Linguistic errors and the Renaissance

The linguistic error was invented during the Renaissance. This will be one of the topics of a paper by the Dutch linguist Joop van der Horst on Saturday, at a public symposium organised by the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics.

Linguistic correctness was not an issue, according to van der Horst, until the language was codified into grammars, dictionaries and spelling guides. In the Netherlands, this happened earlier than in the UK, when the linguistic error did not become an issue until Dryden started mordernising Shakespeare’s language. He also started to revise his own work in order to try and get rid of preposition stranding.

Van der Horst doesn’t mention the usage guide, perhaps because in The Netherlands it does not have a status comparable to English speaking countries.

Van der Horst, moreover, notes that we have come to the end of the standard language. English, he believes, is a good example of this process, given the fact that, with Australian, Australian, Caribian and many other Englishes, there is no longer a single variety of standard English. What would go against his argument is the fact that these varieties are now considered standard languages in their own right, and even have their own usage guides to enforce that standard.

(Thanks to Liesbeth Koenen for her brief interview with Joop van der Horst in yesterday’s NRC Handelsblad.)

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