Linguistic Prescription and Description

Linguistic Prescription and Description
الوصفة اللغوية و الوصف اللغوي /al-waSfah al-lughawiyyah wa-l-wasf al-lughawiyy/

Too many thoughts, too little time

This post basically has no coherent structure; but it’s about the usage of language and so I figured I’d put them all in one post.


In linguistics, there’s this dichotomy between description and prescription; and they basically are different ways of talking about language. Most people have only ever been introduced to linguistic prescription, which is a shame because descriptivism is how most of language and linguistics works in practice.

Prescriptivism is when people make up rules for language, and strict definitions for words, and say that these words can only be used in this specific way. Descriptivism is when people pay attention to the ebb and flow of connotation and vocabulary, and attempt to define words based on what people really mean, not on what they think people should mean.

I am a descriptivist; and there are many reasons why you should be to.

Let’s take a…

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