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Descriptive Linguistics

  1. Solveig Granath

Published Online: 5 NOV 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781405198431.wbeal0314

The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics

How to Cite

Granath, S. 2012. Descriptive Linguistics. The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 5 NOV 2012


When people who are not linguists consult a grammar book, it is usually because they want to find out the correct way of expressing something. This is the kind of information many grammars provide. Such grammars are referred to as normative or prescriptive, or sometimes teaching grammars, as this kind of grammar is often used in education. The underlying assumption which such grammars are based on is that rules can be established for the correct usage of a language. Descriptive linguistics rejects this notion of correctness: instead of prescribing how something ought to be said, it aims to systematically describe a language as fully and objectively as possible. Accordingly, descriptive grammars can be said to provide systematic descriptions of how the various components of language can be combined into sentences and other units of discourse. In sum, the ultimate object of descriptive linguistics is to describe in a non-judgmental fashion how language is structured.


  • methods;
  • syntax;
  • corpus;
  • grammar