Usage guides are a controversial topic among linguists because of their function to present a norm of correctness to whoever wishes to consult them. Linguistics as a discipline, however, is concerned with describing rather than prescribing usage. Nevertheless, usage guides are extremely popular with the general public, and even increasingly so despite centuries of prescriptivism.
This blog aims to provide – but primarily to receive – feedback on all sorts of usage questions, such as why people should object to split infinitives or to the use of like as in “I’m like, pat my hair? Ok, I guess”. So tell us what features in the English language – spelling, grammar, pronunciation or words – you dislike and why you are having problems with them. We’d also be interested in learning about what usage guides you use, how often you consult them, and what you consult them for.We will present news and information on usage guides. But we would also like you to share new developments you know about with us here. In addition, we would invite you to fill in our usage polls.
All this will serve as input for a new project we started, financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. The full title of the project is Bridging the unbridgeable: linguists, prescriptivists and the general public. The primary aim of this project is to bridge the gap between the three main players in the field of prescriptivism: linguists, prescriptivists (as writers of usage guides) and those who depend upon such manuals, the general user.
From 1 September (2012) onwards, the project has been at its full strength, for we have been joined by our three PhD candidates. From now on, you will be finding their posts on the blog as well. Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade (director), Robin Straaijer (postdoc), Carmen Ebner (PhD candidate), Morana Lukac, (PhD candidate), Viktorija Kostadinova (PhD candidate) and Cynthia Lange (project assistant), Leiden University of Centre for Linguistics.
In February 2013, Inge Otto joined the project as an intern and in September she was hired as our new project assistent, replacing Cynthia Lange. Inge will primarily be working on the database of usage guides and usage problems that we are compiling.
E-mail addresses for individual members can be found on the website of the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics or by following the links to the indidual project members. Our mail address is:
Bridging the Unbridgeable
Leiden University Centre for Linguistics
P.O. Box 9515
2300 RA Leiden