The lexicography of English usage

describing usage variation and change

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The lexicography of English usage is often discussed as being prescriptive or descriptive, but only rarely is it analysed in terms of how usage writers use language evidence in exploring issues of current and changing usage, and whether their methodology is empirical or otherwise. This chapter discusses two twenty-first-century approaches to the use of evidence in usage writing: the selective, a priori use of citations by Bryan Garner to support his ‘Language Change Index’ in Modern American Usage (3rd edn, 2009); and the wealth of data contained in the GloWbE corpus (2012) and others created by Mark Davies, available to quantify usage trends worldwide. Corpus evidence on the assimilation of Latin borrowings, e.g. use of data in singular agreement, shows this is relatively less advanced in the US than elsewhere, which aligns with its stigmatization in American academic discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnglish usage guides
Subtitle of host publicationhistory, advice, attitudes
EditorsIngrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade
Place of PublicationOxford, UK
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780192535719
ISBN (Print)9780198808206
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventEnglish Usage (Guides) Symposium - Cambridge, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Jun 201427 Jun 2014

Publication series

NameOxford linguistics


ConferenceEnglish Usage (Guides) Symposium
CountryUnited Kingdom



  • evidence
  • empirical
  • linguistic corpus
  • GloWbE corpus
  • quantifying language change
  • changing usage
  • rates of change
  • assimilation of Latin borrowings
  • data as a singular
  • Garner’s Language Change Index

Cite this

Peters, P. (2018). The lexicography of English usage: describing usage variation and change. In I. Tieken-Boon van Ostade (Ed.), English usage guides: history, advice, attitudes (pp. 31-49). (Oxford linguistics). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.