Standardisation in the 18th century


Summary of the People who began the standardisation of the English Language in the 1700s (AQA B Language Change)
Elizabeth Carr
Flashcards by Elizabeth Carr, updated more than 1 year ago
Elizabeth Carr
Created by Elizabeth Carr over 9 years ago

Resource summary

Question Answer
Prescriptivist Believes that linguistic rules should be followed. Makes judgements on what is 'correct'
Descriptivist Explains why language is the way it is. Makes no judgements - people can speak however they want
Dr Samuel Johnson and his dictionary (1755) Originally a journalist but struggled as he realized that everyone spoke differently. Began creating a dictionary as a lexicographer in 1747 in an attempt to standardize the English language. Over 114,000 quotations in the dictionary and it took 8 years to complete, published in 1755. Planned to write “a dictionary by which the pronunciation of our language may be fixed, and its attainment facilitated; by which its purity may be preserved, its use ascertained, and its duration lengthened”. A prescriptivist, aiming to ensure the meaning of words were fixed and did not change. Recognized that language was impossible to fix, because of its constantly changing nature, and his role was to record the language of the day, rather than to form it.
Robert Lowth (1762) Academic and Anglican bishop. Published his ‘A Short Introduction to English Grammar’ in 1762. Growing middle class wanted guidance on how to use ‘polite’ or ‘correct’ English, and Lowth wanted to create a simple, instructive grammar textbook. Prescriptive pronunciation (or shibboleth) mostly comes from Lowth’s work. One of the first prescriptivists in this field, although also described the English language. He wrote for people wanting certainty and authority in language and not for children – but the book was adapted for schools and used in them until the early 1900s.
Lindley Murray (1794) Murray is most famous for his work ‘English Grammar’, published in 1794, which he describes as “the art of speaking and writing the English language with propriety.” He outlines rules for Orthography, Etymology, Syntax, Prosody, and accurate writing – “without a competent knowledge of this kind, we shall frequently be in hazard of misunderstanding others, and of being misunderstood ourselves.” He placed great emphasis on the moral reasons for such rules, speaking greatly about youth, and they need to be able to use language properly so as to not cause offence or misunderstanding. A prescriptivist, giving clear rules for each area of language that he believed should be clearly followed. Drew on Louth’s work and also that of Thomas Sheridan . His book was reprinted many times and used as a school book in Britain, America and translated into many languages.
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