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Fixing English
Prescriptivism and Language History

$80.00

  • Date Published: May 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107020757

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  • Over the past 300 years, attempts have been made to prescribe how we should and should not use the English language. The efforts have been institutionalized in places such as usage guides, dictionaries, and school curricula. Such authorities have aspired to 'fix' the language, sometimes by keeping English exactly where it is, but also by trying to improve the current state of the language. Anne Curzan demonstrates the important role prescriptivism plays in the history of the English language, as a sociolinguistic factor in language change and as a vital meta-discourse about language. Starting with a pioneering new definition of prescriptivism as a linguistic phenomenon, she highlights the significant role played by Microsoft's grammar checker, debates about 'real words', non-sexist language reform, and efforts to reappropriate stigmatized terms. Essential reading for anyone interested in the regulation of language, the book is a fascinating re-examination of how we tell language history.

    • Addresses the importance of the Microsoft grammar checker in the history of prescriptivism and English usage
    • Surveys contemporary non-sexist language reform efforts and debates about the reappropriation of stigmatized identity terms
    • Discusses the challenges linguists face when discussing prescriptivism in public venues and proposes frameworks for addressing those challenges
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "Anne Curzan takes prescriptivism seriously; this informative, engaging and readable book deserves serious attention from anyone with an interest in the history - or the future - of English."
    Deborah Cameron, University of Oxford

    "This is the most sensible study I have read of the urge to fix and regulate the English language. Anne Curzan is one of the most accomplished historical linguists at work today, and Fixing English represents a clear and effective case for why, like it or not, "prescriptivism" has always been with us."
    Seth Lerer, University of California, San Diego

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2014
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107020757
    • length: 208 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.45kg
    • contains: 19 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: does prescriptivism fail?
    1. Prescriptivism's umbrella: standards, style, restoration, and political intervention
    2. Prescriptivism's lessons: scope and 'The history of English'
    3. Checking grammar and grammar checkers
    4. Dictionaries and the idea of 'real words'
    5. Non-sexist language reform and its effects
    6. Reappropriation and challenges to institutionalized prescriptivism
    7. Finding shared ground: public conversations about prescriptivism.

  • Author

    Anne Curzan, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
    Anne Curzan is Professor of English in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan.

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