ERIC Number: ED374657
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1994
Language Authority in America: In Grammar and Webster We Trust.
The choice of a reliable authority for use in decisions of grammatical acceptability in English is discussed. It is argued that commonly-heard "rules" of English grammar offer advice that is either prescriptive or proscriptive, not descriptive, and often based on inaccuracies or flawed linguistic analyses. This is illustrated in the case of adverbs with the suffix "-ly." Arguments for use of such rules include the prediction that without them, in the long term, the language will suffer. Controversy over the use of dictionaries for grammatical information is traced to the introduction in 1961 of a revised version of a respected dictionary, which included language commonly used but not adhering closely to accepted rules. The further evolution of American English dictionaries, and controversy surrounding their design and content, is chronicled briefly. It is proposed that the only two sources of reliable advice on points raised in prescriptive grammar are the traditional dictionaries and Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, which provides analytic accounts of each grammatical issue, recounts the history of the dispute, surveys prescriptivist opinion, and describes current practice, with quotations and examples. However, it is also argued that ultimately, individuals must be their own authorities on language standards. (MSE)
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A