Codifying the English Language

of the English Language
A few aspects
The English Grammatical Tradition 1600 - 1800
Grammars published from 1586 to 1800
(including grammatical treatises in dictionaries, encyclopaedias, educational manuals etc.)
before 1600
1650-1699 24
1700-1749 34
1750-1799 198
There is a marked increase in the publication of ‚grammars‘ after 1750, though the numbers
need qualifications with regard to the type of grammar ( a short abstract, a detailed de- scription
etc.), and the book in which a grammar is published (a grammar book, a sports manual, a
secretary‘s guide etc.)
Grammars by decades 1700-1800
1700- 4
1750- 23
Grammars by decades: 1770-1779
The Art of Teaching in Sport
Bayly, The English Accidence
Cooke, The Universal Letter-Writer
Du Bois, The Lady‘s Polite Secretary
Encyclopedia Britannica
R. Jones, The Circles of Gomer
A new and improved spelling dictionary
Adam, The Principles of Latin & English Gramar
Barlow, A Complete English Dictionary
1772? [...]
Clarke, The Rational Spelling Book
The Merchant Maiden Hospital Magazine
The random list shows you the type of grammar published; they ranged from encyclopedia entries via
short treatisesin a hospital magazine to fully fledged grammatical descriptions. Out of a total of 52
publications in this decade, 28 only were grammars properly speaking
Grammars by decades: 1790-1799
The New & Complete Universal Letter-Writer
Fordyce, The New & Complete British Letter-Writer
Trusler, An English Accidence
Dearle, A Sure Guide for all Youth
1793 [...]
Cook, The Westminster Spelling Book
Rudiments of Constructive Etymology
Wright, Miscellany
Lynch, The Pentaglot Preceptor
1797 [...]
Encyclopedia Britannica
1797 [...]
Stapleton, The Road to Knowledge
Hewlett, An Introduction to Reading & Spelling (4th ed.)
The random list shows you the type of grammar published; they ranged from encyclopedia entries via
short treatisesin a hospital magazine to fully fledged grammatical descriptions. Out of a total of 61
publications in this decade, 14 only were grammars properly speaking
Grammars by places: 1770-1779
Manchester (1777), then London
Hereford (1777)
York (1777)
Dumfries (1779)
The list shows you the distribution of published grammars by place of publication;
publishing is clearly London centered
Grammars by places: 1790-1799
Great Yarmouth
Bury St Edmunds
The list shows the development in the distribution of grammar publication; publishing is no longer
London based. This indicates a wider interest in grammar, all over the country.
Standardization is the process of
• the selection of a prestigious variety
• the codification of grammatical rules and the lexicon in grammars and dictionaries
• the elaboration of the norm (by spread into all communicative domains)
• the acceptance of the prestige variety by all (at least in formal situations)
The English Standard is
• of regional origin (area around London, 1420 Chancery English, c.1600 considered to be
prestigious, by educated speakers)
• codified by writing grammars and compiling dictionaries (1600 – 1800)
English Standard codified in
• described by
• accepted by
• taught to
• imposed on
• non-standard use criticized by
whom ??
Codifying the English Language
Some basic terms and concepts
related to codification
A systematic account of a language, especially of its grammar and vocabulary. This task is
often undertaken when a language is being written down for the first time, but it can also
happen when a language is developing a standard form, or after a period of considerable
creativity and change (as in the case of the English grammars and dictionaries of the 18th
century). The task is often delegated to an academy or special body, but in many instances
it is carried out by individuals (as with Dr Johnson's dictionary).  academy; English;
[Crystal, Penguin Dictionary of Language, 2nd ed. s.v.]
• connected with development of standard variety
• connected with planned endeavours of institution(s), such as academies, or individuals
• example Royal Society (John Evelyn)
• Codification often accompanied by attitude of prescriptivism
The view that one variety of language has an inherently higher value than others, and
that this ought to be imposed on the whole of the speech community. It is an
authoritarian view, propounded especially in relation to usage in grammar and
vocabulary, and often with reference to pronunciation. The favoured variety is usually
a version of the standard written language, especially as encountered in literature, or
in the formal spoken language which most closely reflects literary style. Those who
speak or write in this variety are said to be using language 'correctly'; those who do
not are said to be using it 'incorrectly'. An example of a prescripte rule in English is
the recommendation to use whom, and not who, in such sentences as – did you speak
to?. Some authors distinguish rules of this kind, which recommend usages that are
acceptable, from proscriptive rules, which identify usages that should be avoided (such
as 'Never end a sentence with a preposition'). Linguists avoid both prescriptive and
proscriptive attitudes, concentrating instead on the task of description and
explanation.  appropriateness; correctness; description; grammar 1; Latinate;
normative; purism; solecism. [Crystal, Penguin Dictionary of Language, 2nd ed. s.v.]
connected with notion of correctness
connected with normatives
example Royal Society (John Evelyn)
An absolute standard of language use deriving from the rules of institutions (such as
language academies) or respected publications (grammars, dictionaries, manuals of
pronunciation and style). When applied to aspects of language where there is no usage
variation among educated users, the notion is uncontroversial: the spelling form
*langauge is incorrect, as is the word order *Hardly he had left. The notion becomes
controversial only when it is sued to condemn usages which are common within the
whole or part of the speech community, such as the sue of the split infinitive (to really
know) or regional dialect forms (It do no harm).  appropriateness; normative;
[Crystal, Penguin Dictionary of Language, 2nd ed. s.v.]
connected with standard
connected with academy
example Swift, Letter Bickerstaff (c.1710)
A school of thought which sees a language as needing preservation from the external
process that might infiltrate it and thus make it change. Purist attitudes are a normal
accompaniment to the perception, which each generation represents, that standards of
language (as social standards generally) are deteriorating. Purists are concervative in
matters of usage, emphasize the importance of prescriptive rules in grammar and
pronunciation, and insist on the authority of dictionaries, grammars, and other
 academy; language change; linking; prescriptivism.
[Crystal, Penguin Dictionary of Language, 2nd ed. s.v.]
connected with standard
connected with academy
example Swift, Letter Bickerstaff (c.1710)
Language planning
A deliberate, systematic, and theory-based attempt to solve the communication
problems of a community by studying its various languages or dialects, and developing
an official language policy concerning their selection and use; also sometimes called
language engineering or language treatment. Corpus planning deals with the selection
and codification of norms, as in the writing of grammars and the standardization of
spelling. Status planning deals with the initial choice of language, including attitudes
towards alternative languages and the political implications of various choices. 
ecolinguistics; sociolinguistics; standard.
[Crystal, Penguin Dictionary of Language, 2nd ed. s.v.]
connected with standard
connected with academy
example Swift, Letter Bickerstaff (c.1710)
Descriptive of a linguistic rule which is considered to set a socially approved standard of
correctness (or 'norm') for language use. Examples from English include the
recommendation to avoid a split infinitive, or to use whom (as opposed to who) in such
contexts as The lady – I asked... A systematic collection of such rules constitutes a
normative grammar.  correctness; prescriptivism.
[Crystal, Penguin Dictionary of Language, 2nd ed. s.v.]
connected with standard
connected with academy
example Swift, Letter Bickerstaff (c.1710)
A minor deviation from what is considered to be linguistically correct. English
examples include splitting an infinitive (to boldly go) and ending a sentence with a
preposition (the person I gave it to).  pleonasm; prescriptivism.
[Crystal, Penguin Dictionary of Language, 2nd ed. s.v.]
connected with standard
connected with academy
example Swift, Letter Bickerstaff (c.1710)
A prestige variety of language used within a speech community, providing an
institutionalized norm for such purposes as the media and language teaching.
Linguistic forms or dialects that do not conform to this norm are often called
substandard or (more usually, within linguistics) nonstandard. Standardization is
the natural development of a standard language in a speech community, or an
attempt by a community to impose one dialect as a standard.  language
planning; national language; standard English.
[Crystal, Penguin Dictionary of Language, 2nd ed. s.v.]
example Sheridan (1762)
In the context of language, an institution which tries to protect a language from what it
considers to be undesirable influences, to maintain excellence in its use, and to define
its rules through the writing of grammars, dictionaries, and other manuals. Academies
date from the 16th century, the most influential being the French Academy. Spain,
Sweden, Hungary, and several other countries have academies, but the concept has
never attracted much enthusiasm in the main English-speaking nations (though there is
a body with such a name in South Africa), largely on the grounds that any attempt to
control the development of a language by putting it in the charge of a small number of
people is futile.  Academy Française; codification; prescriptivism; purism.
[Crystal, Penguin Dictionary of Language, 2nd ed. s.v.]
example Defoe (1697)
Defoe, Essays on Projects (1697)
The Voice of this Society should be sufficient Authority for the Usage of Words, and
sufficient also to expose the Innovations of other mens Fancies; they shou'd preside
with a Sort of Judicature over the Learning of the Age, and have liberty to Correct
and Censure the Exorbitance of Writers, especially of Translators. The Reputation
of this Society wou'd be enough to make them the allow'd Judges of Stile and
Language; and no Author wou'd have the Impudence to Coin without their
Authority. Custom, which is now our best Authority for Words, wou'd always have
its Original here, and not be allow'd without it. There shou'd be no more occasion to
search for Derivations and Constructions, and 'twou'd be as Criminal then to Coin
words, as Money....I believe nothing wou'd so soon explode the Practice, as the
Publick Discouragement of it by such a Society, Where all our Customs and Habits
both in Speech and Behaviour, shou'd receive an Authority. All the Disputes about
Precedency of Wit, with the Manners, Customs, and Usages of the Theatre wou'd be
decided here; Plays shou'd pass here before they were Acted, and the Criticks might
give their Censures, and damn at their Pleasure; nothing wou'd ever dye which once
receiv'd Life at this Original: The Two Theatres might end their Jangle, and dispute
for Priority no more; Wit and Real Worth shou'd decide the Controversy, and here
shou'd be the Infallible Judge. [pp. 236-237, 250]
John Evelyn, Letter to Peter Wyche (c.1665)
1. I would therefore humbly propose that there might first be compil'd a Gram'ar for the
Praecepts; which...might onely insist on the Rules, the sole meanes to render it a learned
& learnable tongue.
2. That with this a more certaine Orthography were introduc'd, as by leaving out
superflous letters, &c.: such as o in Woomen, People; u in Honour...&c.
3. That there might be invented some new Periods and Accents, besides such as our
Gram'arians & Critics use, to assist, inspirit, and modifie the Pronunciation of
4. To this might follow a Lexicon or Collection of all the pure English-Words by
themselves; then those which are derivative...then, the symbolical; so as no innovation
might be us'd or favour'd; at least till there should arise some necessity of providing a
new Edition, & of amplifying the old upon mature advice...
[There follow other considerations: 5. as to dictionaries of technical words; 6. as to better
definitions in dictionaries; 7. as to exotic words used by the logodaedali; 8. as to the use of
regional varieties; 9. as to a dictionary or Florilegium of the most quaint and courtly
expressions; 10. as to obsolete words; 11. as to model translations from the classical or
"even" the modern languages.] [ed. Moore pp. 110-11] [pp. 236-237, 250]
Thomas Sheridan, Lectures on elocution (1762)
As amongst these various dialects [in England], one must have the preference, and
become fashionable, it will of course fall to the lot of that which prevails at court, the
source of fashions of all kinds. All other dialects are sure marks, either of a
provincial, rustic, pedantic, or mechanic education; and therefore have some degree
of disgrace annexed to them. And as the court pronunciation is no where
methodically taught, and can be acquired only by conversing with people in polite
life, it is a sort of proof that a person has kept good company, and on that account is
sought after by all, who wish to be considered as fashionable people, or members of
the beau monde. [ed. Crowley 1991:68]
Jonathan Swift, Letter Bickerstaff (c.1710)
I cou'd n't get the things you sent for all about Town --- I thôt to ha come down myself, and
then I'd h' brot'um; but I ha'nt don't, and I believe I can't do't, that's Pozz --- Tom begins to
gi'mself airs, because he's going with the Plenipo's --- 'Tis said the French King will
bamboozl us agen, which causes many speculations. The Jacks and others of that Kidney
are very uppish, and alert upon't, as you may see by their Phizz's --- Will Hazard has got
the hipps, having lost to the Tune of five hundr'd pound, tho' he understands play very well,
no Body better. He has promis't me upon rep, to leave off play; but you know 'tis a
weakness he's too apt to give into, tho' he has as much wit as any man, no Body more. He
has lain incog ever since --- The mob's very quiet with us now --- I believe you thôt I
banter'd you in my last, like a country put --- I shan't leave town this month, etc.
[thôt: thought; I'd h' brot'um: I would have brought them; ha'nt don't: have not done it;
can't do't: cannot do it; Plenipo's: plenipotentiaries [envoys or ambassadors]; etc. etc.]
These [says Swift in his fictitious letter] are the false refinements in our style which you
[i.e. the editors of the Tatler] ought to correct; first, by argument and fair means, but if
those fail, I think you are to make use of your authority as Censor, and by an annual Index
Expurgatorius expunge all words and phrases that are offensive to good sense and
condemn those barbarous mutilations of vowels and syllables. In this last point the usual
pretence is that they spell as they speak: a noble standard for language [ibid.]!
John Dryden, Critical Essays (1693)
We have yet no English prosodia, not so much as a tolerable dictionary, or a
grammar; so that our language is in a manner barbarous; and what government will
encourage any one, or more, who are capable of refining it, I know not: but nothing
under a public expense can go through with it. And I rather fear a declination of the
language, than hope an advancement of it in the present age. [ed. Moore, p. 114]
Prince of Wales (19th December 1989)
Looking at the way English is used in our popular newspapers, our radio and
television programmes, even in our schools and theatres, [a great many people]
wonder what it is about our country and our society that our language has become so
impoverished, so sloppy and so limited - that we have arrived at such a dismal
wasteland of banality, cliché and casual obscenity...If English is spoken in Heaven (as
the spread of English as a world language makes more likely each year) God
undoubtedly employs Cranmer as his speechwriter. The angels of the lesser ministries
probably use the language of the New English Bible and the Alternative Service Book
for internal memos.
["Address of the Prince of Wales, 19th December 1989," ed. T. Crowley, Proper
English? Readings in language, history and cultural identity, London 1991 p. 9]
Swift, Proposal (1712) that most of the Books we see now a-days, are full of those Manglings and
Abbreviations. Instances of this Abuse are innumerable: What does your Lordship
think of the Words, Drudg'd, Disturb'd, Rebuk't, Fledg'd, and a thousand others, every
where to be met in Prose as well as Verse? Where, by leaving out a Vowel to save a
Syllable, we form so jarring a Sound, and so difficult to utter, that I have often
wondered how it could ever obtain. [p. 22]
Robert Lowth, English Grammar (1762)
The principal design of a Grammar of any Language is to teach us to express ourselves
with propriety in that Language; and to enable us to judge of every phrase and form of
construction, whether it be right or not. The plain way of doing this is, to lay down rules,
and to illustrate them by examples. But, beside shewing what is right, the matter may be
further explained by pointing out what is wrong. [Introduction p. x]
Statements about the language tend to include evaluations of the language
(with one‘s own feeling about the language as a yardstick); they tend to
debase the speakers who do not conform to one‘s own standards, and thus
to make distinctions between ‚good‘ people and ‚bad‘
Motivations to regulate: 1. The writers
Edmund Waller, Of English Verse, 1645
But who can hope his lines should long
Last in a daily changing tongue? [...]
Poets that lasting marble seek
Must carve in Latin or in Greek:
We write in sand, our language grows
And like the tide, our work o‘erflows.
Statements about (ab)uses: Spelling
Lord Chesterfield, Letter to his son, 19 November 1750
I come now to another part of your letter, which is the orthography, if I may call bad spelling
orthography. You spell induce, enduce; and grandeur, you spell grandure; two faults, of which few
of my house-maids would have been guilty. I must tell you, that orthography, in the true sense of
the word, is so absolutely necessary for a man of letters, or a gentleman, that one false spelling
may fix a ridicule upon him for the rest of his life; and I know a man of quality, who never
recovered the ridicule of having spelled wholesome without the w.
Statements about (ab)uses: Pronunciation
John Walker, Pronouncing Dictionary, 1791
Accent and Quantity, the great efficients of pronunciation, are seldom mistaken by people of
education in the Capital [...] [T]hough the pronunciation of London is certainly erroneous in
many words, yet, upon being compared with that of any other place, it is undoubtedly the best;
that is, not only the best by courtesy, and because it happens to be the pronunciation of the
capital, but the best by a better title – that of being more generally received. [...] [T]he great
bulk of the nation, and those who form the most important part in it, are without these
advantages [i.e. of living in London], and therefore want such a guide to direct them as is here
offered [i.e. his pronouncing dictionary]. [...] [H]arsh as the sentence may seem, those at a
considerable distance from the capital, do not only mispronounce many words taken separately,
but they scarcely pronounce, with purity, a single word, syllable, or letter. [...] I would advise a
native of Ireland, who has much of the accent, to pronounce almost all his words, and end all
his sentences with the rising slide; and a Scotchman, in the same manner, to use the falling
inflection; this will, in some measure, counteract the natural propensity, and bids fairer for
bringing the pupil to that nearly equal mixture of both slides which distinguishes the English
speaker, than endeavouring at first to catch the agreeable variety. [...] [T]he vulgar
pronunciation of London, though not half so erroneous as that of Scotlöand, Ireland, or any of
the provinces, is, to a person od correct taste, a thousand times more offensive and disgusting.
Statements about (ab)uses: Pronunciation
James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson, 1791
Besides, sir [says Johnson to Boswell], what entitles Sheridan to fix the pronunciation of English?
He has, in the first place, the disadvantage of being an Irishman; and if he says he will fix it after
the example of the best company, why, they differ among themselves. I remember an instance:
when I published the plan for my Dictionary, Lord Chesterfield told me that the word great should
be pronounced so as to rhyme with state; and Sir William Yonge sent me word that it should be
pronounced so as to rhyme with seat, and that none but an Irishman would pronounce it grait.
Now here were two men of the highest rank, the one the best speaker in the House of Lords, the
other the best speaker in the House of Commons, differing entirely.
Statements about (ab)uses: Borrowing
Joseph Addison, Spectator 1711
I have often wished that as in our Constitution there are several Persons whose Business it is to
watch over our Laws, our Liberties and Commerce, certain Men might be set apart, as Superintendents of our Language to hinder any Words of a Foreign Coin from passing among us; and in
particular to prohibit any French Phrases from becoming Current in this Kingdom when those of
our own stamp are altogether as valuable.
Language and class (1)
The Art of Speaking, 2nd ed. 1708
The best expressions grow low and degenerate, when profan‘d by the populace, and applied to mean
things. The use they make of them, infecting them with a mean and abject Idea, causes that we
cannot use them without sullying and defiling those things, which are signified by them. But it is no
hard matter to discern between the depraved language of common People, and the noble and refin‘d
expressions of the Gentry, whose condition and merits have advanced them above the other.
James Harris, Hermes, 1751
The VULGAR merged in sense from their earliest infance, and never once dreaming any thing to be
worthy of pursuit, but what pampers their Appetite, or fills their Purse, imagine nothing to be real,
but what may be tasted, or touched.
Language and class (2)
Thomas Sheridan, Lectures on Elocution, 1762
Nay in the very metropolis two different modes of pronunciation prevail, by which the
inhabitants of one part of the twon, are distinguihed from those of the other. One is current in
the city, and is called the cockney; the other at the court end, and is called the polite
pronunciation. As amongst these various dialects, one must have the preference, and become
fashionable, it will of course fall to the lot of that which prevails at court, the source of fashions
of all kinds. All other dialects are sure marks, either of a provinvial, rustic, pedantic, or
mechanic education; and therefore have some degree of disgrace annexed to them. And as the
court pronunciation is no where mthodically taught, and can be acquired only by conversing
with people in polite life, it is a sort of proof that a person has kept good company, and on that
account is sought after by all, who wish to be considered as fashionable people, or members of
the beau monde.
Don't (c.1880)
Don’t speak ungrammatically. Study books of grammar, and the writings of the best
Don’t pronounce incorrectly. Listen carefully to the conversation of cultivated people,
and consult the dictionaries....
Don’t use slang. There is some slang that, according to Thackeray, is gentlemanly slang,
and other slang that is vulgar. If one does not know the difference, let him avoid slang
altogether, and then he will be safe.
Don’t use profane language. Don’t multiply epithets and adjectives; don’t be too fond of
superlatives. Moderate your transports....
Don’t say gents for gentlemen, nor pants for pantaloons. These are inexcusable
vulgarisms. Don’t say vest for waistcoat...
Don’t say posted for well informed. Don’t say balance for remainder. Don’t use trade
terms except for trade purposes.
[Don’t: a manual of mistakes & improprieties more or less prevalent in conduct and speech,
The Vellum-Parchment Shilling Series of Miscellaneous Literature 9, New York and
London c.1880, pp. 61, 62, 65, 66]
English Society
Language history is social history; a basic knowledge about the
structure of society as well as the historical and social developments in
the 17th and 18th centuries is therefore necessary
English Society in the 18th century (1)
Daniel Defoe, State of the Nritish Nation, 1709
The Great, who live profusely
The Rich, who live plentifully
The middle Sort, who live well
The working Trades, who labour hard but feel no want
The Country People, Farmers, etc. who fare indifferently
The Poor that fare hard
The Miserable, that really pinch and suffer wantCC
English Society in the 18th century (2)
James Nelson (apothecary), Government of Children, London 1753
Every nation has its Custom of dividing the People into Classes [...] England, a mix‘d Government
and a trading Nation, have the Nobility, Gentry, Mercantile or Commercial People, Mechanics, and
Pesantry [...] Were we to divide the People, we might run it to an Infinity: to avoid Confusion
therefore, I will select five Classes; viz. The Nobility, the Gentry, the genteel Trades (all those
particularly which require large Capital), the common Trades, and the Peasantry [... The latter not
only including the country „Rustics“ but also their urban counterparts, i.e.] the lowest Class of
People, in London particularly. These People possess indeed the Ignorance of the Pesants, but they
seldom equal them in Innocence.
English Society in the 18th century (3)
Joseph Massie, Calculations, 1756
Noblemen or Gentlemen: landed income between £ 4,000 and 20,000 p.a.
Gentlemen: landed income between £ 200 and 2,000 p.a.
Freeholders: landed income between £ 50 and 100 p.a.
Farmers: expending between £ 40 and 150 p.a.
Tradesmen in London and Country: expending between £ 40 and 300 p.a.
Manufacturers in London and Country: earning between 7/6d and 12/- p.wk.
Labourers and Husbandmen in London and Country: earning between 5/- and 9/- p.wk.