Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Rules" rule, OK?

For those of you doing A2 English Language, the big debate between prescriptivist and descriptivist attitudes to language is a central plank of the course. The terms themselves are a little problematic, as you'll no doubt see for yourselves as the course goes on, but in this article from the New York Times last week, two writers from opposing sides - Robert Lane Greene and Bryan A. Garner - slug it out, arguing about the "rules" of English and how we should  talk about usage. Can a native speaker ever really be "wrong", or should the "rules" always reflect the usage?

It's a well-argued piece, on both sides, and offers plenty of ammunition for those of you putting together Language Interventions for coursework, and material for discussion in class as we move into ENGA3 exam topics later in the year.

2 comments:

Alan said...

An articulate discussion and it is interesting to see the two sides of the debate acknowledging that the other also speaks sense. A2 students note ... don't be too dogmatic in language discussions! Lane's explanation of the relative pronoun use in the Lord's Prayer was new to me - an interesting sidelight on relative pronoun use for A2 students of Early Modern and Language Change. Thanks for the link.

Dan said...

Thanks, Alan for reminding me of the excellent discussion between the two of them. I've gone back and re-read it, and it puts the polarised, simplified position I've often adopted at A2 in a much more nuanced and open-minded way. Some good things to think about here!