4.1 Critique of language norms in English
Translation: Bryan Vit, Beatrix Busse and Ruth Möhlig-Falke
This article attempts to sketch by example how discussions about English language norms have developed from the late 16th cen- tury until today. These complex discussions are closely related to the processes of standardisation and codification of English. They reflect the changing social norms that are shaped in the course of the 18th and 19th centuries as a consequence of industrialisation and urbanisation, as well as through the emergence of the British Empire on the one hand, and the growing economic and political importance of the United States on the other. While the discussion of language norms in the 18th and early 19th century is largely normative and prescriptive, the late 19th and 20th century sees the emergence and development of a descriptive tradition focused on linguistic diversity mainly in academic discourse, which is further influenced by linguistic anthropology and sociolinguistics since the mid-20th century. Today, public discourse about language norms is still frequently prescriptive, which is reflected for instance in the debates about politically correct language use or a fixed linguistic norm in edu- cation, as well as in discussions about the alleged decline of the English language due to its growing role as international lingua franca and global language.