chapter  2
11 Pages

Where does “Good English” come from, and what does it have to do with Santa Claus?

WithElizabeth Peterson

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The language standardization process tends to be a long one, and is much more comprehensive in its scope. In many ways the standardization process is a healthy sign that a language is vital, viable and meaningful for its speakers. For one thing, languages with a standardized variety tend to have a writing system based on a unified standard, which in turn opens up opportunities for literature, communication, and other cultural manifestations. The English language saw a huge increase in published work about “correct” grammar after mid-18th century, which led to a marked rise in prescriptivist attitudes. Once the English language was codified, it was ready for defenders of its valor to emerge: it was during this time period that the “complaint tradition” began in earnest. In today’s world, language critics decry the effect of new technologies on ­language—for example, how texting applications and messaging are destroying punctuation and causing users to violate basic rules of English.