We’re delighted to host plenary lectures by Anne Curzan (University of Michigan), Mark Liberman (University of Pennsylvania), and Haruko Momma (New York University).

Anne Curzan | Hyperstandardization and Its Ideological Tension

Thursday, May 19, 2022, 4 – 5:15 p.m. | HUB 250

This talk explores hyperstandardization as a language ideology that informs the development of the prescriptive language enterprise over the last century in the U.S. and elsewhere. The term hyperstandardization, introduced in Deborah Cameron’s 1995 book Verbal Hygiene, has achieved little traction in History of English studies, and yet it may help explain some of the ideological challenges in professional and educational settings as we seek to create more linguistically inclusive cultures and practices. The talk presents a case study of eight editions of The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage between 1923 and 2015, during which time the guide expanded from 40 to well over 200 pages. In both the forewords and the entries throughout the Manual, the editors navigate the shifting politics of prescriptive intervention into written usage—including specifically the political project of inclusive language—in a way that exposes important and potentially productive ideological tensions.

Anne Curzan is Geneva Smitherman Collegiate Professor of English, Linguistics, and Education and dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on the history of the English language, attitudes about language change, language and gender, and pedagogy. Her most recent book is Fixing English: Prescriptivism and Language History (2014). She is the featured language expert on the weekly segment “That’s What They Say” on local NPR station Michigan Radio.

The History of English in Cascadia

Friday, May 20, 2022, 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. | HUB 250

This roundtable of lightning talks pursues the local and regional history of the English language: the place of English in the bioregion of Cascadia, the cross-border region on the North American West Coast. Cascadia has tens of thousands of years of language history, most of it not featuring English but rather a variety of Native North American language families. English is a fairly new language to the region, but its history has already included many dimensions, among them as a language of trade, a language of displacement and trauma, a language of settler-colonialism, a language of reclamation and resistance, and as the daily language for millions of people in the region. The stories of English are the stories of all of its many speakers.

The study of the English language history of the region is not well-developed, so this roundtable aims to start a conversation about the local history of English. The speakers in this roundtable approach the history of English from a range of perspectives and disciplines: English, Linguistics, American Indian Studies, and History, as well as public outreach in the form of museum studies and community pedagogy. They will speak about aspects of English in Washington State, British Columbia, and Alaska.


  • Stefan Dollinger, English, University of British Columbia
  • Betsy Evans, Linguistics, University of Washington,
  • Tami Hohn, American Indian Studies, University of Washington
  • Lorraine McConaghy, Museum of History and Industry
  • Jennifer Stone, English, University of Alaska Anchorage
  • Alicia Beckford Wassink, Linguistics, University of Washington

Mark Liberman | Historical trends in English sentence length and syntactic complexity

Friday, May 20, 2022, 3:30 – 4:45 p.m. | HUB 250

It’s easy to perceive clear historical trends in sentence length and the depth of clausal embedding in published English text. And those perceptions can easily be verified quantitatively. Or can they? Perhaps the title should be “Historical trends in English punctuation practices,” or “Historical trends in English conjunctions and discourse markers.” The answer depends on several prior questions: What is a sentence? What is the boundary between syntactic structure and discourse structure? How is message structure encoded in speech (spontaneous or rehearsed) versus in text? This presentation will survey the issues, look at some data, and suggest some answers — or at least some fruitful directions for future work.

Mark Liberman is Christopher H. Browne Professor of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, and also a professor in Computer and Information Sciences there. His recent work has focused on corpus-based methods, with applications to legal, medical, educational, and political analysis, as well as to linguistic theory. He is founder and director of the Linguistic Data Consortium, and co-editor of the Annual Review of Linguistics.

Haruko Momma | The History of English and the Changing Face of Philology: Canonical, National, “Glocal”

Saturday, May 21, 2022, 3:15 – 4:30 p.m. | HUB 334

Starting with the thesis that philology is the very spirit of the study of the history of English, this talk will begin by considering what might be described as two philological moments during the formative period of the subject: that is, Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755) and John Mitchell Kemble’s The History of the English Language (1834). Although Johnson’s and Kemble’s views on historical English are very different from each other, they are reflected in the current study of the history of English and of English language and literature at large. The talk will move on to the rise of English as an academic discipline during the late nineteenth century and foreground the significance of the history of English in this process. The talk will conclude with a consideration on the role of philology for the study of the subject in today’s academy and suggest as one of the possible approaches an exploration of globally regional Englishes.

Haruko Momma is Silver Professor and Professor of English at New York University. She is the author of From Philology to English Studies: Language and Culture in the Nineteenth Century (2012) and The Composition of Old English Poetry (1997). In 2008, she co-edited with Michael Matto the Blackwell Companion to the History of the English Language. She has also published various essays in such areas as Old English language and literature, medieval literature and culture, English lexicology and lexicography, the history of philology, and medievalism.