Prescriptivism In English Language

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For as long as I can remember, as soon as I complete a written work, the first person to review it is often my mother. Due to years of academic and professional experience, she is an excellent writer and an even better editor. However, there is one point of semantics on which we simply cannot seem to agree, and which leads to a heated argument almost every time it appears in my work: the gender-neutral, third-person pronoun. When my mother was in high school, the de facto pronoun for unspecified gender was ‘he/she’ and its conjugations – for example, “Every student did his or her homework.” In my generation, this pronoun has been replaced with the controversial ‘they’: “Every student did their homework.” This usage of ‘they’ always irks my…show more content…
In short, a prescriptivist believes that effective communication in a given language may be achieved only by strictly adhering to centralized rules. Conversely, a descriptivist believes that so long as a sentence is able to convey its intended message, it is a correct usage of language. I am staunchly of the belief that prescriptivism in the English language is unfeasible, if not downright dangerous. As the language of one of the world’s dominant ideologies, attempting to fit the ever-changing shape of English into strict boundaries is not only ineffective, but likely impossible. Now, with the advent of the Internet, entire generations of anglophones are experiencing an ‘awokening’, and a wave of neologisms, neopronouns, and obscure-yet-somehow- universally-understood meme references is on the horizon. Soon, it will become unavoidable for grammaticists to note that there is no one way to speak English properly. Once that happens, perhaps then society will take note as…show more content…
Even more contemporarily, the term ‘Orwellian’ has emerged to mean “tyrannical surveillance state”, in reference to exactly one of George Orwell’s works. If an English-speaking culture was entirely unfamiliar with the Greek myth of Hercules or Nineteen Eighty-Four, then the references contained in these words would be entirely meaningless. Yet, due to a general consensus of familiarity with these works, English prescriptivists have gradually accepted the words as valid. Similarly, prescriptivists must learn that “...Adam!”, spoken in imitation of the source Vine, is an expression of shock at betrayal, and that common English words can pick up new meanings seemingly overnight. To ‘cuff’ someone has transformed in meaning, for example, from ‘arrest’ to ‘enter a relationship with’. Just as most literate English-speakers are expected to be aware of the classic literature which has spawned new words, most internet-savvy English speakers are expected to be well-versed in meme culture. In the coming generations, when the majority is fluent in online parlance, meme references will serve as an effective language, just as references to Greek and Roman mythology served William Shakespeare and his audiences in the Middle Ages. The printing press was to the past as the “post” button will be to the
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