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The word paradigm comes from the Greek word παράδειγμα (paradeigmia) which means "pattern" or "example", from the word παραδεικνύναι (paradeiknunai) meaning "demonstrate".

Linguistic Paradigms

In linguistics the word paradigm denotes a schema or table of all available inflections for a certain word.

Epistemological Paradigms

From the late 1800s the word paradigm has also been used as an epistemological term to denote a "thought pattern" in scientific disciplines[?].

The most popular use of the word in this context was by philosopher Thomas Kuhn who used it to describe a set of practices in science. It was and is widely abused. Kuhn himself came to prefer the terms exemplar[?] and normal science, which have more exact philosophical meaning. However, in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions[?] Kuhn defines a scientific paradigm as:

  • What is to be observed and scrutinized.
  • The kind of questions that are supposed to be asked and probed for answers in relation to this subject.
  • How these questions are to be put.
  • How the results of scientific investigations should be interpreted.

The formally-defined term groupthink, and the term mindset, have very similar meanings that apply to smaller and larger scale examples of disciplined thought. Michael Foucault[?] used the terms episteme[?] and discourse, mathesis[?] and taxinomia[?], for aspects of a "paradigm" in Kuhn's original sense. Read more about this in the paradigm shift, sociology of knowledge and philosophy of science articles, where these words are placed in context.

Other Uses

The word paradigm is so widely abused by "business philosophers" and advocates of any type of change whatsoever that it bears no definition whatsoever. Some believe it should be abolished from the English language, and formal studies of this show it as one of the most unpopular words in English.

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