python vs c# [way, way, WAY OT]

Alex Martelli aleaxit at yahoo.com
Sun Oct 3 09:57:12 CEST 2004


Steve Holden <steve at holdenweb.com> wrote:

> > He really is a Professor of Linguistics and not some elaborate web hoax :)
> > 
> Well Linguistics isn't Language.

Of course not, it's the _study_ of language.  A linguist, for example,
need not be a very powerful and engaging writer, or speaker -- much like
a sports trainer need not be a very fast runner, or swimmer.  But, if
you want to enhance your sporting abilities, you may still be better off
with the advice of somebody who studies the effects of various
combinations of diet and exercise, rather than with the advice of
somebody else, who just happens to be able to run a four-minute mile...

Of course, linguistics has long been split between prescriptive and
descriptive orientations.  The long-term trend is definitely away from
the prescriptive (which centuries ago used to rule supreme) and towards
the descriptive (which isn't controversial any more, as soon as you get
into the actual professional practice -- peer-reviewed journals, etc).
How you "should" express yourself, after all, depends on your purposes;
the best a linguist can do is elucidate for you the likely consequences
of a stylistic or grammatical choice.  It's not an issue of "who ya
gonna call?" being ``better'' or ``worse'' than "whom are you going to
contact?"... if you understand the contexts in which either way of
expression is going to be clearer, how they're going to affect your
audience, and so on, you can _choose_ effectively between them.


Alex



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