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Conference Information

Full Title: Margin(s) and Norm(s) in English Language(s)

Location: Aix en Provence, France
Start Date: 10-Apr-2014 - 12-Apr-2014
Contact: Linda Pillière, Wilfrid Andrieu
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting Description: This international conference seeks to re-examine the concepts of ‘norms’ and ‘margins’ in relation to language varieties, and also in relation to current attitudes regarding prescriptivism. The approach will be both diachronic and synchronic, with the aim of analysing how the concepts of ‘norms’ and ‘margins’ relate to the historical development of the language, but also how they influence present-day usage. It will focus both on the norms and margins from a linguistic perspective and also as a socio-cultural phenomenon.

Keynote Speakers:

Charlotte Brewer, Hertford College, University of Oxford
Lynda Mugglestone, Pembroke College, University of Oxford
Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade, University of Leiden

The concept of a norm and the role played by norms in language development has long been a concern of sociolinguistics (Labov 1972; Haugen 1972). When one or more norms are established within a linguistic community and used as a yardstick to measure linguistic behaviour, other varieties become inevitably eliminated or marginalized. Linguistic theories that focus on analysing a stable form of language, a coherent idealized system, have often failed to examine these varieties, or they have simply been studied in the light of the standard variety (Milroy 2001). The mere use of the term non-standard suggests that the notion of a standard variety has become the accepted term, with linguistic theory being frequently based on the characteristics of a standard variety. Even within so-called ‘non-standard’ varieties, a certain hierarchy seems to exist, with more academic attention being paid to varieties that have an established history than contemporary urban varieties.

Most linguists today would say that they adhere to a descriptive approach to language that seeks to clarify underlying patterns of language usage, rather than a prescriptive approach that seeks to impose ‘correct’ usage. Yet are the two so diametrically opposed (Cameron 1995; Johnson 2001)? Is descriptivism totally absent from prescriptive grammars and style and how far do descriptive grammars demonstrate a covert prescriptivism? What exactly is the relationship between the ‘standard’ and ‘non-standard’ varieties? Should we really consider them in terms of a binary opposition? In so far as neither exists in a vacuum, is it not possible to envisage mutual influence? Is there one norm or several? Is standardization itself necessarily a teleological process? Is it possible to envisage a model other than standardization? Should language development be seen in terms of a ‘standardization cycle’ (Greenberg 1986, Ferguson 1988)?
Linguistic Subfield: Discourse Analysis; Historical Linguistics; Sociolinguistics; Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language: English
LL Issue: 24.2512

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