Essay about Prescriptive Approach Vs Descriptive Approach to Language

Essay about Prescriptive Approach Vs Descriptive Approach to Language

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French grammarian, Dominique Bonhours, proved on his deathbed that a
grammarians work is never done when he gazed at those around his
deathbed and whispered, "I am about to- or I am going to- die; either
expression is used." Language is in a constant state of flux and there
is always controversy to changes in and attitudes towards language.
This is not something new, as it was the Romans that said the Vikings
speech sounded like the 'cawing of crows' because of their harsh
guttural sounds. The English language has evolved remarkably. The
Great Vowel Shift between 1400 and 1700 shows a great discontinuity in
pronunciation alone. Different attitudes towards language reached a
height during the 17th and 18th Centuries with Prescriptivists such as
Defoe, Swift and Louth. Prescriptivists believe that there is an
approach which sets out rules for what is regarded as correct in
language. Some prescriptivist rules for English include not splitting
infinitives, resulting in sentences such as 'to go boldly where no man
has gone before', rather than 'to boldly go'. The rationale behind
this was because the Latin infinitive is a single word, and so the
equivalent English construction should also be treated as if it were a
single unit. Prescriptivists rules include such things as 'bad'
language as ending a sentence with a preposition, multiple negation,
as two negatives destroy each other and make a positive, and using who
in place of whom.

One famous example of how the result can be if you are forced to
follow a prescriptivist rule is Winston Churchill's quote, "This is
the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put."
Descriptivi...


... middle of paper ...


...es in language may in the end prove
futile, it at least tests changes in the language and, in a sense,
makes them prove their worth.

Language is in a constant state of flux and change. Different
attitudes to language will always continue and be around, whether it
is towards grammar usage, lexis or pronunciation. By creating a
language academy, we would set rules and examples that may not be
followed by the vast majority of people. There is a middle way to
language change, such as dictionaries, which set out a formal system
of spelling that is followed throughout the country. The main problem
with a language academy is the fact that rules to language may be set
up that the vast majority of people do not understand or do not know
about. This is why a language academy would be of little use if placed
in our society.

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