Describing Prescriptivism provides a topical and thought-provoking analysis of linguistic prescriptivism in British and American English, from a historical as well as present-day perspective. Focusing on usage guides and usage problems, the book takes a three-fold approach to present an in-depth analysis of the topic, featuring:
- a detailed study of the advice provided in usage guides over the years;
- an authoritative comparison of this advice with actual usage as recorded in British and American corpora, including the HUGE (Hyper Usage Guide of English) database – developed specifically to enable this line of study – as well as more mainstream corpora such as COCA, COHA and the BNC;
- a close analysis of the attitudes to particular usage problems among the general public, based on surveys distributed online through the "Bridging the Unbridgeable" research project’s blog.*
With extensive case studies to illustrate and support claims throughout, this comprehensive study is key reading for students and researchers of prescriptivism, the history of English and sociolinguistics.
*Found at https://bridgingtheunbridgeable.com/
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. The origin of the usage guide
Chapter 3. The usage guide – and the HUGE database
Chapter 4. The writers and the publishers
Chapter 5. Usage problems: pet linguistic peeves
Chapter 6. The language of prescriptivism
Chapter 7. Public awareness of prescriptivism
Chapter 8. The end of prescriptivism?
Appendix 1. Feedback on a blogpost (January 2015)
Appendix 2. Usage problems in the HUGE database
Appendix 3. Usage guide writers interviewed
Appendix 4. Usage guide writers’ credentials
Appendix 5. The metalinguistic categories from Sundby et al. (1991)
Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade is Chair in English Sociohistorical Linguistics, University of Leiden, The Netherlands, and has published extensively on the latter end of the English standardisation process.
"A welcome volume on an ever-topical matter – how to avoid the censure of self-appointed guardians of style – by a world authority on the subject. This book can be recommended to everyone interested in the background to widespread ideas about correctness in language."
Raymond Hickey, University of Duisburg and Essen, Germany