Definition - The belief that grammar and usage "experts" should promote and uphold rules to which "non-expert" speakers and writers should conform.

The emblematic example of a prescriptivist dictum is: "You should never end a sentence with a preposition."

Prescriptivists vs. Descriptivists

In this excerpt from the Story of English, Robert MacNeil pits the prescriptivist John Simon against the descriptivist Jesse Sheildlower.

1. Click here to read Jonathan Swift's "A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue" - a primordial prescriptivist manifesto.

Oxford English Dictionary -
The term's first citation is from 1954:
"Professor Bloomfield comes to the conclusion that what is taught in an English class must be some form of … prescriptivism, checked by the limits of fact as established by linguistics."
(College English XV. 395/1 )

Example Usages -

1. “Once you understand that prescriptive rules are conventions, most of the iptivist controversies evaporate. One such controversy springs from the commonplace among linguists that most nonstandard forms are in no way lazy, illogical, or inferior. The choice of isn’t over ain’t, dragged over drug, and can’t get any over can’t get no did not emerge from a weighing of their inherent merits, but from the historical accident that the first member of each pair was used in the dialect spoken around London when the written language became standardized. If history had unfolded differently, today’s correct forms could have been incorrect and vice-versa.”
(Source: Steven Pinker: False Fronts in the Language Wars (May 31, 2012) )

Please comment