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Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Describing And Prescribing

There is a difference here between taking a descriptive approach to language and taking a prescriptive one. Schoolteachers usually take a prescriptive approach, teaching their students not to use ain't, or not to end sentences with prepositions, or scolding them for saying things like Joe is taller than me.
This is not what linguists do. Linguistics is a science, and it shares with every other science the basic formula. First you observe a phenomenon, and next you attempt to form a theory to explain it; after that, you see what your theory predicts and look further to see if those predictions are borne out. Observation is key here; from a linguist's perspective, language is an object of study. You look at the way people speak and try to understand the language's underlying rules and even the functioning of the language center of the brain itself based upon what they say. From that perspective, rules about how people speak don't make sense — after all, such rules exist to make people change the way they speak. If they didn't use some stigmatized bit of grammar in the first place, there wouldn't be a rule against it. And so these "errors" are just as legitimate as a target of study as anything else. They're just one more aspect of how people talk.More..

Posted by Ajay :: 6:49 PM :: 0 comments

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