Victor wrote:Can you think of any concrete examples of that, Pster? I'd like to think the ability to distinguish restrictive and non-restrictive relative pronouns was basic, not advanced, English. Or have I missed the point?
You may be right. And it wasn't really the best example.
It's about a lot of things. Choosing just the right word in phrase after phrase. Choosing just the right metaphor. Coining a dozen words in a dozen pages. Formulating sentences that go on for a page. Choosing G, intending that your audience recognize that you are purposefully not choosing A, B, C, D, E or F, and having that intention fulfilled. Encapsulating an argument or a problem with an extremely pregnant phrase. I've seen brilliant people take over discussions of extremely subtle matters. I could never imagine somebody who wasn't a highly educated native speaker doing it. Now of course, sometimes a brilliant non-native speaker dominates a discussion. But when that happens, the audience makes all sorts of allowances and helps him along as it were. The more technical the subject is, the easier it is.
Those are thoughts about prose and dialectic. Another way to think of it is just in terms of poetry. Judging the exact effect of a combination of words is displaying a mastery of language use that goes far far beyond what we might count as "fluency".
That's my only point. There is a continuum. No English, Pidgin English, student of English, decent English, near fluent, "fluent", "completely fluent", native speaker, well educated native, excellent writer, brilliant thinker and writer, one of the greatest of her generation, one of the greatest ever, Hobbes, Shakespeare.
The people towards the end of that list have all made tens of thousands of decisions about style. That style is always developed around some content that is of particular concern. The merely "completely fluent" person can write a coherent paragraph for sure, but has probably made very few serious decisions about style. Some great writers only write books. Others only write essays. Those were serious decisions that were made for deep reasons.
I'm not saying that one needs to aim at the level of Hobbes and Shakespeare. But I am saying that they are masters of English. They have English skills
that the "completely fluent" person doesn't have.
Here's an example of a great English writer. He writes out everything long hand. No computer. Very little revision. See First Pages:http://www.amazon.com/The-Machiavellian ... ian+moment