Dan Clayton – Going Beyond Prescriptivism vs. Descriptivism 13A/Eu1
Prescriptivism? Judge what language usages are socially proper and politically correct, prescribing correct grammar and usage. Theories include the ‘Crumbling Castle’ theory and ‘The Golden Age’. However, descriptivism is usually presented as free minded, pushing Prescriptivists into negative light. However, are Descriptivists really judgement-free, they allow standards to drop and to become the play toy of the uneducated, pushing English back to crisis point Those who try to regulate language use have been seen negatively, often being labelled archaic and told to get out of the past, but that is not always so. Political correctness is somewhat an extension of prescriptivism, yet it has been a force for good. Prescriptivists
Over three decades of political correctness has led to a decline in words that carry negative and offensive connotations. However, have they gone too far? • The movement has led to a decline in sexist, racist and discriminative language. • Forced people to think carefully about what they say or write. • Encourage equality on a new level. • Over the top, giving negative connotations to otherwise harmless words • Overcomplicated language by dictating strict rules • Given to much power to personal inclination Political Correctness
Feminism has long been associated with political correctness and the need to control what we say, with it affecting many fields in the 19th century, particularly the academic field, with many organisations having to alter their practices. Deficit models state that male language is the standard that all language is measured by, with women’s speech falling short. In ways this is both pro and anti Feminist. It goes with the suggestion that men dominate, yet it also perpetuates the idea that it does fall short. Theorists include Robin Lakoff, who claimed that women’s language lacks authority, and Jespersen, who stated that women’s vocabulary was less widespread than men’s. This all suggests that feminism polices language in order to demolish this model. Feminism and Deficit
Does policing go too far? Does it reinforce negativity? Does it add negative connotation?
What is Sticklerism? Sticklerism, is characterised by a finger-wagging approach to others’ language use, describing what others say as wrong because it’s supposedly illogical or incorrect. Sticklers take a strong prescriptivism view on language change and development. Lynne Truss is on of the most well known prescriptivist sticklers.
Lynne Truss As the below picture shows Truss goes out and about correcting grammar and is referred to as on of the worst offenders of being a grammar Nazi (stickler). As a writer an d journalist Truss has written many fiction and non-fiction books however her most successful; ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation is her most well known book and the title is self explanatory to what t is about.
“Grammar Nazi’s” The newer term for Sticklers , Grammar Nazi’s are mostly found on social media or forum pages. As soon as a tweet goes out reading ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’ or ‘there’ instead of ‘their’ the grammar Nazi destroy the post with corrections or abuse and is seen as annoying and trolling.
Declinism Tom Mahoney
Definition • Declinism is the pessimistic belief that our language is in a irreversible decline from a once great peak. Due to the actions from young people, technology and immigrants.
Robert Lane Greene • Robert Lane Greene is a prescriptivist who argues that English is far from decline and in fact the opposite due to higher literacy rates across the US and UK from a century ago therefore, disagreeing with Declinism.
Crumbling Castle • Declinism would agree with Jean Aitcheson's crumbling castle theory as she believed that our language shouldn’t change and compared to a once tall, grand castle now decaying and falling into the sea.. This again is due to now languages being bought in to ours.
1 for 1 • Greene believed that for every descriptivist who didn’t believe that language should change such as Atchison or Humphrey's, there were prescriptivist’s like himself who thought it was for the better.
Does it Matter? No, its going get better! • It comes across that it doesn’t matter if say double negatives such as ‘I never did nothing’ are used, as people would still understand the meaning of the phrase and can respond accordingly. • Declinism is summed by including new words in our language, its not going to become a crumbling castle, but a ever – extending new building complete with a snooker room, sauna, swimming pool and fancy pillars.
Jean Aitchison • Focuses on the idea of the ‘crumbling castle theory’ and describes the English language as a grand castle that people are proud of which then crumbles, into something ugly, and it cannot be repaired.
Deborah Cameron • A Scottish linguist that holds the ‘Rupert Murdoch Professorship’ in Language and Communication. • Wrote the book ‘Verbal Hygiene’: In this book, Deborah Cameron explores the popular attitudes towards language and how people tend to regulate its use. For example, she argues that too many prescriptivists think that language is a proxy battle ground for wider social and cultural concerns, and that grammar has become a way of waging this argument because it is seen as traditional, authoritive and used mostly by the hierarchy and rules of the English Language.
Henry Hitchings • Henry Hitchings is an author, reviewer and critic, specializing in narrative non-fiction, with a particular interest in language and cultural history. • Deborah Cameron's’ theory is also picked up in Henry Hitchings’ book ‘The Language Wars’ when he looks at prescriptivists such as Lindley Nurray and Percy Grainger. In this book, Henry Hitchings expresses, the question "Why can't the English teach their children how to speak?“ and that we have been asking this question since the end of the 14th century. He also expains that the way we speak and the way we write are brought up, social life and sense of self and that Language allows us to share our thoughts, however, most public discourse about it seems to concentrate on division, on things we do wrong, and on our limitless use of punctuation.
Robert Green • In conclusion, the people who are prescriptivists are not condoning the use of language, but what they’re not happy about is what it symbolises to them, such as • Declining standards • Changing society • Power shifts • People who text • Bloggers • Tweeters
The idea of ‘choice of ground for complaint’ Jessica Gilpin
The manipulation of people’s lives through skilful use of language – as ‘Ambient Replenishment Contributor’ sounds much more impressive than simply a ‘supermarket shelf stacker’. Aitchison suggested that this ‘manipulation of language’ may actually be more harmful to language than picking up on minor details such as punctuation. She says that change is ‘natural and inevitable’. • This view suggests that precriptivists should be more focused on ‘stray smartbombs’ than the occasional stray apostrophe – how language can be tactically used and adapted for a certain effect or to make something sound much better, more morally right or pleasant than it actually is, for instance, Steve Thorne looked at how military discourse hides negative factors of war such as death and destruction, whilst Aitchison looked at whether the English Language was progressing or decaying, particularly through looking at the language of nuclear warfare. Aitchison identified that for many prescriptivists, they miss the point and that language is just a ‘proxy war’ in order to reach wider social and cultural concerns, but that picking up on grammar is a useful tool for them because it is associated with great order and tradition. • ‘Benign prescriptivist’ groups such as The Plain English Campaign are against jargon and management-speak, but they don’t always take the moral perspective of purist prescriptivists, but instead care more for clarity than correctness. This is interesting because many descriptivists would be happy to adopt this position as well.