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Language and Society (week 5) - Description, prescription and verbal hygene

Based on Prof. David Britains course for MA Students of English Languages and Literatures at the University of Bern.
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0 Exakte Antworten 13 Text Antworten 0 Multiple Choice Antworten
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What is prescriptivism and who holds prescriptive views (3 examples)?

Prescriptivism: Languages have a set of externally set rules that speakers should follow.

Who: Dictionary writers, grammar writers, government institutions (media, education, civil service, etc.) employers, parents, everyone?

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What is descriptivism and for what historical and linguistic reasons is it used?

Descriptivism: Interest in how people actually speak.

Historical reasons: e.g. the development of English from Indo-European

Linguistic reasons: all varieties have fully functioning grammars acquired by native speakers.

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How do pre- and descriptivist views on grammar differ?

learned vs. acquired.

prescriptivist views treat grammar as external set of rules imposed from outside by authority.

descriptivist views treat grammar as complex and abstract human system, not imposed overtly.

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What attitudes towards language to we leave school with?

We acquire prescriptivist views through school. A sense of what is 'right' or 'wrong' and what can and cannot be written. Prioritise written over spoken. Language structure= tied to written language.

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Why do sociolinguists call standard languages artificial?

  • Socially and historically created
  • derived from national elites and supported through institutions of power
  • codified in an attempt to get rid of variability
  • Often seen as symbol of national unity, distinctiveness, prowess and prestige
  • The NORM, seen as correct and proper
  • trigger a complaint tradition
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What other aspects (apart from being artificial) don't sociolinguists like about standard languages?

  1. symbols of political power, rather than based on linguisitic distincitiveness (e.g. Yugoslavia)
  2. Linguistically odd, as they suppress language variation. Std English does not permit much variability
  3. Most 'tidy' in their written form; but writing is learnt not acquired. Speech and song = naturally human. BUT knowlege of spoken grammars is poor in comparison to written. 
  4. don't have native speakers: they are ideological
  5. They conserve odd forms (e.g. 3rd pers. sing. 's')
  6. They're not the only one with norms anyway! Every variety/community needs them
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What are some of the differences between writing and speech?

 - no paralinguistic cues
 - unspoken background language
 - largely solitary, not so social;
 - doesn't permit vagueness, ellipsis, ambiguitiy, etc. to the same extent
 - planned, context-free, elaborated, permanent, learned

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  • 08.12.2017
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How do standard language forms oppress non-standard ones?

Constant standard use in formal contexts by powerful people leads speakers to:

  • combine use of standard with non-standard forms in their speech;
  • absorb attitudes of linguistic inferiority about the non-standard form;
  • assume the standard form denotes correctness, civilization, education, truth, etc.
  • internalize 'standard ideologies'.