2. Prescribing and Describing: Popular and Academic Views of "Correctness"- Cook G.


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2. Prescribing and describing: popular and academic views of “correctness” Cook, G. (2003) Applied Linguistics. Oxford. Introduction to Applied Linguistics Natzyelly González

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Theory: “language as viewed by “the expert”. Practice: “language as everyone’s lived experience”. Children Language at Home and School Children speak idiosyncratically (a strange or unusual habit that someone has), for example, an American kid growing in an English-speaking family would say words incorrectly, he would try to pronounce them correctly, but he won’t do it like adults do.

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At school, children are expected to use, pronounce and write words correctly because they’re being taught to do so. “The child’s success will depend upon the results”. Sometimes the student’s errors come from their houses because their family members speak that way, so school and house does not have the same point of view always. People often change the spelling of words such as “thanx” instead of “thanks or thank you”, adults disapprove this even when they use them.

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Standard and Dialects are associated because the standard form of the language is the language taught or used in schools, communication and dictionaries. Dialects are different ways of speaking, depending on the culture and social-class of the speaker. There is no way a children can grow up managing both forms and using them correctly. Basil Bernstain said that some social-class variations indicate not only differences but deficits.

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“A language is subject to enormous variation”. There are differences between social groups, traditions and cultures. This means that all of them use the language differently speaking, writing, reading and pronouncing it. “Many people are intolerant of this variation”. Some people, for example teachers can’t stand dialects, they follow the standard language while teaching and expect their pupils to follow them too. People often get into debates about these kind of disagreements, these sometimes get out of control.

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Applied Linguistics takes advantage of these debates by being careful and respectful, this to be informed about which forms are now acceptable and in which contexts.

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Description versus Prescription “All variants are equally valid simply by virtue of the fact that they occur, and that no one form is any more or less correct than another”. Arguments have to describe and explain their facts, for example, a doctor needs to describe and explain the facts about diseases, not to tell us which of them are more dangerous than others. According to the book, description means “saying what does happen” and prescription “saying what ought to happen”.

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To justify their views, linguists point to such facts as the following: If there was never any deviation from the norm then languages would never change. If a single standard was absolute and unassailable then regional standards would never get independence. Dialects have their own consistent rules. The standard form of a language is often very similar to the usage of the most economically and politically powerful class or region. The grammar of written language differs from speaking, writing carries more prestige and authority. Some supposedly correct forms have been invented and imposed by grammarians through analogy with another language.

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