These folks seem to think so. How many do
you agree with? (Uhm, I mean, with how many do you
agree?) Sources are at the end of the list.
- The common language is disappearing. It is slowly being crushed to
the weight of verbal conglomerate, a pseudospeech at once both pretentious
that is created daily by millions of blunders and inaccuracies in
idiom, metaphor, logic, and common sense.... In the history of modern
is no period in which such victory over thought-in-speech has been so
in the past has the general idiom, on which we depend for our very
vital matters, been so seriously distorted.
- Recent graduates, including those with university degrees, seem to
have no mastery
of the language at all. They cannot construct a simple declarative
orally or in writing. They cannot spell common, everyday words.
apparently no longer taught. Grammar is a complete mystery to almost all
- From every college in the country goes up the cry, "Our freshmen can't
can't punctuate." Every high school is in disrepair because its pupils are
ignorant of the merest rudiments.
- The vocabularies of the majority of high-school pupils are amazingly
I always try to use simple English, and yet I have talked to classes when
a minority of the pupils did not comprehend more than half of what I said.
- Unless the present progress of change [is] arrested...there can be no
that, in another century, the dialect of the Americans will become utterly
unintelligible to an Englishman...
- Our language is degenerating very fast.
All quotes from Famous Last Words: The American Language Crisis
Reconsidered, Harvey A. Daniels.
Only the first three quotes are from this century!
- A. Tibbets and C. Tibbets, What's Happening to American
- cited by J. Mersand, Attitudes toward English Teaching,
- C. H. Ward, 1917
- M. W. Smith, "Methods of Study in English," 1889
- Captain Thomas Hamilton, 1833
- James Beattie, 1785
The earliest language "crisis" ... that I have been able to
discover occurred in ancient Sumeria .... It seems that among the first of
the clay tablets discovered and deciphered by modern scholars was one
which recorded the agonized complaints of a Sumerian teacher about the
sudden drop-off in students' writing ability.
Daniels, p. 33, citing Richard Lloyd-Jones, "Is Writing Worse Nowadays?"
University of Iowa Spectator, April 1976.
So, what's the story with English? Daniels again (p. 86):
...our language cannot "die" as long as
people speak it...
...language change is a healthy and
...all human languages are rule-governed,
ordered, and logical...
...variations between different groups of
speakers are normal and predictable...
...all speakers employ a variety of speech
forms and styles in response to changing social settings...
...most of our attitudes about language are
based upon social rather than linguistic judgments...
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