orientated?

by Jeanette Sakel

Our new University Strategy for 2020 contains the wording practice-orientated programmes (see the screenshot below). What’s wrong with that, you may ask? Well, according to some, orientated is *wrong* and should read oriented instead. Indeed, at many meetings in recent weeks the strategy was cited and then it was immediately pointed out that the wording ought to be different (usually followed by a short laugh).

Today I was in a strategy meeting with other UWE staff, discussing how it would be possible to achieve this aspect of the strategy, when again the wording was brought up. Since I had just introduced myself as a linguist, I was asked to confirm thatorientated was, indeed, linguistically wrong.

Well – is it? A quick online search (totally unscientific, I have to add!) shows that orientated hasn’t been around for that long. Serious dictionaries list oriented – with definitions, examples and the like. Orientated doesn’t appear that often. Yet, when searching for both terms on Google, orientated has a staggering 15,200,000 occurrences! Ok, oriented has many more occurrences, 216,000,000 in total – i.e. more than ten times as many as orientated, but that isn’t a big surprise with an established term.

What is interesting about orientated is that it seems to be used pretty frequently by speakers of English – both in informal, as well as formal language. *Linguistically* (= descriptively) it is thus absolutely fine.

How did the word arise? Well, it’s a loan – one of the many French loans in English. When we then look at the related nouns orient and orientation – the verb orientateseems to be lexically much closer to orientation than orient (even though this may be different in the source language). You can probably see where I’m going with this – for the average language user (who doesn’t care too much about what is prescribed to be *right*) this would be quite a logical form to use. Ok, here we have to say that inform is not informate, even though that would be closer to information….

What is your take on this?

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