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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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Challenging the hegemony of standard English

Challenging the hegemony of standard English

(p.209) Chapter 9 Challenging the hegemony of standard English
Language Myths and the History of English

Richard J. Watts (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents the politicisation of standard English from the end of the eighteenth century up to the demise of Chartism around 1851. It is based on Smith's (1984) argument that the rigid social class structure in place by the 1780s led to an attempt by the gentry and the aristocracy to retain sociopolitical power, which, during the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and the early period of industrialisation, inevitably led to the instrumentalisation of language as a tool of political oppression. It argues that the radical views on language of John Horne Tooke have been wrongly assessed from a linguistic perspective, rather than from within the context of radical opposition to the retention of power by the gentry and aristocracy. The transformation of standard English from a “polite” language to the only legitimate language is linked to the social turmoil of the years following the Napoleonic Wars.

Keywords:   legitimate language, politicisation, instrumentalisation, social stratification, industrialisation, political repression

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