Prescriptivism and how it all began

In the English language, the rise of prescriptivism is closely linked with the publication of Robert Lowth’s Short Introduction to English Grammar, in 1762.

One of the new features of this grammar was the appearance of detailed criticism of grammatical errors by what were considered to be the “best authors” of the period, in footnotes in the syntax section. It was these footnotes that made the grammar so popular that only a year later, a second, much expanded edition was published.

All this, and much else, is described in The Bishop’s Grammar. Robert Lowth and the Rise of Prescriptivism (OUP, 2011).  An interview with the author appeared earlier this year on Lingua Franca, ABC Radio National (Australia).

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