CFP: [Cultural-Historical] Linguistic prescriptivism and patriotism: from nationalism to globalization

full name / name of organization: 
Carol Percy

Calls for Papers and Panels:
Prescriptivism and patriotism from nationalism to globalization

August 17-19, 2009. New College, University of Toronto, Canada.

This international conference centres on the historical and contemporary
links between linguistic prescriptivism and political patriotism. Two
research questions inform it. What roles have domestic politics,
globalization, or transnational migration patterns played in the emergence
of linguistic varieties like Standard English, Scots, Singlish,
International French, chiac, English and French creoles? And to what extent
have these varieties been shaped by prescriptive attitudes and instruments
like dictionaries? “Prescriptivism and patriotism” is inspired by previous
meetings and publications on linguistic prescriptivism: one at the
University of Sheffield with a symposium on eighteenth-century English
(2003); another at the University of Catania on prescriptivism in later
modern English more generally (2006).

The conference theme of linguistic prescriptivism â€" the idea that one
language or dialect is better than another and ought to be the norm for the
whole speech community â€" has strong but not straightforward connections
with politics, both domestic and international. Linguistic prescriptivism
has traditionally been linked with the development of European
nation-states. Because of debates about the definition and existence of
‘nationalism’, the administrative promotion of European vernaculars over
Latin has a complicated connection with the development of European
national identities. Rather clearer connections between prescriptivism and
patriotism arise from both European and colonial promotion of one dialect
of the vernacular over others, of ‘national’ vernaculars over indigenous
languages or, more recently, over immigrant languages.

In the global context, local languages and local varieties of international
languages have risen in both overt and covert prestige as expressions of
identity, especially after a former colony's independence. Yet
international Englishes remain useful economic tools and retain prestige.
In such settings as Singapore, the media’s use of Singlish and the
government’s promotion of Good English are in conflict as models of
national identity. Moreover, while similar tensions between local and
global models of identity and legitimacy pervade la francophonie, the
particularity of its linguistic politics can be illustrated by contrasting
Quebec with the minority communities in the rest of Canada. Finally, the
role of the media in establishing language norms raises the broader
question of the instruments of prescription and the social authority of
their agents. Prescriptivism is often associated with such top-down
mechanisms as government policies, language academies, and schools.
However, its methods can be informal as well as institutional: in-group
politeness norms, for instance, might prescribe the use of non-prestige
varieties in particular contexts.
The Conference Committee welcomes the submission of proposals for papers
and panels on historical and contemporary topics that explore the
connections between linguistic and political patriotism. Taking place at
New College, University of Toronto, and reflecting its location in the
vibrant venue of Toronto, Canada, this themed conference will feature both
of Canada's official languages as well as their associated creoles.
While this conference has its basis in language studies and linguistics, we
hope to further dialogue with scholars engaged in linguistic research in
such fields as anthropology, education, history, literary studies,
political science, sociology, translation, theatre and film, and/or
aboriginal, African, Asian, Canadian, Caribbean, and other area studies.
Approaches might include language contact, missionary linguistics,
post-colonial theory, diaspora studies, Anglophone and Francophone
identities, alterity studies, gender and linguistic nationalism, and creoles.
We intend to disseminate our findings in a collection of essays that
contextualize the formal or informal promotion of particular languages
and/or varieties in a particular political setting.

Talks should be no longer than twenty minutes in length. Those interested
in participating are invited to submit abstracts of 250-500 words
describing their proposed papers, with a provisional title, and specifying
the language of the talk. The deadline for submissions is October 15, 2008.
Electronic submissions should be sent as MS-Word attachments and the name
of any document referred to in the covering letter. Please include a brief
CV including citizenship, institutional affiliation(s), and status (i.e.,
grad student, post-doc, faculty, independent scholar). Papers will be
considered for publication in the proceedings.

Enquiries and submissions to
Carol Percy (Department of English at New College) at

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Received on Wed Sep 10 2008 - 15:28:18 EDT