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The New Yorker and “Postmodernism Lite”

Posted by Richard on July 30, 2012

In The New Yorker, dance critic Joan Acocella wrote an essay, disguised as a review of Henry Hitching’s The Language Wars: A History of Proper English, on the dichotomy between prescriptivist and descriptivist theories of language. At Slate, Steven Pinker, a member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel, dissected and demolished Acocella’s “topsy-turvy understanding of linguistics.”

If you’re interested in language and linguistics, read both. Pinker’s is by far the better, but reading Acocella’s first allows you to appreciate his response all the more, and especially the connection to what he calls “The New Yorker’s attitude toward science, which might be called Postmodernism Lite. “

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