Normalisation in the English Language: the Linguistic, the Social, the Imaginary
Salle de colloque 1, bâtiment multimedia
The linguistic norms of the English language are often associated with what is perceived as a fixed and uniform standard variety as it is defined in dictionaries and grammars. Yet, standardisation and normalisation both constitute dynamic processes that are anything but monolithic. In addition, if norms are necessary to define a standard (national or otherwise), they also play a significant part in the construction or the emergence of more local and identity-driven varieties. In this presentation, I propose to show how varied processes of normalisation have been at work in the history of English. To do so, I will focus on the development of norms at a few key moments in the history of English. I will rely on the typology of norms defined by Houdebine (1982, 2002) and I will work from the premise that linguistic change is linked to norm interaction and norm negotiation in communities (Milroy 1992). Throughout the development of Standard English, interactions between norms of various types have manifested themselves in different ways and have helped shape various standardisation processes that have contributed to the development of a prestige variety. We will see how normalisation has operated differently in what Joseph (1987) calls circumstantial and engineered standardisation, the former being much more likely to lead to systemic changes. From the end of the Middle English period, norms of various types were successively at work in the processes that gradually led to the emergence of a prestige variety. These norms were anchored in the social and cultural reality of their times, but also in speakers’ representations of the language, of society and of their own identities. Historically, the process of standardisation started with the selection of a particular dialect in Middle English. Then, the Renaissance was associated with a further diffusion of that variety and of its written forms. Modern English witnessed the codification of Standard English through evaluative norms and prescriptive rules, a tendency which also contributed to the definition of a standard model of pronunciation at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. However, I will argue that we can only talk of a ‘successful’ process of standardisation when it has been synonymous with a significant reduction of linguistic variation, which will allow me to discuss how effective the various types of norms previously defined have been at different stages in the history of English. Pre-established norms have been strongly challenged in the last decades. This had led to a significantly different linguistic landscape in Britain. A similar re-negotiation of norms has been at work in the USA despite the much shorter history of American English. In fact, it seems that normalisation has never been this diverse, with the emergence of new varieties based on identity-driven processes and endonormativity (Schneider 2007). It is precisely the normalisation process that has given legitimacy to these newer varieties. At the same time, English has become the first truly international language. In fact, English has become both global and local. I will conclude this talk with a few remarks on how the seemingly endless variation that characterises the English-speaking world today is leading to a reassessment of the models and norms used for teaching English as a second language. References BAUGH Albert & CABLE Thomas, A History of the English Language, Egglewood Cliffs, Prentice-Hall, (2002)  (4th edition). COBBETT William, A Grammar of the English Language, New York, Appleton, 1818. CRYSTAL David, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003  (2nd edition). CRYSTAL David, The Stories of English, London, Penguin, 2004. FENNEL Barbara, A History of English. A Sociolinguistic Approach, Oxford, Balckwell, 2001. GLAIN Olivier, Variation et changements en langue anglaise. Évènements historiques, perspectives humaines et sociales, Saint-Étienne, Publications de l’Université de Saint-Étienne, 2020. HOUDEBINE Anne-Marie, ‘Norme, imaginaire linguistique et phonologie du français contemporain’, Le français moderne, vol. 1, 1982, p. 42-51. HOUDEBINE Anne-Marie (dir.), L’imaginaire linguistique, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2002. JOSEPH John Earl, Eloquence and Power: The Rise of Language Standards and Standard Languages, Londres, Frances Pinter, 1987. KACHRU Braj, ‘Standards, codification and sociolinguistic realism: The English language in the Outer Circle’, in Quirk R. et Widdowson H. (dir.), English in the world: Teaching and learning the language and literatures, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1985, p. 11-30. KENRICK William, A New Dictionary of the English Language, London, John & Francis Rivington, William Johnston, Thomas Longman & Thomas Cadell, 1773. LABOV William, Sociolinguistic Patterns, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1972. LABOV William, Principles of Linguistic Change, Volume 1: Internal Factors, collection Language in Society, Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell, 1994. LABOV William, Principles of Linguistic Change, Volume 2: Social Factors, collection Language in Society, Oxford, Blackwell, 2001. LABOV William, Principles of Linguistic Change, Volume 3: Cognitive and Cultural Factors, collection Language in Society, Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. LABOV William, ASH Sharon et BOBERG Charles, Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, Phonology and Sound Change, Berlin, Mouton de Gruyter, 2006. LEITH Dick, A Social History of English, London, Routledge, 1983. LERER Seth, The History of the English Language, Chantilly, The Great Courses, 2008 (2nd edition). LOWTH Robert (1762), A short introduction to English grammar, London, A. Miller & R. & J. Dodsby, 1762. MCWHORTER John, Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, New York, Avery, 2009. MILROY James, Linguistic Variation and Change, Oxford, Blackwell, 1992. MILROY Lesley, Language and Social Networks, Oxford, Blackwell, 1980. MINKOVA Donka, A Historical phonology of English, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2014. MUFWENE Salikoko, « The Founder Principle in creole genesis », Diachronica, n°13, 1996, p. 83-134. MURRAY Lindley, English Grammar, Adapted to the Different Classes of Learners, York, Wilson, Spence et Mawman, 1795. PILLIÈRE Linda, ANDRIEU Wilfrid, KERFELEC Valérie & LEWIS Diana, Standardising English. Norms and Margins in the History of the English Language. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2018. ROMAINE Suzanne, Sociohistorical Linguistics, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1982. SCHNEIDER Edgar, Postcolonial English, Varieties around the world, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007. SCHNEIDER Edgar, English Around the World, an introduction, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011. SMITH Jeremy, An Historical Study of English: Function, Form and Change, London, Routledge, 1996. SMITH Jeremy, Sound Change and the History of English, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007. SORLIN Sandrine, Langue et autorité. De l’ordre linguistique à la force dialogique, Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2012. STEVANOVITCH Colette, Manuel d’histoire de la langue anglaise des origines à nos jours, Paris, Ellipses, 2008  (2nd edition). STRUNK William et WHITE Elwyn, The Elements of Style, New York, Macmillan, 1979  (3rd edition). TRUDGILL Peter, Sociolinguistics: An Introduction to Language and Society, London, Penguin, 2000. TRUDGILL Peter, Sociolinguistic Variation and Change, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2002. WALKER John, A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language, Londres, Robinson, Robinson et Cadell, 1791. WALKER John, Principles of English Pronunciation, Leipsic, Winkelmann, 1816. WEBSTER Noah, A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, Hartford, Hudson et Goodwin, 1785. WEBSTER Noah, Dissertations on the English Language, Boston, Isaiah Thomas and Company, 1789. WEBSTER Noah, American Dictionary of the English Language, Springfield, GetC Merriam Company, 1828. WEINREICH Uriel, LABOV William et HERZOG Marvin, Empirical Foundations for a Theory of Language Change, Austin, University of Texas Press, 1968. WELLS John, Accents of English (3 volumes), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1982. WOLFRAM Walt et SCHILLING Natalie, American English, Dialects and Variation, Oxford, Wiley Blackwell, 2016  (3rd edition).