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Foreword

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Geoffrey Nunberg
Affiliation:
Stanford University
Edward Finegan
Affiliation:
University of Southern California
John R. Rickford
Affiliation:
Stanford University, California
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Summary

The French are funny about their language, as everyone knows. But then, so are the Germans, the Italians, the Belgians, the Canadians, the Turks, the Slovakians, the Russians, and the Sri Lankans. And so are we in the United States, for that matter, although we tend to make only an intermittent public fuss about it. In many other nations, “the language question” is a persistent topic for newspaper editorials, television talk shows, and parliamentary debates, and occasionally the source of major political crises. In the USA, discussions of language tend to rumble along in Sunday-supplement features and the usage screeds arrayed in the language shelves at the back of the bookstore.

Every so often, though, controversies over the language erupt into a wider national discussion in America. That has happened perhaps half-a-dozen times in the last half century. In the early 1960s, there was a furor over the publication of the Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary, which took what critics regarded as an excessively permissive attitude toward usage – it refused to condemn the use of ain't for “am not,” and it included the “incorrect” use of like as a conjunction, as in “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.” The dictionary's derelictions were front-page news for months – The New York Times condemned it as a “bolshevik” document, and the Chicago Daily News took it as the symptom of “a general decay in values.”

Type
Chapter
Information
Language in the USA
Themes for the Twenty-first Century
, pp. xiii - xvi
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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  • Foreword
  • Edited by Edward Finegan, University of Southern California, John R. Rickford, Stanford University, California
  • Book: Language in the USA
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511809880.001
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  • Foreword
  • Edited by Edward Finegan, University of Southern California, John R. Rickford, Stanford University, California
  • Book: Language in the USA
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511809880.001
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Foreword
  • Edited by Edward Finegan, University of Southern California, John R. Rickford, Stanford University, California
  • Book: Language in the USA
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511809880.001
Available formats
×