On the Social Nature of Linguistic Prescriptions

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Abstract
The paper proposes an empirical method to investigate linguistic prescriptions as inherent corrective behaviors. The behaviors in question may but need not necessarily be supported by any explicit knowledge of rules. It is possible to gain insight into them, for example by extracting information about corrections from revision histories of texts (or by analyzing speech corpora where users correct themselves or one another). One easily available source of such information is the revision history of Wikipedia. As is shown, the most frequent and short corrections are limited to linguistic errors such as typos (and editorial conventions adopted in Wikipedia). By perusing an automatically generated revision corpus, one gains insight into the prescriptive nature of language empirically. At the same time, the prescriptions offered are not reducible to descriptions of the most frequent linguistic use.
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Archival date: 2013-09-07
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2013-09-07

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