- For Teachers
Which do you prefer?
I've got a big request. Write me the titles of good books which describe descriptive and prescriptive grammar, please.
For descritpive grammar, this is very good:
http://www.usingenglish.com/amazon/us/0194420981.html (Michael Swan Practical English Usage)
For presecriptive grammar, try Fowler's English Usage:
Last edited by Red5; 05-Dec-2006 at 22:48.
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.
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 :)
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.
"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.
Last edited by riverkid; 20-Aug-2006 at 02:10.
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.
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?).