Until the beginning of this century, with few notable exceptions, prescriptivism has received little serious attention among the academic linguistic community as a factor in language variation and change. The five studies included in this book are embedded in the growing research initiative that is attempting to paint a fine-grained picture of linguistic prescriptivism in the English language. In contrast to institutional prescriptivism, or the so-called prescriptivism from above, which is enforced by bodies such as language planning boards, governmental committees, and agencies, this book focuses on grassroots prescriptivism – the attempts of lay people to promote the standard language ideology.
Grassroots prescriptivism investigates the metalinguistic comments of language users expressed on traditional (letters to newspaper editors and radio phone-ins) and new media platforms (forum and blog discussions). This book demonstrates that, contrary to popular belief, language users are not passive recipients of language rules, but active participants in matters of linguistic prescriptivism. The diachronic exploration of grassroots prescriptivism reveals a complex picture. While in many respects, twenty-first-century prescriptivism represents a continuation of the 250-year-old prescriptive tradition, the author argues that prescriptivism, like language itself, undergoes change over time.
1.1. Grammar vigilantes
1.2. The end of prescriptivism?
1.3. For how long has the language been in decay?
1.4. Thesis outline
2. Grassroots Prescriptivism: An analysis of individual speakers’ efforts at maintaining the standard language ideology
2.2. Who complains about language use?
2.2.1 Letters to newspaper editors
2.2.2 The survey
2.3. Which linguistic features are stigmatised in public discussions on usage?
2.3.1. Comparing The Times and The New York Times
2.3.2. The survey
3. Linguistic prescriptivism in letters to the editor
3.2. The ‘misused’ possessive apostrophe
3.4. Semantic analysis
3.4.1. Key words and key semantic domains
3.4.2. Key word analysis
3.4.3. Key semantic domains
4. From usage guides to language blogs
4.2. The popularity of grammar blogs
4.3. Grammar Girl as a usage guide 2.0
4.4. Comments on the Grammar Girl website
4.4.1. The commenters’ identity construction
4.4.2. Types of comments
4.4.3. Arguments presented in metalinguistic debates
4.4.4 Repetitive narratives and humour in metalinguistic discourses
5 From usage guides to Wikipedia: Re-contextualising the discourse on language use
5.1 Introduction: Expert discourses on language use
5.2 The usage guide as a genre
5.3 The history of collaboration in knowledge creation: From the OED to Wikis
5.4 Wikipedia: The online collaborative encyclopaedia community
5.4.1 Related work
5.4.2 The structure of Wikipedia entries and Talk pages
5.5 Analysing Wikipedia entries on language use
5.5.1 The editors
5.5.2 Wikipedia entries on usage items
5.5.3 Corpus-based comparison of Wikipedia entries and usage guides
5.5.4 Comparing Wikipedia Talk pages and entries on usage items
6. What is the difference between thus and thusly?
6.2. The prescriptivists
6.3. The general public
6.3.1. The survey
6.3.2. Acceptability of thusly
6.3.3. Differences among demographic groups
6.4. Actual usage
6.4.1. Genre differences in the usage of thus and thusly
6.4.2. Differences in meaning between thus and thusly
6.4.3. Verbs modified by thus and thusly
7.1. Revisiting the concept of grassroots prescriptivism
7.2. Bridging the gap
7.3. Changing prescriptivism
7.4. Methodological challenges
7.5. Moving forward
Appendix A: English Today features
Apostrophe(’)s, who needs them?
Grammar Advice in the Age of Web 2.0: Introducing the new (and keeping the old) language authorities
Appendix B: Bridging the Unbridgeable blog entries
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