Why English? The cultural foundation
'I have undertaken to write a grammar of English', says John Wallis in the preface to his Grammar of the English language, 'because there is clearly a great demand for it from foreigners, who want to be able to understand the various important works which are written in our tongue.' And he goes on: 'all kinds of literature are widely available in English editions, and, without boasting, it can be said that there is scarcely any worthwhile body of knowledge which has not been recorded today, adequately at least, in the English language'.1
This is a familiar-sounding argument to twenty-first-century ears; but these bold words are not from a modern author. John Wallis was writing in England in 1765. Moreover, the words are a translation. Wallis wrote his book in Latin, which was still being widely used as a scholarly lingua franca during the eighteenth century. But he could clearly see how the situation was changing – and had already greatly changed since the time of Shakespeare.
A few generations earlier, Richard Mulcaster, the headmaster of Merchant Taylors' School, had been one of the strongest supporters of the English language, avowing in 1582: 'I love Rome, but London better. I favour Italy, but England more. I honour the Latin, but I worship the English.'2 However, Mulcaster was____________________