Language is a tool of communication and communication gives people an opportunity to understand each other. However, language constantly changes. At some moments it is difficult to understand someone who uses words, terms or phrases that you have never heard before. Especially difficult it becomes if that person comes from other from yours region or country and uses lexical units that are not common at your region. Changes of the language are rapid and dynamic. They occur constantly and in great numbers and variations.
That is why dictionaries and language manuals need periodical updates. This is supposed to help in classifying and reflecting all the changes that have occurred in a certain period of time. Nowadays this necessity of updating is becoming even more significant. This happens because new technologies, concepts, ideas, and, consequently, new words and styles of communication shape themselves within the society and replace older ones. Sciences and industries develop new technologies and concepts daily.Order now
Hence, they need to be and are being reflected in our everyday language, accepted in our everyday life. Some words change their meaning, some get out of use, some get new meanings which are different from previous ones. Changes, such as the birth of new words, ideas and concepts, are not happening in some particular language, but in most of the world’s languages. That is why not only for linguists, but for all people it is important to know them, notice, consider, and get used to the changes.
Especially sharp this problem stands before the people who work or have business abroad and need to take their experience beyond the usual surrounding. Not only an industry influences the language, but the language is influenced by it as well. In his work David Crystal explained this phenomenon as follows: “This would form part of a much broader economic perspective, in which the traditional view, that the economy influences language, is supplemented by the notion that language exercises a strong influence on the economy.
There are several domains in which languages play an important role, and thus contribute to their economic success… ” (Crystal, 1995) This statement, in its turn, leads us to the need to study and analyze the problem. This can be done on the basis of the descriptive and prescriptive approaches to language which may help us to clarify the issue. In the given work these two approaches will be examined. Besides, we will analyze their strengths and weaknesses, and analyze them applying not only to some particular field, but in more general applications as well.
1. Understanding the Descriptive and Prescriptive Approaches It is well known that languages change constantly. New and alternative words appear to name new things and processes, new idiomatic expressions and spellings appear to express older ones which are gradually getting out of use. Sometimes these innovations stay unnoticed or not much attention is paid to them, they are just becoming parts of our everyday communication and are used as if there is nothing new in them.
However, if the change is noticed, it may face two possible responses. The first one consists in commenting on them, trying to explain and classify, deciding whether to accept them or not, or simply accepting them without any doubts. This is what the descriptive approach consists in. This approach tends to exactly and clearly describe how certain features of the language features are used in communication. This leads to the understanding that all the lexical units have similar features and may be classified.
Modern linguists prefer applying to the descriptive approach to language because it does not require them to determine what the language should look like or prescribe what exact rules should be used. The descriptive approach requires them only to describe what language is, what new changes have appeared, what their main qualities are, and how they are used in communication. Instead of creating new rules this approach allows describing and bringing to general use those rules, which people have already invented and used to form words and sentences.
Surely, there are some of the descriptive rules in English which are necessary to follow. For example, the subject precedes the verb, the object follows the verb, auxiliary verbs precede the subject in questions and the plural of a noun is formed by adding ‘-s’. But at the same time, analyzing our speech we can come to the conclusion that, for example, Present Perfect Continuous Tense is being more and more often replaced with Present Perfect and the descriptive approach accepts this change because it becomes accepted by people and is natural.
The second possible reaction to the appearance of new words, phrases, and spellings is analyzing them and applying corresponding rules to their usage. This is the prescriptive approach. The main concern of this approach consists in identifying whether a phrase or sentence is grammatically correct. According to the prescriptive approach correct grammar is the most important quality of the language and should be imposed on the whole speech community (Liberman, 2005). Most of the rules which are adopted by the prescriptive approach originally come from Latin and Greek languages.
As Latin and Greek are dead languages, they do not change and that is why they serve as models for grammar of English and some other languages (Ibid). Some of the prescriptive rules of English are: Don’t split infinitives, don’t use double negation, don’t end a sentence with a preposition, don’t use who in place of whom, say or write ‘It is I’ instead of ‘It is me’. Though modern linguists prefer using the descriptive approach analyzing new tendencies in language, they need to apply to prescriptive approach too because it helps to understand the changes better and to find better tools to explain them.
(Peters & Pam, 2004) Surely, the linguists clearly understand that language changes and needs to change in order to reflect changes which take place within the society. That is why they use descriptive approach to give people an opportunity to choose appropriate words for particular contexts in order to understand each other better. The descriptive approach also acts as a more democratic way of thinking and meeting changes because common usage is really more powerful than abstract statements of what is correct or “logical” in a particular language.
(Ibid) The descriptive approach does not require certain rules to be imposed on new words or phrases; it just gives advice and recommends certain rules to be applied to new words. It also points out cases in which variations are preferred and indicates the stylistic context in which these variations can be used. At the same time the prescriptive approach is more traditional and requires certain rules to be formulated for the usage of new words and phrases in order to avoid any confusion. As a result, this approach tends to achieve uniformity in language use, especially if it relates to grammar, spelling, and in some cases pronunciation.