This seminar will explore the status and character of English in the British Isles. As a part of this it will look into both historical and the present-day situations. The chief focus will be, as indicated, on English, but we will look at least briefly at other languages which were or still are in use in the British Isles (autochthonous languages, immigrant languages, ethnic and other group languages). We will be interested in how English has interacted or is interacting with other languages, but we will direct most of our attention to variation in English according to region, ethnicity, and education/social class. The intention is to deal separately with England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland and to note similarities and differences in the linguistic culture of each of these countries.
In a first set of sessions we will look at the demographic changes which have influenced or are influencing the development of the language and will consider the effects of both overt and covert forces on present-day English. This entails looking at the effects 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. In this connection we will observe some of the methods used to gain insights into such socially determined varieties.
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 connection with this we will look at regional language surveys and their methodologies.
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.
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.