Standardization in English: History, Ideology, Policy
The drive to control and regularize the English language has made it possible for us to read texts from four centuries ago and texts from across the world. It has also created a culture of anxiety about proper usage and a culture of condemnation of English varieties deemed to be non-standard. This course will examine the social, economic, and linguistic factors that promoted and policed standardization in English language history (and the factors that resisted it). We will consider some theorists of comparative standardization (Benedict Anderson, Einar Haugen) and read proposals of premodern standard Englishes (Winchester standard, Chancery English), on the way to investigating the rise of current practices of standard English in the eighteenth century. Ideas about correctness in English are often expressed in moral terms -- good, bad, right, wrong, pure, corrupt -- we will examine the history of these ideological discourses and the ways that they have shaped conversations on education, national language policy, and social attitudes. Along the way, we will interrogate dictionaries, grammar books, and style guides in order to examine the nature of language authority and the relationship between language and social power. Readings will include texts by Jonathan Swift, Robert Lowth, Samuel Johnson, Noah Webster, and James A. H. Murray, as well as contemporary scholars of standardization (Tony Bex, Richard Watts, Laura Wright, John Hurt Fisher), language ideology (Deborah Cameron, Rosina Lippi Green), creolization (Salikoko Mufwene), and language attitudes (Lynda Mugglestone, John Rickford, Geneva Smitherman). Course requirements include several brief response papers and one seminar paper.