LINGUIST List 8.1753

Sat Dec 6 1997

Disc: Prescriptivism

Editor for this issue: Brett Churchill <>


  1. Scott M Stirling, Prescriptivism
  2. manaster, Prescriptivism

Message 1: Prescriptivism

Date: Sat, 6 Dec 1997 04:52:29 -0500 (EST)
From: Scott M Stirling <>
Subject: Prescriptivism

	I think it should be pointed out that there is no linguistic or
otherwise scientific argument against prescriptivism. Linguists tend to
make arguments from authority that presciptivism is bad or wrong, without
realizing that they are making an ethical or otherwise philsophical point.
While prescriptivists often misunderstand or are just ignorant of the
linguistic facts, linguists are just as ignorant about the types of value
judgements they make proscribing prescriptivism. I think linguists should
face the fact that as scientists they have no more authority or reason to
claim that all languages must be treated equally than does a geneticist to
say that all people should be treated equally. The realms of scientific
fact and social prescriptivism are quite different; linguists are just as
likely to misrepresent a social value as a scientific truth as are

Scott S.
Scott M. Stirling		phone:(716) 693-7157--home
PhD program			 (716) 645-2177 ext.719--office
Linguistics Dept.		fax: (716) 645-3825
619 Baldy Hall
SUNY at Buffalo			email:
Buffalo NY 14260
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Message 2: Prescriptivism

Date: Fri, 5 Dec 1997 23:08:00 -0500 (EST)
From: manaster <>
Subject: Prescriptivism

As I pointed out some considerable time ago when this same topic
arose, a number of distinguishied linguists have been involved
over the years with the publication of essentially prescriptive
works, such as dictionaries, both in the English-speaking world
(where this might be least expected) and even more so in other
places (where linguists' jobs are to a large extent defined as
to include work on defining what the standard language should be).
This is perhaps THE major obstacle to taking seriously the idea
that linguistics is really dedicated to doing away with prescriptivism.

It may be true that most opponents of prescriptivism in modern times
have been linguists or at least motivated by linguistics but the
converse is certainly not true.

A. Manaster Ramer
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