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DESCRIPTIVISM AND PRESCRIPTIVISM. Contrasting terms in LINGUISTICS. Descriptivism is an approach that proposes the objective and systematic description of language, in which investigators confine themselves to facts as they can be observed; particularly, the approach favoured by mid–20c US linguists known as descriptivists. Prescriptivism is an approach, especially to grammar, that sets out RULES for what is regarded as correct in language. In debates on language and education, enthusiasts for one side often use the label for the other side dismissively. See CORRECT.