Tag: descriptivism

March 4, 2015

Why Descriptivists Are Usage Liberals

Outside of linguistics, the people who care most about language tend to be prescriptivists—editors, writers, English teachers, and so on—while linguists and lexicographers are descriptivists. “Descriptive, not prescriptive!” is practically the linguist rallying cry. But we linguists have done a terrible job of explaining just what that means and why it matters. As I tried […]

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Descriptivism, Prescriptivism 8 Replies to “Why Descriptivists Are Usage Liberals”
January 13, 2014

Lynne Truss and Chicken Little

Lynne Truss, author of the bestselling Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, is at it again, crying with her characteristic hyperbole and lack of perspective that the linguistic sky is falling because she got a minor bump on the head. As usual, Truss hides behind the it’s-just-a-joke-but-no-seriously defense. She starts by […]

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Descriptivism, Prescriptivism, Rants 20 Replies to “Lynne Truss and Chicken Little”
June 4, 2012

What Descriptivism Is and Isn’t

A few weeks ago, the New Yorker published what is nominally a review of Henry Hitchings’ book The Language Wars (which I still have not read but have been meaning to) but which was really more of a thinly veiled attack on what its author, Joan Acocella, sees as the moral and intellectual failings of […]

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Descriptivism, Prescriptivism 9 Replies to “What Descriptivism Is and Isn’t”
October 19, 2011

Rules, Regularity, and Relative Pronouns

The other day I was thinking about relative pronouns and how they get so much attention from usage commentators, and I decided I should write a post about them. I was beaten to the punch by Stan Carey, but that’s okay, because I think I’m going to take it in a somewhat different direction. (And […]

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Descriptivism, Prescriptivism, Usage, Words 9 Replies to “Rules, Regularity, and Relative Pronouns”
October 6, 2011

Continua, Planes, and False Dichotomies

On Twitter, Erin Brenner asked, “How about a post on prescriptivism/descriptivism as a continuum rather than two sides? Why does it have to be either/or?” It’s a great question, and I firmly believe that it’s not an either-or choice. However, I don’t actually agree that prescriptivism and descriptivism occupy different points on a continuum, so […]

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Descriptivism, Prescriptivism 23 Replies to “Continua, Planes, and False Dichotomies”
September 8, 2011

The Value of Prescriptivism

Last week I asked rather skeptically whether prescriptivism had moral worth. John McIntyre was interested by my question and musing in the last paragraph, and he took up the question (quite admirably, as always) and responded with his own thoughts on prescriptivism. What I see is in his post is neither a coherent principle nor […]

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Prescriptivism, Usage 2 Replies to “The Value of Prescriptivism”
August 30, 2011

Does Prescriptivism Have Moral Worth?

I probably shouldn’t be getting into this again, but I think David Bentley Hart’s latest post on language (a follow-up to the one I last wrote about) deserves a response. You see, even though he’s no longer cloaking his peeving with the it’s-just-a-joke-but-no-seriously defense, I think he’s still cloaking his arguments in something else: spurious […]

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Descriptivism, Prescriptivism, Usage 9 Replies to “Does Prescriptivism Have Moral Worth?”
August 10, 2010

Gray, Grey, and Circular Prescriptions

A few days ago John McIntyre took a whack at the Associated Press Stylebook’s penchant for flat assertions, this time regarding the spelling of gray/grey. McIntyre noted that gray certainly is more common in American English but that grey is not a misspelling. In the comments I mused that perhaps gray is only more common […]

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Descriptivism, Prescriptivism, Words 12 Replies to “Gray, Grey, and Circular Prescriptions”
March 24, 2010

Scriptivists Revisited

Before I begin: I know—it’s been a terribly, horribly, unforgivably long time since my last post. Part of it is that I’m often busy with grad school and work and family, and part of it is that I’ve been thinking an awful lot lately about prescriptivism and descriptivism and linguists and editors and don’t really […]

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Descriptivism, Prescriptivism 7 Replies to “Scriptivists Revisited”
June 19, 2009

Linguists and Straw Men

Sorry I haven’t posted in so long (I know I say that a lot)—I’ve been busy with school and things. Anyway, a couple months back I got a comment on an old post of mine, and I wanted to address it. I know it’s a bit lame to respond to two-month-old comments, but it was […]

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Descriptivism, Prescriptivism 8 Replies to “Linguists and Straw Men”
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