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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 6) 
Milky<If not his personal opinion, then whose? If someone else's, then why is there no credit given for whose opinion it is? If it is based on a statistical sample, where is the data?>

So you want all descriptivists to write something such as this every time they comment on usage, right?

"It is widely stated by speakers of x dialect/variant that the form XVXZZ is not acceptable in said dialect/variant."

That sounds a bit hit and miss. Maybe:

"As Calif, Milky & Pedantic (2003) have shown, the use of <x!é> before an unaccented vowel is unacceptable to speakers of the most prestigious form of Züxtl; though Forbes (2007) maintains that their data relates only to the Wxi region of Ù, and is unrepresentative of usage in other areas."

Calif, Jim, Milky and Pedantic, Mr (2003). 'Emphat!cally a Particle?', Journal of Züxtl Studies 126: 248–250.
Forbes (2007). 'Emphat!cally Not', Journal of Züxtl Studies 131: 202–397.

I would expect both articles to be stuffed with tabular data and the kind of exhaustive footnote that stretches over at least three pages.

MrP
Forbes
Milky
Why did you write "proscriptivist" and not "prescriptivist?

It was late.Emotion: embarrassed

I took it for a useful third term: the prescriptivist tells you which words to use, while the proscriptivist tells you which words not to use...
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<I would expect both articles to be stuffed with tabular data and the kind of exhaustive footnote that stretches over at least three pages.>

Thank God there are those of us who don't need such nonsense. Up with the Descriptivists!


Thank God there are those of us who don't need such nonsense.

You surprise me. I thought you inclined to the scientific approach:


Every sort of confusion is to be found in our minds; and it is this weakness in our nature that is exploited by many tricks of illusion. But satisfactory means have been found for dispelling these illusions by measuring, counting and weighing. We are no longer at the mercy of apparent differences of size and quantity and weight; the faculty which has done the counting, measuring or weighing takes control instead.

(Plato, Republic Book X)

MrP
Yawn!
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MilkyYawn!
Well, maybe Plato didn't put it very well.

I thought you favoured an approach which relied on the analysis of data, rather than personal opinion. In the past, for instance, you've sometimes posted results of searches within corpora for particular phrases, etc.

MrP
<I thought you favoured an approach which relied on the analysis of data, rather than personal opinion.>

I do.
I fear the citations would be something like "Fred in the pub" and "Vera in the launderette".
Yup! My point exactly. The judgments that descriptive grammarians make in determining whether to place an asterisk on a sentence are completely seat-of-the-pants judgments based on the grammar of those they associate with, or more likely, just their own grammar. All these claims that descriptive grammar is based on scientific data are bunk. Emotion: smile

CJ
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<The judgments that descriptive grammarians make in determining whether to place an asterisk on a sentence are completely seat-of-the-pants judgments based on the grammar of those they associate with, or more likely, just their own grammar.>

I'd say that comment is based on a seat-of-pants judgement. Are you a prescriptivist, Jim? It sounds as if you want to paint everything with the same brush in order to justify prescriptivism.
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