That's where Garner is right out to lunch. It's a comin'.
Please don't forget to cite a primary source of what Garner is actually saying.
Frankly, my current working hypothesis is that you are bashing strawmen rather than demolishing actual prescriptivist linguists.
I understand "prescriptivism" to refer to the Chomsky (et al) view of "grammar" which rejected it with reference to spoken language. viz In essence there is no such thing as "correct" language, only "appropriate" language according to sociolinguistic context.
"Grammar" was considered to be descriptive of a native speaker's "competence". The idea of "prescriptive grammatical rules" basically arose from the teaching of classical languages such as Latin, when such methods were first applied to "the teaching of English"...a subject which had previously never been considered part of the curriculum prior to the 20th century.
I do have a name, Thomas.
I'd say that that falls upon you. You are the one in possession of the Modern American ..., are you not? You tell us what Garner is actually saying, Thomas.
How prescriptivist of you to suggest that I use it!
I disagree. You're the one who claims it's a myth. That makes it your job to support your opinion with adequate sources.
You're right, it's Garner. Thanks for the correction.
Prescriptivism has been rejected for all sociolinguistic contexts/registers where the prescriptions don't accurately describe how language works.
Where there is agreement between descriptivists and prescriptivists, then what we have is an accurate description of how language works.
But you're the one that introduced Garner to the mix.
And all you gave is your opinion of what he says.
Writing is no more of an artificial construct than is speech. Indeed, the use of signs may predate the advent of speech. I can't see that the distinction between "artificial writing" and "natural speech" has any meaning.
Prescriptive rules are useless without the much more fundamental rules that create the sentences to begin with. These rules are never mentioned in style manuals or school grammars because the authors correctly assume that anyone capable of reading the manuals must already have the rules.
No one, not even a valley girl, has to be told not to say [Apples the eat boy] or [Who did you meet John and?] or the vast, vast majority of the trillions of mathematically possible combinations of words.
So when a scientist considers all the high-tech mental machinery needed to arrange words into ordinary sentences, prescriptive rules are, at best, inconsequential little decorations. The very fact that they have to be drilled shows that they are alien to the natural workings of the language system. [/u]
One can choose to obsess over prescriptive rules, but they have no more to do with human language than the criteria for judging cats at a cat show have to do with mammalian biology.
In any event, what you're talking about isn't any kind of writing/speech dichotomy, it's grammar, which is also an artificial construct but which is something that is shared equally by written and spoken language.
No, in speech we don't form singular possessives in two ways. We form them in only one way, by adding an "s" or "z" sound at the end of the word. In speech, therefore, the possessive of "Charles" is pronounced "Char-el-zez" (where the "e" sounds are schwas). There's no confusion, therefore, in speech. It is only in writing that we run into problems.
Again, the adding of "apostrophe s" to form a singular possessive in written language is no more or less artificial than adding an "ez" sound in spoken language. In both, the writer/speaker is simply adhering to a grammatical rule.
Or, in other words, prescriptivism is rejected when it isn't sufficiently descriptivist. That doesn't make any sense.
Or, in other words, descriptivists are right when prescriptivists agree with them. That doesn't make any sense either.
Not true. I gave you summaries of actual entries, including the one on "that vs. which" you were asking about.
Garner (2003) notes that there are two schools on the matter: one that cares about the distinction on the matter, and that doesn't. He makes a snarky remark expressing his partisanship for the former, and proceeds to offer guidelines for those who wish to obey the distinction. Not much of a prescription here.
than demolishing actual prescriptivist linguists.
Prescriptive and descriptive linguistics: the language wars
The sci.lang FAQ does not equivocate:
3 Does linguistics tell people how to speak or write properly?
No. Linguistics is descriptive, not prescriptive.
As we'll see, linguistics can certainly be used prescriptively, and often is. However, modern linguists insist that value judgments about language should be recognized as such, and should be examined in the light of the facts.
[imagine that, using facts to describe a scientific endeavor]
As a result, some critics feel that linguists' attitudes stand in the way of the establishment and maintenance of language standards. You can find a sample of the debate in Geoff Nunberg's classic article Decline of Grammar , or Mark Halpern's more recent riposte A War That Never Ends .
Negotiating a truce
There are genuine differences of opinion about language policy. Linguistic analysis lets us state the issues clearly -- when this is done, people sometimes disagree less than they thought they did about "correctness" in English.
In particular, we can distinguish four types of "correctness":
Established criteria of educated written language
third-person singular /s/: "she goes," not "she go."
no double negatives: "he didn't see anybody," not "he didn't see nobody."
Issues on which educated people differ (and which may be different in written and spoken forms):
"who/whom did you see"
"Winston tastes good like/as a cigarette should"
"the data is/are unreliable"
"I disapprove of him/his doing it"
"get it done as quick/quickly as possible"
"hopefully, she'll be there on time"
Changes in the spoken language that some people resist:
"between you and I"
"me and Harry went downtown"
"was" for "said"
Pure inventions of self-appointed grammarians with no basis in actual usage:
prohibition of dangling prepositions
"I shall" vs. "you will"
"It is I"
prohibition of split infinitives
Let me help you out. Do Garner's guidelines go something like this?
Well actually it is, Joe. Children are not taught to speak but they have to be taught how to write. Speech, and the voluminous number of rules that support it, come naturally to children. Writing most definitely does not.
Spelling is in large measure, memorization. The rules of grammar are clearly not. How do we know this? Because the vast majority of people don't have, in a conscious fashion, the faintest idea what those rules are, yet you, they, we deploy them without a thought. An idea forms and the grammar flows seamlessly into place to express that idea.
The part I underlined and put in bold tells it all. Prescriptions have to be memorized. They are not part of the natural rules of English, the ones we all know, the ones we deploy minute by minute.
What's also so telling is that these prescriptions are ignored by people using language naturally.
More than a few fail to learn how to read and write, while all learn how to speak.
As pointed out above, grammar is something that everyone learns and in many ways it's shared with writing though the rules are quite different for different levels within, let's call it the speech register, to contrast it with the newspaper, fiction, and academic registers.
Quote:No, in speech we don't form singular possessives in two ways. We form them in only one way, by adding an "s" or "z" sound at the end of the word. In speech, therefore, the possessive of "Charles" is pronounced "Char-el-zez" (where the "e" sounds are schwas). There's no confusion, therefore, in speech. It is only in writing that we run into problems.
That's false, Joe.
James' book or James's book.
Charles' book or [how come you didn't write the possessive form?]
Regardless, in both cases, the former sounds more natural to me than the latter though I acknowledge that both exist.
But it wasn't always so. The rules come from speech. They are mimicked in one form or another for writing and when the rules of speech change, the rules for writing adapt. It's always been so for speech far advanced writing in time and changes to language are for the most part generated in speech.
How do scientists discover things about any subject, about any living creature Joe?
Again, so what? If writing adapts to speech patterns, that still doesn't mean that descriptivists are right and prescriptivists are wrong.
You must be joking. Do you seriously believe that children don't have to be taught how to speak? Are you familiar with any feral children by any chance?
Now, since we always speak the language of our parents, they must have helped us learn to speak our first language. But do you remember when your mother taught you the past tense? When your father laid down the rules for passive sentences? We don't remember these important moments of our childhood because they never occurred.
Our parents didn't teach us how to walk and they didn't teach us how to talk. Yet we learned from them. How can this be? Certainly there must have been a subtle, perhaps intuitive teaching process that neither our parents nor we were aware of.
The rules of grammar must be memorized just as the rules of spelling are. There's nothing "natural" about either of them. The ways that people learn those rules are usually different, but they are both rules and they both must be learned.
So what? That just might mean that they're speaking incorrectly.
"Natural rules of English?" What sort of nonsense is that? There are no "natural rules" of any language. Try learning a foreign language and see how many of its rules seem "natural" to you.
Actually, there are relatively few deviations in the rules of grammar from one speech register to another. It's not as if people speaking informally form plurals or decline verbs any differently from people speaking in a more formal context.
If you wish to follow the distinction between that and which, then this is pretty much the way to follow it according to Garner, yes. Mind the "if", however.
1. That and which.
The first charge is that the Times "consistently proves that it does not know the difference between ‘that’ and ‘which,’ greatly favoring the latter." There's only one thing he could be alluding to here: he's one of those people who believe the old nonsense about which being disallowed in what The Cambridge Grammar calls integrated relative clauses (the old-fashioned term is "restrictive" or "defining" relative clauses). Strunk and White perpetuate that myth. I've discussed it elsewhere.
The notion that phrases like any book which you would want to read are ungrammatical is so utterly in conflict with the facts that you can refute it by looking in... well, any book which you would want to read.
As I said before about which in integrated relatives:
As a check on just how common it is in excellent writing, I searched electronic copies of a few classic novels to find the line on which they first use which to introduce an integrated relative with which, to tell us how much of the book you would need to read before you ran into an instance:
A Christmas Carol (Dickens): 1,921 lines, first occurrence on line 217 = 11% of the way through;
Alice in Wonderland (Carroll): 1,618 lines, line 143 = 8%;
Dracula (Stoker): 9,824 lines, line 8 = less than 1%;
Lord Jim (Conrad): 8,045 lines, line 15 = 1%;
Moby Dick (Melville): 10,263 lines, line 103 = 1%;
Wuthering Heights (Bronte): 7,599 lines, line 56 = 0.736%...
Do I need to go on? No. The point is clear. On average, by the time you've read about 3% of a book by an author who knows how to write you will already have encountered an integrated relative clause beginning with which. They are fully grammatical for everyone. The copy editors are enforcing a rule which has no support at all in the literature that defines what counts as good use of the English language. Their which hunts are pointless time-wasting nonsense.
The linguistic point is that the concept "grammar" as "language rules" is being used differently by the prescriptivists who are "instructing" others in a language for particular contexts