Language prescriptivism vs descriptivism

No replies
JuliaRomonov15's picture
Joined: 2015/05/21

October 16th 2014 4:13 pm- 5:37 pm


I wonder to what extent words exist. Humans true to understand themselves or the world both urban and natural through the lens of expression. What it may not due through sight, it may indeed be more inclined to do through another sense. Words then are merely forms of knowing others and expressing ourselves.


Humanity has, in so far as we can tell, the rather unique ability to quantify an infinite range of possibilities down to a solid few, but not the ability to fully express infinity. Infinity then can only be experienced, not expressed, not shared, and particularly not possessed. This marks it distinct from other concepts both concreate and abstract, because expressing them does give the individual a degree of claim over the concept.

How then does this relate to the structure or mechanics of language? If the expression of concepts is a practice for which no power can ever even hope to realistically limit, then speech is a free land separate from the restrictions of the body. This we would assume to flourish whenever an anarchic forum can be found, or even in the light of despotism subsist. To reflect the observation that humans created tools to help express themselves, it should follow that language is inherently descriptive, not as it has been asserted, proscriptive.


This means that while we have created rules to govern language to ease understanding between people, when these rules no longer serve us, we must do away with them. We must stop following them, and more importantly, we must stop teaching them.

People assert that in our age, we have forgotten how to properly communicate. But that is not a symptom of refusing to use the correct form of your or using split infinitives, it is the ridiculous limits social media places on us (the 140 character limit) and our refusal to use a variety of expression. If one wishes to communicate better, rather than devoting oneself to a pedagogic study of grammar, one should instead make a conceited effort to connect personally with others. One should also make a journey of introspection if he wishes to communicate who he truly is with others.


That is not to say, as I have recently been reminded, that prescriptivism doesn’t have its place. When writing scholastically, when coming to an understanding in an argument, when writing scientifically or when writing a legal document, no grammatical error can be tolerated. I would prefer we use Latin for these contexts, as it would democratize the English language. I also think that if English can only be written in the strictest of terms, that fundamentally none of us writes in English, nor do I foresee much use of it in contemporary life or art.



Therefore, either we must tolerate a diversity of dialects and descriptive writing, or we must use prescriptive writing only in contexts for which it is justified, and if nothing else be English use it sparingly.