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DESCRIPTIVE AND PRESCRIPTIVE GRAMMAR

Grammar is a set of rules and examples dealing with the syntax and word structures (morphology) of a language. It is the structural foundation of our ability to express ourselves. The more we are aware of how it works, the more we can monitor the meaning and effectiveness of the way we and others use language. It can help foster precision, detect ambiguity, and exploit the richness of expression available in nglish. !nd it can help everyone""not only teachers of nglish, but teachers of anything, for all teaching are ultimately a matter of getting to grips with meaning. #e have been studying grammar at school. It consisted of certain rules which were meant to make us write and speak a language correctly. $ur teachers told us what to do. They prescribed rules such as (%) &o not say It is me. 'ay It is I and (() &o not end a sentence with a preposition. This is called prescriptive grammar. &escriptive grammar refers to the structure of a language as it is actually used by speakers and writers. )rescriptive grammar refers to the structure of a language as certain people think it should be used. *nlike descriptive grammar it deals with what the grammarian believes to be right and wrong, good or bad language use. +oth types of grammar have their supporters and their detractors, both have their strengths and weaknesses. In the past, editors, the writers of dictionaries and other language authorities have only been interested in the prescriptive rules, but this is starting to change. 'ome rules taught by teachers are not necessary at all. ,or instance, -It is I. is considered pedantic and people normally use -It is me.. /oreover, excellent writers of nglish end sentences with prepositions. These rules come from 0atin grammar. !s the language of the scholars of urope was 0atin, they were so impressed by it that they thought other languages too should follow these rules. 1ou will observe that in *rdu many people follow the rules of )ersian and !rabic. ,or example, the plural of ustad (teacher) in *rdu is ustad. +ut some people use usataza which follows an !rabic plurali2ation rule. 0ikewise modern 3indi grammar follows 'anskritic rules. +oth kinds of grammar are concerned with rules""but in different ways. 'pecialists in descriptive grammar (called linguists) study the rules or patterns that underlie our use of words, phrases, clauses, and sentences. $n the other hand, prescriptive grammarians (such as most editors and teachers) lay out rules about what they believe to be the -correct. or -incorrect. use of language.  /ost linguists including 4homsky are interested in descriptive grammar.

)ure prescriptive grammar will lead to artificial claims that are hard to maintain in light of the facts. #hile prescriptivists would prefer the use of the past sub5unctive after if (If I were you, etc), it is very difficult to claim that everyone who uses -was. is wrong, especially as they are the ma5ority in spoken language.
%. Descriptive grammar: a grammar that describes how language is used by its speakers. ,or example, I am older than her. xplanation6 'ub5ect pronouns (she, he, it, and so on) are paired with a verb, whereas ob5ect pronouns (her, him, it, and so on) are not. 'ince the phrase than her doesn7t have a verb we can see or hear, some speakers choose an ob5ect pronoun in the context. (. Prescriptive grammar: a grammar that prescribes how speakers should use the language. ,or example, I am older than she (is older). xplanation6 than is a con5unction8 it 5oins two like forms6 I am older with she is older, giving I am older than she is older, but speakers omit the last part is older because it7s redundant. 9evertheless, according to prescriptive grammar, than functions as a con5unction, so speakers should use she in that context.

SOME RULES OF PRESCRIPTIVE AND DESCRIPTIVE GRAMMAR
%. The prescriptive rules concerning contractions are :uite clear. There are positive contractions in which a pronoun is blended with a verb6 I am becomes I'm, I will becomes I'll, I have becomes I've, etc. There are negative contractions in which verbs are negated6 can not becomes can't, could not becomes couldn't, etc. There is a list of approved contractions and you can7t 5ust make up new ones. (. )rescriptive nglish re:uires that pronouns be put in a ;case; to mark their role in a sentence. ,or example, the words I and me refer to the same person, but I is used when this person is the sub5ect of the sentence, and me is used when the person is the ob5ect of the sentence (following a preposition). These prescriptive rules are often ignored. <. !nother prescriptive rule is the distinction between adverbs (modify verbs) and ad5ectives (modify nouns). !ccording to prescriptive nglish, the ad5ective adds -ly to become an adverb"""although there are plenty of irregular cases such as good (ad5ective) and well (adverb). The use of prescriptive and descriptive rules is definitely associated with class and education. !n upper"class or highly educated person is more likely to use cases for pronouns than a lower"class or uneducated person. 'imilarly, the prescriptive use of adverbs can be a social marker. ducated or upper"class people are more likely to say He reads well instead of he reads good. &escriptive rules tend not to make a distinction between ad5ectives and adverbs"""5ust to use the ad5ective for both. 3e is reading good books, 3e reads good, etc. =. )rescriptive nglish dictates that certain words be used in certain situations to make a distinction. ,or example, few means a smaller amount of something that is counted, whereas less means a smaller amount of something that is measured. $ne common place that this prescriptive rule is ignored is in grocery stores. 4heck out this line, ! items or less. It should be ! items or fewer. ! similar pair is who and that when used as pronouns in expressions like "he man that came to dinner, which should be "he man who came to dinner. 3ere are some further examples of prescriptive grammar. %. 9ever split infinitives e.g. to boldly go (to go) (. 9ever use double negatives e.g. I can't get no satisfaction (I can.t get satisfactions) <. 9ever end a sentence with a preposition e.g., "his is the to#ic I will be writing my #a#er on. (This is the topic on which I will be writing a paper.) =. 9ever use me after than e.g., $he is taller than me. ('he is taller than I.) +ut we know these rules are very often ignored. 0anguage which ignores the prescriptive rules is called &escriptive language. 0anguage use is forever evolving and it should because old forms are often unnecessarily complex or do not serve current needs. ,or example, swimmed is often used rather than swam in common speech. #hy should people have to learn countless irregular verb forms while they can easily make the second form of verb 5ust adding -ed. to the first>
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