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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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Polishing the myths

Polishing the myths

The commercial side of politeness

(p.183) Chapter 8 Polishing the myths
Language Myths and the History of English

Richard J. Watts (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The development of the ideology of the standard language in the eighteenth century can be seen as a wider and socially more significant ideology of “politeness”. The argument links social standards of “politeness” in eighteenth-century terms to the commercial interests of a relatively small group of writers and entrepreneurs in the middling orders of society in the second half of the eighteenth century. It argues that the ideology of prescriptivism was, at base, driven by commercial interests. At the same time the ideology of the standard language helped establish linguistic distinctions between the middle and upper classes of society and the working classes and the destitute in the first phase of the Industrial Revolution. The chapter argues that a full account of commercial, social, and political factors need to be considered in our attempts to unravel the ideologies of language.

Keywords:   politeness, prescriptivism, social classes, commercialisation, standard language ideology

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