Understanding prescription in language. A corpus-based approach

Douglas A. Kibbee, Alan Craig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We define prescription as any intervention in the way another person speaks. Long excluded from linguistics as unscientific, prescription is in fact a natural part of linguistic behavior. We seek to understand the logic and method of prescriptivism through the study of usage manuals: their authors, sources and audience; their social context; the categories of "errors"targeted; the justification for correction; the phrasing of prescription; the relationship between demonstrated usage and the usage prescribed; the effect of the prescription. Our corpus is a collection of about 30 usage manuals in the French tradition. Eventually we hope to create a database permitting easy comparison of these features.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-81
Number of pages15
JournalHistoire Epistemologie Langage
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2019


  • Errors
  • Linguistics
  • Norm
  • Prescription
  • Usage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language


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