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Title: Reversing Babel : declining linguistic diversity and the flawed attemps to protect it
Author: Sayers, Dave
ISNI:       0000 0004 2669 5760
Awarding Body: The University of Essex
Current Institution: University of Essex
Date of Award: 2009
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This is an investigation about linguistic diversity, examining its decline in different societal conditions over the last century, and interrogating claims in language policy and planning to be 'protecting linguistic diversity', using the UK as its main example. Chapter 1 comprises a review of variationist sociolinguistics, showing how it has never fully defined linguistic diversity. Adjustments are suggested, and a working definition of linguistic diversity offered. Chapter 2 presents data from two major nationwide dialect surveys, in 1889 and 1962, showing how local dialects were weakening in this period. The main focus is declining diversity, but information is presented about possible conditioning factors, primarily increases in literacy. In the absence of such nationwide reports after 1962, Chapter 3 collates individual dialect studies from two regions of England, the northeast and southeast, describing dialect convergence across these large geographical areas. These changes are contrasted to those reported in Chapter 2. Again the main theme is declining diversity, but information is reviewed to help explain these contrasts, primarily increases in geographical mobility in the latter half of the 20th century, concentrated around these regions. Chapter 4 examines dialect weakening that some researchers have attributed, at least in part, to the media. This also represents a change in societal conditions undergirding declining diversity. Some theoretical work is done to distinguish such changes from those observed in Chapter 3. Chapter 5 reviews the rhetoric of minority language policy and planning, and its frequent and explicit claims to be 'protecting linguistic diversity'. The insights developed in Chapters 1-4 are applied to two modern UK language revivals, Cornish and Welsh, to see how diversity overall is faring here. The conclusion sums up the gaps in our thinking about linguistic diversity, and clarifies the limitations of planned interventions upon language.
Supervisor: Soysal, Yasemin; Britain, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available