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Prescriptivism and Descriptivism in Linguistics (was Re: Support Existing Content)

From: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>
Date: Fri, 4 May 2007 13:59:46 -0700
Message-Id: <C37D09F7-4C8C-4E4B-BE29-A26F8AE8A282@apple.com>
Cc: tina@greytower.net, public-html@w3.org, www-html@w3.org
To: Jeff Schiller <codedread@gmail.com>


On May 4, 2007, at 9:27 AM, Jeff Schiller wrote:

>
>>   Personally I'd rather have one well-written book in grammatically
>>   correct English than a thousand and one I couldn't make heads or  
>> tail
>>   of.
>
> Your sentence ends in a preposition.  Yoink!
>
> Still think exacting, proper grammar makes communication easier?  :)
>
> (Of course I'm waiting for the grammar experts to come down on my and
> tell me that the grammar rules that I learned in grade school are now
> incorrect, but until that time...)

Most linguists these days subscribe to a descriptivist view, not a  
prescriptivist one. In other words, they try to describe how people  
actually do speak, rather than laying down rules for how they should.  
Ending a sentence with a preposition would be a nonstandard usage to  
be avoided when writing in a high-status dialect, but is perfectly  
understandable and not problematic in colloquial usage.

I think we could learn a lot from the descriptivist vs.  
prescriptivist debate in linguistics. Some resources on the topic:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_prescription
http://www.yaelf.com/swot.shtml
http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/vip/001227.html

Regards,
Maciej
Received on Friday, 4 May 2007 21:00:01 UTC

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