1st Edition

Describing Prescriptivism Usage Guides and Usage Problems in British and American English

By Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade Copyright 2020
    288 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    288 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    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/



    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

    "Describing prescriptivism offers a thought-provoking analysis of prescriptivism from a sociolinguistic perspective. Employing a descriptive approach, this book draws upon a wide range of datasets that address the issue of usage guides and usage problems in British and American English from around 1750 to the present day, examining the functions, popularity, and the assumed influence of usage guides on the language."

    Meishu Wang, School of International Studies, Zhejiang University