Blog Archives

Monthly Lunch Meeting

On 8 May MA students of the University of Leiden will give presentations. Nienke van Lieshout will present "James Elphinston, an 18th-Century Centipede"; Matthijs Smits, "William Cobbett and the Politics of Grammar"; and Vera Willems, "James Buchanan and Ann Fisher’s A New Grammar" in LIPSIUS/002 from 12:00-13:00. All welcome!

When is “This day published” in 18th century newspapers?

The 17th-18th Century Burney Newspapers Collection is an invaluable database for all scholars of 18th century England. The advertisements  in the classified ads sections are helpful to me in tracing ‘lost’ editions of Priestley’s Rudiments of English Grammars. However, the phrase "This day published" in the ads can be misleading and definitly pose a problem for determinating the publication date of a work to the day.

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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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Monthly Lunch Meeting

On 27 February Andries van Helden (University of Leiden) will present "Vicissitudes of the genitive rule" in 1168/004 from 12:00-13:00. All welcome!

Monthly Lunch Meeting

On 31 October Xavier Dekeyser will present “The Impact of Prescriptive Grammar on Actual Usage: Scope for Research” in 1162 005 from 12:00-13:00. All welcome!

Lowth Symposium

On 17-18 December 2010 the University of Leiden will a host a symposium on Robert Lowth commemorating his 300th birthday. An official call for papers will be published in the near future. People who are interested in attending can already contact The Codifiers and the English Language Project via

The Linguist

I guess that, like me, you all knew that linguistics could be exiting? The documentary film The Linguist confirms it (see

Contact us

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2300 RA Leiden
tel: +31 71 5272163

If you would like to suggest a new topic to put on this web log, please email us.

About this weblog

Welcome to the weblog of The Codifiers and the English Language!

Our project aims to trace different aspects of the process of linguistic influence: between individuals, within social networks, from grammars and grammarians on other grammars as well as on speakers and writers of English. With the help of the weblog, we hope to establish a community of scholars working in the same field but also beyond, primarily because we would like to share our knowledge with the outside world but also because we would like to profit from knowledge of people interested in our project. We invite you to visit our weblog as often as you wish, to contribute to ongoing discussions, to profit from results we expect to obtain from our research and, frankly, to help us with our research. If you have any suggestions for topics that should be put on this web log, please do not hesitate to email us.

To summarise our aims and intentions with this weblog with a quotation from the preface to the second edition of Priestley’s grammar:

“It is from an amicable union of labours, together with a generous emulation in all the friends of science, that we may most reasonably expect the extension of all kinds of knowledge” (1768:xxiii).


Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade

My name is Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade and I have a chair in English sociohistorical linguistics in the English department of the University of Leiden. My research has been on various topics: multiple negation, periphrastic do, and the language of a number of eighteenth-century authors (Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Betsy Sheridan, Fanny Burney, Sarah Fielding, John Gay and, more recently, Robert Lowth).

I am interested in applying methods from modern sociolinguistics, particularly the Milroys’ model of Social Network Analysis, to past stages of English, and I believe that doing so contributes to a better understanding of how and why language changes.

My PhD thesis, which was supervised by Noel Osselton, was on periphrastic do in eighteenth-century English (1987), and since then I published a book on the use of multiple negation in Malory’s Morte Darthur (1995). I edited a variety of international collections of articles: the Festschrift for Noel Osselton (with John Frankis), Towards a Standard Language 1600–1800 (with Dieter Stein), Hundred Years of Lindley Murray, Negation in the History of English (with Gunnel Tottie and Wim van der Wurff), Do in English, Dutch and German. History and Present-Day Variation (with Marijke van der Wal and Arjan van Leuvensteijn), A Reader in Early Modern English (with Mats Rydén, and Merja Kytö) and Social Network Analysis and the History of English (with Terttu Nevalainen and Luisella Caon). In 2000, I set up an electronic journal called Historical Sociolinguistics and Sociohistorical Linguistics, which is unique in its kind and which is now in its sixth year.

I recently received a big grant from the Dutch national research council, which has enabled me to set up the project The Codifiers and the English Language, which is supported by this weblog.

Anita Auer

Anita Auer joined the English Department at the University of Leiden in August 2005 as a Postdoc/Junior Lecturer. Her research interests can be summarised as language change, (socio-)historical linguistics, corpus linguistics, stylistics, dialectology, the interface between manuscript and print, prescriptivism and comparative standardology. Within "The Codifiers and the English Language", she researches the influence of normative grammarians.

I have so far published an article with the title “The treatment of the subjunctive in eighteenth-century grammars of English” in Paradigm 2/8, 3-18. An article titled “Eighteenth-century prescriptivism in English – a re-evaluation of its effects on actual language usage”, which I co-authored with Victorina González-Díaz (Liverpool), is due to appear in Multilingua. The article “Precept and Practice: The Influence of Prescriptivism on the English Subjunctive”, which will appear in the Proceedings of the ICEHL 13, 2004, is currently being prepared for press.

Karlijn Navest

Karlijn Navest is engaged in studying eighteenth-century grammars for children as a PhD student.
My interest in eighteenth-century grammarians was aroused during a special course I took in the final stages of my studies, called “Grammars and Grammarians in the Eighteenth Century” (tutor: I.M. Tieken-Boon van Ostade). My final paper for this course dealt with the grammarian Lady Ellenor Fenn (1744–1813), whose grammatical works were specifically aimed at a young audience and who developed interesting pedagogical ideas in teaching children the rudiments of English grammar.

While writing my MA thesis “Epistolary formulas in Queeney Thrale’s letters” (2003), I gradually discovered my interest in doing research. For the last three years I have been collecting the in and out-letters of Queeney Thrale (1764–1857), Henry and Hester Thrale’s eldest daughter. My interest in eighteenth-century letters and art led me to write an article on Sir Joshua Reynolds’s use of yours affectionately/yours sincerely (

As a research assistant at the English Department of the University of Leiden, I was engaged in studying the differences between the first three editions of Robert Lowth’s A Short Introduction to English Grammar. I also wrote an article titled “The unidentified hands: annotating Lowth’s Short Introduction to English Grammar”, which is about to be submitted, and I wrote the entry on Lowth for the Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics 2nd Edition.

Froukje Henstra

PhD student Froukje Henstra is conducting a case study of the language of Horace Walpole and his social network.

In the VICI-Project I am conducting a case study of the language of Horace Walpole and his social network, amongst other things through studying their correspondence. During my studies at the English department I took a course on socio-historical linguistics “Women in the Vanguard of Linguistic Change” (tutor dr. I.M. Tieken Boon-van Ostade) for which I wrote an essay on the language of Horace Walpole and some of his female correspondents. I discovered that I really enjoyed researching and writing while working on this and other research essays.

My MA thesis, “A Family Affair, Social Network Analysis and the Language of the Walpoles” (2006, unpublished) was a pilot study of the social network of Horace Walpole in the form of a network strength analysis of a cluster of network members, namely the Walpole family. I am currently working with the findings from this pilot study, especially concerning methodology, and I hope to expand on and corroborate them through analysis of linguistic data from the correspondence of the network members.

Before my PhD appointment I had already worked as a student-assistant at the English department, teaching “Language Lab” courses on pronunciation and fluency. My research interests besides socio-historical linguistics and the Eighteenth century are (English) historical linguistics in general, (historical) phonology, language variation and dialectology, Old Frisian and book and publishing studies.