Introduction to Late Modern English

Introduction to Late Modern English

Introduction to Late Modern English

Introduction to Late Modern English

Synopsis

For decades it has been commonly believed that the English language has remained fairly static since the beginning of the eighteenth century, but recent research shows that this is far from true. An Introduction to Late Modern English focuses on the tail end of the standardization process (codification and prescription), during which such important social changes as the Industrial Revolution shaped the language. Late Modern English currently generates a lot of scholarly attention, mainly due to new developments in sociohistorical linguistics and corpus linguistics. By drawing on this research, Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade offers a fuller account of the language than previously possible. Her volume is designed for students and beginning scholars and is grounded in recent research in which sociolinguistic models are applied to earlier stages of the language (1700-1900). It focuses on people as speakers and writers of English, and it provides research questions aimed at acquiring skills at working with such electronic research tools as Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO), the Oxford English Dictionary, and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. The book also references electronically available texts and databases such as Martha Ballard's Diary, the Proceedings of the Old Bailey, and Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management.

Excerpt

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries have been characterised as the ‘Age of Prose’ (Gordon 1966: 133), the ‘great age of the personal letter’ (Anderson and Ehrenpreis 1966: 269) and ‘the golden age of letter writing’ (Arnaud 1998: 125). At the same time, it is traditionally assumed that little of linguistic interest happened during the period (Rydén [1984] 1998: 223). With the rise of new genres of writing, however, such as the novel, the cookery book and the newspaper, as well as the increasing numbers of private letters that were produced, it seems unlikely that the language was not affected as a result. Throughout much of the eighteenth century, the language of Joseph Addison (1672–1719), as found in The Tatler (1709–11) and The Spectator (1711–12), formed a model of correctness for people in his immediate social circle (Wright 1994) but also well beyond. Even the language of James Boswell (1740–95) is in some respects still more similar to that of Addison than to that of his admired Dr Johnson (1709–84), whose biography he published in 1791. Later in the century, Johnson’s periodical The Rambler, published between 1750 and 1752, became a source of influence on people like the novelist Fanny Burney (1752–1840), who in her early years ‘formed the nucleus of “a bookish little coterie” that met every week to read current works like the Ramblers (Hemlow 1958: 8). I will discuss in Chapter 6 how Johnson’s influence on her writing was not always considered very favourably.

Not only the language of important periodicals but also that of individual people served as models to people from the period. ‘Saving every farthing [he had] been able to scrape together since Christmas last’ (Austin 1991: 77), William Clift (1775–1849), in his attempt to educate himself, bought the novels of Fielding, Goldsmith, Smollett, Sterne and Swift. When he wrote this to his sister in 1793, Clift had been in London for about a year, having left his native Bodmin in Cornwall to take up . . .

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