The prescriptive dictum that some linguistic variants are superior to others has strong roots in the eighteenth-century grammatical tradition. Synthesizing contemporary research on prescriptivism, this chapter uses the grammarian Robert Lowth as a lens for reinvestigating its linguistic and social dynamics. Eventually elevated to a bishopric, Lowth is popularly stereotyped as imposing latinate rules on English usage. Yet recent corpus-based studies suggest that prescriptive rules sometimes reflected rather than triggered standardization of such variants as adjective comparison, negative concord, preposition placement, and the subjunctive. Such studies also confirm that when tracking prescriptive traditions we need to consider media other than grammars and codifiers earlier than Lowth, such as James Greenwood. Indeed, linguistic variation in a corpus of Lowth’s own correspondence reminds us of the social distinctions and dynamics that can be correlated with prescriptivism. Though many professional linguists have traditionally dismissed prescriptivism, others are redirecting this attention into research and public outreach.
Andreas H. Jucker
The 1970s and 1980s saw the emergence of more systematic research on politeness, led by the pioneering studies of Geoffrey N. Leech (1983) and Penelope Brown and Stephen C. Levinson (1987). In their research, Brown and Levinson used Erving Goffman’s (1974) notion of face as a starting point and conceptualized politeness as a means to mitigate face threats and to maintain face in everyday interactions. Criticisms aside, Brown and Levinson’s theory became the most influential approach to politeness. Richard J. Watts, Sachiko Ide, and Konrad Ehlich (1992) identified two levels of politeness: first-order politeness, which corresponds to the various ways in which polite behavior is perceived and talked about by members of socio-cultural groups, and second-order politeness, a theoretical construct within a theory of social behavior and language usage. This article provides an overview of politeness in the history of the English language, focusing on politeness-related terms such as politeness, graciousness, courtesy, tact, and civility.
Political correctness creates new social agendas and areas of conformity by introducing new terms, redefining established words, and suppressing taboo terms and behaviors, all within a democratic framework. This article traces much earlier forms of political correctness in different social areas of changing conformity and taboo as new values and new dualisms have emerged. It discusses various kinds of semantic engineering, including word-formation, the generation of formulas and shifts of meaning. The political correctness debate has raised an important issue: whether social attitudes are indeed changed by alterations in the language. In rethinking this proposition, “changing attitudes” would mean adopting not only new terms but also new behaviors. One school of thought, which takes its cue from the initiatives of feminism, argues that changing the language is vital to changing attitudes. This article looks at the historical shift which essentially has been from realpolitik to the optional politics of values and lifestyle.
Throughout its history, English has had extensive contact with other languages, and the impact of these various contacts on the lexicon is a popular topic among researchers of the history of English. Most studies on contact-induced change in earlier English have been undertaken in the context of lexical borrowing. As linguistic phenomena concerning multilingualism in present-day speech communities, along with the processes of language change, continue to draw interest, language historians have also begun to reevaluate the notion of contact and its implications from new perspectives. A recently thematized language contact phenomenon is code-switching, which refers to the alternating use of units from two or more participating linguistic systems within a communicative event. A multitude of extant writings from the Middle Ages shows different types of mixture. This article explores the formal and functional characteristics of code-switching in such texts, considering the practice of code-switching in the multilingual context of medieval England, and as a source of new lexicon in the English language.
Rena Torres Cacoullos and James A. Walker
This article compares collocations in grammaticalisation and linguistic variation. It shows how patterns of distribution and co-occurrence can be used to demonstrate the variability and gradience of constituency using examples of grammaticalisation in Spanish and English. The article examines the role of collocations in contributing to apparent semantic effects in grammatical variation and discusses the two measures of collocation status: indices of unithood and relative frequency.
When languages are called “commodities,” it suggests the existence of a market or markets in which languages and language varieties, like other tradable commodities, have an economic exchange value. The concept of a “linguistic market” is not a new idea; linguists can trace it to the work of Pierre Bourdieu. This article focuses on the transnational or global linguistic market in which English is a highly-valued commodity. One area of activity in which languages have long been treated as commercial commodities is foreign language instruction; English has been commodified by the modern English Language Teaching industry. However, this is only one of the possible forms of language commodification. This article considers some other forms which are associated with recent processes of economic globalization, and how an analysis of them may contribute to rethinking the history of the English language. English has played, and is expected to continue to play for some time, a significant role in the new forms of capitalism which have emerged in the global era.
Douglas Biber and Bethany Gray
Two apparently contradictory developments have been associated with the history of the English language over the past 200 years: the increasing use of colloquial linguistic forms (associated with 'popularization') and the increasing use of compressed linguistic forms (associated with 'economy'). Both forces have influenced all written registers to some extent. But as this chapter shows, these developments have been mediated by register differences. Based on an analysis of three registers (1800-2000) that differ in their intended audiences and communicative purposes, the chapter describes historical patterns of change for both colloquial and compression features. ‘Popular’ written registers (e.g., fiction) take the lead in the increased use of colloquial features (e.g., pronouns, contractions, semi-modals). In contrast, ‘specialist informational’ registers (e.g., academic research writing) take the lead in the increased use of economy features (e.g., phrasal modifiers of nouns). This results in a major increase in the use of colloquial features in fiction, a major increase in the reliance on phrasal (rather than clausal) discourse styles in academic writing, and increases in both sets of features in 'popular informational' newspaper reportage.
Michael Farrelly and Elena Seoane
This article discusses the “democratization” of discourse in the history of the English language. An important aspect of rethinking the study of the history of English, in terms of democratization, is the relationship between the democratization of language and the wider democratization of social life and of politics. This article first considers the duality in the way language and discourse can be understood in the context of socio-cultural processes: people alter their use of language in response to social change and people influence social change through their use of language. Through a greater recognition of both sides of the language/socio-cultural change duality, historical linguists could come to a richer account of democratization. The article summarizes work that has addressed the first half of the duality: democratization understood as a discourse-pragmatic process present in the evolution of English as a response to social change and which is different from colloquialization and informalization. It then suggests areas in which study of the democratization of discourse could engage with work on the study of wider social and political democratization.
A well-known principle of sociolinguistics is that languages reflect the people who speak them: social divisions result in associated differences in linguistic behavior. One of the main divisions is ethnic: North American English includes a wide range of ethnic dialects, or ethnolects, such as African American and Latino English, in addition to the 'standard' varieties associated with people of British and, later, European ethnic ancestry. This article focuses on the main types and most important studies of ethnic variation in North American English, with a special emphasis on subtler examples of ethnolectal variation among groups of European origin. It argues that the history of English in North America should be viewed not only in terms of its linear, language-internal development from British inputs in the seventeenth century, but also in terms of its contact with other North American languages, since these interfaces have played a crucial role in producing the unique varieties of English currently spoken in North America.
Exploring variation and change in New Englishes: Looking into the International Corpus of English (ICE) and beyond
Joybrato Mukherjee and Marco Schilk
The term “New Englishes” refers to varieties of the English language that have emerged in former British colonies (or, in the case of the Philippines, of the United States). During the past several years, many New Englishes have been described in great detail at various linguistic levels, including phonetics and phonology, morphology and word-formation, syntax and style. This article looks at new developments in corpus-based research into New Englishes. It first outlines how new multi-layered corpus environments including components of the International Corpus of English (ICE), other databases and web-derived corpora offer fresh insights for corpus-based research into the structural nativization of New Englishes at the lexis-grammar interface. It then examines the currently existing limits to diachronic studies of intervarietal divergence (or convergence) between New Englishes and their historically relevant input varieties.
“Early mass communication” is generally believed to be a phenomenon of the Early Modern period. In the religious domain, the kind of mass communication found in pamphlets and newspapers has obvious predecessors. One example is the Late Middle English cycle sermon, which provides a form of mass communication before the advent of print but has so far received little attention from scholars. This article looks at late medieval cycle sermons from the perspective of mass communication. It first introduces the various settings, audiences and purposes of such sermons, linking individual cases of sermonizing to the centrally designed doctrinal program upon which they were contingent. It then describes prominent linguistic features such as discourse structures, text functions, interactive properties, and aspects of performativity. The article concludes by demonstrating how sermon discourse was adopted as a textual scheme by early pamphleteers and shows that the advent of the new print technology in Early Modern English is more a “catalyst” than an “architect” of mass communication.
From opportunistic to systematic use of the Web as corpus: Do-support with got (to) in contemporary American English
The chapter argues that the best way to profit from the rich corpus-linguistic working environment available to the student of the history of English is to use traditional (and sometimes small) linguistic corpora together with larger textual databases and digital archives, including the World-Wide Web, in a coordinated way. Linguistic corpora (ARCHER, Brown family, BNC, COCA, COHA) are sufficient to document the successive waves of grammaticalisation which have added have to, have got to and, more recently, want to or need to to the older form must, producing the complex layered system of present-day English modal markers of obligation and necessity. Using do-support with modal got (to)/gotta as an illustration, the paper shows that, in spite of its known deficiencies as a linguistic corpus, the World-Wide Web can help fill in the language-historical picture in useful ways where even the biggest available corpora fail to produce sufficient evidence.
Karen P. Corrigan
The Diachronic Electronic Corpus of Tyneside English (DECTE) is the product of two earlier corpora: the Newcastle Electronic Corpus of Tyneside English (NECTE) and a monitor sub-corpus, the Newcastle Electronic Corpus of Tyneside English 2 (NECTE2). Both corpora record synchronic generational differences as well as diachronic communal change in North-East England. Researchers on NECTE transformed sound-data collected in the 1960s–1970s and in 1991–1994 into an electronic resource that conformed to the latest standards for encoding text. DECTE is a constituent element in a collaborative programme called the “Enhanced Repository for Language and Literature Researchers” (ENROLLER), completed in 2011 and linking it to documents such as the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the Historical Thesaurus of the OED, and the SCOTS Corpus. This article explores how DECTE and its constituents capture both residualisms from earlier periods of English as well as local innovations. It focuses on variants of the GOAT vowel, which is of interest not only for the historical phonology of the English language but also with respect to regional and social variation in Modern English.
This article analyses the relation between conversation and grammaticalisation. It argues that what is on one occasion accomplished via a succession of actions can, on other occasions, be collapsed into a single speaker's turn. It discusses three case studies from present-day English conversation to substantiate this argument. It contends that a path of grammaticalisation from vertical to horizontal development like those hypothesized for Left dislocation, concession, and extraposition can be all the more plausible when we consider that there is evidence of a similar development for other bipartite structures such as conditionals and Right dislocations.
This article examines the similarities and differences between grammaticalisation theory and variation theory (VT). It describes the variationist take on grammaticalisation and outlines some of the ways in which VT can contribute to grammaticalisation studies. It discusses the application of the variationist method to a paradigm example of grammaticalisation cross-linguistically and shows that this approach is particularly well-suited to tracking pathways of grammaticalisation, through its capacity to elucidate the transition period between endpoints of change.
Terttu Nevalainen and Minna Palander‐Collin
This article examines the diffusion of grammaticalisation processes of varying time depths and complexity across language communities. It argues that a process of grammaticalisation need not differ from other types of linguistic change in terms of its social embedding and evaluation and discusses sociolinguistic perspectives on grammaticalisation. It concludes that grammaticalisation processes can be described using the same sociolinguistic frameworks as other processes of linguistic change and that the present can be used to explain the past because similar social factors are found to correlate with ongoing changes in both real- and apparent-time studies.
Bernd Kortmann and Agnes Schneider
This article deals with grammaticalisation phenomena in non-standard varieties of the English language which are not found in spontaneous spoken varieties of Standard English. It aims to identify the wide range of interesting grammaticalisation phenomena to be observed in the non-standard (including contact) varieties of English. It investigates whether there are markedly different grammaticalisation patterns in spontaneous spoken non-standard varieties compared with what we know about (written and spoken) standard varieties of English and whether there are instances of grammaticalisation which operate on a global level in the Anglophone world.
The history of English seen as the history of ideas: Cultural change reflected in different translations of the New Testament
Research on the history of English has often been undertaken in a somewhat atomistic spirit, with an emphasis on particular areas of phonology, morphology, syntax, and (to a far lesser degree) lexicon, or on aspects of what Ferdinand de Saussure termed “external history.” However, there is no attempt to take a broader view of the overall direction in which the English language was going. This article argues that the history of English is closely linked with the history of ideas and spiritual culture. It looks at some aspects of the hidden cultural legacy of English by analyzing selected examples from the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament and its successor, the New Revised Standard Version, and comparing them with the King James Version. It also examines some close links between semantic change, cultural history, and the history of ideas, and shows that these links can be investigated in a rigorous and illuminating manner with the aid of a semantic methodology (Natural Semantic Metalanguage).
Naomi S. Baron
Over the past five decades, the English language has undergone a stylistic shift, becoming increasingly informal. This informality is reflected in both speech and writing, and writing itself is tending to become a medium for recording informal speech. This chapter examines the extent to which contemporary information and communication technologies (ICTs) contribute to destandardization of either spoken or written language. It shows that the impact of ICTs results more from reinforcement of trends already evident in speech and writing and less from technological factors. These trends, in turn, reflect social change. The chapter first looks at variables shaping language standards and language style and then discusses independent changes (including growing social informality, emulation of youth, and multiculturalism) that have manifested themselves in both spoken and written language, predating popularization of computers and mobile phones.
This chapter provides an overview of the genesis and theoretical development of sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology. For the nineteenth century, the focus is on Humboldt, Whitney, and Schuchardt as well as early dialectological work. The argument then turns to the early twentieth century and considers Boas and Sapir in North America, as well as Bakhtin and Voloshinov in Russia. The paper concludes with the consolidation of socio-cultural linguistics in the 1960s, and three main approaches are discussed in detail: the sociology of language, variationist sociolinguistics, and the ethnography of communication.