Standard English: The Widening Debate

Standard English: The Widening Debate

Standard English: The Widening Debate

Standard English: The Widening Debate

Synopsis

Standard English draws together the leading international scholars in the field, who confront the debates surrounding 'Standard English', grammar and correctness head-on.These debates are as intense today as ever and extend far beyond an academic context. Current debates about the teaching of English in the school curriculum and concerns about declining standards of English are placed in a historical, social and international context. Standard English :* explores the definitions of 'Standard English', with particular attention to distinctions between spoken and written English* traces the idea of 'Standard English' from its roots in the late seventeenth century through to the present day.This is an accessible, seminal work which clarifies an increasingly confused topic. It includes contributions from: Ronald Carter, Jenny Cheshire, Tony Crowley, James Milroy, Lesley Milroy and Peter Trudgill.

Excerpt

This collection has been compiled for a number of different reasons. The virulence of the debate about the variety of English to be taught within the National Curriculum in England and Wales during the late 1980s supplied one impetus. One of the more surprising features about that debate was the extent to which the views of professional linguists and educators were treated with contempt by the Conservative government and the popular press. This is well documented in Cox (1991) and mention of it is made in some of the chapters that follow. At about the same time, a number of papers and books appeared discussing the nature of ‘Standard English’ many of which were produced, or are referred to, by the authors of this volume. In the USA, there was the demand for Spanish to be given equal rights with English in at least some of the states—an issue which may seem tangential to the concerns of this book, but which inevitably affects the ways in which English is both viewed and taught within those states—and the growing interest in ‘ebonics’. The immediate impetus, however, was a conversation between the editors in the early 1990s. It seemed to us that there was a need to clarify and bring into focus the diverse positions held by a number of the contributors to the debate. This need became even more pressing after the publication of Honey’s Language is Power (1997) with its peculiar mixture of half truths and ad hominem arguments. However, when we approached potential contributors, it soon became apparent that there was no general consensus as to what constituted ‘Standard English’ or how best to approach the topic as a field of enquiry.

Rather than working to a pre-determined agenda, we thought it better to represent the different views and approaches which are current among linguists, and the collection is therefore deliberately heterogeneous. We have divided it into three parts, each one of which contains a brief introduction setting out the broad perspectives adopted by the different authors. Part I contains chapters investigating the different ways the notion of ‘Standard English’ has been constructed historically, and why the idea of a standard remains a potent force in the contemporary world. Many of these chapters touch on the ideology of ‘Standard English’. This should not surprise us:

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