Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Queen is Dead

Just as the British monarchy celebrates another milestone, with Her Maj reaching 60 years not out, the society that claims to defend her English - the Queen's English Society - pops its clogs. And of course, being her subjects, it's our language too. A bit like Buckingham Palace...which we're not allowed into and all those Crown Estates...hmm.

So, should we be worried about the language now that it's not protected by the QES? Well, no. And Paul Kerswill explains why, in The Sun (of all places). Kerswill talks about the changing English language and the role of prescriptivists or preservationists like the now-defunct QES, and comes to the conclusion that while the individual members might have been well-meaning, the society itself has outlived its usefulness.

Elsewhere, you can see arguments from the following:

  • Margaret Reynolds in The Guardian who says that "cultural policing (even of this kind) is always dangerous, because it says that I am right and you are wrong"
  • Geoff Pullum on Language Log who rips apart the QES's own use of English, saying "These people cannot competently punctuate their sentences according to the standard rules. Why were we supposed to take them seriously as guardians of our native language?"
  • Guy Stagg in the Daily Telegraph who is sad about the QES's demise and says that organisations like them are "...are not trying to limit the language, but enrich it". 
  • The professional contrarians over at Spiked Online, led by Brendan O'Neill argue that standards are good, because they allow you to communicate with more people in order to overturn the system: "There is revolutionary potential in having everyone adhere to the same linguistic rules; there is only the dead end of division and parish-pump platitudes in the promotion of a linguistic free-for-all in which eevn spleling doens’t matetr".

As well as being an interesting story in its own right, it's great material for ENGA3 Language Discourses (and for ENGB3 Language Change).

Edited on 07.06.12 to add Spiked Online link.

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