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Prescription and Tradition in Language

Prescription and Tradition in Language

Prof. Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade | Prof. Carol Percy


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This book contextualises case studies across a wide variety of languages and cultures, crystallising key interrelationships between linguistic standardisation and prescriptivism, and between ideas and practices. It focuses on different traditions of standardisation and prescription throughout the world and addresses questions such as how nationalistic idealisations of ‘traditional’ language persist (or shift) amid language change, linguistic variation and multilingualism. The volume explores issues of standardisation and the sociolinguistic phenomenon of prescription as a formative influence on the notional standard language as well as the interconnections between these in a wide range of geographical contexts. It balances the otherwise strong emphasis on English in English language publications on prescriptivism and breaks new ground with its multilingual approach across languages and nations. The book will appeal to scholars working within different linguistic traditions interested in questions relating to all aspects of standardisation and prescriptivism.

Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade is Professor and Chair of English Sociohistorical Linguistics at the University of Leiden, The Netherlands. Her research focuses on sociohistorical linguistics, standardisation and prescriptivism, Late Modern English, 18th and 19th-century letter writing, and Jane Austen’s language.

Carol Percy is Professor of English at the University of Toronto, Canada. Her main research interests are Late Modern English, standardisation and prescriptivism, history of education, women’s studies, and children’s literature.

This volume shows how much we gain in our understanding of standardization and standard languages by looking at a wide range of languages over time, in monolingual and, importantly, multilingual cultures. No matter what language you study, papers here will challenge your thinking about theory and methods and how prescription works in today’s world.

The diverse contexts which are covered...give a global aspect to this readable and accessible volume. It is an important work in (re)theorizing prescriptivism and the process of language standardization. It ‘expands the conceptual framework for dis-cussing standard languages’ (p.355), and it does this through the multiplicity and breadth of languages and contexts – both across time and space – which are presented.

Colin Reilly, University of Glasgow, UK

This anthology provides useful reading for scholars, practitioners and policy makers interested or working in language policy, language planning, variation and change. The book offers the reader a valuable overview of the issues related to standardisation of major and minor language across the globe.

Dina Strong, Birkbeck University of London, UK

Long ignored by professional linguists, or dismissed as ‘unnatural’ or ‘artificial’, prescriptivism in language is in this volume the object of serious scientific investigation. This collection explores the vast range of sociolinguistic contexts for prescriptivism, and firmly demonstrates the important place for this research in general linguistics.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Contents v
Acknowledgements ix
Contributors xi
1 Prescription and Tradition: Establishing Standards across Time and Space 1
Part 1 General and Theoretical 21
2 Defining ‘Standard’: Towards a Cross-Cultural Definition of the Language Norm 23
3 Prescriptivism and Writing Systems 39
4 ‘What is Correct Chinese?’ Revisited 57
5 The Uselessness of the Useful: Language Standardisation and Variation in Multilingual Contexts 71
6 Prescriptivism and Sociolinguistic Competence in German as a Foreign Language 88
Part 2 Prescription and Tradition 103
7 Prescriptivism in a Comparative Perspective: The Case of France and England 105
8 ‘A Higher Standard of Correctness than is Quite Desirable’: Linguistic Prescriptivism in Charles Dickens’s Journals 121
9 Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Competing Language Norms in the Southern Low Countries (1815−1830) 137
10 The Syntax of Others:‘Un-Icelandic’ Verb Placement in 19th- and Early 20th-Century Icelandic 152
11 School Grammars and Language Guides: Prescriptivism in the German Language Codex in the Early 20th Century 168
Part 3 Usage Guides: An English Tradition 183
12 A Perspective on Prescriptivism: Language in Reviews of The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage 185
13 Which Items Need to be Standardised? Variation in the Choice of Entries in Usage Guides 202
14 ‘Garnering’ Respect? The Emergence of Authority in the American Usage Tradition 221
15 Stalwarts, SNOOTS and Some Readers: How ‘Traditional Rules’ are Traditional 238
Part 4 Redefining Boundaries: Current Issues and Challenges 253
16 ‘Goodbye, Sweet England’: Language, Nation and Normativity in Popular British News Media 255
17 Prescription and Tradition: From the French Dictionnairede l’Académie to the Official French Language Enrichment Process (1996−2014) 273
18 Challenges in the Standardisation of Contemporary Russian 288
19 Language Regimentation as Soviet Inheritance: Joining Scholarship and State Ideology 303
20 Prescription and Language Management in Macedonia 318
21 The Standardisation Process of Frisian: A Word List as a Result 331
22 The Standardisation of Pronunciation: Basque Today, between Maintenance and Variation 342
Epilogue: On Establishing the Standard Language – and Language Standards 355
Index 367