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3 March 2012

PRESCRIPTIVE AND DESCRIPTIVE GRAMMAR


&
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF THEM
PINAR ASTAY
Zirve University
Grammar is structure and system of a language or languages. It includes syntax, phonology,
morphology and semantics. Grammar can be explained simply as the rules of a language. There
are two kinds of grammar: prescriptive and descriptive. In this essay, I am going to explain
prescriptive and descriptive grammar, what are the advantages and disadvantages of them for a
language teacher.
As I explained above, grammar is rules for organizing a language. But where did these rules
come from, did people created the rules and started to use them in written and spoken language?
The answer is no. People have started to communicate by sounds, sounds turned into words and
then phrases and sentences. Afterwards people started generalize these rules and then some
governmental institutions (such as Turkish Language Institution in Turkey) make the rules official
and told the people what is good grammar; what is bad grammar. These institutions decided how the
rules of a language should be and how the language should be used. Then they published grammar
books, dictionaries and the publication of the new grammar books has been still going on. (In the
countries which do not have an institution to organize the rules of the language, linguists,
universities try to organize the best rules for them, publish books and dictionaries.) If a teacher uses
the rules written in the grammar books, it means that the teacher teaches prescriptive grammar
which is a principle or order guides behavior and says what to be done. If the teacher uses native
speakers a source and teaches how the native speakers speaks, it means that the teacher teaches
prescriptive grammar. Both prescriptive and descriptive grammar have some advantages and
disadvantages in terms of teaching a language.

First of all, I am going to discuss advantages and disadvantages of teaching prescriptive


grammar. Teaching prescriptive grammar is more helpful for both non-native teachers and learners.
It has certain rules of language, this certainty reduces confusion and ambiguity among students.
Especially for beginners learners, it is very useful to be taught how a language should be used.
When it is said Dont use double negation in a sentence, do not say I didn't eat nothing but
say I didnt eat anything, we make the rule clear for the students, they draw a language
system in their mind, this certainty makes learning the language easier for them. In addition to this,
when the learners know prescriptive grammar rules, it will be easier for them to write in the target
language. Prescriptive grammar teaching creates better writers. Most of the language teachers in
Turkey and in the other countries prefer teaching prescriptive grammar because it is map of
language teachers. It is helpful for non-native teacher because, they cannot have a precise
knowledge about descriptive grammar of a foreign language. To have an idea about descriptive
grammar, they should have lived in the country that the target language is used but it is nearly
impossible to send our teachers to these countries to learn descriptive grammar. It is both time
consuming, not economical and unnecessary. Even if the teacher goes to the country where the
language is spoken officially, which dialect 1 s/he will learn. If we consider the English the target
language, which standard of English will be taught; American English or British English.
When we consider all these reasons, teaching prescriptive grammar has many advantages
but it has disadvantages as well. If the prescriptive grammar is taught, learners will be confused
when they talk with a native speaker. They will realize that natives do not use the rules in the
grammar books. People who learn prescriptive grammar cannot be able to speak or write like a
native speaker because they only uses standard grammar books and they do not know how the
native speakers use the language. Furthermore, they will probably get bored of learning grammar
rules all the time, because prescriptive grammar mostly deals with rules.
1aformofalanguagethatisspokeninaparticularpartofacountryorbyaparticulargroupof

peopleandthatcontainssomewords,grammar,orpronunciations(=thewaysinwhichwordsare
said)thataredifferentfromtheformsusedinotherpartsorbyothergroups.(cambridgedictionary
online)

Secondly, I am going to discuss advantages and disadvantages of descriptive grammar. By


listening a native speakere speech, the learner can understand how a native speaker uses the
language. Listening exercises help learners to learn real the usage of the language. Also it helps
them to improve their pronunciation and they start to sound like a native speaker. Additionally,
when the learners talk with a native speaker, they will not get confuse because of usage difference
of the language.
Prescriptive grammar helps learners to speak, write like a native speaker, it reduces the
confusion of learners when they speak with a native speaker but it is not appropriate for beginner
learners because the rules are not precise, they are ambiguous, more flexible and changeable in
descriptive grammar. These flexible, changeable and ambiguous rules will most probably confuse
the learners and make writing and speaking harder for them. (Thats why we can say that this kind
of grammar is more appropriate for advanced learners.) Furthermore, it is difficult for teachers to
decide which dialect, which usage of a language to teach. Even if the teacher choose the most used
dialect of the target language, students will have difficulty in communicating with a native speaker
from a different part of the country. If the teachers teach fixed grammar rules in the books, all of the
speakers of the target language can communicate with each other more easily. When they hear or
see different usage or rule of a language which is used by natives, they can understand that there are
different usage of rules which are used by natives and they can learn these differences by
experiencing.
Consequently, both pros and cons for prescriptive and descriptive grammar are explained
above. Both of them can be beneficial and helpful for both teachers and students. A teacher should
make his mind about which grammar type to teach. To make that decision, he should consider their
levels. If the learners are advanced they should be taught descriptive grammar. If they are beginner
learners, they should be taught prescriptive grammar. When they learned basic grammar rules, they
should be also mentioned about descriptive grammar and should be taught it.

REFERENCES:
- Odlin. Terence. Perspectives of Pedagogical Grammar (1994) (Cambridge Applied Linguistic)
Controversy of Teaching Grammar.
http://education.yourdictionary.com/for-teachers/Controversy-of-Teaching-Grammar.html
-

Bourke.James Mannes. The grammar we teach. University of Brunei