Reversing Babel PhD Thesis

Informcele, hodiau mi ricevis pere de AILA-grupo la sekvan:

Dear all,

I recently completed my PhD thesis at the University of Essex, UK, and
I think it could be of interest to some readers. The thesis is
downloadable from here:

Please do pass this on to anyone you think may be interested; I’d be
thrilled to hear from anyone with any thoughts, comments or questions,
however short or long.

The abstract is as follows, for reference:

This is an investigation about linguistic diversity, examining its
decline in different societal conditions over the last century, and
interrogating claims in language policy and planning to be ‘protecting
linguistic diversity’, using the UK as its main example.

Chapter 1 comprises a review of variationist sociolinguistics, showing
how it has never fully defined linguistic diversity. Adjustments are
suggested, and a working definition of linguistic diversity offered.

Chapter 2 presents data from two major nationwide dialect surveys, in
1889 and 1962, showing how local dialects were weakening in this
period. The main focus is declining diversity, but information is
presented about possible conditioning factors, primarily increases in

In the absence of such nationwide reports after 1962, Chapter 3
collates individual dialect studies from two regions of England, the
northeast and southeast, describing dialect convergence across these
large geographical areas. These changes are contrasted to those
reported in Chapter 2. Again the main theme is declining diversity,
but information is reviewed to help explain these contrasts, primarily
increases in geographical mobility in the latter half of the 20th
century, concentrated around these regions.

Chapter 4 examines dialect weakening that some researchers have
attributed, at least in part, to the media. This also represents a
change in societal conditions undergirding declining diversity. Some
theoretical work is done to distinguish such changes from those
observed in Chapter 3.

Chapter 5 reviews the rhetoric of minority language policy and
planning, and its frequent and explicit claims to be ‘protecting
linguistic diversity’. The insights developed in Chapters 1-4 are
applied to two modern UK language revivals, Cornish and Welsh, to see
how diversity overall is faring here.

The conclusion sums up the gaps in our thinking about linguistic
diversity, and clarifies the limitations of planned interventions upon

Thanks everyone,

Dr. Dave Sayers
Honorary Research Fellow
School of the Environment and Society
Swansea University



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