Blog Archives

Christine Erkelens wins prize for best paper

Christine Erkelens, one of this year’s Pre-University students who took a course in the context of the Codifiers project, won the Jan Kijne prize for the best final paper. Her paper, called “Reconstructing Social Networks: Comparing the Wills of Mrs Thrale and her daughter” and supervised by Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade, was nominated along with ten other papers on a wide variety of topics within fields taught in this university. The final nomination as the best paper was unanimous. Warmest congratulations from the Codifiers project, Christine!

ECCO wish list

In the short time since it has been available, ECCO (Eighteenth Century Collections Online) has become an indispensable tool for our research. Yet it contains errors, and, despite its vastness, it lacks books and editions of grammars that are important for the study of the publication history of English grammars, to mention one example. Here, please add which titles of grammars and editions of already included works you would like to be added to ECCO. Hopefully, they will soon be included as a result.

Righter or more right?

On 15 March 1755, Lowth wrote to his wife asking if she “should think it righter to stay at home” with their little boy. The form righter would be entirely in agreement with his own rule in the grammar (1762) (also found in other grammars of the period) that monosyllabic adjectives should occur in the comparative form with –er. Yet Quirk et al. (1985:461-3) specifically note that “the exceptions real, right, and wrong require comparison with periphrasis”, so it should be more right in other words. Why should this be the case? And since when has right been an exception?

Lane’s Key to the Art of Letters

Last year, a very interesting article came out by Robert Rix, dealing with a grammar that has not received a lot of attention within English linguistics: A. Lane’s Key to the Art of Letters, first published in 1700 and reprinted twice down to 1706. The grammar must therefore have enjoyed a certain amount of popularity, and it may not have been reprinted after that date because the author appears to have been no longer alive by that time. As Rix notes, the final edition of the grammar contains his obituary. (Lane’s lifedates in Koerner’s Index of Biographical Names can thus be pushed slightly forward: fl.1695-c.1706.)

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How tall was Robert Lowth?

In the spring of the year 1772, James Boswell called upon Robert Lowth, and, as he wrote in his journal, found him to be "a neat, judicious little man in his conversation with me" (ed. Wimsatt and Pottle 1960:112). But what does "little" mean in this context? Does this mean that Lowth was not very tall? Read more »

Dyche’s Guide to the English Tongue (1707)

In her paper called "Eighteenth grammars and book catalogues", Anita Auer quotes Feather (1985:34) on the popularity of Dyche’s Guide to the English Tongue: between 1733 and 1747, 33 editions came out of the work, to a total of 265,000 copies, "or nearly 18,000 copies a year, of which a mere handful is extant".

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From plural to singular?

My colleague from the Dutch department, Marijke van der Wal, came across an intreaguing point in her reaearch on nineteenth-century grammars of Dutch, and she would like to know whether there are similar instances in English grammars or grammars for other languages. Please let us have your findings on this, even if you never came across the kind of approach to grammar.

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Six cases in English?

A few weeks ago, I received the following question from Nicola McLelland, on behalf of Martin Durrell.

"I certainly remember (and may have told you about) an English grammar which my father had at home when I was a boy. This listed six cases for English, i.e.

  • Nominative ‘the man’
  • Vocative ‘O man!’
  • Accusative ‘the man’
  • Genitive ‘of the man’
  • Dative ‘to the man’
  • Ablative ‘by the man’

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Date of Lily’s grammar

Could anyone help elucidate the question of the publication date of Lily’s Short Introduction to Grammar? Vorlat (1975) lists it as 1567, but she also writes that it was authorized as the only Latin grammar by Henry VIII in 1540. The copy in Alston’s series English Linguistics is dated 1549, and this edition can also be found in EEBO. So what am I to make of this? Did earlier copies of the grammar circulate? Lily lived from 1468 to 1522 (Vorlat 1975), so it would seem that the grammar only became popular well after his death. By what date does one refer to the grammar in a paper?

Who was the most prescriptive 18th-century grammar?

Usually, Lowth is given the credit for this. But he wasn’t, not by a long shot. Any idea whose grammar has the largest number of proscriptive comments?