Codification and prescription in linguistic standardisation

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This paper aims to contribute to the field of “comparative standardology”, arguing that it is only through the adoption of a comparative perspective that certain myths about the process of standardisation can be dispelled. In particular, I will consider what light recent work on English and German sheds on the case of French, typically portrayed as the European language which has been most subjected to prescriptive influences. Focussing on the interrelation between description, codification, prescription and purist activity, I will start by considering how the dominant models of standardisation (Haugen, Milroy & Milroy) have treated codification and prescription. I will then examine how far the so-called prescriptive and purist grammarians in France merit this reputation and compare this analysis with the situation in England and Germany. I will conclude by looking at the difference between intention and effect, and the diverse roles played by individuals, private institutions and official bodies.


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