Courgette or zucchinni, whose language is it anyway?

Yes, British collective nouns swing both ways: Company, Government, Tranmere Rovers can be considered singular or plural, just don’t mix them up in the same sentence.

Here’s a grammar lessonfor merkins from the British Council.

I wonder if merkins know what it means, would they get upset if they did ?

Who knows. OED example usage from (1714):

[quote]“This put a strange Whim in his Head; which was, to get the hairy circle of her Merkin … This he dry’d well and comb’d out, and then return’d to the Cardinal, telling him, he had brought Saint Peter’s Beard.”[/quote] :blush:

Us kiwis use mostly British English, and I’d say The comapny amended it’s bylways, but the firm/partnersip amended their bylaws, eg “Rudd Watts and Stone changed their hiring policy”.


English aristocrats began applying Latin grammar rules to English during the reign of Queen Victoria. Around that same time, there was a growing movement in the young republic of states in the Americas to differentiate themselves from England. The English language was the most obvious place to start. The modern consequence is a growing rift in English usage. As the planet continues to accept English as the international language, a hybrid, English language will hopefully emerge.
We must also remember that spoken English and written English utilize different rules in practice. Many English language books, so widely used in Taiwan, are designed and written for conversation purposes. That is one possible explanation for the dangling prepositions and other little nuances found in the local ESL publications.
Are British collective nouns the only things that swing both ways on the isles? After watching the British parliament this last week, one might assume the government does the same.

David Crystal’s ‘Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language’ is entertaining and informative and gives a balanced picture of the prescriptive v.s. descriptive grammar debate. His personal opinion seems to generally be in favour of the descriptive side, however, and he talks a lot about varieties of English on both international and national levels.

I was reminded of his book by the title of this thread; ‘Whose language is it anyway?’. I believe that Crystal would say that it is the users’ language - as simple as that. He gives a lot of examples of English language use around the globe by people we might not normally think of as native speakers, for example air traffic controllers, doctors, lawyers, people from places such as India and a lot of Caribbean countries and speakers of the various English-based pidgins.

Of course it would be disingenous to deny the prestige of certain varieties and their appropriate use in different situations, but the most important point for me is that the language doesn’t belong to any one group of people. When teaching I hope that I can gradually give the students the sense that the language is also theirs to use, play with and create with. Of course this is difficult given prevailing attitudes and habits among students, but perhaps it’s one way to overcome those attitudes for a few students who may be able to get the point.

I teach American English in general, mainly because I’m an American, but point out the differences in spelling and usage where applicable and where I know what I’m talking about (not very often, in other words).

From a lawyer’s perspective, a company is a single legal entity and should be referred to in the singular. A lawyer who writes: “this company are” is making an error - the whole point of setting up a company is that it is a legal person in its own right and not an aggregate of the owners or management of the company.

Government is also singular (a country can only have one government) but usage varies. I have heard British English speakers saying “this government are”, and it sounds wrong to me. I don’t think this has anything to do with US-UK usage.

Eh ? English had a Latinate grammar long before the reign of Queen Victoria.

Perhaps legalese has its own conventions, but there are 1000s of googleable examples of company / government being treated as plural nouns, many from British government documents and the BBC. And that British government guide to the language I linked to above has this:

[quote]In American usage, a collective noun takes a singular verb when it refers to the collection considered as a whole, as in:
The family was united on this question.
The enemy is suing for peace.

It takes a plural verb when it refers to the members of the group considered as individuals, as in:
My family are always fighting among themselves.
The enemy were showing up in groups of three or four to turn in their weapons.

In British usage, however, collective nouns are more often treated as plurals:
The government have not announced a new policy.
The team are playing in the test matches next week.

Among the common collective nouns are:


Swan (Practical English Usage, New Edition, Oxford University Press, 1997) elaborates on this singular/plural usage, and disagrees about treating collective nouns as both singular and plural in the same construction:

"In British English, singular words like family, team, government, which refer to groups of people, can be used with either singular or plural verbs and pronouns.

This team is/are going to lose… [/quote]
So ‘the government are barking’ emphatically is correct when its the British.

At least according to Swan. I think he’s talking shite.

And let’s not forget that ships and nations are singular female. :laughing:

I hate the fact that Americanisms have crept into my English, but it does save time when typing :wink:

I only make a big deal about stupid things that American’s do with English, I don’t sweat the small stuff like spelling etc unless it is a really stupid change.

I do hate it when someone thinks that one is right and the other is wrong though. Can’t we all just get along?!

Perhaps one day we will find that another language is kreeping into our Engrish, lats soi German, Japanese, or French. But God forbid de that te we start ter speaky Taiwan English eeee :wink:

English is nothing but a creeping-in or together of various languages.

The main elements are a Germanic start, followed by a grammatically similar influx from Scandinavia, followed by French usage trickling down from the ruling classes (many languages have the same word for an animal and the meat of that animal; English uses the Germanic words pig, cow and sheep for the animals which the workers bred, and the words with French origin pork, beef and mutton for the meats which the rulers ate), followed by Latin words and phrases coming from universities, doctors, theologians and lawyers.
Then came words from the then colonies and trading partners - ketchup, bungalow, thug, typhoon etc.
This is partly why English, with Chinese, has the largest vocabulary of all languages.

hmmm… yes… I know… that would be why I wrote what I did :wink:

I thought arabic has the largest vocabulary.
Arabic dictionary comes in ten or twelve volumes, here’s what I found on arabic:

[quote]Original Arabic Script

Arabic is spoken by over 400 million people in the world, making it the 5th most spoken language in the world.

Arabic is the Sacred Language of Islam its script is used to write languages from all over the world as on the chart below. The Arabic Language is of awe-inspiring linguistic beauty many times accurate translations of Arabic cannot be made because the translating language does not have the depth and ability to describe what Arabic can. [color=red]
Arabic has the largest vocabulary of any other language in the world. [/color]It is spoken in many dialects yet everyone can speak and understand the Classical Arabic (fus’ha) which is used for the news, books, papers, education, government etc