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English Grammar Day 2014

Start: Jul 04, 2014 09:30 AM
End: Jul 04, 2014 05:00 PM

Location: Conference Centre, British Library, London

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Join us at the British Library for a day of lectures and debate on the state of grammar - both in schools and beyond - with public participation welcomed in an Any Questions session in the afternoon. Participants and speakers include leading authorities on language use Debbie Cameron, David Crystal, Dick Hudson, Debra Myhill and John Mullan.

Disputes over language usage and correctness have been going strong ever since the 18th century. Jonathan Swift’s Proposal for Correcting, Improving, & Ascertaining the English Tongue (1712) deplored the dangers of unregulated language, linking jargon and slang with declining morals and poor social behaviour. ‘Corruption’ in language use has always seemed to mirror the health of the nation, and Swift’s concerns echo in today’s disputes about the decline in literacy and reading, abbreviations and altered spellings in texts and tweets, and changes in the use and meaning of words. In particular, grammar teaching in schools has lately taken centre stage and divided opinion among politicians, teachers, linguists, and journalists, as well as the wider public.

In 2014 teachers are now implementing many changes in the National Curriculum that they and others are unsure of. Do the government’s new grammar tests pass muster with linguists? Should schools be discouraging the allegedly ubiquitous use of forms such as ‘like’ and ‘innit’, or do those words serve some useful purpose? Whither the apostrophe? Are we allowed to use ‘they / their/ them’ as the singular impersonal pronoun in sentences such as ‘Every individual has their own view’, and if not, why not? How do teachers reconcile their own pragmatic views on what works in the classroom with the directives from the Department for Education?

Presented by University College London and the University of Oxford in association with the British Library

Supported by the UCL Faculty Institute of Graduate Studies and the Henry Sweet Society for the History of Linguistic Ideas

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