The objective of the project is to illuminate the complex processes involved in the
emergence and development of Standard languages. Individual accounts of emerging Standard languages in, for instance, Early Modern Europe (cf. Deumert and Vandenbussche, eds., 2003) attach great importance to the role that language policies and authorities with power and prestige play in the standardisation processes (language history “from above”), while more covert factors such as the effects of national and international trade, work migration, and the book trade, have often been marginalised. By using the example of the emergence of Standard English, this project explores the role of such factors in the origin and spread of a formal written Standard. To this end, a novel inter-disciplinary approach will be applied that combines historical linguistics, socioeconomic history and textual history. As this project explores an alternative history of language standardisation in England, the focus that was traditionally on the pre-eminent urban community – London - will be shifted to regional centres. More precisely, urban vernaculars of major regional centres with high levels of literacy and text production (manuscripts as well as printed texts from 1476 onwards) will be systematically investigated over the period 1400-1700 with respect to factors such as time, text type, and migration patterns The study focuses on the vernaculars of York (North), Bristol (Southwest), Coventry (West Midlands), and Norwich (East Anglia). A comparison of the results of these longitudinal studies, and results from studies on London English, is expected to (a) clarify our understanding of the origin and spread of formal written English, and (b) make a fundamental contribution to the field of language standardisation in general. Moreover, new empirical English data from the period c. 1400-1700 will be made publicly available in the form of electronic corpora.
Speaking is one of the most complex skills that humans perform. Not all children come through the process of speech acquisition successfully and without impediments. This project investigates why some children have trouble to learn how to speak intelligibly.