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.

IMG_4081bThis 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 has served as input for a research project, financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), which ran at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics between August 2011 and December 2016. It principal investigator was professor Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade, and its full title was 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. Blogposts are still occasionally written, the list of publications is kept up to date, and the usage polls have been kept open for anyone interested in contributing. The project description as it was submitted to NWO at the time may be found here: Short version – Bridging the unbridgeable.

Our email address is: i.m.tieken@hum.leidenuniv.nl

Surface mail:

Bridging the Unbridgeable/Prof. Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade
Leiden University Centre for Linguistics
P.O. Box 9515
2300 RA Leiden
The Netherlands