Massimo Sturiale University of Catania “Late Modern newspapers as a mirror of linguistic (in)stability and change.”


The aim of this paper is to highlight the role of nineteenth-century British and American newspapers in promoting and reinforcing a standard pronunciation ideology, one already established in England in the eighteenth century with the need for, in Swift’s words, “correcting, improving and ascertaining the English tongue” (Swift 1712) and, as a consequence, reducing linguistic variation and instability. In Britain, the fear of ‘linguistic instability’ had led to the social stigmatisation and marginalisation of certain, mainly ‘provincial’, accents, and the consolidation of a linguistic, yet stereotypical, North-South divide (cf. Beal 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014). In the United States, as a result of the much-acclaimed linguistic independence from Britain, the prescriptivist debate was supported by linguistic patriotism (Sturiale 2012). The focus of my investigation is on external factors in linguistic (in)stability and language change. The data adduced here were drawn from a corpus of more than three hundred nineteenth-century “letters to the editor” and newspaper articles dealing with issues of pronunciation, published both in Britain and the US.

Keywords: newspapers, pronunciation, attitudes, changes, Americanisms, Briticisms.

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