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Great Britain and the United States: Two nations divided by an attitude?: Reviewing the scientific study of attitudes towards usage problems in Great Britain and United States of America

  • Carmen Ebner

Having studied attitudes towards usage problems such as the notorious split infinitive or the ubiquitous literally in British English as part of my doctoral thesis, I was intrigued by the sheer lack of scientific studies investigating such attitudes. What was even more intriguing was to discover that the same field and the same usage problems seem to have received a different treatment in the United States of America. While my search for previously conducted usage attitude studies in Great Britain has largely remained fruitless, besides two notable exceptions which I will discuss in detail below (see Section 3), a similar search for American usage attitude studies resulted in a different picture. Considerably more such studies seem to have been conducted in the US than in Great Britain. On top of cultural and linguistic differences between these two nations, it seems as if they also hold different attitudes towards studying attitudes towards usage problems. Now the following question arises: why do we find such contradictory scientific traditions in these two countries? In this paper, I will provide an overview of a selection of American and British usage attitude studies. Taking into account differences between the American and British studies with regard to the number of usage problems studied, the populations surveyed and the methods applied, I will attempt to capture manifestations of two seemingly diverging attitudes towards the study of usage problems. By doing so, I will provide a possible explanation for the lack of attention being paid to usage attitudes in Great Britain.

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English Today
  • ISSN: 0266-0784
  • EISSN: 1474-0567
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