time.

22. People from New England have the most proper speech. (Their language is closer to British English and, after all, our language came from England.)

23. Most people think they speak correct English.

24. Punctuation and grammar conventions don't matter that much as long as your reader understands what you are trying to say. (Only English teachers are picky about that stuff.)

25. An English teacher (or any teacher?) should always speak correct English, or else lose her job.

26. Students majoring in accounting, travel industry, biology, etc. should not be required to take English courses. (What if this said "language courses"?)

27. People who speak in dialect must be taught to speak correct English in school or they will not succeed in American society (and may have trouble passing a writing course).

28. Children who do not grow up speaking standard English have a right to bilingual or bidialectal instruction in the public schools.

29. English skills in the general population are in decline; educators and editors should work harder at raising standards in language skills.

30. It is possible to label each of the above statements as absolutely true or false.


Which of the following factors have had the most influence on your language habits?

• Ancestry
• Place of birth
• Race
• Other places of residence
• Education
• Occupation
• Age
• Sex
• Socioeconomic status
• Language of spouse or other non-blood relatives or close friends
• Reading or radio, television, other mass media