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"Regional dialects are structurally or expressively inferior to the standard language."

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That 'we are all abiding by some basic (prescriptive) rules of English grammar' amounts to me something like a tautology: a language is idiosyncratic in that it has some structural rules (instead of being arbitrary... let's do an experiment: say I you understand what won't... at any rate you will have to guess what I am saying: is that 'You won't understand what I say'? or is it 'I won't understand what you say'?). Therefore to speak a language people of course needs to know those rules. This is valid of both L1 and L2 speakers of a particular language, and hence fails to depict the difference between we non - native speakers of English and those who are. What makes a native speaker, in this respect, different than non - native ones is that even without a set of EXPLICIT rules (btw: some native speakers can be assertive, and hence 'prescriptive', the NET during my years in college for example) they could do well, whereas a foreign language learner tends to prescribe rules HIMSELF and in turn has a substantially lower command than his L1.
AnonymousWow, Randy_Tam! I thought I was verbose!

Your points are well taken, but I'll have to look at the Noam Chompsky reference before I can go on. Do you have a title of the book/paper?

It seems that with respect to prescriptivism, you take umbrage with L1 prescriptivism over L2; the sort of contrived nature of L1 'grammar rules' that are foisted upon the young. I agree to a certain extent, but I'll have to mull that over as well.

To save your time, I will type the relevant paragraphs here:

In the modern period these traditional concerns were displaced, in part by behaviorist currents, in part by various structuralist approaches, which radically narrowed the domain of inquiry while greatly expanding the database for some future inquiry that might return to the traditional --- and surely valid --- concerns. To address them required a better understanding of the fact that language involves 'infinite use of finite means', in one classic formulation. Advances in the formal sciences provided that understanding, making it feasible to deal with problems constructively. Generative grammar can be regarded as a kind of confluence of long - forgotten concerns of the study of language and mind, and new understanding provided by the formal sciences.

The first efforts to approach these problems quickly revealed that traditional grammatical and lexical studies do not begin to describe, let alone explain, the most elementary facts about even the best - studied languages. Rather, they provide hints that can be used by the reader who already has tacit knowledge of the language, and of particular languages; the central topic of inquiry was, in substantial measure, simply ignored. Since the requisite tacit knowledge is so easily accessed without reflection, traditional grammars and dictionaries appear to have very broad coverage of linguistic data. That is an illusion, however, as we quickly discover when we try to spell out what is taken for granted: the nature of the language faculty, and its state in particular cases.

(Chomsky, <The Minimalist Programme>, p.4)

What I was trying to bring out is that 'prescriptivism is UNNECESSARY in L1 acquisition (note: even if some in the process were prescribed some sets of rules, it does not refute my statement, UNLESS it is proven that EVERY child needs this set of rules in L1 acquisition), whereas in L2 learning, the student TENDS to prescribe a set of rules (even if they were not given so). This can be a distinction between the 2.
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Randy_TamThat 'we are all abiding by some basic (prescriptive) rules of English grammar' amounts to me something like a tautology: a language is idiosyncratic in that it has some structural rules (instead of being arbitrary... let's do an experiment: say I you understand what won't... at any rate you will have to guess what I am saying: is that 'You won't understand what I say'? or is it 'I won't understand what you say'?). Therefore to speak a language people of course needs to know those rules. This is valid of both L1 and L2 speakers of a particular language, and hence fails to depict the difference between we non - native speakers of English and those who are. What makes a native speaker, in this respect, different than non - native ones is that even without a set of EXPLICIT rules (btw: some native speakers can be assertive, and hence 'prescriptive', the NET during my years in college for example) they could do well, whereas a foreign language learner tends to prescribe rules HIMSELF and in turn has a substantially lower command than his L1.
Emotion: tongue tied Yes, this is Chomsky 101. We're saying the same thing, except I don't have a clue how this fits into what you were saying. Isn't this pretty much the basic premise in ESL teaching?
um... ESL, or more precisely L2 learning / teaching, is not my property, although my major is pretty much concerned with this issue (English and Education). What he is discussing is the inadequacies in the traditional approaches to language and lexicon, in that they fail to recognize the nature of the language faculty, and go astray by giving mere hints (E - language, language evidence) as to how... say, a particular word is used in some circumstances, while not really stating how that word 'selects' other elements (which is dealt with in his Theta Theory). A typical dictionary is something composed of: 1. the 'meaning' of the word, 2. how the word is used in different contexts ('examples'): which does not really come across the Thematic features of that word (eg. _NP? ... to ...? ? ? ?) 3. the lexical category (again, this must be carefully examined --- there exists no one to one relation between 'Grammatical Function' and 'lexical category'. For instance, a Subject is not necessarily an NP) This is only useful provided that the person already possesses some tacit knowledge about the language. However, when this comes to a scientific study of the nature of the language faculty, such an approach as this into 'language' is hardly adequate. But to start the study all over again and do it the other way round (to look at things from inside) is to obliterate everything, which means to deteriorate students' incentive, whereas carrying on with the established approach dismays linguists as much as it dismays student to start a new one. This is where the tension arises. It is not surprising to observe subsequently that 'prescriptivism' (or its reduced form, a pseudo - 'descriptive' approach) still dominates the pedagogic circle, for the sake of simplicity.

However, studies appear to suggest that correction, one of the major features in the 'prescriptive approach', does not seem to work (eg. Vivian Cook, <Introduction to Chomsky's Universal Grammar> 1996ed., p.96 - 99), as children tend to simply ignore such corrections. (so I can, to throw out some technical jargons, conclude that 'correction' does not fulfill the take - up requirement) However, L2 learners are more aware of the explicit rules taught to them, where most, if not all, of whom have once read something like 'a Grammar of Latin', or 'a Grammar of English'. As the cognitive module by which they LEARN an L2 is different than the one they ACQUIRE their L1, the way whereby they LEARN it is different. Here I assert that L2 learning is closer to the way we learn cycling or to swim, in which one tends to explicitly generalize rules of some sort. That's why I suggested that L2 learners tend to prescribe rules to the language they are learning (as it is of human nature to make generalizations when learning a technique), PROVIDED THAT they have the initiative to learn the language.

This is anyway only one of the supporting clues for my main point that 'prescriptivism is UNNECESSARY in L1 acquisition'... don't just get stunned by the word Chomsky. His works are not but fascinating.
What are we to make of the fact that adult native speakers often "self-prescriptivise"?

Example:

"Oh, hello, MrP. MissQ was just telling Randy and me – Randy and I – about L1 acquisition."

MrP
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Randy_Tammy major is pretty much concerned with this issue (English and Education
I guessed as much Emotion: big smile I have friends who study ESL/Eng. ed.
Randy_TamThis is anyway only one of the supporting clues for my main point that 'prescriptivism is UNNECESSARY in L1 acquisition'... don't just get stunned by the word Chomsky. His works are not but fascinating.
From what I've studied and heard, he's an egocentric fella who likes to hear nobody's voice but his own.

If prescriptivism is unnecessary in L1 acquisition, then dictionaries will only exist for L2 speakers, which isn't the case.

Like grammar, linguistic theories provide only guidelines. Users have to know when these guidelines fail to account for the grey areas. Sadly, HK curriculum treat English studies too much like a science. Perhaps this approach is more comfortable for learners used to a logic-driven curriculum (no thanks to the grammar/science lessons). But discussing English too much in its theoretical constructs is like talking about love while staying celibate.

I'd like to see HK learners terminate this platonic relationship with English and develop a passionate love affair with it.
ah, no... I didn't say they 'prescriptivise'. What I say is that L2 learners tend to do so in an explicit manner (eg. write down some sort of rules), whereas L1 speakers do not, at least in such a manner. (though exceptions may occur as to the acquisition of 'peripheral grammar': eg. 'goed' or 'went'? why 'happy to do sth' (happy + CP, ... to ...) but not 'happy do sth' (happy + CP))

This being said, I come to repeat one of the points..., 'prescriptive pedagogy is not necessary in L1 acquisition'.

One thing that may appear misleading to you is that I once wrote 'though they may be assertive, the NET during my years in college for example.' I may 'prescriptive' as well, to non - native speakers of Cantonese. A language, from de Saussurean perspective, is composed of all the 'speeches' of the native speakers of that language. I may be prescribing to non - native speakers the set of rules that formulate my 'speech' (and thus disapproving of any other language variants). But this, again, seems to me irrelevant to my point relative to L1 acquisition.
'If prescriptivism is unnecessary in L1 acquisition, then dictionaries will only exist for L2 speakers, which isn't the case.'

Your deduction appears to me fallacious. Using dictionaries do not necessarily mean the chap is prescribing a rule. Take for example, if I throw out the word 'les betes noires', which is of course not an English word (but widely used therein!), you may well be perplexed as to the MEANING of it. That you are a native speaker of a language does not immunize you of being perplexed by the meaning. You may well guess from the context to what functional / lexical category the item belongs, but still have no idea what that means. This is when the dictionary comes into play. Take a look at Collins - Cobuild, or the Oxford Dictionary of English, both of which are something 'authoritative'. It is rather evident that these dictionaries are far more concerned with the notion of 'meaning' than they are really making out a set of rules, thus giving the reader a brief idea as to what the word means, and under what circumstances these meanings come into being.

It would be far more painstaking of L2 learners just to understand the meaning of an item in a particular context (esp. if the language is not a cognate to the languages he already know... English vis a vis Chinese for example), for which reason of course dictionary is an even more useful tool. An interesting remark to add is that grammatical rules observed in dictionaries for learners of the language seldom exist in their counterparts for native speakers. It suggests to me that 'prescriptivism'(at least at the syntactic level) plays really a negligible role in L1 acquisition, if any.

Therefore I rescue my statement by dissociating the relationship between 'prescriptivism' and 'dictionary'.

I do not deny the fact that to dig deep into 'language rules' is somehow a misfire in studying a language as much as I do not deny 'prescriptivism' is a useful way to begin learning a language. Language is in its nature dynamic, whereas rules are generalized according as the dynamism goes on. Therefore to stick to the rules appears to disregard this very nature of language. But to 'let the language take care of itself' is based on the assumption that the speaker already has sufficient command of the language, the study of which begins by 'prescriptivism', wherefore I think the 2 ways of learning can co - exist, and together play the main role accordingly.

Chomsky is not as 'egocentric' (ie. parochial, biggotted) as some may think. His theories have come to constant change, and most of which is not initiated by himself but criticisms from other linguistics schools. eg. his distinction drawn between the Grammatical Function and the Theta Role was initiated by Frantisek Danes, a functionalist of the Prague school, who had the opinion that Chomsky's PS rules somehow disregarded the lack of one - to - one relationship between the Grammatical Functions and the lexical categories, for which Chomsky, in response, devised a Theta Theory and later, the Case Theory (to explain the relationship between NPs and predicates and the inflectional morphology). Most of the terms used therein are in agreement with those of the Prage shool (but of course, save the 'Theme Rheme' relationship devised for a different purpose --- the FSP). To give him a fairer judgement, I think every academic who has some achievement tends to stick to his thinking, as he is much confident in it. Chomsky is just believing in what he believes and disapproves of what he does not. It is just like an atheist will definitely speak of burning incense for our ancestors as superstition.
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Randy_Tam Using dictionaries do not necessarily mean the chap is prescribing a rule.
Now we are differing on the term prescriptivism itself. We seem to have built arguments on our own definitions, so to continue would be to split hairs over the term itself.

As for Chomsky, I suggest we sign up for Chomsky's next lecture and see for ourselves. I have it on good authority he cut students off though.

I don't understand why so many academic papers are written over something that is basically common sense. Non-native speakers need more explicit rules/guidelines than native speakers. So? (But wait, I'm sure somebody will suggest we conduct more research just to confirm this.)
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