This seminar will explore language variation in the British Isles. As a part of this it will look into both historical and the present-day situations. What languages were or still are in use in the British Isles (autochthonous languages, immigrant languages, ethnic and other group languages). Throughout the class the major focus will be on English, esp. as it interacts or has interacted with other languages, but we will also direct our attention to variation according to region, ethnicity, and education / social class.
In a first set of sessions we will look at the interaction of the “new” Germanic languages of the Anglo-Saxon invaders with the autochthonous Celtic languages as well as how the status and extent of both have developed. Furthermore, there will be a brief excursion into the English in contact with Latin, Old Norse, and Norman French.
In a second set of sessions the origins and development of the major regional forms of English in Great Britain and Ireland will be undertaken. In this connection region as a social variant will be emphasized.
In a third set of sessions we will look at the effect of class and education as we review the process of standardization as well as the development and status of urban, koinéized forms of General English. Here attention will be centered more strongly on class and education.
A final series of sessions will be devoted to studies of ethnic differences in the use of English, concentrating especially on the language use of various immigrant communities. We will look at questions of language maintenance and language loss, bilingualism, and code-switching. Furthermore, we will note the presence of both British and Irish Sign Language.
This exploration of language variety in the British Isles is based on a very extensive approach to the topic. Nevertheless, key sets of pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and usage features will be selected which, it is hoped, will make both the motivation and the mechanisms of language contact and language change more understandable while also providing useful thumbnail sketches of the varieties selected.
A literature list and a reserved reading shelf will be provided.
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