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date: 04 August 2020

(p. 257) Issues in Culture and Society

The second part of the handbook traces the long diachrony of the changing modes of dissemination and contextualizes linguistic processes within society at large.

Organized by Thomas Kohnen and Christian Mair (20), the first group of chapters focuses on mass communication from the Middle Ages to the present day showing how new technologies and the media have impacted on the English language, and continue to do so on an unprecedented scale. Schaefer's overview of the long history of oral practices (21) is followed by discussions of shifting oral and literate modes in the print medium, Rütten (22 and website) focusing on medieval religious discourses and Claridge (23) on the transition from manuscript to print culture. Biber and Gray (24) show how fiction, newspapers, and academic prose have been shaped by competing demands made on print genres. Baron (25) reassesses the impact on language use of electronically mediated communication, while Price documents individual reactions to changes in pronunciation norms (26 and website). Cameron (27) concludes that, in written and spoken media alike, English has become now a global commodity, with far-reaching implications for the future development of the language.

The commodification of language is one of the topics that connect the two sections of Part II. The second group of chapters, coordinated by Jonathan Culpeper and Minna Nevala (28), has a broad focus and considers social, pragmatic, and cultural processes and practices, and how these relate to language use and, in the long run, language change. Contributors discuss democratization (Farrelly and Seoane, 29), political correctness (Hughes, 30), social identities and networks (Palander-Collin, 31), and changing politeness cultures from Old English to the present day (Jucker, 32). Cultural change, as reflected in the cultural concepts encoded in English, is addressed by Wierzbicka (33 and website) within the framework of Natural Semantic Metalanguage. Attitudes and reactions to language variation are viewed from complementary angles: Percy (34) looks at the ideology of prescriptivism and standardization and Montgomery (35 and website) analyzes approaches to lay perceptions of regional dialects. By way of a synthesis, the complex social forces at work in the sociology of language are brought together by Crowley (36), who charts the conditions that have affected the history of English in Ireland. Related themes are addressed in the first section of Part III, for example, by Machan (40).