LERMA. Séminaire « Norme(s) et marge(s) »

30 janvier 2023 17:00 / 19:00

La langue mise à l’épreuve

Communication de  Joan Beal (University de Sheffield) sur le thème :
Back to the Future II : prescriptivism in UK educational policy and practice

In an earlier study (Beal 2018), I examined the phenomenon of popular and institutional prescriptivism in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries and considered why, far from receding in the face of descriptive linguistics, prescriptivism was, if anything, resurgent. The prime motivation for that paper had been the introduction in 2013 of the SPAG (Spelling, Pronunciation and Grammar) tests in UK primary schools and the reaction to these tests from teachers, parents, linguists and politicians.
In this presentation, I focus more closely on the role of language ideology in the teaching of English in the UK. I begin with a historical overview of policies and practices from the nineteenth century to the present day. Although the influence of descriptive linguistics can be seen in policy documents from the 1980s, the backlash from the government of the day and from some commentators demonstrates the persistence of prescriptive ideology. The more recent imposition of the SPAG tests has brought this ideology to the surface.
The presentation goes on to focus on the SPAG tests themselves and the continuing debate about them. Whilst much of this debate centres on the practical difficulties of teaching in preparation for these tests and the negative consequences for children’s creativity, there is also discussion of how the policy and practice of English teaching discriminates against speakers of non-standard varieties of English. Cushing and Snell (2022) demonstrate that such discrimination is evident in the policing of the classroom by the inspectorate. I conclude that whilst prescription is an inevitable consequence of codification (Milroy and Milroy 2012), the teaching of English in UK schools, whilst appearing to equip students with a knowledge of spelling, punctuation and grammar, is in practice discriminatory imbued as is with the ideology of Standard English.

Beal, Joan C. 2018. ‘Back to the future’: The ‘new prescriptivism’ in twenty-first-century Britain. e-Rea 15(2), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.4000/erea.6112
Cushing, I., & Snell, J. (2022). The (white) ears of Ofsted: A raciolinguistic perspective on the listening practices of the schools inspectorate. Language in Society. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047404522000094
Milroy, J & Milroy, L. (2012). Authority in language: Investigating language prescription and standardisation. Routledge.