LINGUIST List 8.1807

Fri Dec 19 1997

Disc: Prescriptivism

Editor for this issue: James German <jameslinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. David Harris, Re: 8.1796, Disc: Prescriptivism
  2. David Harris, definition of infinitives
  3. manaster, Re: 8.1796, Disc: Prescriptivism

Message 1: Re: 8.1796, Disc: Prescriptivism

Date: Wed, 17 Dec 1997 17:18:13 -0500
From: David Harris <dharrislas-inc.com>
Subject: Re: 8.1796, Disc: Prescriptivism


> (with luck) some sort of speech arts. Every child that goes through
> school is subjected to 8 to 20+ years of prescriptivism. Learning
> to spell is prescriptivism, learning the (standard) definitions of
> words is prescriptivism, and learning to write a coherent sentence
> is prescriptivism.

 I guess this depends on your approach. If you taught writing based
on a corpus of contemporary business letters or one of speech that
occurs in meetings held by law firms or technology firms, this
wouldn't necessarily be prescriptionist. But if you taught them that
anything outside of the Chicago style manual is wrong, then that would
definitely be prescriptive. My point is that you can teach a child
the necessary language skills to get along in a society (theoretically
anyway) without teaching them how they "ought to" speak or write but
rather simply teaching them how people in contemporary society DO
interact.
 Someone made the comment the other day that linguists who are
involved in dictionary projects are by definition prescriptivists
because they are contributing toward the production of a text which is
meant to serve as a linguistic "authority." Only not all dictionaries
do that. A dictionary is first and foremost a source of
information. Somehow I can't picture a Syrian William Safire
consulting a dictionary of colloquial Syrian Arabic in order to
improve his street speech, for example.

David Harris davidlas-inc.com 
Language Analysis Systems Voice: (703)834-6200 ext. 242 2214 
Rock Hill Road, Suite 201 Fax: (703) 834-6230
Herndon, VA 22070

\\//\\/\/\\\//\/\\///\/\\///\///\//\\/\/\\\//\/\\///\//\\/\/\\

 "A multi viseres
 nulum es visebli
 exept li ja viseti."
 -D Harris
\\//\\/\/\\\//\/\\///\/\\///\///\//\\/\/\\\//\/\\///\//\\/\/\\
 
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Message 2: definition of infinitives

Date: Wed, 17 Dec 1997 16:40:12 -0500
From: David Harris <dharrislas-inc.com>
Subject: definition of infinitives


/with the very use of the term `infinitive-splitting'. Why call _to
/go_ an infinitive? Its etymological counterparts in the other
/Germanic languages (such as German _zu gehen_) are never called that.

What? _zu gehen_ is not an infinitive? Perhaps you mean to say that
"gehen" is the infinitive by itself, ie. that it doesn't need the _zu_
portion to be an infinitive. Incidentally, it's interesting you should
mention German in this conversation - a language in which a split
infinitive (or whatever you want to call the situation that would
occur when something intruded between _zu_ and _gehen_) absolutely
never occurs. (At least I can't for the life of me think of an
utterance where this does occur. Maybe you can.)

David Harris davidlas-inc.com
Language Analysis Systems Voice: (703) 834-6200 ext. 242
2214 Rock Hill Road, Suite 201 Fax: (703) 834-6230
Herndon, VA 22070 

\\//\\/\/\\\//\/\\///\/\\///\///\//\\/\/\\\//\/\\///\//\\/\/\\
 "A multi viseres
 nulum es visebli
 exept li ja viseti."
 -D Harris
\\//\\/\/\\\//\/\\///\/\\///\///\//\\/\/\\\//\/\\///\//\\/\/\\
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Message 3: Re: 8.1796, Disc: Prescriptivism

Date: Thu, 18 Dec 1997 10:22:43 -0500 (EST)
From: manaster <manasterumich.edu>
Subject: Re: 8.1796, Disc: Prescriptivism

William Morris says he thinks there is little if any objection to
prescriptivism of the sort described as:

Elementary and secondary language studies: reading, writing, and (with
luck) some sort of speech arts. Every child that goes through school
is subjected to 8 to 20+ years of prescriptivism. Learning to spell
is prescriptivism, learning the (standard) definitions of words is
prescriptivism, and learning to write a coherent sentence is
prescriptivism.

I dont agree. There are many cultures in which children are spared
this kind of (mis)treatment, and I would think that anyone who in
principle objects to prescriptivism would object here too. On the
other hand, as I said before, I have the (uneasy) feeling that human
beings somehow "like" to be prescribed to, and I do not know how to
resolve this paradox.

O"sten Dahl's example brings to mind prescriptive statements in German
(and Dutch?? memory fails me) grammars to theeffect that (in modern
terms) you should not have anaphora referring into parts of compounds.

AMR
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