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Tdol
17-Aug-2003, 16:47
Which do you prefer?

Red5
18-Aug-2003, 10:06
For reference:

Descriptive Grammar (http://www.usingenglish.com/glossary/descriptive-grammar.html)

Prescriptive Grammar (http://www.usingenglish.com/glossary/prescriptive-grammar.html)

niebylaki
11-Nov-2005, 16:33
I've got a big request. Write me the titles of good books which describe descriptive and prescriptive grammar, please.

Tdol
12-Nov-2005, 08:40
For descritpive grammar, this is very good:
http://www.usingenglish.com/amazon/us/0194420981.html (http://www.usingenglish.com/amazon/us/0194420981.html%28Michael) (Michael Swan Practical English Usage)
For presecriptive grammar, try Fowler's English Usage:
http://www.usingenglish.com/amazon/us/0198610211.html

Infosaturated
10-Feb-2006, 06:06
Descriptive has the edge in my opinion but prescriptive also has a role to play.

Language use is forever evolving and it should because old forms are often unnecessarily complex or do not serve current needs.

For example, "swimmed" is often used rather than swam in common speech. Why should people have to learn countless irregular verb forms just because they survived the modernization of the English language? Although it makes me cringe, there is nothing inherently better about the form "went" verses the form "goed". It's just an archaic convention.

The prescriptive approach is also valuable in that universal comprehension requires that everyone "speaks the same language". There are already many different regional forms of English. To an extent localized variations of English defeat the core purpose of language, communication.

Sebaylias
26-Feb-2006, 23:56
If you're a linguist than it must, or can only be descriptive, if you're a teacher of English than both must play a part.
That's all really.

Presriptive grammar no longer exists for us linguists since it is our job to describe what we see/hear not inform what it should be in BBC English :)

alexrps08
14-Mar-2006, 06:35
While studying TESL I discovered I learnt grammar in the descriptive manner. I may not know for sure what is wrong in certain sentences but I was able to get top marks for English at every school exam.

riverkid
19-Aug-2006, 17:39
"Which is better?" is the wrong question. The major problem with prescriptive grammar has been, and it continues to this day, that most, many, whatever the number, of the "rules" of prescriptive grammar are simply false.

Even the prescriptions that work, methods of citation, punctuation, the little conventionss we use for writing are not cast in stone.

There actually isn't any such thing as prescriptive grammar. If there is/was a prescription, it is/was false. Why? Because prescriptive grammar simply delineates correct versus incorrect based on mere opinions. How can any scientific pursuit be based on opinions? It's an impossibility!

Descriptive grammar completely fills the bill. It lets us know where each and every collocation [in a wider sense, not in the narrow sense of one sentence/utterance] used by a native speaker fits into the language.

Casiopea
02-Sep-2006, 15:48
How can any scientific pursuit be based on opinions? It's an impossibility! :-D Quite interesting since that's the exact argument traditionalists have in the past used against descriptive grammars. 8-) Seems as if the winds are changing: same flow, different direction. ;-)

The thing is, both camps are housed with rules; both have something worthwhile to offer. Why choose just the one?

I agree with you river, " 'Which is better?' is the wrong question", but is sure does make for a great debate. :-D:up:

Humble
03-Sep-2006, 08:20
I agree with Riverkid and Casiopea - it's a wrong question. One does not exclude the other. The question is a fallacy which I ,unfortunately, can't define (contradictory premises?).

riverkid
10-Sep-2006, 03:13
Casiopea:
Quite interesting since that's the exact argument traditionalists have in the past used against descriptive grammars.

The traditionalists were wrong then and they're wrong now, Casi.

The thing is, both camps are housed with rules; both have something worthwhile to offer. Why choose just the one?

The difference is, Descriptive grammars describe the real rules, the ones that accurately portray how language works. Prescriptive grammars that prescribe have nothing to offer save for misconceptions about language.

It's so clear, I sometimes wonder aloud how people can miss it. When you describe language accurately, you have Descriptivism, and the essence of science. When you prescribe, you have the very antithesis of science, opinions generating decisions.

Many people get the wrong idea about descriptivism. They think that it allows a free for all wrt language. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many also mistakely think that Prescriptivism guards the rules of English. Prescriptivism holds to such a simplistic view of language that it is not at all surprising that so much of it is wrong.

No doubt, prescriptivists get some things right and in this, they too have something to offer. But when they get something right, they are simply being descriptive, so why would anyone want to waste their time with a prescriptive grammar. Why plow through a "Fowler", trying to sort out the trash from the good stuff?

The Language Works
17-Nov-2006, 05:09
In terms of curriculum development, this topic is an endless one. Arguably, descriptive grammar is constantly challenging prescriptive grammar to become more user-friendly. Stiff and formal rules of grammar are slowly being nudged into the dust heap of language history by new, perhaps more logical, forms. This is a good thing.

The obvious question a discussion on this topic poses is: "Whose grammar?"
Descriptive and prescriptive grammars vary in most languages, but perhaps more so when it comes to English. North American and British grammars may be nearly identical when it comes to the text books, but vary to some degree on the descriptive front:

1) Have you got? vs. Do you have?
2) Shall we go? vs. Would you like to leave?

These examples may not be the best, but you can see the point.

If we vote for descriptive grammar (and I hope most people do) we need to give a wide berth to the forms earmarked as "correct" or acceptable. Perhaps the consequence would be a more colorful and interesting English for the future.

Please visit us:
Home (http://www.lang-works.com)
English curriculum for young learners

alienvoord
05-Dec-2006, 23:20
For example, "swimmed" is often used rather than swam in common speech. Why should people have to learn countless irregular verb forms just because they survived the modernization of the English language? Although it makes me cringe, there is nothing inherently better about the form "went" verses the form "goed". It's just an archaic convention.


That has nothing to do with descriptivism. "went" is the past tense of "go" in standard English. That is a fact. I think any descriptive linguist would say that "goed" was a variation from the norm, and would point out that "went" is the standard past tense.

Niall
15-Jan-2007, 19:57
Prescriptive grammer often forms the basis of descriptive grammer.

As much as I love being analytical, descriptive grammer can often become the creation of a rule set for a specific group of people. As in the end, descriptive grammer is moulding grammer around a specific model.

Prescriptive, on the otherhand, can seem overbearing, and forced. Yet to inforce a universal set of grammer rules seems to be the best thing to do.

As "balanced" and indecisive as it sounds, a happy medium between both seems appropriate. Though i would certainly lean more towards prescriptive.

Tdol
17-Jan-2007, 06:23
A lot depends on the quality of the description or the prescription- in both camps, there are good and bad examples. I agree that taking from both sides is a balanced approach and don't see it as indecisive. I don't see why the two have to be seen in opposition. ;-)

sambasivarao
23-Jan-2007, 06:51
:roll: :lol: :-D
Which do you prefer?


descriptive allows new items into laguage as laguage is ever changing matter.

marchwind
25-Feb-2007, 11:06
I agree that both descriptive and prescriptive grammar have something to offer. I'd take the best each has to offer.

Tuco
01-Mar-2010, 17:03
Which do you prefer?


I agree with Riverkid and Casiopea - it's a wrong question. One does not exclude the other. The question is a fallacy which I ,unfortunately, can't define (contradictory premises?).


Which is better? Agreed; this is the wrong question. It assumes the premise that one is better, yet the answer is subjective.

Which do I prefer? I am a strict prescriptivist. Surely English is destined therefore, to breath and grow; but I find the grammatical pendulum all the way to the left. I believe many people find descriptivism a convenient shade from the need to learn rules. They know most of them, so the rest really don't matter. They are fringe rules anyway.

This is also a loaded question. I can not think of a single source, including prescriptive grammars, written according to prescription from cover to cover, which is really too bad.

Communication is made possible by prescription. Variations in usage are inevitable. Now ask what kind of change are we talking about?

Functional shift is very useful. The noun paint as a verb to paint facilitates communication, and breaks no rule. Neologisms are the basis of any language. They offer a way of expressing an idea, enriching the language. Neologisms break no rules. Prescriptive errors typically degrade the language, and confuse meaning, hindering clarity, and sometimes breaking rules. Allowing infer to mean imply is pointless. It is an incestuous relationship, but can be found in descriptive dictionaries.

People say "to coin a phrase" when they mean "to cite a phrase." You can defend this under the umbrella of "usage," but it would be a waste of a perfectly good language.

I would like to read one book where the author and editor created a grammatically correct document just so I would have a model. That way, I wouldn't have to figure out what the author meant by context due to style.

Also, being grammatically correct does not mean formal English. I would like to preserve the subjunctive mood even if using colloquial slang. A book written this way would be a joy.

By the way, hi everyone. I'm Tuco! I didn't introduce myself in an introductory forum.

Tuco
01-Mar-2010, 17:25
Descriptive and prescriptive grammars vary in most languages, but perhaps more so when it comes to English. North American and British grammars may be nearly identical when it comes to the text books, but vary to some degree on the descriptive front:

1) Have you got? vs. Do you have?
2) Shall we go? vs. Would you like to leave?



I love example one, part one. It points out why prescriptivists are rubbed the wrong way by descriptivists. I don't mind informal, colloquial, and slang usage, but the first half of example one is just noise pollution. It shows someone who doesn't understand the words that are coming out of their mouth.

I don't mean that in an ugly way. I mean it simply as a matter of fact.

Sometimes I make grammatical errors. When they are brought to my attention, learning occurs. I like learning. I grow when I learn. It is like growing a muscle as apposed to growing an extra arm out of my head.

I know this kind of language doesn't make friends. The bottom line is that you can write and speak however you want, but if you aren't speaking according to prescription, your speech falls into one of two categories.

1. Poetic license/style and possibly lazy
2. Wrong.

If your writing or speech is wrong as a matter of style, it can be grammatically incorrect and it doesn't matter. The questions are, can the descriptivist admit it, and can the prescriptivist deal with it. If so, end of story. It is really that simple.