[Ads-l] Antedating of "Prescriptivism" and "Descriptivism"

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sun May 1 19:55:18 UTC 2016


The OED's first uses for the common senses in grammar/usage discussions of the words "prescriptivism" and "descriptivism" are surprisingly late.  Here are antedatings:


prescriptivism (OED, 1., 1953)


1948 Ivan Poldauf _On the History of Some Problems of English Grammar Before 1800_ 118 (Google Books)  Prescriptivism is the form of authoritarianism characteristic of the English, not Scottish, grammarians of the latter half of the 18th century.


descriptivism (OED, 4., 1979)


1959 _College Composition and Communication_ 10: 178 (JSTOR)  Probably the most important point of definition to emerge from discussion in the grammar workship was the distinction between descriptivism and prescriptivism in the study and teaching of grammar and usage.


Fred Shapiro

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The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org


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