Call for Papers: The Effects of Prescriptivism in Language History

Leiden University Centre for Linguistics
21-22 January 2016

Invited speakers
Lieselotte Anderwald (Kiel)
Stephan Elspaß (Salzburg)
Shana Poplack (Ottawa)
Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade (Leiden)
Rik Vosters (Brussels)

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. If you’re interested in giving a paper, please send a title and an abstract (c. 250 words) to before 1 November 2015.

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.