Authority in Language: Investigating Standard English, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Authority in Language

Investigating Standard English, 1st Edition

By James Milroy, Lesley Milroy


208 pages

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Authority in Language explores the perennially topical and controversial notion of correct and incorrect language.

James and Lesley Milroy cover the long-running debate over the teaching of Standard English in Britain and compare the language ideologies in Britain and the USA, involving a discussion of the English-Only movement and the Ebonics controversy. They consider the historical process of standardisation and its social consequences, in particular discrimination against low-status and ethnic minority groups on the basis of their language traits.

This Routledge Linguistics Classic is here reissued with a new foreword and a new afterword in which the authors broaden their earlier concept of language ideology.

Authority in Language is indispensable reading for educationalists, teachers and linguists and a long-standing text for courses in sociolinguistics, modern English grammar, history of English and language ideology.


‘The Milroys’ Authority in Language is the most significant textual milestone in researching the ideological construction of Standard English. An absolute must for both historical linguists and sociolinguists.’

Richard J. Watts, Emeritus Professor, University of Bern, Switzerland

‘No book on the market does a better job of explaining the issues surrounding standardization and linguistic authority in a way which is both scholarly and accessible to students.’

Deborah Cameron, University of Oxford, UK

Table of Contents

1. Prescription and Standardisation. 2.Standard English and the Complaint Tradition. 3. Spoken and Written Norms. 4.Grammar and Speech. 5. Linguistic Prescription and the Speech Community. 6. Linguistic Repertoires and Communicative Competence. 7. "Planned" and "Unplanned" Speech Events. 8. Some Practical Implications of Prescriptivism: Educational Issues and Language Assessment Procedures. 9.Two Nations Divided by the Same Language? The Standard Language Ideology in Britain and the United States.

About the Authors

James Milroy is Emeritus Professor of Linguistics, University of Sheffield, and Fellow of the Faculty of Linguistics and Philology, University of Oxford. He is author of Language Variation and Change.

Lesley Milroy is currently Professor Emerita, University of Michigan and a Fellow of the Faculty of Linguistics and Philology, University of Oxford. She is co-author of Sociolinguistics: Method and Interpretation.

About the Series

Routledge Linguistics Classics

Routledge Linguistics Classics brings together key seminal books from the rich heritage of Routledge linguistics publishing. Each book is reissued with the original text, and also includes an additional new chapter, foreword or afterword to situate these titles in current scholarship. These titles have been deemed classics by leading academics and are essential reading for students and all who need to keep up to date with the field of linguistics.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General