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Normalisation of the English Language





Age of Shakespeare

See lectures in the English Literature on Shakespeare and his works.

The sources of information about the language:

· private letters (as far as books became available, more people became literate and started to write letters, wills, diaries, etc.);

· books for pupils and didactic works (e.g. “An Orthographie” by John Hart; “Grammatica Lingæ Anglicanæ” by John Wallis, etc.);

· lists of difficult words and dictionaries (e.g. “English-English Dictionary” (dialectal words explained with the help of the bookish English) by Henry Cockeram, etc.).

Normalisationis the fixing of the norms and standards of a language to protect it from corruption and change.

 

Type of Standard Written Standard Spoken Standard
Time Limits by the 17th c. end of the 18th c.
Sources Language of Chaucer (the London Dialect) · private letters; · speech of characters in drama; · references to speech be scholars.
Peculiarities 1. less stabilised than at later stage; 2. wide range of variation (spelling, gr. forms, syntactical patterns, choice of words, etc. ); 3. rivalry with Latin in the field of science, philosophy, didactics. 1. As spoken standard the scholars considered the speech of educated people taught at school as “correct English”. This was the speech of London and that of Cambridge and Oxford Universities.

 

The normalisation of the English language started in the 17th – 18th c. In 1710 Jonathan Swiftpublished in his journal “The Tatler” an article titled “A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue”. J. Swift was a purist (struggled for the purity of the language) and suggested that a body of scholars should gather to fix the rules of the language usage.

The Normalisation of the English language consisted in publishing:

1. Grammar’s of English:

· John Wallis, “Grammatica Lingæ Anglicanæ” (prescriptive/normative grammar);



· Robert Lowth, “A Short Introduction to English Grammar” (Lowth distinguished 9 parts of speech; made consistent description of letters, syllables, words and sentences; rules of no-double negation (I don’t want no dinner – incorrect!) and no-double comparison (more better – incorrect!) appeared, etc.).

2. Dictionaries(18th c.):

· E. Coles, “Dictionary of Hard Words” (gave explanations of hard words and phrases);

· Samuel Johnson– one of the best-known English lexicographers. As well as J. Swift, he was a purist and believed that the English language should be purified and corrected. He was the first to compile a dictionary that resembles the present-day dictionaries. His “Dictionary of the English Language” is the finest example of his hard and productive work. The dictionary is organised as follows:


- entry;

- pronunciation;

- definition;

- illustrations (not self-invented examples but quotations from recognised authors that contain the word in question);

- notes on usage of the word;

- etymology of the word;

- stylistic comments.


The dictionary also contained a grammatical section describing the grammatical structure of the language.

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