Linguistic purism

Preferring a language variety as purer / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Linguistic purism or linguistic protectionism is the prescriptive[1] practice of defining or recognizing one variety of a language as being purer or of intrinsically higher quality than other varieties. Linguistic purism was institutionalized through language academies (of which the 1572 Accademia della Crusca set a model example in Europe), and their decisions often have the force of law.[2]

The Académie Française in France is charged with maintaining the linguistic purism of the French language. This is the first page of the 6th edition of their dictionary (1835)

The perceived or actual decline identified by the purists may take the form of a change of vocabulary, syncretism of grammatical elements, or loanwords.[citation needed] The unwanted similarity is often with a neighboring language whose speakers are culturally or politically dominant.[citation needed] The ideal may invoke logic, clarity, or the grammar of classic languages. It is often presented as a conservative measure, as a protection of a language from the encroachment of other languages or of the conservation of the national Volksgeist, but is often innovative in defining a new standard. It is sometimes part of governmental language policy which is enforced in various ways.

The practice opposite of purism, when borrowed words displace native ones, also exists. For example, in English the native word 'bookstaff' (German: Buchstabe) was replaced by the Latin word letter.