Alternative Histories of English

By Richard Watts; Peter Trudgill | Go to book overview

to understand why that is so, we need to trace its progress as a part of the ideology of politeness from the beginning of the eighteenth century. An alternative approach to the development of Standard English which undertakes to do this throws an interesting new light on the current rearguard battle over its present-day status.


Notes
1
I have used the term 'Standard English English' as does Trudgill (this volume) to indicate its status as a dialect of English restricted to England (rather than to other parts of the British Isles). Most of the time, however, I shall simply refer to Standard English, which I will capitalise to indicate that the nomenclature is used to refer to a variety of English.
2
See the comments made in the short introductory chapter with respect to the equation 'history of English = history of Standard English' and J. Milroy (this volume).
3
Hence Defoe's suggestion predates Swift's Proposal for Correcting, Improving, and Ascertaining the English Tongue (1712), in which a similar proposal is made, by 14 years.
4
Swift maintains, for instance, that '[the language's] daily Improvements are by no Means in Proportion to its daily Corruptions; that the Pretenders to polish and refine it, have chiefly multiplied Abuses and Absurdities; and, that in many Instances, it offends against every Part of Grammar.'
5
If it were to return a verdict of 'satire', it would not greatly weaken Milroy and Milroy's argument, but it would reconstitute Swift's letter as a text attacking politeness and polite language.
6
The connection that Langford makes between commerce and politeness is underscored in the case of Sheridan by the fact that they were also a huge success financially. It is also possible to argue that Sheridan was deliberately, and one might also say cynically, using the aspirations of middle-class audiences to climb the social ladder by acquiring a Standard English pronunciation and mode of oral delivery.
7
See the epilogue by Crowley to Bex and Watts (1999).

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