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Language Myths and the History of English aims to deconstruct the myths that are traditionally reproduced as factual accounts of the historical development of English. Using concepts and interpretive sensibilities developed in the field of sociolinguistics over the past 40 years, Richard J. Watts unearths these myths and exposes their ideological roots. His goal is not to construct an alternative discourse, but to offer alternative readings of the historical data. Watts raises the question of what we mean by a linguistic ideology, and whether any discourse—a hegemonic discourse, an alternative discourse, or even a deconstructive discourse—can ever be free of it. The book argues that a naturalized discourse is always built on a foundation of myths, which are all too easily taken as true accounts.
Chapter 1: Metaphors, myths, ideologies and archives
Chapter 2: Establishing a linguistic pedigree
Chapter 3: Breaking the unbroken tradition
Chapter 4: The construction of a modern myth: Middle English as a creole
Chapter 5: Barbarians and others
Chapter 6: The myth of "greatness"
Chapter 7: Reinterpreting Swift's A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue: Challenging an embryonic modern myth
Chapter 8: Polishing the myths: The commercial side of politeness
Chapter 9: Challenging the hegemony of standard English
Chapter 10: Transforming a myth to save an archive: When polite becomes educated
Chapter 11: Commodifying English and constructing a new myth
Chapter 12: Myths, ideologies of English and the funnel view of the history of English