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The Routes of English - BBC Radio 4
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Frozen river


Freezing the River

We've been looking for a standard form of the language to adhere to for centuries. If there's one thing that's dominated our journey along the Routes of English, it's change. Melvyn investigates those who've tried to purify English and those who think it should be allowed to change.

Dr, Samuel Johnson
The man who first tried to grapple with our language was the lexicographer, Dr. Johnson. He saw a need to clarify words in terms of their definition and usage.

Lowth's Grammar
Following publication of Johnson's dictionary, there was a need for instruction on how to use English. In response, Bishop Lowth produced a 'grammar'. His book was highly influential and was considered the ultimate authority on how English should be spoken and written.

The Oxford English Dictionary
Edmund Weiner is the chief philologist on the OED. He's now working on a project to put the dictionary online, which will further change how people regard the language.

Is bad grammar damaging?
John Humphrys, presenter of Radio 4's Today Programme, believes that he has a responsibility to speak English correctly, since he can influence how people speak.

Pop music - a bad influence?
Another area of concern to the 'language police' is the lyrics of pop songs. Stuart Maconie, broadcaster and pop music journalist, disagrees that the language of pop music is damaging to the spoken word.

The confidence of the native speaker
News broadcaster Trevor Macdonald speaks for a living. He learnt English as a second language and feels that the structure is desperately important. He envies those who can be casual in their use of the language.



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