I just recently came across the word dispreferred in a linguistic document. I have never heard the word used before, rather I generally hear something like "preferred something else" in everyday conversation. Is dispreferred a linguistics/language specific term or does it have more widespread usage in non-technical conversations? As I type the word dispreferred, I see a red underline indicating that I have entered a misspelled word.

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    I've also never heard it before. My advice, if you can avoid using it, by all means do. – Mr Lister Dec 27 '12 at 20:49
  • The simple answer seems to be no it isn't. It's not in OED (Oxford English Dictionary). – spiceyokooko Dec 27 '12 at 20:59
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    Google Books shows that Dispreferred arose around 1975 and has been almost entirely a linguistics term except for a brief vogue in economics, sociology and public-policy studies in the 70s and 80s. – StoneyB on hiatus Dec 27 '12 at 21:36
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    I prefer dispreferred to unpreferred. – MikeM Dec 27 '12 at 23:03
  • Why invent ugly new words when there is adequate vocabulary available? I would say "less favoured" ["less favored" if I were in the USA] or "not preferred" rather than "dispreferred". Not preferring is not the opposite of preferring, but rather the absence of preferring. – Francis Newman Feb 26 '18 at 0:02

It's not in my Merriam-Webster or dictionary.reference.com, and I've never heard of it.

LanguageLog has some citations for it, but the article seems to confirm, if anything, that it's linguists' jargon.

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'Mainstream', No. 'Word', Yes.

It's more of a domain-specific term defined in linguistics, although it does seem to appear in general English writing in a few instances. [Of course some people will love (or hate) the heightened suspense or the "gambling thrill," more of which is possible in the multistage lottery, and will prefer (or dis- prefer) it to a simple lottery.]a

It also seems to appear in linguistics literature in its general English sense apart from reference by its DSL-definition. [If "preferred'V'dispreferred" refer not to tastes/desires of the participants but to the sequential practices and ... And how do these different practices for preferred and dispreferred responses help us understand an important aggregate] [b]

See definition and some discussion on disprefer on Wiktionary: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/disprefer

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In the academic field of Conversation Analysis (CA) this is a specific term for describing a type of statement or turn in a conversation. If, as you describe, this is a document in the field of linguistics then dispreferred may be the only accurate word to use.

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