Histories and Practices of Standardizing the English Language
The drive to control and regularize the English language has made it possible for us to read Anglophone texts from four centuries ago and 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).
How do present-day usage manuals reveal eighteenth-century cultural ideas about English? How do English dictionaries reveal our cultural values about language? How have English dialect stereotypes reflected social hierarchies over the last five centuries? This course will address these and other questions as we examine the historical development of present-day ideas about standard practices in English. Course requirements include two papers and several short response papers. Students are not expected to have previous experience with language study; interest in these questions and enthusiasm for the English language are the only prerequisites.