Abby Normal



I’m intrigued by the idea of Multimodality. In Saundra Wright’s Morphology and Syntax class we looked at a big-time linguist’s book chapter entitled The Language Mavens. The chapter was about a group of prescriptivist grammar-zealots who spend a lot of their time policing the grammar of others, and pitching a tried and true, “get off my lawn” tip argument that went something like this: “Gone are the days of a great American populace wielding proper grammar and succinctly clear sentences… what remains is mere shambles of the languages once great and shining past.” It all boils down to the belief that the current culture is not paying enough attention to how they are using English and as such they are making egregious mistakes that could be avoided should anyone care to do the work.


The author of the chapter does not subscribe to this prescriptivist viewpoint.


In any language there might be two kinds of grammar. One is prescriptive and has to do with the defined ‘rules’ of grammar, and the other is descriptive and has to do with how grammar and syntax is actually constructed by real people in a real society 9meaning not just in an academic paper, but cut loose in the wild).


Pinker (the author of the work) give’s this example:


He describes a teenager responding to a parent’s utterance with the use of the phrase, “I could care less.”


The parent responds with understandable frustration and says, “I COULDN’T care less.”


The emphasis being on the word, couldn’t.

Pinker says that while the Prescriptivist might be technically correct s/he is also working very hard to ignore the context of the teenager’s response which is swaddled closely in weapon’s grade sarcasm and therefore perfectly understandable (regardless of perceived grammatical infraction) within the context of sarcasm and frustration.


Descriptivists might examine the context of a conversation and an utterance more closely and find that even though a phrase or an utterance might break a prescriptive rule, the descriptive, more-natural usage is ‘correct.’


I feel like this is where the English discipline and Multimodality conversation will be inevitably heading. There will be some who, more comfortable with the standard essay and standard modes of english-majory analysis who will call for a return to the greatness that was the essay and the academic journal, and there will be others who embrace the perceived shift of significance from the exclusive domain of the essay to other multimodal avenues of expression and conveyance. There will be a place for the essay for a long time to come, but it too will evolve to find ever-greater levels of significance and effectiveness as the technology we as a species use evolves even faster.


Sorry if any of this was just meaningless-jargon. I’m in a strange mood today. Hopefully the video will further explore a couple of the issues I personally had attempting to make the switch from the essay to the visual.





PS- I remember in Deep Space Nine, an old Star Trek show that I loved almost as much as Voyager a lot of the crew members walked around the space station reading on tablets. They depicted a world where whatever information you could possibly think of was available at the fingertips just as soon as you wanted it, and that being the case I think we are almost there. I could be shortsighted myself, but imagine the technology associated with the amber alert being used to send out a visual (or otherwise multimodal) argument to the tablets and phones and other gadgets people used. That would be the spread of information in such a way that people would have to react to either positively of negatively, especially if it was tied to a political end. I could see Martin Luther’s 95 Theses making an impact in that way today.

  1 comment for “Abby Normal

  1. Kassandra Bednarski
    Kassandra Bednarski
    April 2, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    I have to say I really appreciated the connection of the shift to multi-modality to the dichotomous relationship between descriptivists and prescriptivists. I have been struggling with multi-modality in that I’m not entirely sure if I fully understand what it entails beyond my arguably surface-level understanding of it… or I guess if one could ever fully understand multi-modality in its entirety. Regardless, it really highlighted the difference between our current, traditional education system (five paragraph essay, academic literacy practices) and the move towards multi-modality and its connection to expanding literacy practices.

    Similarly, it got me thinking about technology in general (and from there I just sat thinking for about an hour) and how multi-modality has to be incorporated in the classroom. If it’s present in our daily lives outside of the classroom, how can it not have a part inside the classroom? When we create too big of a gap between the classroom learning and outside interactions, we lose the applicability aspect of education.

    And I guess something I just noticed… I really admire your creativity and willingness to put yourself out there in terms of incorporating multi-modality into your posts. Loving the videos, raps, etc. Keep it up! Like I’ve said before, I feel like I learn from the readings, Kim, our class discussions, and your blog posts. So thanks for that :)

Comments are closed.