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Prescriptivist statutory interpretation?

The title of this post combines two topics that are popular with the Language Log audience, and that are not usually discussed together. It is also the title of a LAWnLinguistics post from 2012, shortly after the publication of Reading Law, a book about legal interpretation that was co-authored by Justice Scalia and Bryan Garner. […]

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Little green prescriptivists

Today's SMBC starts with this panel:

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Maybe the prescriptivists are right

… at least about the use of  "summative that" in certain contexts. Thus one of Paul Brians' Common Errors in English Usage is "Vague Reference": Vague reference is a common problem in sentences where “this,” “it,” “which” or other such words don’t refer back to any one specific word or phrase, but a whole situation. […]

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George Fox, Prescriptivist

Jen wrote to inform me that today, being William Penn's birthday, is International Talk Like a Quaker Day. Jen explains that I like to combine it with my pirate talk from International Talk Like a Pirate Day.  "Arrr, thee must give us all thy money to donate to the Friends Service Committee, or we will […]

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Prescriptivist pain

9 Chickweed Lane, for June 15, illustrates something about prescriptivist pain:

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Prescriptivist Science

Is there any "prescriptivist science"? Could there be any? The reaction of some linguists will be that "prescriptivist science" is as much as a contradiction in terms as "creation science" is. But I disagree.

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Draconian dictionaries?

Rachel Paige King ("The Draconian Dictionary Is Back", The Atlantic 8/5/2018) suggests that lexicographers might be (re)turning to prescriptivism: Since the 1960s, the reference book has cataloged how people actually use language, not how they should. That might be changing. […] The standard way of describing these two approaches in lexicography is to call them […]

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Webster’s Second and Webster’s Third: Editors going against stereotype

One of the most well-known pieces of lexicographic history is the controversy that greeted the publication of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. Whereas the predecessor of W3, Webster’s Second New etc., had been regarded as authoritatively prescriptive, W3 was condemned in the popular media for its descriptive approach, the widespread perception of which can be […]

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Courtesy and personal pronoun choice

My most recent post started out as a very minor note of approval about the continuing spread of singular they in journalism. Then the person who sent me the quote realized that Phillip Garcia, named in the cited newspaper story, had a preference for being referred to with the pronoun they, which nullified the point. […]

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Dialect readers redux?

In a recent article Patriann Smith, a professor of Language, Diversity and Literacy Studies at Texas Tech, makes a bold proposal: that “nonstandard Englishes” such as African American English (AAE) and Hawai’i Creole English be used as the primary language of instruction in educating children who speak them. ("A Distinctly American Opportunity: Exploring Non-Standardized English(es) […]

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The craven feminine pronoun

The Times Literary Supplement diarist who hides behind the initials "J.C." makes this catty remark (issue of January 6, 2017, page 36) about Sidney E. Berger's The Dictionary of the Book: A Glossary of Book Collectors: "Predictions were that the Internet would do away with dealers' catalogs and it is true that many a dealer […]

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Asshat(t)ery

From Jenny Chu, on November 9: I am a long-time follower of Language Log but usually comment on the Chinese and Vietnamese related topics by Prof. Mair. Yet I thought you might be amused by the attached conversation. It shows some nice examples of the playfulness and creativity of the human language faculty, as well […]

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Strictly correct plurals of flower names

It has come to my attention that many laypeople, even Language Log readers, are using incorrect plurals for flower names. "Geraniums" indeed! "Crocuses", for heaven's sake! Please get these right. There follows a list of 30 count nouns naming flowers, together with their approved grammatically correct plurals. Don't use incorrect plurals any more. Shape up.

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