In linguistics, prescription or prescriptivism, is the practice of championing one variety or manner of speaking of a language against another. It may imply a view that some forms are incorrect or improper or illogical, or lacking in communicative effect, or of low aesthetic value. Sometimes it is informed by linguistic purism. Normative practices may prescribe on such aspects of language use as spelling, grammar, pronunciation, and syntax. Linguistic prescriptivism includes judgments on what usages are socially proper and politically correct. Its aims may be to establish a standard language, to teach what is perceived within a particular society to be correct forms of language, or to advise on effective communication. If usage preferences are conservative, prescription might (appear to) be resistant to language change; if the usage preferences are radical, prescription may produce neologisms.
Prescriptive approaches to language, concerned with how the prescriptivist recommends language should be used, are often contrasted with the alternative approach of descriptive linguistics, which observes and records how language actually is used. The basis of linguistic research is text (corpus) analysis and field studies, both of which are descriptive activities; but description includes each researcher’s observations of his or her own language usage. Despite apparent opposition, prescription and description can inform each other, since comprehensive descriptive accounts must take into account speaker attitudes, while some understanding of how language is actually used is necessary for prescription to be effective.
Famous quotes containing the words linguistic and/or prescription:
“The most striking aspect of linguistic competence is what we may call the creativity of language, that is, the speakers ability to produce new sentences, sentences that are immediately understood by other speakers although they bear no physical resemblance to sentences which are familiar.”
—Noam Chomsky (b. 1928)
“Women are taught that their main goal in life is to serve othersfirst men, and later, children. This prescription leads to enormous problems, for it is supposed to be carried out as if women did not have needs of their own, as if one could serve others without simultaneously attending to ones own interests and desires. Carried to its perfection, it produces the martyr syndrome or the smothering wife and mother.”
—Jean Baker Miller (20th century)