This page consists of videos that illustrate basic points about how language works. It’s not exhaustive, and does not get into the more technical discussions, but will orient you to the fundamental ideas of how to think about language.
Table of Contents
- On Prescriptivists vs. Descriptivists
- “Words only have meaning because we give it to them. Even onomatopoeia.”
- “Language is fluid and ever-changing.”
- “Dictionaries don’t tell you what words mean; they only tell you how those words have been used.”
- “A word’s meaning is only determined by context, not by dictionaries.”
- “Meaning is on the level of discourse, not on the level of words. Consider the hermeneutical circle.”
- For further viewing (YouTube Playlist)
Andreea S. Calude, “Does grammar matter?”
A basic introduction to Prescriptivism & Descriptivism from TED-Ed.
“Weird Al” Yankovic, “Word Crimes”
A good example of the prescriptivist grammarian’s position,even though Weird Al may not be totally sincere about his song.
Stephen Fry, “Kinetic Typography – Language”
A good example of a descriptivist grammarian’s position.