Descriptivism, prescriptivism and the evolution of language

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galaxyrocker
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Re: Descriptivism, prescriptivism and the evolution of language

Postby galaxyrocker » Sun Dec 18, 2016 12:49 am

dampingwire wrote:
Unless any particular descriptivist grammar book happens to state "anything not in this book is fine too" then you'll find any given person failing to match that book too, unless the grammar was built around that person and their speech patterns remain constant.


Generally, that's how descriptivist grammars work. They say "This is the grammar of Y as it's spoken in X dialect region," with no implications that it's the only way to speak Y; they're just describing how it's spoken in one particular area, and not telling anyone that it's the only "correct" way to speak it. They don't prescribe it as correct, just describe what is actually used.
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Re: Descriptivism, prescriptivism and the evolution of language

Postby Speakeasy » Sun Dec 18, 2016 12:51 am

galaxyrocker wrote: Then how do you explain the fact that people judge people's education levels simply based on how they talk and associate non-standard forms (i.e. "wrong" forms to the prescriptivist) with lower education?
I refuse to accept that support of prescriptivism in matters of language promotes such discrimination as an inexorably resultant effect. You may all chose to differ, but I will stand by my beliefs in this matter.
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galaxyrocker
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Re: Descriptivism, prescriptivism and the evolution of language

Postby galaxyrocker » Sun Dec 18, 2016 1:04 am

Speakeasy wrote:
galaxyrocker wrote: Then how do you explain the fact that people judge people's education levels simply based on how they talk and associate non-standard forms (i.e. "wrong" forms to the prescriptivist) with lower education?
I refuse to accept that support of prescriptivism in matters of language promotes such discrimination as an inexorably resultant effect. You may all chose to differ, but I will stand by my beliefs in this matter.


How does it not? Prescriptivism literally is the process of saying that certain forms of language use are more "correct" than others, thus equating the others with being "wrong". When certain things are considered more "correct", it leads to the other things being stigmatized as uneducated, as nobody who is smart would use something "wrong", obviously. I don't understand how it isn't an obvious conclusion.

But, please, I truly want to understand how you don't see arbitrarily calling things "correct" while stigmatizing others as "wrong" as leading towards discrimination against those who use the "wrong" forms.
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Cainntear
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Re: Descriptivism, prescriptivism and the evolution of language

Postby Cainntear » Sun Dec 18, 2016 1:20 am

Speakeasy wrote:
Cainntear wrote: ... your somewhat Islamophobic choice of insult in the message I was responding to.
As a descriptivist, you are undeniably aware that, in Western Popular Culture, the term “Ayatollah” has become synonymous with unrelentingly harsh, dogmatic, arbitrary, authoritarian rule. Had I chosen to use the over-wrought term “Fascist”, would you have called me a Marxist-Leninist?

No, because Fascism is a particular political ideology that I believe is inherently bad. The western association of the term "ayatollah" with authoritarian government via a mere two of the many scholars referred to by the term is really rather ignorant of the meaning of the term within Shia society.
And for a prescriptivist to accuse descriptivists of being dogmatic simply because we refuse to let you push a dogma... well that's just a bit beyond the pale.
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Re: Descriptivism, prescriptivism and the evolution of language

Postby Speakeasy » Sun Dec 18, 2016 2:06 am

Cainntear wrote: ... The western association of the term "ayatollah" with authoritarian government via a mere two of the many scholars referred to by the term is really rather ignorant of the meaning of the term within Shia society.
You are beating a dead horse ... and you know it.

Nevertheless, despite the purported ignorance of Western Society vis-à-vis the true significance of the term "Ayatollah", as you are well aware, in Western Popular Culture, it has become synonymous with an unrelentingly harsh, authoritarian and despotic regime. The idea is now so entrenched that the producers of the televised series "Seinfeld" and "The Simpsons" authorized such negative characterisations (some of which were frightfully crude) on several episodes ... and I will refrain from commenting on the recent U.S. Presidential Elections! Nope, in Western Popular Culture, as unfair as it might seem, "Ayatollah" has mostly definitely taken on a connotation quite similar that of the decidedly over-wrought "Fascist."

Then again, perhaps you really would have preferred that my (offensive to you) post read "Fascists of Right Thought." Whatever, my point concerning the inherent danger of "right thought" stands.
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Re: Descriptivism, prescriptivism and the evolution of language

Postby Tomás » Sun Dec 18, 2016 2:12 am

This thread reminds me of the strong version of moral relativism that took over cultural anthropology several decades ago, with only minor pushback. Have linguists fought this out amongst themselves, or is the relativistic position really that hegemonic?
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galaxyrocker
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Re: Descriptivism, prescriptivism and the evolution of language

Postby galaxyrocker » Sun Dec 18, 2016 2:23 am

Tomás wrote:This thread reminds me of the strong version of moral relativism that took over cultural anthropology several decades ago, with only minor pushback. Have linguists fought this out amongst themselves, or is the relativistic position really that hegemonic?


Linguistics has always been descriptive. It's a descriptive science - it talks and studies language as it is, not how it should be. It doesn't categorize things as 'right' or 'wrong' , it merely talks about what is and studies that. As any truly descriptive science should be.
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Re: Descriptivism, prescriptivism and the evolution of language

Postby Serpent » Sun Dec 18, 2016 2:39 am

Modern linguistics yes, but previously there have certainly been linguists who considered Latin or Sanskrit to be superior to other IE languages.
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Re: Descriptivism, prescriptivism and the evolution of language

Postby Finny » Sun Dec 18, 2016 2:53 am

...not to mention the sordid history of bilingualism research, and how until only a few decades ago, (primarily monolingual) researchers categorized it as a deficit in children and invented an endless array of restrictive qualifications to be truly "bilingual" (many of which persist to this day in language learning communities online).
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Re: Descriptivism, prescriptivism and the evolution of language

Postby aokoye » Sun Dec 18, 2016 2:55 am

I feel like this thread needs a little refresher on the difference between prescriptive vs descriptive grammar. From the Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English (under the heading Prescriptive vs descriptive grammars - page 7):
Prescriptive grammars dictate how people 'should' use the language. For example, a prescriptive grammarian would insist that only whom should be used when the pronoun refers to a human and functions as an object or prepositional complement. In contrast speakers in conversation regularly prefer who in actual usage:
    There's girl who I work with who's pregnant.
...In this [referring to the text] grammar we do not argue that any alternative is correct in cases like these. Rather than a prescriptive grammar, the SGSWE is a descriptive grammar. We focus on describing the actual patterns of use and the possible reasons for those patterns.


So - prescriptive grammar: "This is how something should be said."
Descriptive grammar: "This is how people actually use language and let's think about why they use language in this way."
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