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Alice Pugh. The Emergence of Prescriptive Attitudes

 

 Fighting a Loosing Battle?

 

Samuel Johnson c. 1772,
painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds

 

In the seventeenth century the classical languages had become popular and the English developed a passion for them (Bryson 1990:119). Many of the silent letters we know of today have come from the re-spelling to conform to Latin with words such as debt and rhyme, thanks to the man who first introduced the printing press, William Caxton. However these sorts of changes were not within the society, due to the impact of print, it had a huge effect and would have had many calling out for a control on the language.  The academy for the English language was never fully formed. In 1666 and 1667 the great plague then the fire of London was a huge tragedy. The scale of these misfortunes overrode any work of the society and impact they could make in parliament.

However Johnson after nine years completed his dictionary in 1755.  This dictionary was influenced by the mindset of the language professionals, him being one of them, at the time. The dictionary did not meet the prescriptive standards of everyone and some of the words had doubtful status in English (Crystal 2005:383). Johnsonís dictionary was the closest thing to outlining and ruling the language as a whole, even this caused disagreements and controversy. This I feel reveals that prescriptivism is more work then worth.  Many have tried to govern the language each with different ideals, making it an impossible task. 

These prescriptive attitudes were not new in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century, there has been a constant battle to this day between a free English language and a set-in-stone English language.  The nature of the language and its constant change due to borrowing, coining, using affixes and other methods has meant it is always questioned and people try to correct it. Even those of the language professionals who were for prescriptivism in the late 17th century thought that Shakespeare used the English language incorrectly.  Without the influence of Shakespeare and many other authors, poets and playwrights the language would not be the one it is today.  To lay down an exact way the language should be used would restrict us and cause us to disregard the great writers of our time.   

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THE EMERGENCE OF PRESCRIPTIVE ATTITUDES

  The Factor of Competition

  Yearning for Linguistic Guidance

  Looking for the Model

  Fighting a Loosing Battle?

  References and Bibliography

BEST ESSAYS

  The Language of the Internet

  English Reasserts Its Status

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