authority for prescriptions

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Wed Feb 25 02:40:13 UTC 2004

On Feb 24, 2004, at 5:55 PM, RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:

> In a message dated 2/24/04 2:23:41 PM, zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU writes:
> << there are plenty of places in life where prescriptions are entirely
> appropriate.  i'm going to object if you refer to "the Linguistics
> Society of America" (or, for that matter, to "the Berkeley Linguistic
> Society"), for example, and i'm going to insist on standard spelling
> (and capitalization, even!) in academic publications. >>
> Exactly -- and these are all examples where one can cite authority
> rather
> than just issue edicts based on one's own preferences. My
> prescriptions = your
> carelessness = his mistaken notions?

one more time, and then i give up.  what i said, at the very beginning
of my 1/28/04 posting was:
   "i was astonished to see CHOICE referring to a co-authored book as the
work of the first listed author."

the problem is not my preference.  it's a matter of truth.  if you say
   "In 'The syntax-phonology interface' (in Newmeyer 1988), Pullum
this is at best misleading, quite possibly false.  the article was by
Pullum & Zwicky, and most of its *sentences* have some words from
pullum and some from zwicky.  so maybe pullum said that, maybe zwicky
did, maybe it was an indissolubly joint assertion.  but it's wrong to
attribute it to pullum alone.

there are two issues here: how to refer to jointly written works (here
i think there are some rights and wrongs) and how to order authors'
names in jointly written works (here i *made no prescriptions*;  i did
express a preference, recently come to, but i certainly did not insist
on alphabetical order, nor did i ever say that other orderings were

i don't think i can say this more clearly.  if you want to think i'm a
blinkered prescriptivist asshole, so be it.

arnold (zwicky at

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