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English Agonistes: Narrative Design and Language History



A guest lecture by Professor Tim William Machan, University of Notre Dame and former Fulbright fellow at ILOS.

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Tim W. Machan


The history of English is not a ready-made thing – it takes shape only through the critical selection of language forms and usages and through the deployment of these in narratives, which might center on aesthetics, periodization, grammatical structure, usage, or social purpose. The last of these is the focus of English Agonistes: how language history, as a means of both semantic communication and communal interaction, can be framed in relation to and further some social objective. This relation may be understood to be causative, resultative, or simply mimetic, and in each case language change, its origins, and its effects require different explanations and different data, producing different implications for society as well as language. Variation and change in the history of a language may thus be treated as reflections of communal organization; or as evidence of a divine plan in human history; or as a means for social engineering; or as the products of moral character. But in every case, social narratives are those that are underwritten by a kind of theocratic linguistics. Topics include the Tower of Babel, language laws, comparative linguistics, and the global spread of English.


Jacob Thaisen
Emneord: History of English, Language Ideologies
Publisert 7. feb. 2022 15:21 - Sist endret 14. apr. 2022 14:45