Unfettered freedom to do what we like with our words: There has long been a naive and romantic belief that in Britain language, like culture, is a simple reflection of a mysterious social consensus nonetheless based on a robust, democratic, individualism which rejects outside influences. ‘We've ruled ourselves and allowed the natural forces of change to be curbed only loosely by general dogma and prejudice’ (John Simpson in The Guardian, 27 December 1995); ‘It is that unfettered freedom to do what we damn well like with our words that is the glory of English’ (Elmes 2000:106). Taken to the extreme, it is suggested that British English has a life independent of British society. It is my belief that such reification of language is dubious; that, as in most countries, there has long been control and management of language and particularly of language behaviour; and that language control by authority, much of it connected to the state, continues. This chapter will briefly discuss a dozen examples of language policy and planning (henceforth LPP) occurring mainly over the 25 years from 1975 to 2000 in the British Isles, or in the United Kingdom unless Ireland is specified. Everybody agrees with Saussure (1916) that language change, and language behaviour more generally, are directly affected by society. Ever since Labov's (1966) studies of covariation in New York City, and Trudgill's (1974) work on Norwich, sociolinguistic studies have tracked covariation between dependent linguistic variables (such as h-dropping) and independent social variables (such as class).
|Title of host publication||Language in the British Isles|
|Publisher||Cambridge University Press|
|Number of pages||24|
|ISBN (Print)||9780511620782, 9780521791502|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jan 2007|