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5 - The End of Toleration? Language on the Margins in Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language

from Part II - Norms and Margins: A Historical Perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 March 2018

Linda Pillière
Affiliation:
Aix Marseille Univ, LERMA
Wilfrid Andrieu
Affiliation:
Aix Marseille Univ, LERMA
Valérie Kerfelec
Affiliation:
Aix Marseille Univ, LERMA
Diana Lewis
Affiliation:
Aix Marseille Univ, LERMA
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Summary

For Lord Chesterfield in 1754, Johnson’s dictionary was to emblematize the end of both 'toleration', and naturalization. The time for both was past, he declared; Johnson’s work was, in this and other respects, to be firmly distinguished form the ‘mere word-books’ which, in Chesterfield’s opinion, previous English lexicographers had produced. Johnson, as the ‘Preface’ to the published Dictionary of 1755 confirms, had indeed engaged with the remit of dictionary-making as a means of repulsing ‘unwanted foreigners’ – even if such engagement would, in reality, not be entirely in alignment with Chesterfield’s expectations of prescriptive (and proscriptive) process. This chapter examines the cross-currents of prescriptive and descriptive method in Johnson’s work, looking in detail at his engagement both with normativity and uncertainty, with censure and with the flux a living language must necessarily evince (and which the dictionary-maker might, in turn, record). Examining Johnson’s treatment of loanwords, as well as the projected regularization of spelling (also advocated by Chesterfield ), it focuses on Johnson’s interest in power as topos, and the stated limits of its legitimate use.
Type
Chapter
Information
Standardising English
Norms and Margins in the History of the English Language
, pp. 89 - 105
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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