Tuesday, June 08, 2010

L'Academie Anglaise

The Queen's English Society - an organisation that prides itself on its prescriptivist stance over language change - has set up what it calls an "Academy" in order to regulate our language, and it's hoping to gain some form of official status if this report is anything to go by. Their belief is that English is going to the dogs, and even worse, to the damn yankees. Martin Estinel of the QES is quoted in The Times as saying “At the moment, anything goes. Let’s set down a clear standard of what is good, correct, proper English. Let’s have a body to sit in judgment”.

Oh dear. It's clear that they don't really know much about language or language change if they seriously think they can regulate English. More arguments are put forward in this Times article, and the issue was also debated on yesterday's Radio 4 PM programme, which you can find 53 minutes into this link (or if you're an SFX A2 student, it'll be in a link on Moodle) and my (ahem, namedrop alert) esteemed UCL colleague Professor John Mullan has penned a suitably descriptive response in today's Guardian, which you can find here.

Elsewhere, Gerald Warner of the Telegraph blames "trendy educationalists" and "illiterate teachers" (wot's he chattin abaht, bruv?) for promoting a laissez-faire attitude towards "spelling, grammar and syntax".

D'oh! Not only does Warner lapse into French to discuss English, but even this illiterate teacher knows that syntax is part of grammar. Nil points to you, Gerald for your silly error. With a spectacular and possibly frothing-at-the-mouth flourish, Warner then concludes by telling us this:

In this climate of anti-aestheticism it is unsurprising that even an attempt to preserve the beauty and coherence of the English language should meet with opposition by those who claim that it needs to “evolve” unimpeded. There is nothing wrong with a language evolving – English has always done so; but what is happening now is not evolution but nihilism. It must be resisted and the Queen’s English Society is to be congratulated on its initiative. All champions of literacy will wish the society success in establishing a much-needed Academy of English.
Luckily, not all Daily Telegraph readers are as narrow-minded as Mr Warner, and if you scroll down to the comments below his article, you'll see some interesting defences of language change.

The good thing for all A2 English Language students is that whatever your views on this issue, it's all excellent material for your Language Discourses section on the ENGA3 paper. This is exactly the kind of debate that will be appearing on the exam paper, so get reading and analysing!

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