Talk:Linguistic description

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Synchronic linguistics[edit]

Synchronic linguistics redirects here, but the term is never mentioned in the article. Is it just a synomym (in which case it should be mentioned in the lead) or is there a difference in meaning (in which case we should define it). -- Jmabel 23:03, Oct 1, 2004 (UTC)

Descriptive linguistics has its own article, but prescriptive linguistics gets redirected to prescription and description. Was ist los!!!!!!!!!!!!!1112edv,, -Branddobbe 09:03, Dec 3, 2004 (UTC)
It's because descriptive linguistics is not merely the antonym of prescriptive linguistics, but rather refers to a much broader aspect of linguistics of which "descriptive linguistics in English" is only a tiny part, if even related. - Mustafaa

Synchronic linguistics no longer redirects here. Users following a link to "synchronic" need an explanation of what synchronic means in a linguistic context. --Doric Loon (talk) 14:47, 12 February 2008 (UTC)


Orthography is not an essential part of descriptive linguistics; in fact, it's not even part of descriptive linguistics also except as a time-saving tool so that the descriptor need not exclusively use IPA. It should not be included as one of the criteria for a "good" (good? should this be "useful"? "Rigorous"? something less subjective?) linguistic description-- there are plenty of languages lacking orthography which can be described in a "good" fashion.

Barring any sort of objection or explanation, I'm going to go ahead and remove the orthography reference. variable 19:35, 4 Jan 2005 (UTC)

This article should not exist[edit]

"Descriptive linguistics" is an oxymoron. Linguistics is descriptive. There is no such thing as "prescriptive linguistics."

Open up a high school grammar book. That is prescriptive linguistics.siafu 19:46, 5 Mar 2005 (UTC)
And you meant to say "Descriptive linguistics" is redundant, not that it is an oxymoron. (Unless the use of 'oxymoron' to mean 'redundant expression' is for some strange reason prevalent in use among those who don't know better, in which case I'll quickly flee from the descriptivists here!)
Please sign your posts on talk pages per Wikipedia:Sign your posts on talk pages. Thanks! Hyacinth 20:32, 23 August 2007 (UTC)


Should this be merged into prescription and description? - SimonP 19:42, July 29, 2005 (UTC)

No, why do you say that? This shouldn't be merged with linguistic descriptivism either, though I can see merging the latter with prescription and description. Descriptive linguistics is not an antonym to "prescriptive linguistics", they are orthogonal at best. Descriptive linguistics is about describing languages (as they actually are), just as a subset of biology is about describing animals, what they look like, where they live, what they eat etc... Prescriptivism (in English) is something that happened because some pedants read too much latin in the 19th century and wanted to improve English. In other languages it is also a symptom of nationalism and the then just starting attempts at educating the unwashed masses. Quite different beasts! Kaleissin 14:05, 2 December 2005 (UTC)

List of Descriptive Linguists[edit]

I removed Bill Croft, who has not described any language afaik. Jasyjatere 12:28, 23 June 2006 (UTC)

His article mentions he tried to “compare and contrast the grammatical features of different natural languages”. That wouldn't be possible if he didn't describe them at the same time. --Kjoonlee 12:31, 23 June 2006 (UTC)
Excuse me, but you seem to be mistaken here. It is perfectly possible to compare languages without describing them. To do that, you take a number of grammar books from the library, look up the description of a particular phenomenon and compare them. None of the books has to be written by you. Actually, this is a subdiscipline of linguistic which is called Linguistic typology. I agree that many typologists have also done some descriptive work at a certain point in time of their carreer, but this is not always so. AFAIK, Joseph Greenberg or Matthew Dryer, which are two very important typologists, have not written descriptive stuff. Same goes for Bill Croft.
The other authors in the list at the bottom of the article are known for the grammars they have written. I ask you to point out a grammar that has been written by Bill Croft. Jasyjatere 07:05, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Opposition? Controversy?[edit]

Am I the only one who finds this section pointless and not reflective of any actual controversy among linguists? Bjart 07:19, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

I concur.

  • "The purpose of linguistic theory, so far as a practical linguist is concerned, is to make descriptions of morphology and syntax comprehensible."


  • "It is easy to see that the same data can often be described in different ways."

Yeah, but that is why DL aims at being theory neutral, to allow precisely this. And there is Basic Linguistic Theory as well.

  • "For a while there was an active desire to find some measure which would allow some one description to be called the best. Today that goal seems to have been given up as chimerical."

pure POV. Who says that? 14:35, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

Descriptive grammar[edit]

Why does "Descriptive grammar" redirect here? Linguistics is naturally descriptive; grammar used to be prescriptive, that was the point. Ampwright (talk) 23:23, 31 July 2010 (UTC)

The see also section[edit]

Aren't those links a bit... arbitrary? LOL. Kayau (talk · contribs) 15:48, 22 June 2015 (UTC)

Why are there random Cyrillic letters scattered in this article?[edit]

I'm inclined to remove them; I don't think they are serving any purpose. Ullpianissimo (talk) 10:26, 27 June 2015 (UTC)

Language documentation and description[edit]

Should this page discuss about language documentation and language description (in Himmelmann's sense: Himmelmann, Nikolaus P. 2002. Documentary and descriptive linguistics (full version). In Osamu Sakiyama & Fubito Endo (eds.), Lectures on endangered languages: 5, 37–83. Kyoto: Endangered Languages of the Pacific Rim.)? --SynConlanger (talk) 09:37, 24 March 2016 (UTC)

Requested move 19 April 2016[edit]

The following is a closed discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: No consensus to move - this has been here for two listing periods, and I don't see a firm consensus to move one or both of the articles. Carry on discussing and then list one of them again if you think you might make progress.  — Amakuru (talk) 15:29, 5 May 2016 (UTC)

WP:COMMONNAME. Google brings up more results in university domains for "Descriptive linguistics",[1][2] even though most instances of the current title are likely just descriptions that happen to be linguistic. Hijiri 88 (やや) 12:51, 19 April 2016 (UTC) --Relisted. George Ho (talk) 05:13, 27 April 2016 (UTC)

  • Support "Descriptive linguistics" but Oppose "Prescriptive linguistics". The first is indeed a branch of linguistics contrasting with theoretical linguistics. However there is no such thing as prescriptive linguistics - there is only linguistic prescription which is almost exclusively practiced outside of the discipline of linguistics. ·maunus · snunɐɯ· 08:41, 20 April 2016 (UTC)
  • Oppose Prescription and description are not branches of linguistics. They are activities that linguists (and others) may be involved in. In particular, I think most linguists would be horrified at the idea of a "prescriptive linguistics". If you really don't like the current titles, "language description" and "language prescription" would be the next best thing. But I wouldn't change these myself. --Doric Loon (talk) 09:49, 20 April 2016 (UTC)
"Descriptive linguistics" actually is a "branch" or "field" of linguistics. Linguistic prescription is not.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 18:58, 29 April 2016 (UTC)
Shit. I think you might be right. I hadn't even thought of that point. Somehow when I posted this, in my memory I had gotten "prescriptive grammar" and "prescriptive linguistics" (sic?) mixed up, and didn't notice that problem until I said it out loud. That said, even when pointing out that linguistics is by definition descriptive and not prescriptive, linguists do appear to contrast "prescriptive [linguistics] and descriptive linguistics".[3] In fact, the phrase "prescriptive linguistics" appears to be somewhat more common than "linguistic prescription".[4][5] My studies in this area don't go beyond undergraduate classes, so I'm not sure if scholars who title their books Language Standardization: Studies in Prescriptive Linguistics represent a fringe view equivalent the views that "the New Testament has never been altered and its constituent books essentially free of intertextual contradictions" and "there were not many Christianities", or if they are just using particular (common) terminology to describe a phenomenon that is itself theoretically opposed to modern linguistics. Hijiri 88 (やや) 13:20, 20 April 2016 (UTC)
I wouldn't put too much weight on Google hit-counts. --Doric Loon (talk) 16:29, 29 April 2016 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.