Like, innit, literally... Is 'correct' grammar in decline and does this matter? | University of Oxford

Like, innit, literally... Is 'correct' grammar in decline and does this matter?

4 July 2014

Teachers, grammarians and academics will discuss the current state of grammar and grammar teaching at a conference today.

The conference, called 'English Grammar Day 2014', has been organised by academics at Oxford University and University College London and takes place at the British Library.

Professor Charlotte Brewer of the Faculty of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford, who co-organised the conference, said: ‘The day is to discuss the rights and wrongs of how we speak and how this is, or should be, tackled in the classroom. We are bringing together teachers, grammarians and academics to discuss the whole notion of correct grammar: is there such a thing? Does it have one or many forms? How should it be taught in schools and what is the role of government?'

Disputes over the correct use of language have been going ever since the 18th Century. In 1712 Jonathan Swift linked jargon and slang with declining morals and poor social behaviour in 'Proposal for Correcting, Improving, & Ascertaining the English Tongue'. Swift's concerns are echoed in today’s debates about the decline in literacy and reading, abbreviations and altered spelling in texts and tweets, and changes in the use and meaning of words.

Professor Brewer added: 'Our speakers will discuss whether schools should discourage students from using 'like' and 'innit' or whether they serve some useful purpose. The teaching of grammar in schools has lately divided opinion among politicians, teachers, linguists and journalists, and we will ask how teachers reconcile their own pragmatic views on what works in the classroom with the directives from the Department of Education.'

Professor Bas Aarts of the English Department at UCL, who co-organised the conference, said: 'English Grammar Day 2014 at the British Library is a first for the UK. It brings together teachers and English language experts to discuss how English Grammar should be taught in our schools. On the day an exciting new website for teachers called Englicious will be launched.'

The conference has been organised by Bas Aarts of University College London and Charlotte Brewer of Oxford University and Hertford College, in association with the British Library.

Leading authorities on language will speak at the event including David Crystal, Dick Hudson, Debra Myhill, John Mullan and Deborah Cameron.

For more information or an interview please contact Professor Charlotte Brewer on 07850 131525 or charlotte.brewer@hertford.ox.ac.uk or Matt Pickles on 01865 280532 or matt.pickles@admin.ox.ac.uk