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ENGL489N - Special Topics in Language and Rhetoric; Invention of "Proper English": from the English Enlightenment to the American Experience

What is "Proper English"? When and for what reasons did people first get the idea that it was important to have a "uniform standard" for the English language? How did social and political movements like Protestantism, Nationalism, Colonialism, Slavery, and Enlightenment Philosophy create a mass market for dictionaries and guides to "polite" English usage starting in the 18th century? And how does the idea of Proper English continue to affect us today?

This course offers students the opportunity to explore the history of a rhetorical idea—the idea of a proper or standard English—to examine its effects both on history and on society today.  Students will learn about the history of the English language, and the history of people trying to codify and regulate rules of grammar, usage and pronunciation for the language. And students will learn to consider this history with a critical eye informed by perspectives from classical rhetoric, cognitive linguistics, and linguistic anthropology. This course will be conducted as a seminar and will require both extensive reading and and regular written work, including weekly discussion boards, two short papers, an annotated bibliography, and a historical or ethnographic research project on language attitudes in an English language using community.

0201 - Michael Israel

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