unusual language

Timothy Mayers (tmay9225@URIACC.URI.EDU)
Mon, 7 Oct 1996 11:02:33 -0400

Beth Baldwin writes:

>"Unusual language" is being used to promote the image of the intellectual
>elite. John Swales would say that this is typical of discourse
>communities; language is used to "exclude" those who do not belong to the
>inner circle of scholarly elite who are versed in this kind of language.
>Unfortunately, their skill is questionable in this case because I still
>contend that there is no emperor under these clothes. At least in the
>sentence in question, the writer/s have gotten so carried away with
>language that meaning is lost.

Beth, I'm a little troubled by this analysis. I have no intention or
desire to defend the _Space and Culture_ project, but your post here
reminds me of the kinds of arguments used by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and
Bob Dole when they attack intellectuals and teachers. I'm certainly not
saying you're "on their side" (your past posts make it abundantly clear to
me that you're not). But I do see a somewhat similar appeal being made. I
mean the identification (and subsequent demonization) of "elites," the
appeal to "common sense" (you don't use that term, but I sense it lurking
in there somewhere), etc. In the final sentence of the paragraph above,
you seem to appeal to a view of language-as-
instrument. In other words, the transmission of "meaning" is taken to be
the ultimate goal of language-users. Language always carries meaning(s), I
think, but it always does *other things* too. These other things exceed
and escape our intentions, and sometimes (at least for me) these other
things are more interesting than the propositional meanings and intentions
which language is supposed to convey.

Tim Mayers