City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Nov 24, 2020 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (24,580 points)
retagged Nov 25, 2020 by Ariel | 24 views

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According to Chao (1965):

School grammars usually pre­scribe what is correct and what is incorrect, what is grammatical and what is un­grammatical. A descriptive grammar, on the other hand, is concerned with sta­ting the facts of the language without passing any value judgment on them. However, the difference is rather one of form of statement and relative emphasis than one of content. For example, to say “Don’t say ‘like I do’, but say ‘as I do’” is a prescriptive statement, while “people of certain educational or economic class say one and people of another class say the other” is a descriptive state­ment. One is translatable into the other. The prescriptive statement is a categor­ical imperative, while the other, if stated in the form “if you want to be classed as a member of a certain class, you must say such and such” is a hypothetical im­perative. Moreover, the statement that Keats said: “They raven down scenery like children do sweetmeat's”is both a historical and a descriptive statement. There is usually no issue in the arguments between descriptivists and prescriptivists if they explicate what they are talking about. 

[1]Chao Y R. A grammar of spoken Chinese[M]. Univ of California Press, 1965.

answered Nov 24, 2020 by Ariel (24,580 points)
edited Nov 24, 2020 by Ariel

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