For his paper at the Cambridge Usage (Guides) Symposium on 26 and 27 June, Robert Ilson would welcome input from the readers of this blog. Elsewhere, he published what he called a “plaidoyer” for a cross-cultural study of prescriptivism, and in the article he makes a number of detailed suggestions for such a study.
A little while ago, Nadia Petrova, one of the readers of this blog and a former student of English at the University of Leiden, carried out the kind of analysis that Robert Ilson is interested in for her MA thesis. The thesis is called: “A Comparative Analysis of Russian and English Usage Guides form the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries” (2010). (Readers may indicate their interest in the thesis by commenting on this blog; as a reader herself, Nadia will be able to respond to the comments.)
In her thesis, Nadia focussed on three usage problems that are similar between Russian and English:
- subject-verb agreement with collective nouns
- dangling participles
- the degrees of comparison of adjectives.
So here are three cross-cultural items of the kind that Robert Ilson will be interested in. And another one was recently found by Annemarie Walop (who wrote a blog post last week on prestigeful): it has to do with the tendency in Dutch to start a sentence with maar (“but”). The article Annemarie located is called “Beter: de maar-ziekte”. I haven’t checked, but I imagine that just as with and, you are not supposed to start a sentence with but in English either.
So on behalf of Robert Ilson, and he has promised to acknowledge all help received: what more usage problems are there in other languages that have a parallel with English?