Grammar Wars: Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century England
Contribution to a Book
The Handbook of World Englishes
Cecil L. Nelson, Zoya G. Proshina, Daniel R. Davis
This chapter describes several major battles in the cultural wars. The first battle regards the status of English vis-a-vis Latin. Grammarians debated how successfully Latin models could be used to teach, legitimate, or standardize English, resulting in long-lived tensions between prescriptive and descriptive grammars. Although seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English grammarians claimed to be correcting errors in grammar and protecting the language from corruption, they were in fact positioning themselves on a cultural battlefield, using linguistics to protest social issues. Since Latin grammars had been available for centuries, textbook authors naturally copied the grammatical categories of Latin grammarians and applied them to English grammar in hopes of bringing consistency to the English language. A variety of schemes for universal language and universal grammar were introduced in the seventeenth century. Promoters of the schemes argued that a common language would also fulfill the perceived need of restoring the human race to pre-Babel times.
English grammarians, Latin grammarians, Universal grammar, Universal language
English and Comparative Literature
Linda C. Mitchell. "Grammar Wars: Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century England" The Handbook of World Englishes (2020): 473-494. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119147282.ch26