English in Its Social Contexts: Essays in Historical Sociolinguistics

By Tim William MacHan; Charles T. Scott | Go to book overview
Save to active project

4
Style and Standardization in England: 1700-1900

EDWARD FINEGAN

By most reckonings, the English spoken and written in England in the period between 1700 and 1900 changed relatively little when compared to other periods. Indeed, the English language remained far more stable then than contemporary English social and economic life. Whereas the language of 1900 is similar to the language used two centuries earlier, a great gulf separates the people of 1900 from those of 1700. In 1700, England and Scotland were still ruled by separate monarchs. In 1707 they were united under a single monarchy, as they are united in one island. In 1700 England was an insular nation, with a nascent empire in North America. By 1900 the American colonies had long since become independent, and the industrial revolution had transformed both Britain and its former colony into great world powers. Moreover, by 1900, the power of the British monarchy, long since weakened, had faded to the largely ceremonial and symbolic functions it retains today.

In considering the English language in the period between 1700 and 1900, it is useful to remember that there is nothing particularly natural or enlightening in dividing history into century-long chunks. If we were interested in political history, the dates of particular events might serve better, such as the Restoration of Charles II to the throne of England in 1660 or the death of the Hanover line of British rulers in 1798. Were we interested in linguistic history, still other dates would be serviceable, but the same dates might not serve equally well for tracing syntax, phonology, and inflections. Depending on one's purpose, period names such as Restoration or Victorian might prove apt or, if we were to rely on themes rather than on rulers, we might use such terms as Augustan, Neo-classic, or Romantic. Centuries may be useful for their tidiness, but human activities, including linguistic and sociolinguistic ones, are not so tidy.


SOCIAL BACKGROUND

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were not calm periods in English history. Britain lost the thirteen American colonies in the War of Independence and fought several wars with France. Repercussions from the social and political changes spawned by the French Revolution were felt in England. Besides

-102-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
English in Its Social Contexts: Essays in Historical Sociolinguistics
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 274

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?