Prescriptivism in pragmatics?

Prescriptive rules tend to focus on syntactic constructions or on pronunciation, but what about some of the more pragmatic aspects of language? What kind of prescriptions primarily concern themselves with the pragmatics of an utterance, with its extralinguistic or situational context?

Should we say sorry or pardon when we make a minimal apology for bumping into someone on the street? What should you say when somebody stumbles? What is the difference in illocutionary force between bless you and gesundheit when someone sneezes? Is this even a linguistic issue or should we banish questions regarding these small pragmatic facts – a term our colleague Felix Ameka uses – to the realm of anthropology or sociology?

Even though the present project will probably not deal with these kinds of usage problems, I’m interested in hearing your ideas on them.

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About Robin Straaijer

I am a linguist and EAP trainer, working on English prescriptivism and Standard English. Lover of photography and comedy.
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