Affordable Access

User-oriented understanding of descriptive, proscriptive and prescriptive lexicography

Bureau of the WAT
Publication Date
  • Linguistics


There is much uncertainty and confusion as to the real differences between prescrip-tive and descriptive dictionaries. In general, the majority of existing accounts can be summarised as follows: Descriptive relates to the empirical basis; accordance between the empirical data and the dictionary is required. Prescriptive relates to the genuine purpose of the dictionary; the dictionary is meant to help with problems concerning text production and will thus affect usage. This asym-metrical understanding would imply prescriptive and descriptive in practice being false contrasts. In this article, a more consistent terminology is suggested which allows for both the function of the dictionary and the relation of the dictionary to the empirical basis. Keywords: description, dictionary function, empirical basis, exactly descriptive dictionary, exactly proscriptive dictionary, explicitly pre-scriptive dictionary, introspection, linguistic survey, not exactly de-scriptive dictionary, not exactly proscriptive dictionary, prescription, proscription, strongly descriptive dictionary, strongly prescriptive dic-tionary, text corpus, user-oriented, weakly descriptive dictionary, weak-ly prescriptive dictionary, weakly proscriptive dictionary

There are no comments yet on this publication. Be the first to share your thoughts.