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Definition of paradigm


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par·a·digm  audio  (pr-dm, -dm) KEY 

NOUN:
  1. One that serves as a pattern or model.
  2. A set or list of all the inflectional forms of a word or of one of its grammatical categories: the paradigm of an irregular verb.
  3. A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.

ETYMOLOGY:
Middle English, example, from Late Latin paradgma, from Greek paradeigma, from paradeiknunai, to compare : para-, alongside ; see para-1 + deiknunai, to show; see deik- in Indo-European roots
Usage Note:
Paradigm first appeared in English in the 15th century, meaning "an example or pattern," and it still bears this meaning today: Their company is a paradigm of the small high-tech firms that have recently sprung up in this area. For nearly 400 years paradigm has also been applied to the patterns of inflections that are used to sort the verbs, nouns, and other parts of speech of a language into groups that are more easily studied. Since the 1960s, paradigm has been used in science to refer to a theoretical framework, as when Nobel Laureate David Baltimore cited the work of two colleagues that "really established a new paradigm for our understanding of the causation of cancer." Thereafter, researchers in many different fields, including sociology and literary criticism, often saw themselves as working in or trying to break out of paradigms. Applications of the term in other contexts show that it can sometimes be used more loosely to mean "the prevailing view of things." The Usage Panel splits down the middle on these nonscientific uses of paradigm. Fifty-two percent disapprove of the sentence The paradigm governing international competition and competitiveness has shifted dramatically in the last three decades.


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