Descriptivism vs. prescriptivism

 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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07 January 2020 22:25
 

With specific reference to the definition of words.

This is the classic divide among linguists and lexicographers and occasionally authors and poets. Or so I was taught in my college english classes. I tend toward the former but I really think its one of those issues that is only a dichotomy for the sake of dichotomy.

That is to say I feel like both are true. A word conveys whatever meaning two or more interlocutors can agree upon. I see little means of escaping that. At the same time institutions can exert disproportionate power over the meaning of words. I don’t see any way around that either. Specialized glossaries gain leverage over definitions to the degree that their associated disciplines remain in popular demand. States can maintain control over language by various means of insulation or coercion. At the same time individual creative intelligence has boundless scope to coin, infer and re combine.

Is there some compelling argument that one view is more correct? Linguistic realism if you like?

 
Traces Elk
 
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Traces Elk
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08 January 2020 08:53
 
Brick Bungalow - 07 January 2020 10:25 PM

With specific reference to the definition of words.

This is the classic divide among linguists and lexicographers and occasionally authors and poets. Or so I was taught in my college english classes. I tend toward the former but I really think its one of those issues that is only a dichotomy for the sake of dichotomy.

That is to say I feel like both are true. A word conveys whatever meaning two or more interlocutors can agree upon. I see little means of escaping that. At the same time institutions can exert disproportionate power over the meaning of words. I don’t see any way around that either. Specialized glossaries gain leverage over definitions to the degree that their associated disciplines remain in popular demand. States can maintain control over language by various means of insulation or coercion. At the same time individual creative intelligence has boundless scope to coin, infer and re combine.

Is there some compelling argument that one view is more correct? Linguistic realism if you like?

No, there isn’t, or you would have read about it by now, and we’d all be talking either prescriptively or descriptively, depending on how it all shook out. The point of philosophy may not be to produce compelling arguments that settle questions the same way scientists do. Otherwise, philosophy would be science.

The foundation of compelling argument is political.

 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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08 January 2020 18:28
 
Traces Elk - 08 January 2020 08:53 AM
Brick Bungalow - 07 January 2020 10:25 PM

With specific reference to the definition of words.

This is the classic divide among linguists and lexicographers and occasionally authors and poets. Or so I was taught in my college english classes. I tend toward the former but I really think its one of those issues that is only a dichotomy for the sake of dichotomy.

That is to say I feel like both are true. A word conveys whatever meaning two or more interlocutors can agree upon. I see little means of escaping that. At the same time institutions can exert disproportionate power over the meaning of words. I don’t see any way around that either. Specialized glossaries gain leverage over definitions to the degree that their associated disciplines remain in popular demand. States can maintain control over language by various means of insulation or coercion. At the same time individual creative intelligence has boundless scope to coin, infer and re combine.

Is there some compelling argument that one view is more correct? Linguistic realism if you like?

No, there isn’t, or you would have read about it by now, and we’d all be talking either prescriptively or descriptively, depending on how it all shook out. The point of philosophy may not be to produce compelling arguments that settle questions the same way scientists do. Otherwise, philosophy would be science.

The foundation of compelling argument is political.

I think I agree. It’s a division that functions to help us understand concepts.

 
burt
 
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burt
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09 January 2020 09:22
 

Every description is from a particular perspective, there is no “view from nowhere.” Every perspective can be described as a particular point of view.

“We take as given the concept of indication and the concept of distinction, and that one cannot make an indication without first drawing a distinction.” G. Spencer-Brown, Laws of Form, p.1

 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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09 January 2020 21:22
 
burt - 09 January 2020 09:22 AM

Every description is from a particular perspective, there is no “view from nowhere.” Every perspective can be described as a particular point of view.

“We take as given the concept of indication and the concept of distinction, and that one cannot make an indication without first drawing a distinction.” G. Spencer-Brown, Laws of Form, p.1

For sure. But this doesn’t dissolve the conceptual distinction. Neither is objective but they are still functionally opposed within a closed system.