Blog Archives

Abbott’s prescriptivism

In his Shakespeare’s Grammar (2003), Jonathan Hope aims at providing an updated version of Abbott’s grammar of 1870. In my review of the book, which has finally appeared just now (English Studies 87/4, 499-501), I argue that the result was not very successful. But one thing that is of particular interest in the book is Hope’s comment that Abbott’s approach to Shakespeare’s language was prescriptivist. I think that an analysis of Abbott’s prescriptive comments would be of considerable analysis, and would merit a separate study. 

New project assistant

As from July 28 my work as project assistant for the codifiers and the English language stops. Patricia Chaudron will take over starting September 1.

I really enjoyed working as a project assistant, but the MSc in Business Administration I’m going to take at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, starting this September, unfortunately doesn’t leave me with enough time to continue this job. 


We have just sent out the first circular for the 3rd Late Modern English Conference, which will be held in Leiden next year. If you wish to receive the second circular, please let us know by sending an email to

If you wish to read the first circular, you will find the text on our website, at

eighteenth-century letters

Willemijn Ruberg sent us this announcement:

Recently published: Clare Brant, Eighteenth-Century Letters and British Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 2006). Study of several types of eighteenth-century letters like love letters, travel letters and letters from parents to children.

Monthly Lunch Meetings update

As a reminder, our second monthly lunch meeting will take place the 28th of April, when Anni Sairio will give a paper on ‘A social network of eighteenth-century England: linguistic changes and influences in the Bluestocking correspondence’. This meeting will be held from 12 to 1, in 1168-005.

Our third speaker will be Pepijn Hendriks. He’ll give a paper on the 19th of May, titled ‘Ja bhogu molitzu da pristoino vtzitzu – Ich wÿll godtt bidden vnd flitigen lehren: On research into the language of Russian conversation manuals from the 16th and 17th centuries’. He introduces his topic as follows:

"Historical sources of spoken Russian from the 16th and 17th centuries are few and far between. The youngest birch bark texts, the best-known source for information on the Russian vernacular, date from the 15th century only. To bridge the gap between these older texts and more recent sources – such as contemporary dialects – linguists are forced to resort mainly to foreign, non-native sources.

An example of such sources are so-called conversation manuals (razgovorniki), in which Western visitors to Russia – mostly merchants – purportedly recorded the language they heard around them. Within the scope of this lunch meeting, I would like to familiarise the audience with the genre of bilingual Russian conversation manuals.

I will address and illustrate some of the problems which face the linguistically oriented researcher on the basis of the conversation manual of Tönnies Fenne (Pskov, 1607). A pivotal role is played by the questions of whether the language as written down by a foreigner can be trusted, and of the extent to which other, related conversation manuals can shed light on this issue."

Click here for an electronic text edition of Tönnies Fenne’s Low German manual of spoken Russian, pskov 1607, that Pepijn worked on. to The meeting will be held from 12 to 1, in 1168-005.

Marian Klamer will give a paper on the 23rd of June, titled ‘Minority language research in Eastern Indonesia: practical and political issues’. Below is an abstract of the paper:

"In this talk I would like to introduce colleagues whose work focuses on well-documented and well-studied languages such as English or Dutch to a part of the linguistic world where, in an area the size of a Dutch province, about 15-20 languages are spoken, which have not yet been written down, which have no established orthography or any historical documentation, no descriptive or pedagogical grammar, and no dictionary. I will zoom in on the linguistic situation of Alor and Pantar, two small remote islands in eastern Indonesia, where we are currently carrying out the "Alor And Pantar Project" (AAPP). This project documents and analyses six minority languages that are spoken by communities of 3000-15000 speakers.

I will first discuss some of the non-linguistic issues that a research project like this is confronted with, including the following:
(i) As our research concerns oral (non-written) languages, what are the implications for the community when we write them down: will they benefit from this, what are potential problems or disadvantages that arise as a result?
(ii) How do we develop orthographies for these languages?
(iii) How do we compile texts for a corpus, how do we check word lists/dictionaries with native speakers? What are the practical problems encountered?

I will also say a few words about the history of Indonesian as a national language of Indonesia, and issues regarding the language planning policy of the national government. Which effects did the policy have on endangered minority languages such as those spoken on Alor and Pantar? What is the current role of these languages in the local societies, in the local media, and in the local educational system?

For more information regarding the AAPP project, see"

The meeting will be held from 12 to 1 as usual, in 1168-006. All those interested are invited to attend!

Forum on Prescriptivism

At the very successful colloqium Perspectives on Prescriptivism, which was held at Ragusa (Sicily) last week, organised by Massimo Sturiale and his team, I promised that we would open a Forum on Prescriptivism in the weblog for anyone interested in the topic. As of now, we would therefore invite people to post entries, comments and the like on this weblog, which will consequently develop into a place for continued discussion on the topic of the Ragusa colloquium.

One topic for discussion might be the one which was raised by Carol during the final meal, i.e. what the title of the next colloqium (Toronto 2009) might be. Any suggestions?

Monthly Lunch Meetings

Our project recently started organising Monthly Lunch Meetings, during which different speakers will present informal papers relating to their research in linguistics. Our first Monthly Lunch Meeting was held on 17 March, during which Marijke van der Wal gave a paper called ‘Language History from Below: Egodocuments and Linguistic Variation in 18th- and 19th-century Dutch’. The paper was a great success and we intend to continue organising these meetings.

The second meeting will be held on 28 April, from 12 to 1 (room 1168-005), when Anni Sairio, a visiting PhD student from Helsinki, will present her paper called ‘A social network of eighteenth-century England: linguistic changes and influences in the Bluestocking correspondence’. The third and fourth speakers will be Pepijn Hendriks and Marian Klamer, who are both members of the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics. These meetings are scheduled for 19 May and 23 June, from 12 to 1 (rooms and titles to be announced).

All those interested are invited to attend these meetings!

The Matthew Prior Project

This website is, I think, an excellent example of how a Late Modern English collection of letters could be published. Currently, as Phase I of the project, it contains a calendar of Prior’s complete correspondence (nearly 3000 letters!). One of the compilers, Deborah K. Wright, has informed me that Phase II of the project, which entails the publication of the actual letters online, will start this year. I think I am not alone in saying that I would be very interested in seeing the letters published. Hopefully, a project like this will inspire the publication of more open-access databases of letters, as they open up immense new opportunities for research into Late Modern English.

We have also just added a link to the project in Historical Sociolinguistics and Sociohistorical Linguistics.

Finding and publishing Late Modern English letters

For a paper which I am hoping to present at ICEHL-4, I should like to ask scholars who work with original (i.e. unpublished) letters from the Late Modern English period (1700-1900) to fill in a questionnaire. Please let me know if you yourself or anyone else you know of might be interested in filling it in. You may do so by writing a comment with your name in it to this entry. I will send you the questionnaire accordingly.

Lowth’s grammar in electronic form?

Just now, I received a query from Arthur Molitierno about whether there is an electronic version of Lowth’s grammar. I only know of the CD Rom called Landmarks in English Grammar: The Eighteenth Century, published by ULCL Survey of English Usage. But the CD-Rom unfortunately only contains scans which are not searchable electronically. There is, by the way, a review of the CD-Rom in HSL/SHL.