About this site

This is a place to explore our language. Do you want to learn more about how languages work? Read here. Do you have a question about what is "right" and "wrong" in English? Read here. Have you ever noticed something funny, strange, or confusing about the way people talk? Then this is the place for you. Here we can explore the do's, don'ts, and d'ohs of our language.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

What is a Language Maven

So what is a language maven? I am borrowing this term from Dr. Steven Pinker, a professor of Psychology at Harvard. (Pinker borrowed the term from the great New York Times columnist William Safire.) In his book The Language Instinct, he describes a language maven as a self-styled expert on the language. Mavens, according to Pinker, have firm views on the way language ought to be. He goes on to say that they tend to come across as pontificating know-it-alls who believe that American English is sliding into decay. I highly recommend The Language Instinct to anyone who is interested in how our minds process language.

Here are some things to look for in a good Language Maven:
**Precriptivity. A true language maven is prescriptive: they believe there is a right way and a wrong way to use language. (Compare this with descriptivity. Descriptivists are more interested in describing how language is used, without making value judgments.)

**Knowledge about language. This can be found with a little (or a lot) of research. Have fun reading about how we use language!

**Vitriol. Language mavens are a passionate breed. With unwavering conviction, and with the white-hot authority of a thousand zealots, they must sing out loud, sing out strong.

**Reliability. This is related to knowledge. A good maven should at least have the credentials to back up what he says.

**Accessability. Ideas are meant to be shared, and every language maven wants to share his expertise.

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About The Author

My name is Ben Edwards. I live in Cape Girardeau, Missouri where I grew up. In 2002, I graduated Truman State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics. I have a wife named Laura and a son named Michael. I am proud to be a Spanish teacher at Notre Dame Regional High School. When I am not working, I like to spend time with my family.