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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Academic Paper

Title: Studying attitudes to English usage
Author: Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade
Institution: Leiden University Centre for Linguistics
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: Attitudes to English Usage is the title of a book published in 1970 by W. H. Mittins, Mary Salu, Mary Edminson and Sheila Coyne from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne that reported on an enquiry held among some 450 informants concerning the acceptability of 55 usage items. These items had been selected because they were at the time ‘subject to variation in practice and dispute in theory’ (Mittins et al., 1970: 4), and they include sentences like He refused to even think about it, It looked like it will rain and Everyone has their off-days. In each case the offensive feature had been highlighted so that informants would know what they had to comment on: to even think (a split infinitive), the use of like for as if, and of their with a singular antecedent (everyone). For fifty sentences the informants had to indicate acceptability in informal speech, informal writing, formal speech and formal writing, and for the remaining five only for informal and formal writing, since usage of these items was believed to be restricted to writing (1970: 4). The sentences were subsequently ranged from highest general acceptability (did not do well as) to lowest ( unique), and correlations were calculated with the occupation of the informants (students, teachers, lecturers, examiners and non-educationists), while the items were also classified as colloquial (pretty reliable), etymological (data is), grammatical (did it quicker) and lexical/semantic (inferred/implied), or as language myths, ‘where the censorious tend to invoke a prescription of dubious authority’ (dangling participles) (1970: 15). The main part of the book dealt with the individual constructions, analysing the reasons for their status as debated usage items and providing further historical context in the process.


This article appears IN English Today Vol. 29, Issue 4.

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