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The English language is a mess. And if you don't like it, what are you going to do about it - fix it? Good luck with that.
In the early 18th century, a movement of grammarians and authors wanted to set up an official authority to regulate English, like French had in the Academie Francaise. But is trying to fix a language a good move? Linguists Liv Walsh and Thomas Godard weigh up the evidence.
Apologies in advance, pedants: this episode may contain some truths you* don't want to hear.
- Some of the audio is a bit unclear, so here's a transcript of the show.
- Find out about the Academie Francaise, including what you'll need to do if you want to become one of Les Immortels. (You'll probably have to kill one of the current ones.)
- Here is Jonathan Swift’s language proposal and here is his Modest Proposal.
- This article summarises how most linguistic rules are just busking it; it also links to a 1909 paper about the subject that doesn't mess around.
- Thomas Godard recommends reading Fixing English by Anne Curzan and The Bishop's Grammar by Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade, and listening to PRI's The World in Words.
- The purists among you may wish to seek refuge with the Queen's English Society.
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MAILCHIMP'S RANDOMLY SELECTED WORD FROM THE DICTIONARY:
- Thanks very much to Dr Liv Walsh and Thomas Godard, and to Dr Rachele De Felice who helped me find them.
- This episode was produced by me, Helen Zaltzman. All the music is by Martin Austwick. Hear and/or download more - WITH LYRICS! - at thesoundoftheladies.bandcamp.com.
- Say hello to me at facebook.com/allusionistshow, twitter.com/allusionistshow and twitter.com/helenzaltzman.