Similarities and Differences Between Prescriptive and Descriptive Grammars Essay

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Grammar contributes to the meaningful linkage between words and phrases, making sense of a language semantically in a socially agreed framework. To achieve this, rules and principles are laid down to produce a uniform structure of a language usage. Concerning about social acceptability, different theories have been employed to result in different types of grammatical description (O’Halloran, Coffin 2005). Meanwhile, as language is in a constant state of flux in terms of phonetics, morphology, semantic, syntax, etc (Yule, 2006). Controversial attitudes towards the emotive language evolve, and hence, bringing out two contrasting views – traditional and modern, which correspondingly lead to Prescriptive and Descriptive Grammar.

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In this way, descriptive grammar helps to describe the phenomenon and derive the corresponding rules or patterns.
A further example is in the use of the past subjunctive after if. Prescriptivists insist the use of ‘If I were you’. Yet, in real case, the majority of the population use was in their spoken language. It is difficult to for descriptivists to claim that they are wrong because the use of both ‘were’ and ‘was’ convey the similar probable meaning.

The last example is about ending sentences with prepositions. A prescriptive rule states that a preposition should not be used to end a sentence but to keep together with its object (Bryson, 1987): From whom did you receive this present? However, this statement, according to descriptive grammar, can be made more natural and easily understandable if the preposition is placed in the end: Whom did you receive this present from?

In conclusion, it is the distinctive differences between Prescriptive and Descriptive Grammars that make both of them are complementary to each other. While the use of prescriptive grammars helps preserve a culture, the use of descriptive grammar encourages language creativity through informal words in daily lives, freeing from the extreme influence from formal written language in the educational system (Yule, 2006). What ultimately matters is whether mutual acceptability exists between speakers and listeners using respective grammatical approach.