This spirited account of the life and times of one of the seminal figures in history of English
grammar dispels the myth of Lowth as the icon of prescriptivism, and establishes him as the most important figure in eighteenth-century English grammar.
Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade reexamines the life and work of Robert Lowth (1710-1787), founder of the grammatical prescriptivism so deprecated by modern linguists and educational theorists. She considers Lowth and his grammar in the context of his times and from the perspective of his aims and readership. She shows that, once the grammar had been accepted for publication, it developed into a publishers' project similar to Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language to which it was
intended as a complement. Professor Tieken draws on contemporary sources, including Lowth's extensive correspondence and unpublished memoir, to explore the social networks, aspirations, beliefs, and reading habits that informed and shaped his grammar and ideas on language. (She notes that Lowth's own
language often falls short of the norms and strictures advanced in his book.) By comparing the grammar - in particular the problems of usage dealt with in its sections on syntax - with guides from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, she redefines Lowth's seminal position in the history of handbooks for correct usage, as well as his role in the establishment of the canon of prescriptivism.
This book will appeal to all those interested in the history of English, the role of language in the Enlightenment, and the long-running debate on linguistic correctness and the merits or otherwise of prescriptive rules in the teaching and use of English.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Number of pages: 360
Weight: 710 g
Dimensions: 241 x 162 x 35 mm
Tieken's great virtue is paying attention to what Lowth actually wrote, both for publication and for private circulation. rather than depending on the caricatures. She has discovered a writer on language who was uncommonly sensitive to different degrees of formality ... The Bishop's Grammar is not the last word on Lowth but, if we're lucky, it will reduce the amount of foolishness attributed to "the eighteenth-century grammarians" by those who haven't
bothered to read them. * Jack Lynch, Times Literary Supplement *
This is a key book for any scholar working on grammatical norms of the English language, and/or the codification and standardisation of English. Tieken-Boon van Ostade provides an alternative account to the standard depiction of Robert Lowth as an initiator of prespective grammar... it would be of great interest to a range of scholars, from those working on the nuances of eighteenth century grammar, to those looking at modern usage, and more broadly at the
codification and standardisation of languages. Tieken-Boon van Ostade presents her argument well throughout the text, and it is clear that she is a stalwart defender of Lowth's name. * Laura Paterson The Linguist *
Tieken-Boon van Ostade has presented a book which is remarkable in many ways ... Apart from enriching the study of grammaticography with this methodological innovation, the author also makes a significant, well-founded contribution to debate about prescriptivism. * Simon Pickl, Language and History *