Language Anxiety: Conflict and Change in the History of English

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $23.95
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 68%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (7) from $23.95   
  • New (3) from $51.03   
  • Used (4) from $23.95   


This book looks at the ever-present anxieties associated with language change. Focusing on English from Alfred the Great to the present, Tim Machan offers a fresh perspective on the history of language. He reveals amusing and sometimes disconcerting aspects of our linguistic and social behavior and suggests that anxiety about language has sometimes allowed us to avoid the issues we really find disturbing: when speakers of English worry over grammar, sounds, or words the real source of their anxiety is often not language at all but issues like immigration or social instability.

Drawing on an array of evidence from archives, literature, history, polemics, and the press, as well as centuries of legislation, Tim Machan uncovers the perennial nature of concerns about the poverty and purity of English. There has never been a time, he shows, when we weren't worried about the corruption of language and its apparent connections with educational standards, the morality of youth, the integrity of society, and the identity of our nations. This is a fascinating story, told here in consummate fashion, combining insight and anecdote, and learning with wit - a book for everyone interested in languages and the people who speak them.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An impressive book making a persuasive case, with a wealth of evidence being presented from many domains."—Year's Work in English Studies

"This is an excellent book. The subject matter is extremely interesting, the book is well-written, and the arguments are carefully crafted." —eLanguage

"Machan's work is perhaps as valuable for the extraordinary assembly of historical commentary on language change as for his essential thesis that language anxiety is symptomatic of anxiety about other major tumultuous events in society, including the demise of national identity through immigration, social dissolution in general, or the shoring up of power and privilege by those who already have it. It is a truly fascinating book."—Discourse and Society

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199232123
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 2/15/2009
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Tim William Machan is Professor of English at Marquette University. He has published extensively on medieval language and literature and has edited texts in Middle English, Old Norse, Latin, and French. His books include Textual Criticism and Middle English Texts (University Press of Virginia, 1994), English in its Social Contexts (edited with C. T. Scott, OUP, 1992), English in the Middle Ages (OUP 2003, paperback edition 2005), Sources of the 'Boece' (Georgia, 2005), and Chaucer's 'Boece' (Carl Winter, 2008).

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

1. Language, Change, and Response
2. A Moveable Speech
3. Narratives of Change
4. Policy and Politics
5. Say the Right Thing
6. Fixing English

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)