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A lexicographic approach to language policy and recommendations for future dictionaries

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Language policy prevails at different levels and its formulation typically results in a prescriptive presentation of data. In their dictionaries, lexicographers have to respond to the deci­sions of language policy makers. In this regard dictionaries can adhere to a strict prescriptive policy by including only the prescribed forms. Dictionaries can also give a descriptive account of lan­guage use without making any recommendations or claims of correctness. Thirdly, dictionaries can be proscriptive by recommending certain forms, even if such a recommendation goes against the prescribed forms. This article offers an overview of different levels of language policy and the prin­ciples of prescription, description and proscription. Examples are given to illustrate certain lexico­graphic applications of prescription. It is emphasised that access to relevant data is important to dictionary users. Consequently the lexicographic application of proscription is discussed as a viable alternative to prescription. It is suggested that proscription, in its different possible applications, can lead to a lexicographic presentation that benefits the user and that contributes to the satisfac­tion of the functions of a given dictionary.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLexikos
Volume18
Pages (from-to)232-255
Number of pages24
ISSN1684-4904
Publication statusPublished - 2008

    Research areas

  • lexicograhy, language policy, proscription, prescription, description

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