Dictating to the Mob: The History of the BBC Advisory Committee on Spoken English

ISBN : 9780198736738

Jurg Rainer Schwyter
304 Pages
135 x 216 mm
Pub date
May 2016
Send mail

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 George Bernard 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 its failure 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.


The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and BBC Modified Spelling
Naming conventions
1 Introduction
2 In the Beginning
3 Crises and Reconstitution
4 Some Linguistic Changes
5 The End
6 Legacies and Conclusions

About the author: 

Jurg 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 Culture.

The price listed on this page is the recommended retail price for Japan. When a discount is applied, the discounted price is indicated as “Discount price”. Prices are subject to change without notice.