21-22 January 2016: Effects of Prescriptivism in Language History

On 21 and 22 January LUCL organises a workshop on the Effects of Prescriptivism in Language History.

About the workshop

Language norms and prescriptivism play an important role in many histories of European languages. Standardization is often the central topic in chapters about the post-medieval period. But what were the effects of norms and prescriptions on variation and change in actual language use? With the advent of historical sociolinguistics and the compilation of large corpora of usage data we can reassess the importance of norms and prescriptions, and gain a deeper understanding of their relation to usage patterns.

This workshop focuses on the possible effects of norms and prescriptions in language history. A main theme will be the methodological issue of how to investigate the influence of norms and prescriptions. Recent research shows that the following questions are highly topical:
– How can we measure possible effects of prescriptivism?
– Are there convincing examples of usage patterns following prescriptions? Or was metalinguistic discourse primarily self-centered? And did usage evolve independently?
– What was the social reach of language norms? Who were supposed to follow them? How were the norms transmitted to language users?
– Were prescriptions more successful when they were backed up by a strong ideology of correctness? Did the rise of standard language ideology advance the effects of prescriptivism?

These and related questions will be discussed during the workshop.

Invited speakers

Lieselotte Anderwald (Kiel)
Stephan Elspass (Salzburg)
Shana Poplack (Ottowa)
Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade (Leiden)
Rik Vosters (Brussels)


Thursday 21 January

13.30 Gijsbert Rutten – Welcome
13.45 Marijke van der Wal (Leiden)
Language norms in sociohistorical context
14.15 Lieselotte Anderwald (Kiel)
Measuring the success of prescriptivism: Case studies from the 19th century
15.00 Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade (Leiden)
The age of prescriptivism

15.45 Break

16.15 Spiros Moschonas (Athens)
Correctives: A sociolinguistic variable indexing prescriptivism
16.45 Bethan Malory (Lancaster)
A new method for quantifying the effects of prescriptive comment
17.15 Viktorija Kostadinova, Marten van der Meulen & Folgert Karsdorp
Annotation and comparative analysis of metalanguage in usage guides:
A bottom-up approach

Friday 22 January

9.30 Shana Poplack (Ottawa)
Prescription, description and praxis
10.15 Heimir Freyr Vidarsson (Reykjavik/Leiden)
Issues in language prescriptivism in 19th-century Iceland: A constructional
multi-genre approach

10.45 Andreas Krogull (Leiden)
Exploring the effects of early nineteenth-century language norms on language
use in the Northern Netherlands

11.15 Break

11.45 Marc van Oostendorp & Nicoline van der Sijs (Amsterdam)
Na and naar: The story of a successful differentiation between form and

12.15 Kai Witzlack-Makarevich (Jena)
Effect and success of linguistic purism in the Slavonic languages as
demonstrated by the examples
of Czech and Upper Sorbian

12.45 Lunch

13.45 Rik Vosters (Brussels)
Prescriptivism in Southern Dutch (1700-1830): Moving beyond the norms and
usage dichotomy?

14.30 Ásta Svavarsdóttir (Reykjavik)
Standardization and the dissemination of the standard: Variation in 19th century
Icelandic family letters

15.00 Bob Schoemaker (Leiden)
Prescriptivism in education: Teachers, books and methods in the first half of the
19th century

15.30 Break

16.00 Anna Havinga (Bristol)
The ‘invisibilisation’ of Austrian German features by 18th-century grammarians
16.30 Stephan Elspass (Salzburg)
Assessing prescriptivism and its (lack of) effect in the history of German
17.15 Closing

Please find a pdf file of the programme here.


If you are interested in attending the workshop, please send an email to Gijsbert Rutten at g.j.rutten@hum.leidenuniv.nl.


This workshop is organized by the NWO-funded Vidi-project Going Dutch: The Construction of Dutch in Policy, Practice and Discourse (1750-1850), led by Gijsbert Rutten, in cooperation with Marijke van der Wal, who holds the chair in the History of Dutch.

Gijsbert Rutten

Marijke van der Wal

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