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Prescriptive vs. Descriptive. Attitudes toward grammar. Descriptive VS. Prescriptive grammar: What are rules ?. Prescriptive (traditional) approach : Attitudes toward language based on what is held to be “correct” by socially prestigious elements and by teachers.

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prescriptive vs descriptive

Prescriptive vs. Descriptive

Attitudes toward grammar

descriptive vs prescriptive grammar what are rules
Descriptive VS. Prescriptive grammar:What are rules?
  • Prescriptive (traditional) approach:

Attitudes toward language based on what is held to be “correct” by socially prestigious elements and by teachers

prescriptive traditional approach
Prescriptive (traditional) approach

This attitude evinces complete disregard for the way a community actually speaks

prescriptive grammar
Prescriptive grammar
  • Certain forms of language are seen as more “correct” than others as a result of the social prestige associated with their users

The prescriptive attitude seeks to enforce those

prescriptive grammar5
Prescriptive grammar

Examples of common prescriptive rules

  • Do not use ‘ain’t’
  • Do not use a preposition to end a sentence with
  • Pronounce the -ing at the end of words, not -in’
  • Do not split infinitives:

“to boldly go where man has never gone before”

is wrong, they say

descriptive vs prescriptive grammar
Descriptive VS. Prescriptive grammar
  • Which of the following participles are “correct”?
  • Kneel kneeled/knelt
  • Knit knitted/knit
  • Lean leaned/leant
  • Leap leaped/leapt
  • Bid bidden/bade
which is correct
Which is “correct”?
  • Buy bought/boughten
  • Spell spelled/spelt
  • Forecast forecast/forecasted
  • Shave shaved/shaven
  • Dive dove/dived
  • Drag dragged/drug
  • Spell spelled/spelt
which is correct8
Which is correct?
  • Are people who use other forms stupid?
  • Are they socially undesirable?
  • Why do we think so?
descriptive vs prescriptive grammar9
Descriptive VS. Prescriptive grammar

Descriptive approach:

  • Observe principles that describe the way the language is actually spoken
descriptive approach
Descriptive approach
  • The goal of the descriptive approach is a description and knowledge of rules (principles) of how the language is actually spoken
descriptive grammar
Descriptive grammar


  • Many speakers pronounce ‘-in’ for the (-ing) suffix
  • In oral speech and most written language we say prepositions at the end of sentences
  • Some dialects of English do not pronounce –r after vowels
  • In English, qualifying words often appear between the to and the verb in infinitive phrases: “to boldly go where man has never gone before”
teaching grammar
Teaching grammar
  • Descriptions of a language used for teaching purposes
  • Do not confuse this with Prescriptive grammar — isn’t teaching for language learners based on how the language is spoken?
linguistic competence
Linguistic competence

Linguistic competence:

  • knowledge of our language and ability (capacity) to produce utterances
goal of study
Goal of study
  • The goal of our study is descriptive
  • By observing a language as it is actually used
  • We can learn about the knowledge that speakers have of the language
linguistic competence15
Linguistic competence
  • This involves our knowledge of how our language works
linguistic competence16
Linguistic competence
  • This knowledge can be observed and described, in the form of the speech that results from it
  • Thus descriptive grammar
communicative competence
Communicative competence
  • The linguist Del Hymes stated that if a child could make any possible sentence in the language, we would think he was insane
communicative competence18
Communicative competence
  • Our communicative competence involves our knowledge of the speech appropriate in each situation
  • and how to do what we use language to do
descriptive focus
Descriptive focus
  • Our course emphasizes a descriptive focus
  • We are interested
    • in the language that is actually used
    • how speakers use it
    • what they use it to do