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6 - ENGLISH GRAMMAR AND USAGE

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2008

Suzanne Romaine
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

Introduction

The codification of English usage, not by an official academy but by a disparate band of independent entrepreneurs, constitutes the story of this chapter. It is a story of increasing knowledge about language in general and English in particular, of competition between prescriptive and descriptive ideals of grammar and lexicography in the market-place and of a shifting role for the place of speech and writing in codifying the language. It is also a story of the influence of piety, morality, discipline and social politics on the evaluation of English usage as the language was codified and the codifications disseminated over the last two centuries. The focus throughout is on Britain, but the interactions between Britons and Americans and the intertwined scholarship and international markets for English-language grammars and dictionaries make a tidy separation of the British and American stories impracticable. Following section 6.1, the discussion is divided into three periods. Section 6.2 concentrates on the years roughly from the mid-eighteenth century to the introduction of comparative historical linguistics into Britain around 1830, section 6.3 the period from 1830 to 1930 so as to encompass the entire scope of planning and producing the Oxford English Dictionary, and section 6.4 the span from the completion of the OED to the close of the millennium. The chronological subdivisions are somewhat arbitrary in that the patterns examined do not start or end on particular dates, but the periods serve as convenient frames for focusing on notable trends. Section 6.5 offers some conclusions and prospects. (American views of grammar and usage are reported in volume VI.)

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1999

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