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Analysing the huge mailbag: Reception of John Honey's The Language Trap: A controversial publication inspiring linguistic comments by members of the general public

  • Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade

Just after the start of the research project Bridging the Unbridgeable: Linguists, Prescriptivists and the General Public in 2011, we laid our hands on a file called ‘Reactions to L. Trap’. The file contains well over 200 documents: letters, picture postcards, notes, newspaper clippings, and various other items, almost all of them relating to the reception of a pamphlet called The Language Trap, written by John Honey (1933–2001) and published in 1983 by the British National Council for Educational Standards (NCES). The file was offered for sale by Plurabelle Books in Cambridge as part of the late John Honey's library, and acquiring it offered a unique opportunity to study the reception of this highly controversial publication, not only by linguists, but also by the general public. Both groups responded in large numbers to the publicity the pamphlet inspired, in the press as well as on the radio.

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Thanks to John Edwards and Dick Hudson for providing me with background information relating to the reception of The Language Trap, and to Joan Beal for her comments on an earlier version of this paper.

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