Studies in English Language

G405 — Spring 2018

Michael Adams
Student Building 231
Days and Times
1:00-2:15 MW
Course Description

Topic: English and the Culture of Correctness

This is fundamentally a course about language attitudes, and it focuses on one especially persistent attitude and reactions to it. People talk about speaking and writing English “correctly,” but — with regard to a language — what is “correct”? Correctness has not always been a concern among speakers and writers of English, which leads one to the questions, “When did it become so?” and “Why?” And then, “Who determines what is correct?” And, finally, “Do notions of correctness affect our practice — are they all talk, or do they make some difference in the world?” In order to answer such questions, the course is divided into three roughly equal parts: (1) we will look into the very modern history of the correctness doctrine, which, among other things, shows how correctness is ideological, not a matter of linguistic fact; (2) we will study the rhetorics of correctness, how people talk about it — for and against — not only those professionals especially concerned with language structure and language use (teachers, editors, linguists, lexicographers, pundits, and the like), but also everybody else, the public that negotiates English and attitudes about it every day; and (3) we will look for evidence of how correctness and talk about it affects the way we write, how correctness influences rhetoric.

Texts: Deborah Cameron, Verbal Hygiene (Routledge, 2012); $49.95; ISBN 978-0415696005.

Coursework:  Two oral presentations; a 20 page (or so) essay, developed through three drafts; regular contributions to an annotated bibliography compiled collaboratively by the class. 

Interested in this course?

The full details of this course are available on the Office of the Registrar website.

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