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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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They seem fine to begin to define the difference.

What is lacking, and what can be a bridge between the two positions, is the notion of "appropriateness".
ForbesThey seem fine to begin to define the difference.

What is lacking, and what can be a bridge between the two positions, is the notion of "appropriateness".

I think quite a few descriptivists have already built that bridge.
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"Descriptivism is based on the view that the assignment of a superior status to one variety of language is often arbitrary..."

That's interesting. Why "often"?

In what circumstances would it not be arbitrary, in the speaker's opinion?

MrP
MrPedantic


"Descriptivism is based on the view that the assignment of a superior status to one variety of language is often arbitrary..."

That's interesting. Why "often"?

In what circumstances would it not be arbitrary, in the speaker's opinion?

MrP

When it's based on "intrinisic linguistic features", I guess
Would you say that this (from the same book as above) is true:

"Both (prescriptivist and descriptivists) agree that acqusition of the standard language is necessary but argue that different routes and procedures for its aquisition are necessary."
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MilkyWhen it's based on "intrinisic linguistic features", I guess

I'm struggling to think of an intrinsic linguistic factor that could confer superior status on one variety of language.

Can anyone else think of one?

MrP
Milky"Both (prescriptivist and descriptivists) agree that acqusition of the standard language is necessary but argue that different routes and procedures for its aquisition are necessary."

Many speakers don't acquire "the standard language"; the latter is therefore clearly not necessary, in any absolute sense. So it's difficult to see how that statement could form part of a descriptivist position.

Prescriptivists on the other hand are not necessarily concerned with the general acquisition of standard language: the author of a style guide may be concerned solely with conferring a perceived advantage on his readers, e.g.

1. Those people say X; but that's a mistake; say Y, and your English will be superior and impress editors, interviewers, the readers of the Times, etc.

Clearly, this perceived superiority depends on the existence of X-sayers.

MrP
<Prescriptivists on the other hand are not necessarily concerned with the general acquisition of standard language:>

But aren't many prescriptive grammars targeted at national education of children and teenagers? Don't such grammaticians collaborate world wide with education boards to bring about a situation which favours written standard English ? Or do you think that all prescriptivists write only for the publishing world?
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