Friday, 16 May 2014

People use words they reject

Reflecting on language is part of our everyday life. It happens that you share and comment a joke because you found it very funny. Contrarily, you may want to tell a case when somebody hurt you with words. These are informal and personal cases: you meet people you regularly meet and share your life with them. However, speaking about language-related experiences also has its institutionalized forms. Teachers sometimes ask students to tell about their communication habits in order to formulate a “grammar rule”.

Participating in many discussions about language, people gradually learn techniques of speaking about language: evaluating others’ speech, describing people by imitating their speech habits, correcting others when they say something “not properly”. In order to meet social expectations people often recycle and reformulate others’ statements. “To say X is incorrect” – they say, but at the same time they use that expression.

When I recorded interviews with Hungarian teachers and students, they usually told me that the use of hát (‘so’, ‘well’) at the beginning of an utterance was incorrect. However, this was one of the most frequent words in their speech, and it almost always occured in the criticized position. How could it happen? Based on the corpus of my PhD dissertation, I give qualitative and quantitative analysis in a special issue of Research in Corpus Linguistics. The paper was published recently.

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