A highly respected person, with a very exemplary reputation, has just commented on EL : Comment 'a more stative, habitual sense as well as the more active or punctive one.'

I had never seen the word 'punctive' so I looked it up; or I tried to look it up. Google forces me to accept 'punitive'. The Oxford Dictionary of English doesn't list it.

If it is not a word, then it should be; I like the sound of it. But if it exists and is not just a typo for 'punitive' then how is punctive different from punctual ?

  • 1
    I think you've already discovered the answer: the word doesn't exist. And the very few people (if any) who think it exists and is different from "punctual" probably disagree on its actual meaning. – Peter Shor Oct 14 '17 at 10:56
  • I am heartbroken. I was longing to use it. – Nigel J Oct 14 '17 at 10:58
  • 1
    Actually, looking in the OED, they say it's obsolete and rare, (which I think means it was rare before it became obsolete). They give one (!) citation. "1612 R. Daborn: Christian turn'd Turke Who like a ship unman'd..doth seeme to make a course Direct and punctive, till we see it dash Against some prouder Sylla." And they seem to have guessed the definition from that one use, so your guess as to what it means might be as good as theirs. – Peter Shor Oct 14 '17 at 11:01
  • 1
    I think it's a linguistics term. Here's an example of its use. – Lawrence Oct 14 '17 at 11:31
  • 2
    Realms of Meaning: An Introduction to Semantics_T R. Hofmann is a 1993 grammar using the word. As does this 2016 article by Wittenberg & Levy (p 4). And many others. @Peter is looking in the wrong places for metalanguage. Rather disappointing. ('Punctual' causes other problems.) – Edwin Ashworth Oct 14 '17 at 11:32

Alan Watts uses this word in a lecture to describe the behavior of computers relative to a human's.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Could you provide some sort of reference to the lecture, and a quote in context? – Hot Licks Aug 3 '18 at 2:25
  • Alan Watts uses punctive in two books: Tao of Philosophy (1995): "It [the computer] seems to lack a kind of capacity I would call 'field organization' because it is terribly punctive and digital, much like a newspaper photograph which, when you look at it under magnifying glass, is all dots. ... the punctive or digital system is at the same time to simple and too clumsy to deal with it." – Sven Yargs Aug 3 '18 at 6:37
  • ... and Nature, Man, and Woman (1958): "Such an attitude [of kuan] would be short-sighted indeed if it were based on the linear and punctive view of the moment, where each 'thing' is not seen in its relation to the whole." So Watts seems to use the word in a consistent and specific sense having to do with hyperfocus and lack of contextual awareness. – Sven Yargs Aug 3 '18 at 6:37
  • Welcome to ELU. Please note that the question asks "How is punctive different from punctual?" and answers should address that, preferably by actually defining punctive. – Andrew Leach Aug 4 '18 at 16:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.