Joseph Priestley, Grammarian: Late Modern English normativism and usage in a sociohistorical context

Author: Robin Straaijer
LOT Number: 271
ISBN: 978-94-6093-052-2
Pages: 447
Year: 2011
€41.00
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Joseph Priestley, Grammarian
Late Modern English normativism and usage in a sociohistorical context

The eighteenth century was a key period in the establishment of standard
modern English. This period, referred to as the Late Modern English period,
witnessed the publication of an unprecedented number of normative works
aiming to define ‘correct’ English. Joseph Priestley (1733–1804) is best known
as a scientist and theologian, but his Rudiments of English Grammar, first published
in 1761 is an important work in the wave of English normative grammars of
the late eighteenth century.

Using a multi-disciplinary approach, this book investigates Priestley’s role as a
codifier of the English language. The author demonstrates that the influence of
Priestley’s grammar on the language has been underestimated and merits
re-evaluation. Priestley’s ideas on grammar are related to his broader philoso-
phical thinking. It is shown that, although Priestley is usually seen as one of
the few descriptive grammarians of the period, his grammar also contains
decidedly prescriptive elements, and that his adherence to the force of usage
should be qualified. In addition, Priestley’s usage is compared to the rules in his
grammar using a corpus of Priestley’s personal correspondence, created for
this study.

This book is of interest to sociohistorical linguists studying Late Modern English
and historical linguists in general, as well as to social historians and anyone
interested in Joseph Priestley or the Late Modern period in England.

Joseph Priestley, Grammarian
Late Modern English normativism and usage in a sociohistorical context

The eighteenth century was a key period in the establishment of standard
modern English. This period, referred to as the Late Modern English period,
witnessed the publication of an unprecedented number of normative works
aiming to define ‘correct’ English. Joseph Priestley (1733–1804) is best known
as a scientist and theologian, but his Rudiments of English Grammar, first published
in 1761 is an important work in the wave of English normative grammars of
the late eighteenth century.

Using a multi-disciplinary approach, this book investigates Priestley’s role as a
codifier of the English language. The author demonstrates that the influence of
Priestley’s grammar on the language has been underestimated and merits
re-evaluation. Priestley’s ideas on grammar are related to his broader philoso-
phical thinking. It is shown that, although Priestley is usually seen as one of
the few descriptive grammarians of the period, his grammar also contains
decidedly prescriptive elements, and that his adherence to the force of usage
should be qualified. In addition, Priestley’s usage is compared to the rules in his
grammar using a corpus of Priestley’s personal correspondence, created for
this study.

This book is of interest to sociohistorical linguists studying Late Modern English
and historical linguists in general, as well as to social historians and anyone
interested in Joseph Priestley or the Late Modern period in England.

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