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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 7) 
By the way, there are [url=http://jobfunctions.bnet.com/download.aspx?&docid=253561&promo=100511]PRACTICAL CONCERNS[/url].
Mister MicawberBy the way, there are [url=http://jobfunctions.bnet.com/download.aspx?&docid=253561&promo=100511]PRACTICAL CONCERNS[/url].

Could you expand on that, Mr M?
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Jim. please tell us what is bunk about the explanation given under the heading "Description versus prescription" here:

Would this be seen as a prescriptivist statement or a descriptivist one?

"I'd like to can swim" is ungrammatical. In English, modal auxiliaries like can and must are disallowed in infinitival clauses."
Milky"I'd like to can swim" is ungrammatical. In English, modal auxiliaries like can and must are disallowed in infinitival clauses."

That is a statement that is true of any variety of English with which I am familiar. Prescriptivists and descriptivists are often going to agree that something is plain wrong.

I think a cloud of semantic confusion has descended on this thread.

"Prescriptivist" can be used to describe someone with pet hates, such as using split infinitives or employing an intrusive 'r' - the sort of people who write to the BBC.

"Descriptivist" can be used to describe someone who thinks that anything goes.

There are an infinite number of positions to take between these two extremes.
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Hello Milky,
MilkyJim. please tell us what is bunk about the explanation given under the heading "Description versus prescription" here:



Out of interest, what do you make of this passage from further on in Chapter 1:


[1] i a. It is clear whom they had in mind. b. It’s clear who they had in mind.

ii a. Kim and I saw the accident. b. !Kim and me saw the accident.

In [ i ], both versions belong to Standard English, with [ a ] somewhat formal, and [ b ] neutral or slightly informal. There is no difference in grammaticality. But in [ ii ], the [ a ] version is standard, the [ b ] version non-standard; we use the ‘!’ symbol to mark a construction or form as ungrammatical in Standard English but grammatical in a non-standard dialect.

MrP

<"Prescriptivist" can be used to describe someone with pet hates, such as using split infinitives or employing an intrusive 'r' - the sort of people who write to the BBC.

"Descriptivist" can be used to describe someone who thinks that anything goes.>

Too simplistic for my liking, Mr P. And, not useful at all on a linguistics forum.
<Out of interest, what do you make of this passage from further on in Chapter 1:>

What do I make of it? That's a rather open question. What exactly are you focusing on there?
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Milky<"Prescriptivist" can be used to describe someone with pet hates, such as using split infinitives or employing an intrusive 'r' - the sort of people who write to the BBC.

"Descriptivist" can be used to describe someone who thinks that anything goes.>

Too simplistic for my liking, Mr P. And, not useful at all on a linguistics forum.

It was me actually.

The point I was trying to make is that until we decide what we mean by the two terms questions such as: "Would a prescriptivist/descriptivist say x or y in this case?" are difficult to answer. It is not helpful in any forum, linguistics or otherwise, if we all mean different things by the same word.

Wikipedia makes this point:

Linguistic description is often contrasted with linguistic prescription, which is found especially in education and in publishing. Prescription seeks to define standard language forms and give advice on effective language use, and can be thought of as the attempt to present the fruits of descriptive research in a learnable form, though it also draws on more subjective aspects of language aesthetics. Prescription and description are essentially complementary, but have different priorities and sometimes are seen to be in conflict.

My italics.
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