History of Language Standardization

Or, Why You Should Stop Being A Snoot


adjective  |  \ˈsnü-tē\


having or showing the insulting attitude of people who think that they are better, smarter, or more important than other people


noun  |  \ˈlaŋ-gwij\


the system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings to each other

Verbal Language


  • Body Evolution
  • Motor Skills
  • Brain Size


  • Globalization wasn't a thing
  • Isolated pockets
  • Reinforced, not shared

Written Language


  • Ay, Bee, See
  • \ˈa-pəl\

When Not In Rome

  • Christianization of Britain
  • Anglo-Saxon Sounds meet Roman Alphabet
  • æ, þ, ð, ȝ

  Orthographic Representation

  • Localization of Monks
  • Localization of Dialects
  • Gradual Process


  • Read the Letters
  • Analyze the Possible Sound Strings
  • Use Context

Written Norms

  • Organically cultivated
  • There is always lag
  • No enforcement

English History In A Nutshell

Meet   Meat

Mate  Great

Divine  Divinity

Shoppe  Name

Knight  Gnat

Neighbor  Bough


Why Not?

Language as Politics

  • Late 1700s
  • Noah Webster
    • theater / theatre
    • color / colour
    • recognize / recognise
  • Ben Franklin
    • c, j, q, w, x, and y

  Language Purity

  • Minimize foreign influence
  • Snoots
  •   A Dictionary of Modern American Usage

Authoritative Guidance

  • Who watches the watchers?
  • Not Democratic
  • Not Based on Tradition

  Usage Wars

  • Webster's Third: "OK" and "ain't"
  •   "A dictionary should have no traffic with ... artificial notions of correctness of superiority. It should be descriptive and not prescriptive."


  1. There is only one right way


  1. Language changes constantly
  2. Change is normal
  3. Spoken language is the language
  4. Correctness rests upon usage
  5. All usage is relative

Usage vs. Ethics

  • "That mushroom is poisonous."
  • "Did you seen the car keys of me?"
  • "There are many reasons why lawyers lie, some better than others."

  Philosophical Descriptivism

  • Grammar is mere decoration
  • Noam Chomsky
  • The Pants Analogy

  "I was attacked by a bear!"


"Goddamn bear tried to kill me!"


"That ursine juggernaut bethought to sup upon my person!"

Correct English

  • Standard Written English
  • Dialects
    • Rural Southern
    • Latino English
    • Black English
    • Maine Yankee
    • East-Texas Bayou
    • Boston Blue Collar
    • etc.

Do you want to associate or dissociate with them?

What's Next?

  • SWE Snowball
  • DFW Essay

Bright Horizons

  • Technology
  • Democracy



Language will always evolve to suit the needs of the speakers.


History of Language Standardization

By zach fedor

History of Language Standardization

Or, Why You Should Stop Being a Snoot

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