Not hindered by any academic knowledge in the field of linguistics, this week I tried to formulate an answer to the question: What is a language? This came in response to a letter from the University of Hull, more than a week ago, that students should not be corrected anymore for spelling and grammatical errors. This would jeopardize inclusiveness and diversity.
Welmoed Vlieger commented right this week sincerely A good education would prevent the exclusion of everyone in society. I would like to add that communicating in your language will also help. Forcing students to write in English while dreaming, thinking and acting in Dutch is disastrous for the nuances and thus for the message. I had to read, discuss and summarize books full of philosophers of science in English. It is not uncommon for me to lose the content and in many cases the literary power of their ideas.
I read on Twitter a response from science journalist Govert Schilling: “The fact that you can only study physics if you can do some decent math is also not exhaustive. That way the profession remains colonized by the elite. While this irony is understandable, the comparison is flawed. To some extent. After all: the sum product is much more than the result of the sentence. Actually, a person who cannot arithmetic cannot become a physicist. But a person who does not have grammar and spelling can be a very good thinker. Maybe even a good writer .
a small difference
I believe that language is fundamentally a medium of communication. Just as a mathematical proof wants to show the truth of a statement, so a sentence or even a sound always wants to convey a message. Whether it’s “can you just divulge butter” on the kitchen table, or “phew” on the soccer field: language communicates. Feeling, Question, Truth, Lie: Anything that can be portrayed in language. Mathematics only conveys the truth. Language can also be gibberish, and math is always nonsense.
Language is also more differentiated than mathematics. For example, you could say in this week’s sports news: “It turns out that the European Premier League wasn’t a good idea for clubs.” You can also write: “kk ESL is ruining club breeding !!” Or: “Anyone who thinks they can make Silla and Sharipdes the captain of their own treasure fleet, poisoned by camels, could end up aboard Charon’s stern boat and meet a dozen soccer clubs drowning in petrodollars and other bribes this week.” This goes back to the same thing three times, but whether you understand it depends on your knowledge of Dutch, colloquial, or Greek mythology.
Does the communication style change nothing in the nuances and therefore the content of the sentences? You can prove exactly the same fact in mathematics with two different guides. But I don’t think you can say the same thing with different words. “There is 1 dm3 of milk in this carton” and “There is one liter of milk in this carton” sounds just right, but it says something about the language user and therefore about the content (in this case also literally) if dm3 is used instead of the liter used.
Imagine a Dutch teacher reading this poem review: “ This vibration from Vasalis about the asshole in the bathroom is a wix effect! I feel this sweet ego, you know, it’s my Prada. I also got really good at this performance every week, I wanna choke on it, man. Perhaps this will not be accepted. This is logical, because we have to agree on a specific language with which we communicate. And the attention with which that agreed language is written down is important. A misspelling or grammatical error might not change anything, but as a reader you notice love and dedication to detail – or lack thereof when it’s teeming with errors.
However, there are also people who just don’t care. And people who don’t really have a command to spell, no matter how much they love writing. Those people who don’t want to exclude Hull in particular, are commendable. Because you can also cuddle goofy Vasales in colloquial. A rewritten or misspelled heart cry often says more than a flawless sentence lovingly written.
Jan Beoving is a mathematician and comedian. In his column he plays with natural sciences and language. Previous columns are by Jan Beufeng.