APPROPRIATENESS, also appropriacy. A term in LINGUISTICS for the intuitive expectation that styles of language vary between situations. It provides a theoretical alternative to the traditional notion of correctness, which is an absolute standard against which all usage must be judged, and which invariably reflects the formal and written norms of language, especially as institutionalized in grammars, dictionaries, and manuals of style. The difference in approach can be illustrated by such sentences as There's the man Mary spoke to. Traditionally, this sentence would be considered incorrect, as it breaks the prescriptive rule that sentences in English should not end with a preposition; the recommended alternative would be There is the man to whom Mary spoke. In terms of appropriateness, each sentence has its own validity: the former in informal settings, the latter in formal settings. See CORRECT, REGISTER.
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