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Are these definitions of prescriptivism and descriptivism a good place to start for someone who wishes to know the differences in the two ways of thinking?

"Prescriptivism is based on the view that one variety of language is inherently superior to others and that this more highly valued variety should be imposed on the whole of a particular speech community."

"Descriptivism is based on the view that the assignment of a superior status to one variety of language is often arbitrary and is more likely to be the result of socio-economic factors than of intrinic linguistic factors."

From Keywords in Language and Literacy. By Ronald Carter
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Comments  (Page 3) 
Hi everyone,
I felt I had to reply, because I really like descriptive grammar (I think it's the only one that makes sense), and I totally hate prescriptive grammar (it is meaningless, it is ridiculous, it is an annoying fairy tale).
I'll try to give my definitions:
Prescriptive grammar: grammar based on rules that don't reflect the real language.
Descriptive grammar: grammar based on very general rules that reflect the real language and most of its common variations.

Prescriptive grammar doesn't make any sense. It is extemely confusing for learners, and ridiculous for native speakers. It is just lies, but called "grammar" anyway. Prescriptive grammarians are really not understanding what a language is, and what it is for.
Descriptive grammar really makes sense for learners. It describes the language the way it really is. Unfortunatley, there aren't any good grammar books based on descriptive grammar. I guess I'll have to write a descriptive grammar myself, sooner or later, LOL.

So, "This is I" is wrong, because it sounds odd, "This is me" is perfectly ok, because everyone talks that way. In the same way, "Neither of them are coming is wrong, it sould be neither of them is coming" is just a lie. And "I ain't got no money. You kiddin?" is not wrong, you just have to understand how it is used. Even "bye milky, luv u" and "h3ll0 3v3r10n3!" are not wrong. But... but "Are you live China? I want a lot make friend with everyone you, send mail me at [email protected]" would be wrong, I guess.

Emotion: smile
"Are you live China? I want a lot make friend with everyone you, send mail me at [email protected]" would be wrong, I guess.
If I understand the difference between prescriptive and descriptive (and when it comes to all the subtleties, I probably don't), this "would be wrong" is only possible in the mouth of a prescriptive grammarian. A descriptive grammarian would have said "would not be used", or he would have put some probability measure on it: "This kind of statement would be made with a probability of .0000001." But he would never use the words "right" or "wrong". Those are theoretical constructs only of prescriptive grammar.

CJ
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<A descriptive grammarian would have said "would not be used", >

Or "would not be acceptable".
So you take "not acceptable" to be part of the descriptive grammarians' world, equivalent to "would not be used". To me "(not) acceptable" is as charged with prescription as "wrong", so I'm surprised to hear that.

CJ
<To me "(not) acceptable" is as charged with prescription as "wrong", so I'm surprised to hear that.>

If someone informs me about what is acceptable in certain circumstances, I don't always assume that he is being personal.
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Hi,
I wanted to say it would probably be considered wrong because it is not a structure that is part of English, considering English as a first language.
It's like the bit-beet merger (both pronounced "beet"). Is there a dialect that merge those? No, you would say. But I could tell you that's the way Italian speak English, so it's actually Italian English. So, now, would you say that merger should be considered, from a descriptive point of view? I wouldn't take it into account, because English is not the first language in Italy, it is not an official language, and it is not a second language either.

That's why I said that "Are you live in China" instead of "Do you live in China" is wrong, because it is not part of English, when you consider English as a first language, second language, or official language.

But if you want to consider all of those variations... then it's a mess! You would have to write a desctiptive grammar that takes account of the way Italians, Germans, etc. speak English.
KooyeenYou would have to write a descriptive grammar that takes account of the way Italians, Germans, etc. speak English.

That is an intriguing idea. A continuum, with English at one end, German at the other, and Engan/Germlish in the middle.

MrP
Milky<To me "(not) acceptable" is as charged with prescription as "wrong", so I'm surprised to hear that.>

If someone informs me about what is acceptable in certain circumstances, I don't always assume that he is being personal.

But "acceptable" is nonetheless "acceptable to someone".

So wouldn't that be "prescriptiveness one step removed"?

MrP
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<So wouldn't that be "prescriptiveness one step removed"?>

Are you suggesting that if a linguist informs me that in certain variants, dialects etc. certain forms are not acceptable, then that linguist is a prescriptivist?
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