Where grammar ends, eloquence begins.
The theme of this chapter is the development of ideals in relation to verbal expression in spoken English. The perspective taken is that of three of the spoken 'arts': oratory, conversation and reading aloud. These skills had considerable cultural and social significance, but they have not been given a great deal of attention in histories of the English language. In part this is the result of the traditional emphasis on the written channel, meaning that general ideals applicable to speech as well as writing, such as eloquence, tend to be narrowed down to written varieties, such as literary prose (see for example Leith and Graddol 1996). Even in histories of pronunciation, the spoken arts do not make much of an appearance since these are generally concerned with phonological descriptions or the standardisation of accent, where emphasis is usually placed on sociolinguistically significant, allophonic realisations (see for example Mugglestone 1995; MacMahon 1998).
The limited mention of spoken skills is not, I believe, due to their inherent lack of interest for histories of the language. It is more a question of focus. So, for instance, Baron (2000) mentions oratory and reading aloud since her concern is with the evolution of written English and its relation to the spoken medium. Some historians, such as Burke (1993), Cmiel (1990) and Jamieson (1988), have taken an interest in matters of communicative competence, specifically conversation and public speaking, in the belief, not held by all historians, that language is a significant element of social and cultural history. I would argue that a focus on the spoken arts can contribute to a cultural history of the English language in a number of ways. Firstly, since oratory and conversation dealt with communication, they give us an insight into contemporary ideals of public discourse and how these evolved. These ideals touched many aspects of linguistic structure as they essentially dealt with style, both linguistic and cultural. Secondly, as dimensions of legitimised communicative competence, forming part of what Bourdieu (1991) terms 'cultural capital', i.e. skills valued by the powerful and influential in society,