Alternative Histories of English

By Richard Watts; Peter Trudgill | Go to book overview

Part II

The history of communicative and pragmatic aspects of English

In the second part of the book we turn our attention to pragmatic, sociopragmatic, sociolinguistic and discourse-oriented approaches to the historical study of English. We are, of course, aware that the contributions in Part II barely scratch the surface of the enormous amount of work which still needs to be done in this area, work which might offer numerous other stories to tell. We trust that the reader can at least catch a glimpse of the kind of research being carried out on exploring the historical dimensions of language use, although it is our opinion that much more of this kind of work should be undertaken.

Much has either been written directly about the ideology of the standard language (Milroy and Milroy 1999; Milroy, J. 1999, 2000) or has been inspired by the work of the Milroys as well as by work by Crowley (1989a, b) and Leith (1983), e.g. Watts (1999a, b, 2000), Fitzmaurice (2000), Mugglestone (1995), Bex (1999), Davis (1999). No one has yet explicitly linked the ideology of the standard to the ideological discourse of politeness in the eighteenth century. In Chapter 8 Watts suggests strongly that the ideology of the standard language is part and parcel of an ideology of politeness and that there is an uncanny similarity between John Honey's notion of 'educatedness' at the end of the twentieth century and that of politeness. His contribution is thus a retelling of the story of the standard which links eighteenth century ideas about the value of 'standard English' to certain late twentieth century ideas.

Sharon Millar's chapter also takes as its starting point the eighteenth century. Her ideas about the importance of oral eloquence during that century and well into the nineteenth make it plain that the ideology of the standard, or, as Watts puts it, the ideology of politeness, extends to the spoken language towards the end of the eighteenth century and has had an enormous effect on perceptions of the standard language, or 'correct English', right up to the present day. The 'story' that Millar tells is one of social elitism and exclusion and fits very neatly into the ideological paradigm that was first set up by the Milroys.

Chapter 10 by Terttu Nevalainen deals with the status of oral English in centuries during which a faithful representation of speech was not possible and, more importantly, with the status of women's writing in the period from

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