The Handbook of English Linguistics

When you picked up this book you may have been struck by the phrase English Linguistics (EL) on the cover. What is English Linguistics? Is it like other areas of linguistics, on a par with psycholinguistics, computational linguistics, cognitive linguistics, forensic linguistics, or other topics in the Blackwell Hand- books in Linguistics series? Or is it perhaps linguistics as practiced in England by the English? In both cases the answer is ‘no.’ We define English Linguistics as a discipline that concerns itself with the study of all aspects of Present-Day English (PDE) from a variety of different angles, both descriptive and theoretical, but with a methodological outlook firmly based on the working practices developed in modern contemporary linguistics. EL arguably includes diachronic studies, though we have chosen not to include papers from this domain in this Handbook, mainly because there is a separate Handbook of the history of English (edited by Ans van Kemenade and Bettelou Los).

In its present-day sense it is probably the case that the label English Linguistics is used more in Europe than in other parts of the world. In North America there are programs and courses in EL, but, as Bob Stockwell points out to us “I do not believe there exists in North America a field ‘English Linguistics’ that can be administratively defined. By ‘administratively defined’ I mean something like a faculty, a department, an interdepartmental program that is separately budgeted, or an independent research center. The field exists as a concept, as a set of shared research interests.”

Things are quite different on the other side of the Atlantic. In the UK, while there are no Departments of English Linguistics, there is a university Department of English Language in Glasgow, and there are a number of departments which have both ‘Linguistics’ and ‘English Language’ in their titles (e.g. Bangor, Edinburgh, Lancaster, Manchester, Sheffield, Sussex). In addition, there are several research units dedicated to research in EL, as well as a number of academics whose title is Professor of English Linguistics. Of course, there are also many Departments of English Language and Literature, but in these units English literary studies are usually the main focus of interest. On the continent of Europe the English language is mostly studied in departments of English which have two or three sub-departments, including language, literature and medieval studies.

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