November 26, 2006

Descriptivism in literature

While Mark was reporting on prescriptivism in Pynchon, I found a nice example of level-headed descriptivism in Philip Roth's I Married a Communist (not Roth's newest, but I've been catching up). It's on the first page of chapter 4:

It was like penetrating a foreign language and discovering that, despite the alienating exoticism of its sounds, the foreigners fluently speaking it are saying no more than what you've been hearing in English all your life.

Obviously, this is being used as a metaphor for something else; it's not as direct as Mark's example. Still, it's very clearly descriptive as opposed to prescriptive.

Please feel free to add more examples of this kind in the comments area.

Posted by Eric Bakovic at November 26, 2006 04:50 PM