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. As the language of one of the world’s dominant ideologies, attempting to fit the ever-changing shape of anglophone culture into strict boundaries is not only ineffective, but likely impossible. Now, with the advent of the Internet, entire generations 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…show more content…
In brief, AAVE is the form of English predominantly spoken in urban black communities in the United States. It contains unique grammatical structures, such as “we been knew” for “we have known this for a long time”, and vocabulary, most notably the N-word as a non-slur. The headline of the debate goes like this: is AAVE simply English spoken with mistakes, or a completely separate dialect of English? Obviously, “we been knew” flies in the face of every rule of past-tense conjugation, and would be considered a grammatical trainwreck by an outside observer. However, anybody who is familiar with the patterns of AAVE would immediately understand the speaker’s intention. Although the grammar used is not necessarily that defined by English prescription and therefore a mistake by that standard, the same mistake is made by every speaker in the same context, thereby not affecting communication whatsoever. Therefore, descriptivists argue that AAVE should be considered a separate dialect of English, and I thoroughly agree with them. The prescriptivist model currently prevalent in the United States raises a serious problem. It often precludes black people in low-income communities from raising their socioeconomic status if they are unable or refuse to ‘talk white’ – that is, to use commonly-accepted grammar – in workplace environments. This results in the
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