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A discourse-historical approach to the English native speaker

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Abstract

The concept of the native speaker, once viewed as “a common reference point for all branches of linguistics” (Coulmas 1981: 1), has increasingly come under criticism, particularly in connection with the study of World Englishes, where it has been pointed out that, while there may be linguistic differences between native and non-native speakers of English, the native speaker is really a political construct carrying a particular ideological baggage. The following paper presents a close reading of Marsh (1859), the text in which the term first occurs, in order to retrace some of the discourses surrounding the concept’s emergence. It will be shown that, just like its contemporary counterpart, the 19th-century English native speaker was employed to “other” particular speaker groups and assert ownership over the language.

References

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