Are we all to Blame? If so, what for?

Therefore, the quandary of the twenty-first century linguist emerges as whether language should be accepted as we find it at any one moment, to be used and rejected as such; or whether it can and should be recorded and prescribed as an absolute? As Deborah Cameron suggests convincingly in Verbal Hygiene (1995), "it is rare to find anyone rejecting altogether the idea that there is some legitimate authority in language. We are all of us closet prescriptivists". Perhaps it might be further asserted that we all cling to our own personal "Custome", assign to it our political opinions, degree of respect/disdain for the writing of the past, and proclaim it to be correct, merely since that is how we were taught (or as commonly, remember being "taught" it - in other words how we picked it up from the common usage we heard around us). In linguistic texts, prescriptive and descriptive alike, there is a sense that well- read, well-informed and well-respected though their authors may be, each opinion derives from a wish to speak as one knows one must or already does in one's own society.

The history of the language demonstrates that until it was taken seriously (or rather was theorised about), English had its own life. It was a parasite upon other languages, endlessly mutating. It progressed with apparent ease from the position of Germanic dialect of the peasantry to that of an equal to French and Latin for manifold purpose, assimilating numerous words in the process, in a way that the blinkers of a prescriptive view to language would in theory not have allowed. It was long after the majority of such a Romance-influence upon English and the "Great Vowel Shift" had occurred - systematically and with little concern or commentary - that the English attempted to shackle their native tongue.

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