Generally speaking what are the usually accepted usage scenarios for the above mentioned words in a normally occurring English vernacular?
In short, what are the rules/guidelines for using generally, usually and normally?
There are some subtle differences:
They are generally similar, but as the basic meanings of those words show, generally seems to look at the broad picture and does not worry about minor details; normally focuses on the norm as opposed to exceptions; usually talks about frequency of events or describes a habit.
I would say that usually and generally have a purely descriptive value: they mean that the phenomenon discussed happens with high frequency.
Although normally can have that meaning too, it may also have a prescriptivist connotation: "this is the way it usually is and the way it should be".
In other words that's what normal people - a distinctly judgmental characterization!- do or expect.
I think "generally" has a more general use where "normally" and "usually" each imply that perhaps there is some hint to the contrary and that the speaker / writer is contrasting. However, I can see them all being used identically with little to no misunderstanding.
"I normally wouldn't do this, but..." "Oh, it's usually a lot more crowded here." "We generally eat lunch at noon."
Edit I wasn't fully satisfied with my own answer, so I Googled and found this.
CalifJim: The example I came up with, before reading any other responses, was similar to Clive's. People don't normally walk about naked in public. You can substitute usually, but the emphasis on "conformance to norms" is more important when you use normally. For inanimate objects, usually often seems more appropriate than normally. Our piano usually goes out of tune once the weather turns cold. (It's not really normal for a piano to be out of tune, so usually seems better here, but here again, you can substitute normally.) CJ
Generally something occurs generically enough in order to make a generalisation. It can be uncertain and conjecture.
Usually implies that something occurs often enough for it to be expected, but not assumed. In order for something to happen usually it must have happened in the past.
Normally states that the occurrence is the norm, not that any other outcome would be weird, but that the normal outcome is the most commonly occurring (or the mode). Use of normally implies that there is a norm, which generally and usually don't.
Generally when the apocalypse comes people will run for their lives.
As the apocalypse can only happen once usually doesn't work:
Usually when the apocalypse comes people will run for their lives.
Also, as the apocalypse would not have a norm, so normally doesn't work either:
Normally when the apocalypse comes people will run for their lives.
Or another example:
Generally people will vote in the next general election.
Usually they'll vote for the same party that they did last time.
Normally people vote for one of the two largest parties.
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