History and Politics of English was one of my favorite classes I’ve ever taken. Dr. Matway first gave a broad overview of the history of the English language, and then we delved into the issues surrounding English in the present day. We primarily focused on language politics from an educational lens, and how these issues impact children in the United States – English-speaking and not.
We read from 4 different books: Making Sense of Language: Readings in Culture and Communication edited by Susan Blum, Bad Language: Are Some Words Better than Others? by Edwin L. Battistella, The Skin that We Speak: Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom edited by Lisa Delpit and Joanne Kilgore Dowdy, and Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli. I genuinely do refer back to all of these books on a regular basis – each one of them made me think about language, politics, social structures, and discrimination in new and different ways. We connected the issues of language within the United States to global systems of power and the ways language is stigmatized and policed all around the world.
I also feel like I gained a great deal from looking at my field, linguistics, in a class that was language-focused but not a linguistics class. I intend to pursue a career in academia, and writing thoughtfully and in a way that is accessible and understandable to all is important to me. Dr. Matway’s guidance and the class’s writing assignments helped me grow and develop as a writer. For our final essay, I wrote about “Prescriptivism on the Global Scale”: how prescriptivist attitudes, which are focused on policing language and making speakers adhere to a “standard” that is often based on the grammar of the hegemony, impact people all over the English-speaking world.