The texts in this book have been selected to illustrate the process by which particular forms of English usage are erected and validated as correct and standard. At the same time, the texts demonstrate how a certain group of people, and certain sets of cultural practices are privileged as correct, standard and central. Covering a period of 300 years, these writers, who include Locke, Swift, Webster, James, Newbolt and Marenbon, consider the questions of language change and decay, correct and incorrect usage and what to prescribe and proscribe. Reread in the light of recent debates about cultural identity - how is it constructed and maintained? what are its effects? - these texts attempt to demonstrate the formative roles of race, class and gender in the construction of "proper Englishness". This book should be of interest to students and teachers of English studies and language and linguistics including discourse theory and the history of language.