Prescriptive answer?

Gwest   Sat Aug 11, 2007 7:15 am GMT
Student: In our language, we say this xxx? How do you say that in English?

Teacher: We say yyyy.

Is the teacher's answer prescripitive?
furrykef   Sat Aug 11, 2007 10:18 am GMT
Whether it's descriptive or prescriptive depends on the teacher's point of view. I don't think it's something that can be determined from the words alone.

I would say that by default it's descriptive: descriptivism is describing how native speakers speak the language (as opposed to how they should), and that includes how they say things. Descriptivism is "people say this, and they generally don't say that"; prescriptivism is "people say this, but it's wrong and they should say this instead". It's easy to hide prescriptivism in descriptivism, though. Our teacher could say something like "We never end a sentence with a preposition", which would definitely be inaccurate from a descriptivist's point of view, and describes a characteristic grammar rule of prescriptivists.

- Kef