ENGL 569 A: Topics in Language and Rhetoric

Standardization in English: History, Ideology, Policy

Meeting Time: 
TTh 11:30am - 1:20pm
DEN 210
Colette Moore
Colette Moore

Syllabus Description:

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 investigate emerging standardizing in premodern English (Winchester standard, Chancery English), on the way to examining 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, 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), creolization (Mervyn Alleyne, Suzanne Romaine), and education (Geneva Smitherman, John Baugh). Course requirements include several brief response papers and one seminar paper.


Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 10:00pm