[ExI] Linguistic shifts

Darren Greer darren.greer3 at gmail.com
Mon Dec 20 13:34:14 UTC 2010

yes, you're right and I wasn't.  It is prescriptivism, not post. It's been
in issue in Canada, because of the Quebec language/culture thing. Thanks.


2010/12/19 Jebadiah Moore <jebdm at jebdm.net>

> 2010/12/19 Darren Greer <darren.greer3 at gmail.com>
> I dated a linguist once. His big claim-to-fame was speaking and writing
>> Tolkien's elvish. He introduced me to the concept of post-scriptivisim vs.
>> descriptivism. Those who would have new words officially monitored and
>> approved for usage by academics, and those who would have a more organic
>> growth based on popular usage alone. I've been a descriptivist ever since.
>>  I can't imagine a transhumanist who wasn't.
> I think the term you want is "prescriptivism", as in "prescribed".  It's
> not necessarily about words being officially monitored (as is the case in
> several European countries--though sometimes this is done by bureaucrats
> rather than academics) as much as it is about the idea that there is some
> sort of right and wrong in language use.  Anytime somebody says "that's not
> good English" or "never end a sentence with a preposition" or "ain't ain't a
> word" or even "learn to spell", they are demonstrating linguistic
> prescriptivism.
> It's not quite as clear-cut a thing as you make it out to be, though, and
> most linguists wouldn't say that they were prescriptivists or
> descriptivists--it's not a political affiliation.  Linguistics, as a
> (social) science, is descriptive in nature; in this sense, most linguists
> are opposed to prescription because it introduces bias.  On the other hand,
> just as physicists aren't anti-engineering and political scientists aren't
> anti-government (at least all the time ;)), linguists are not all
> anti-prescription in general.
> The problem is that without prescription, languages diverge faster.  Of
> course, people will tend to modify their language minimally, since it
> decreases their intelligibility to others, but without some oversight (at
> least from parents and teachers) it still can happen more rapidly than is
> ideal.  This can be especially problematic in specialized fields, and in
> language modalities which are less commonly used.  In specialized fields,
> the lack of standard definitions for words, leading to decreased
> intelligibility across time and between groups, can greatly inhibit
> progress; just look at philosophy!  I kid, but it is clear that this has
> been a motivation at least within bureaucracies and other systems which use
> old texts in a modern context.  In these cases, while you don't usually get
> the specialized part of the language standardized across the majority of
> speakers, you do usually get a standardization within the field, so that all
> lawyers or bureaucrats or priests speak a standardized language variant, at
> least while they're doing their work.
> So, what I'm getting at is that it's not as clear-cut a thing as you've
> implied.  Of course, there are some linguists who (nominally) oppose
> prescriptivism in all forms, usually on the basis that it is oppressive,
> exclusionary, and inhibits language development; but most of these same
> linguists would be annoyed if you started calling them "describers" or
> "anti-word-dictators".  I think the mainstream view among linguists is that
> prescriptivism in everyday language is usually counter-productive (except
> sometimes with regard to spelling and writing, since there is often
> significant random divergence there without some enforcement from teachers).
>  On the other hand, most linguists usually favor at least a weak form of
> prescription in specialized fields.
> --
> Jebadiah Moore
> http://blog.jebdm.net
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