Standardising English: Norms and Margins in the History of the English Language

Linda Pillière, Wilfrid Andrieu, Valérie Kerfelec and Diana Lewis (eds.), Standardising English: Norms and Margins in the History of the English Language. ISBN : 978-1-1081-2047-0. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

This path-breaking study of the standardisation of English goes well beyond the traditional prescriptivism versus descriptivism debate. It argues that the way norms are established and enforced is the result of a complex network of social factors and cannot be explained simply by appeals to power and hegemony. It brings together insights from leading researchers to re-centre the discussion on linguistic communities and language users. It examines the philosophy underlying the urge to standardise language, and takes a closer look at both well-known and lesser-known historical dictionaries, grammars and usage guides, demonstrating that they cannot be simply labelled as ‘prescriptivist’. Drawing on rich empirical data and case studies, it shows how the norm continues to function in society, influencing and affecting language users even today.

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