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Language Myths and the History of English$
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Richard J. Watts

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195327601

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195327601.001.0001

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Barbarians and others

Barbarians and others

(p.114) Chapter 5 Barbarians and others
Language Myths and the History of English

Richard J. Watts (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Some of the myths that are still active today have their roots at least in the twelfth century or even before. Some are universal. The first part of Chapter 5 argues that with the rise of the nation-state concept in the early nineteenth century, the discourse on English became the discourse of standard English relying on the central myth of linguistic homogeneity. This myth can be found in a crucial text in locating long-standing myths, Ranulph Higden's Polychronicon. The relevant passage of the Polychronicon is examined in detail, revealing a cluster of myths, from which other more modern myths have been derived, some of them more central to discourse on language and others more peripheral, but no less significant. The chapter ends with a summary of the myths dealt with in the book as a whole before the focus is set in Chapter 6 on myths of the nineteenth century.

Keywords:   nation-state, linguistic homogeneity, language contact, central myths, peripheral myths

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