International Conference- Margin(s) and Norm(s) in English Language(s)

full name / name of organization: 
LERMA (E.A. 853) Aix-Marseille Université - FRANCE

LERMA (E.A. 853) Aix-Marseille Université

April 10-12, 2014 in Aix-en-Provence (France)

Margin(s) and Norm(s) in English Language(s) / langue(s) anglaises : les normes et les marges

This international conference seeks to re-examine the concepts of "norms" and "margins" in relation to language varieties, and also in relation to current attitudes regarding prescriptivism. The approach will be both diachronic and synchronic, with the aim of analysing how the concepts of "norms" and "margins" relate to the historical development of the language, but also how they influence present-day usage. It will focus both on the norms and margins from a linguistic perspective and also as a socio-cultural phenomenon.

The concept of a norm and the role played by norms in language development has long been a concern of sociolinguistics (Labov 1972; Haugen 1972). When one or more norms are established within a linguistic community and used as a yardstick to measure linguistic behaviour, other varieties become inevitably eliminated or marginalized. Linguistic theories that focus on analysing a stable form of language, a coherent idealized system, have often failed to examine these varieties, or they have simply been studied in the light of the standard variety (Milroy 2001). The mere use of the term non-standard suggests that the notion of a standard variety has become the accepted term, with linguistic theory being frequently based on the characteristics of a standard variety. Even within so-called "non-standard" varieties, a certain hierarchy seems to exist, with more academic attention being paid to varieties that have an established history than contemporary urban varieties.

Most linguists today would say that they adhere to a descriptive approach to language that seeks to clarify underlying patterns of language usage, rather than a prescriptive approach that seeks to impose "correct" usage. Yet are the two so diametrically opposed (Cameron 1995; Johnson 2001)? Is descriptivism totally absent from prescriptive grammars and style and how far do descriptive grammars demonstrate a covert prescriptivism? What exactly is the relationship between the "standard" and "non-standard" varieties? Should we really consider them in terms of a binary opposition? In so far as neither exists in a vacuum, is it not possible to envisage mutual influence? Is there one norm or several? Is standardization itself necessarily a teleological process? Is it possible to envisage a model other than standardization? Should language development be seen in terms of a "standardization cycle" (Greenberg 1986, Ferguson 1988)? Papers that focus on the dynamic interplay between the two concepts of norm (s) and margin(s) or between standard and non-standard and that seek to question the binary oppositions and traditional dichotomies outlined above will be especially welcome.
Papers may address –but are not limited to – the following themes:

1 Establishing the norm – from a diachronic and synchronic perspective
Links between prescriptivism (both past and present) and the sociocultural and/or politico-economic context of the time.
The role of prescriptive attitudes and commonly-held beliefs in shaping the language and maintaining sociolinguistic norms
The role played by dictionaries and style guides in establishing the standard variety and canonical forms.
The role of movements such as political correctness and the Plain English campaign in establishing present-day norms

2 Norms and Margins in contact – remapping the concepts
The effects of language contact on the development of norms
The concept of destandardization.
Norms and new varieties such as Internet English
The place of varieties in present-day grammars

3 Norm(s) and Margin(s) in the global context :
The future of norm(s) within an increasingly global world
The implications for the norm in a world where for most speakers English is a second or foreign language.
Identity and varieties of English

Studies of specific grammatical or lexical forms are welcome as are more general studies on the notions of prescriptivism, norms and margins.

Keynote Speakers:

Charlotte Brewer, Hertford College, University of Oxford
Lynda Mugglestone, Pembroke College, University of Oxford
Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade, University of Leiden

A 300-word summary of your proposal with a short biography and bibliography should be sent to both Linda Pillière ( and Wilfrid Andrieu (

Deadline for submission: 1 September 2013
Language of the conference: English or French
Selected papers will be considered for publication (in English)

Organizing Committee
Valérie Kerfelec (Aix-Marseille Université), Linda Pillière (Aix-Marseille Université) et
Wilfrid Andrieu (Aix-Marseille Université).

Advisory Board

Joan Beal, University of Sheffield
Jack Chambers, University of Toronto
Jenny Cheshire, Queen Mary, University of London
Jean-Marie Fournier, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3
Paul Kerswill, University of York
Bernd Kortmann, Universtät Freiburg
Manuel Jobert, Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3
Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre-La Défense
Wilfrid Rotgé, Université Paris 4 Sorbonne
Katie Wales, University of Nottingham