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Dictating to the mob - the history of the BBC Advisory Committee on Spoken English
Jrg Rainer Schwyter
Oxford University Press
UK Publication Date

The BBC's Advisory Committee on Spoken English was set up to provide an authoritative guide to pronunciation and the use of language for BBC announcers.
The results of its deliberations were published for general consumption in a series of pamphlets
called Broadcast English.
Based on primary sources, the compelling story of the Advisory Board during its crucial first 13 years is told here for the first time. It reveals how board members, including GeorgeBernard Shaw and A. Lloyd James, soon discovered that standardization and regulation of spoken language is extremely challenging and highly controversial.The first two chapters describe the linguistic aspects of its work, particularly after it had taken on the role of standardizing spoken English, a task well beyond its mandate and the BBC Charter. The third and fourth chapters look at the challenges the Committee encountered in assuming their prescriptive role, the structural crisis which ensued, and the changes to linguistic policies which then followed. Chapter 5 and 6 document the final years of the Committee, explore the reasons for itsfailure in its role as guardian of 'properly' spoken English, and consider the legacy of the Committee in today's broadcasting. The book will appeal to linguists and historians generally, especially those interested in the English language and language policy.

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Jrg R. Schwyter is Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Lausanne and holds degrees from the Universities of Pennsylvania and Cambridge. His research interests include historical linguistics, legal English past and present, questions of standardization, and all aspects of language and the brain. He is co-editor of the journals North-West European Language Evolution, Swiss Studies in English, and Transatlantic Aesthetics and

For anyone interested in the history of the BBC's problematic relationship with the English language, as seen from within the workings of the predecessor of the current Pronunciation Unit, this book provides a wealth of behind-the-scenes detail and interesting anecdotes.

Joanna Thornborrow, University of Western Brittany, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development

In this fascinating account of the rise, fall and legacy of the Advisory Committee, Schwyter draws on extensive research involving, amongst other resources, those of the BBC Written Archives Centre, to provide first-hand evidence from letters, committee minutes and other documents. In addition to chapters covering the initial set-up of the Committee, the various problems it encountered, leading to reconstitution, the linguistic changes dealt with and the final stages
of the committee, Schwyter provides useful appendices containing brief biographies of the Committee members, the minutes of the reconstituted Committee from 20th September 1934, and, perhaps most useful of all, a subset of words discussed by the Committee.

NOWELE. North-Western European Language Evolution

a wonderful sitcom about a committee of the great and the good
poet laureate Robert Bridges, playwright George Bernard Shaw, critic Lord David Cecil, art historian Kenneth Clark, novelist Rose Macaulay - tying themselves in knots trying to lay down standard pronunciation of words in English.

Daily Mail

Schwyter's book is full of gems

Lynda Mugglestone, Journal of Sociolinguistics

a work that can be read with great interest by those working on Orwell

Luke Seaber, George Orwell Studies

First edition
Keyword Index
English language - Standardization.|English language - Spoken English.|English language - Pronunciation.
Country of Publication
Number of Pages
xiv, 281

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