Monthly Archives: March 2009

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 »

Monthly Lunch Meeting

On 20 March Mathilde Jansen (Meertens Instituut) will present "’They think we speak Frisian’: dialect levelling on the island of Ameland" in 1168/005 from 12:00-13:00. All welcome!

Top 10 downloaded articles 2008

We are happy to announce that the article "Social network analysis and the eighteenth-century family network: a case study of the Walpole family" by Froukje Henstra ended on the eighth spot in the Top 10 downloaded articles of the Transactions of the Philological Society 2008.

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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Vivien Law prize

In memory of Dr Vivien Law (1954-2002), and thanks to her generosity, a prize has been established for the best essay submitted on any topic within the history of linguistics. The competition is open to all currently registered students, and to those who have received their PhD or equivalent qualification within the last five years. The prize consists of 100 pounds and publication of the winning essay in the journal Language and History. The prize-winner is also entitled to one year’s free membership of the Society and will receive a free copy of Vivien Law’s The History of Linguistics in Europe from Cambridge University Press.

The closing date for submissions is 30 September. Entries may be written in English, French, or German, and should not exceed 8000 words. Read more »

The exact age of a young lady

In the eighteenth century many works appeared on the market that were designed for "young ladies". Lately I have been wondering about the exact age of this specific readership. According to the oed, "until late in the 19th cent. girls at boarding schools were spoken of and addressed as young ladies", while Bottigheimer (2005:10) points out that "young gentlemen and ladies" "could be as young as thirteen or fourteen or as old as young people at the age of their independent entry into society". I, however, believe that the term was also used to refer to slightly younger girls. Please reply to this post if you know more about the topic. I look forward to hearing from you. 

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