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RE: [OT] The stigma of schema
- From: Tim Bray <email@example.com>
- To: XML DEV <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2001 13:29:02 -0700
At 08:20 PM 29/06/01 +0100, Fotios wrote:
>Again: According to English dictionaries "schemata" *is* the right plural
>form of "schema".
I had until now demonstrated remarkable restraint in forgoing a
gleeful dip into unbridled pedantry, but hey, it's Friday
afternoon. Furthermore, my 2 years' participation in the
construction of the Oxford English Dictionary (OK, at the tech
rather than lexicographic end, but still) leaves me with a hot
button that Mr. Fotios just pushed.
English or any other living language is an entity that would
exist even if there were no dictionaries; it is effectively
defined by the daily practices of the people that use it,
heavily influenced by the teaching professions. It moves, it
shifts, it squirms, it emits bad smells, it lives. All the
best dictionaries recognize that their role is *descriptive* -
describing what the language is - rather than *prescriptive* -
trying to prescribe rules for what the language should be.
For some good readable discussion of this I recommend the books
by Steven Pinker - the latest, "Words and Rules" packs a huge
amount of wisdom, common sense and fun in to 300 pages of
discussion of irregular verbs (and some plural forms) using
them as a tool to draw conclusions about language.
Lots of educated, articulate people find it natural to
use "schemas" in both written and spoken discourse. Thus it
is incontrovertibly a part of both the written and spoken
English language. So is "schemata". It is useful for the
community that discusses schemas to settle on one of these
forms merely as a matter of conventional convenience. -T