When we compiled the second edition of this book in 1991, we commented on its relevance to public discussion of language problems in such spheres as the education and speech therapy services. In the intervening years in Britain, debate on the teaching of English, particularly Standard English, has become particularly fierce and politicised, involving a good deal of acrimony between teachers and politicians over the contents of and thinking behind a reformed, centralised English language curriculum. In an extensive analysis of the social and political agenda underlying the debate, Cameron (1995) notes that linguists (particularly sociolinguists) have entered the fray, usually on the side of teachers and have themselves regularly been targeted for criticism on the grounds that they are hostile to the principle that Standard English should be taught in schools. Rather than attempting a radically updated analysis of this very public language debate, we refer readers to Deborah Cameron’s excellent discussion.
We have attempted to give a flavour of the heightened level of public feeling aroused by issues of language standardisation and prescription in an extensive revision of chapters 2 and 8. Debate on language issues has been equally fierce in the United States, the Ebonics controversy and the activities of the English Only movement having received a great deal of publicity on both sides of the Atlantic. Accordingly, we have added an additional Chapter 9 where somewhat different British and American language ideologies are related to national histories and social and political ideologies. In this chapter, we also relate issues of prescription and standardisation to the language ideology frameworks which have become popular in the years since the second edition of this book appeared.
We thank Rosina Lippi-Green, Alicia Beckford, John Rickford, Theresa Satterfield, Keith Walters and Katherine Woolard, all of whom have at some time helped us by discussing the material presented in Chapter 9. Thanks also to Paul Foulkes and Paul Kerswill for supplying us with relevant press cuttings.
James Milroy and
University of Michigan