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Preposition stranding

Could it be that, like double negation, preposition stranding is an icon of prescriptivism? Both occur in David Crystal’s Grammatical Top Ten (Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, p. 194), and there is also, intrestingly, a reference to preposition stranding in Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada (2003). On p. 330, the main character of the novel "quietly berated myself for ending a sentence with a preposition and took one last look around the magnificent room". I suppose the sentence is meant to have a humorous effect, but perhaps you have to like the book in order to appreciate this particular linguistic joke.

American grammarians

This entry was written by Victorina González Díaz

Dear All

I am currently doing some work on British vs. American grammarians from 1700-1900. I’ve been able to compile a rather large list of references on British grammarians and their ideology; however, my bibliography on American grammarians is rather limited (the most useful references I’ve found are Butters’ and Finegan’s chapters in CHEL 7 and some articles on Noah Webster).

I’d therefore be very grateful if anybody could point me to some relevant work on the topic. Thanks in advance for your help!


the English codifiers and the German tradition

I wonder if anyone has done any work on the influence of English codifiers like Ash and Lowth on the German grammatical tradition. It should be an interesting topic, as Ash’s grammar (1760) was translated into German by Christian Reichel in 1775 (see Alston’s bibliography). Lowth’s grammar was translated into German fifteen years later (also by Christian Reichel!). Possibly, there is a relationship between the two, as Ash’s grammar was subtitled "an easy introduction to Dr. Lowth’s English grammar". Murray’s influence on English language teaching has already been dealt with by Frederike Klippel (1996).

normative grammarians obsessed with multiple negation

Why would normative grammarians be so obsessed with multiple negation? This is a question that has been bothering me for some time now. Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg (2003) have shown that multiple negation was already stigmatised at the end of the seventeenth century, so why do grammarians from the eighteenth century onwards continue to include strictures against multiple negation in their grammars?

I have just read an article by Gerhard Leitner, called "English grammars – past, present and future" (1986), in which he discusses the Englische Grammatik  of 1860-1965 (can this date be correct?) by E. Mätzner. Mätzner attributes the rule by which two negatives cancel each other out to Latin influence, while he considers the reinforcement of negation by two or more negatives as normal because it is well-entrenched in Germanic languages. Mätzner, according to Leitner, was "aware of social, geographical and stylistic variation" (1986:417). What kind of variety was he focussing on when observing that multiple negation was normal practice or, in other words, acceptable usage?

bound copies of grammars

Chatsworth House, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, possesses a copy of Lowth’s grammar (1762, first edition), bound with Ward’s Four Essays upon the English Language (1758, first edition as well). So far, I’ve never come across such a copy of Lowth’s grammar before.

The library at Chatsworth also possesses copies of Grammatica Busbeiana … Rudimentum Grammaticae Graeco-Latinae Metricum, in usum Scholae Regiae Westmonsteriensis (London, 1732) and a Latin grammar called A Short Introduction of Grammar generally to be used (Oxford, 1714). Both grammars are anonymous.

These are all the grammatical works from the eighteenth century they have in their possession. What I would like to know is if anyone has ever come across any similarly copies of Lowth’s grammar? And also if the authors of the Latin grammars could be identified.

Copies in private collections

I’m trying to trace as many copies of Robert Lowth’s grammar that might still be around. Alston’s inventoy of 1965 is understandably incomplete after forty years, and I discovered that libraries possess copies of the grammar that are not in Alston. Many copies must be in people’s private possession; I myself, for instance, own copies of Lowth, Murray, Fisher, Fenning, Ward, and Fenn. So if you would let me know whether you possess copies of Lowth’s grammar, I could compile a list of addenda much like the one Maria Rodriguez-Gil published for Ann Fisher in HSL/SHL.

Influence of normative grammars

Frans Wilhelm, in his PhD dissertation English in the Netherlands (2005), distinguishes three aspects that might help in determining a grammar’s influence: frequency of publication, circulation time, availability (p. 315). This seems a worthwhile approach, and for English grammars published before 1800 I can see that Alston’s bibliography would give information on the first two of these, but how would you find out about a book’s availability?

Priestley and the Low Countries

According to Pieter Loonen, in his book For to learne to buye and sell: Learning English in the Low Dutch area between 1500 and 1800. A critical survey (1990), George Ensell’s Grammar of the English language (1797) was partly based on the first edition of Priestley’s grammar (1761) (Loonen 1990:112).

Daniel Fenning

I came across THIS interesting article on Daniel Fenning by Frances Austin. Apparently, the authorship of his New Grammar of the English Language, of which I happened to possess a copy of a later edition, is disputed, since he died in 1767, four years before the grammar came out.

octavo/duodecimo problems

Could anyone help me unravel the problem of how books are decided to be labelled octavo, duodecimo and so on? I know how the system works: folio, quarto, octavo, duodecimo and so on, but I found copies of the same book labelled octavo and sedecimo when they were also said to measure 17 cms. I got completely confused as a result. So help will be greatly appreciated.