The Origins Of Prescriptive Rules In English
Share: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest
Sentence structure
Dec 16th, 2019

The Origins Of Prescriptive Rules In English

This research newspaper traces the origins of prescriptive sentence structure in the English terminology. It shows how the starting of prescriptivism is tightly connected with the changes in the world of the seventeenth and eighteenth decades. The invention of producing press, better cultural flexibility and better education, in a single way or another helped bring British to its standard level. Prescriptive attempts of all these decades were also helpful in codifying the English language and setting up this language as the typical one.


Don't use plagiarized sources. Get Your Custom Essay on
The Origins Of Prescriptive Rules In English
Just from $13/Page
Order Essay

My research paper traces the origins of prescriptive guidelines in the British vocabulary. The thesis is the fact prescriptive rules had become in the nineteenth century. However, after reading above ??? described works, I found out that its origins could be followed before this time. Furthermore, the other assumption is usually that the go up of prescriptivism has been establish into action by changes in viewpoint and current economic climate, and subsequently in modern culture, and we shall try to verify this assumption to be right throughout this essay. Also, a few of the rules common as prescriptive rules will be described.


In this advantages we will establish what prescriptive guidelines are, and point out its counterpart – decriptivism (contract). These terms are being used in linguistics and both have (not only prescriptive and descriptive guidelines, but also prescriptive and descriptive grammars) serious supporters, for instance R. A. Lafferty and David Foster Wallace, respectively.

In linguistics, prescription can send both to the codification and the enforcement of rules governing the utilization of a particular language. These rules can cover such subject areas as expectations for spelling and grammar or syntax, or rules regarding what is regarded socially or politically correct. Prescription includes the mechanisms for creating and retaining an interregional vocabulary or a standardized spelling system. It can also include declarations of what particular groups consider to be good flavour. If that flavor is conventional, prescription may be repellent to terminology change. If it’s radical, prescription may be productive of neologisms. Prescription can likewise incorporate advice for effective words usage.

As already mentioned, prescriptivism has its counterpart – descriptivism. Descriptive methods monitor and record how dialect is used used, which is the basis of all linguistic research. scholarly descriptive work is usually predicated on words or corpus research, or on field studies. However, the term “description” includes each individual’s observations of their own language consumption. Descriptive linguistics eschews value judgments and makes no tips. In a nutshell, descriptive linguists do not feel that something can be considered wrong in terms usage.

These approaches to language are seen by many as opposites because one declares what dialect should be like, while the other states how dialect really functions in every day society. We are able to also declare that they are simply complementary, because popular debates around dialect issues revolve around the question how to balance them.


As mentioned above, my original thesis was that prescriptivism first made an appearance in the nineteenth century. I founded this thesis on the actual fact that the nineteenth century, or even more precisely the Victorian period, was enough time of great cultural change, which resulted in greater social freedom. My desire for this period plus some prior essays I published about the mentioned period got led me to take this stand. Studies conducted by Dr. Shadya A. N. Cole (The Climb of Prescriptivism) and Laura Wright (The introduction of Standard British), made me think in any other case.

Different events, historical and interpersonal, contributed to the rise of prescriptivism, which means that prescriptivism didn’t develop outside modern culture. Cole areas that “most prescriptive guidelines were made between 1650 and 1800” (Cole 2003:119). This includes a big time span ??? to consider, but this was a time that saw some of the most interesting changes happen. In that time frame, the UK observed change in the political arena. The utter monarchy was changed into constitutional monarchy. This is the result and a sign of the growing electric power of the middle class. Power of the middle class could best be seen in the English Civil Conflict (1642-1651), also known as the Puritan Trend, and by the establishment of the Commonwealth. One of the things that also possessed a significant effect on the dawn of prescriptivism was the growth of the colonies, which provided the Kingdom with great amounts of money and resources necessary for industry, and also made the center course more affluent. All of these events led to social mobility, that was something that “had not been seen before” (Cole 2003: 119).

The new growing middle-class was shaped and it strived for communal betterment. This betterment, along with good etiquette, included vocabulary. Searching for such modes of action, which characterized the nobility, the middle class was required to look outside their own traditions.

It might be recommended to mention here William Caxton and the entire year 1476. This is the starting place of the English printing press. It provides importance since it opened the doorways to vernacular works, that have been designed for the middle category and nobility, and also offers a precise starting for the tracing of orthographic reform during the overdue fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth generations. One of the most crucial works of this time was the printing of the Bible into the vernacular language which, consequently, exposed the gates to preaching in the vernacular.

Printing press, without any question, helped to diffuse knowledge considerably faster and in all levels of the society. At this time all types of printed materials became available, from papers, journals, pamphlets, to catalogs. Along with this rose the number of literate people.

As commercial middle-class came into prominence, it spread literate education through wider circles of population and prompted the “study of modern overseas languages” (Cole 2003: 121). The separation of the Anglican Church from the Church of Rome in 1533-34 made significant changes in the characteristics of the universities. Before, universities had been the professional classes of the clergy, however now education expended into the sciences and humanities. Latin and Greek were still the languages needed to be learnt, but demand for the English language to be educated was also growing.

The demand for learning English marks a turning point. Before that time, the upper-classes insisted on the children being fluent in Greek and Latin along with France. On the other hand, with the go up of the middle-class the tide began to turn because British was getting appraisal and “education was targeted at producing audio speakers of correct English” (Cole 2003: 121).

Again, this demand can be followed to the changes in the world. As the middle-class grew, two sub-classes started to emerge. Those were the more genteel merchant course and the less genteel trading class. The decisive element in their parting was just how they spoke and composed. Thus, the teaching of the British language became essential for the approval into genteel population. Philosophy and the current way of thinking significantly impacted linguistic research. The influential new stream in beliefs was rationalism that was manifested in the inclination to try and negotiate disputes by using logic and it became dominant in the dialect usage.

English language began to gain prominence. Variants, that acquired arisen through years were no longer being viewed with as great tolerance as before. Latin and Greek still taken a great importance. They were the languages which English sentence structure was modeled. However, Latin had more influence over English than another terminology. Latin conventions and examples were carried over into English to make it more appealing. Among the reasons for this was that Latin sentence structure was viewed as an appropriate pattern “upon which to model an English grammar” (Cole 2003: 119). The early catalogs written in English were books for the training of a foreign language or books that provided a basis for the study of Latin. Now that catalogs were being written for the instructions of British, the authors essentially applied the same design as they do for Latin. Linguists were wanting to force English into a linguistic mold that was no longer suitable for a full time income language. They wanted to have the same logic, clarity and make in British as that they had when these were using Latin. United kingdom writers were concerned that British would bring chaos and instability, and would demolish the ease of communication afforded by the secure classical language. Among the early proponents of the call for the authorative regularization of English was John Dryden. Eventually, this regularization led to the common popularity of prescriptive prospect on the language and the rules of “correctness”. From what was said before about the new middle-class, we can conclude that the acceptance of the authoritarian movement was due to the popular demand of the center class for guidance on how to work with British properly. Elizabeth Bohnert claims that the need for the proper usage of English also affected conversation habits. What she argues is that “the speech patterns of the educated and aristocratic in the capital were naturally considered to be superior throughout the 16th and 17th ages” (Bohnert 2008: 1). It was not before age of prescriptivism that one accents started to be looked at faulty.

As the middle-class increased in wealth, they desired to have the education and the manners of the ruling course. Their basic assumption was that variant in terms was undesired and printers catered to the need of the prosperous by producing various handbooks. Since materials possessions no longer carried the stigma of school, the manner of speaking, pronunciation and grammar became useful to make distinctions among classes. In the late 18th century a few freelance writers from diverse linguistic backgrounds needed it upon themselves to distinguish between proper and poor pronunciation, which was ways to instruct the provincials how to imitate the talk of Londoners.

Latin affect eventually became more widespread, which lowered the independence and personality of English. British style and beauty reflected those of classical Latin. If there have been differences found between the two languages, British was always known as faulty, because Latin was after all a classical words. What Latin offered was the distinct rules that authors could “appeal to and rely on” (Cole 2003: 121). English was not reliable since it had no grammar, or at least that was the normal assumption. Some authors, when writing in English, had to convert their thoughts or ideas first into Latin in order that they could see what the simplest way of transforming them into English was. Borrowing of Latin words greatly enriched English vocabulary, even though this is not at all something new. However, there were those who thought that such words were redundant. This resulted in the famous inkhorn controversy. This controversy arrived at that time when English was replacing Latin as the main language of research and learning in Great britain. Inkhorns were new words which were being introduced in to the language by authors, often self-consciously borrowing from Traditional literature. Critics deemed these words as ineffective as they required knowledge of Latin or Greek to be understood. They also contended that there were words with equivalent so this means already in British. Many of these so-called inkhorn conditions, such as dismiss, celebrate, encyclopedia, or ingenious remained in the words and are nowadays popular. We should stress here that right now Latin and Greek words are available in formal and methodical writing, but as Cole said “those are polysyllabic words” (Cole 2003: 122).

As British gained prominence, a fresh fear emerged among discovered people. They thought that making English more linguistically rich would lead to “ineloquent, imprecise, and ambiguous communication” (Cole 2003: 123). The assumption was that British had no codified sentence structure, which made learned people uneasy, but at the same time gave them a new goal to attain – to identify English by a set of rules. These guidelines, for illustration about syntax and world choice, would be agreed upon by all. However, use differed very greatly because every writer possessed his own specific judgment on what was correct and what was not. In spite of their dissimilarities, linguists did agree on one fact, that was that English possessed a prior time when it was “pure”. It had been thought that former pure talk about could be restored. However, this considered become more difficult because every writer acquired his own period which he considered pure. Some considered Chaucer’s writing as ideal, some Shakespeare’s or Swift’s.

In the 15th century there was an attempt to establish an British Academy, which would package with linguistic problems. This academy would be modeled on the French academy. The recommendation for establishing such an institution was made by John Barret in the preface of his dictionary. The best proponent of this idea was Jonathan Swift. He claimed that language use could and really should be governed by “an arbitrary authoritarian body” (Cole 2003: 125). Similarly, this proposal helped bring objections. Some, like John Oldmixon (a poet), though that this academy would impose its ideas of the dialect usage on others. Many contemporaries thought the same and the interest slowly waned. Nonetheless, the desire for the words to be ascertained, processed and fixed remained a favorite sentiment. Now, the idea of private dictionaries came to be popular. The idea was to make a dictionary that would include all what of English and a sentence structure that would feature the proper utilization of such words.

The two most important works were created in the next area of the 18th century: those were Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the British Terms (1755) and Robert Lowth’s Short Introduction to English Grammar (1762). Decisions in what to put in a dictionary and what to exclude were based on a lexicographer’s ideology. And every lexicographer has received/had one.

One thing that straight comes to brain while going right through these linguistic origins is that most of the writers sought ways to petrify a vocabulary in a certain time. The vast majority of them were frightened that their works would not be read by future generations because they might not understand how. They cannot grasp the actual fact that it is quite normal for a dialect to improve through time and in touch with other dialects.

There were endeavors for British syntax to be described. The handbooks were the work of individuals who presumed that reforms were necessary and they were people to make them. Most of the “reformers” acquired no particular training or qualifications other than the belief that they had the right do declare what was right and wrong about the British language. Some of them were associates of the clergy and possessed understanding of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Because these were all classically trained, they pressured British into a classical mold. However, there have been exceptions, like Joseph Priestley’s The Rudiments of English Sentence structure. In it Priestley regarded the usage of reputable authors as the standard for linguistic propriety. The eighteenth-century grammarians wanted to prove that British was capable of being defined systematically. They didn’t allow any modifications in usage and were totally against any uncertainty. Many of them established their pronouncements after their personal personal preferences. Whenever Latin could not settle any disputed details in the sentence structure, they would consider the authority of usage. It is safe to state that they were part prescriptive and part descriptive.

By the 18th century, most grammarians decided that usage should be the factor governing correctness in language. However, they cannot agree whose consumption should be standard. One that seems to stick out is George Campbell. He had written Viewpoint of Rhetoric in 1776, and in it he defined British as reputable, nationwide and present. He then explains what he means by these explanations. National means that words is neither rural nor overseas (he means Latin or French). Present use means not the usage of the moment, but it’s the use of the recent past, which has stood the test of time. Reputable means the consumption of the greatest writers.

Some of the very most notorious prescriptive guidelines originated from this period. Types of they are the utilization of pronouns, “It really is I” or “It really is me” (the right form is “It is I” because verb to be always has a nominative circumstance after it). Other rules will be the difference between verbs lay and lay. Rest is a verb that does not require an thing, whereas place requires an subject. Users were discouraged from using the modal verbs shall and can interchangeably. Shall should be used only with first person singular and first person plural, and can with second and third persons. The eighteenth century is responsible for “the final stamp of disapproval on multiple or double negatives” (Cole 2003: 138). Lowth explicitly explained the rule that two negatives are equal to an affirmative (We don’t require no education). Another rule was that of finishing a sentence with a preposition. It was John Dryden, the 17th-century poet and dramatist, who first promulgated the doctrine that a preposition may well not be used at the end a word. Grammarians in the 18th century processed the doctrine, and the rule has since become one of the very most venerated maxims of schoolroom sentence structure. But sentences finishing with prepositions are available in the works of almost all of the great writers because the Renaissance. Actually, British syntax not only allows but sometimes even requires final keeping the preposition, just as We have much to be thankful for or That is determined by what you believe in. Work to rewrite such sentences to place the preposition somewhere else can have comical results, as Winston Churchill exhibited when he objected to the doctrine by saying “This is the sort of English up with that i cannot put. “

Split infinitives have been condemned as ungrammatical for nearly 200 years, but it is hard to see “what exactly is wrong with saying to boldly go” (The North american Heritage Book of English Usage. ). Actually, the split infinitive is distinguished both by its amount of use and the greatness of its users. People have been splitting infinitives since the 14th century, and some of these include John Donne, Daniel Defoe, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Johnson, William Wordsworth, Abraham Lincoln, George Eliot and Henry James. The sole rationale for condemning the development is based on a bogus analogy with Latin. The idea is that because the Latin infinitive is a single word, the British infinitive should be treated as though it were a single unit. But British is not Latin, and people split infinitives at all times without presenting it a thought.

I have previously stated that prescriptivism also impacted the way people spoke. With the late 19th century prescriptivism acquired transformed into an effort to expunge any hint of highlight that would betray regional difference, including that of London. This created a world of linguistic anxiety. During this time period the term “Cockney” transformed in to the most condemning term for incorrect speech in the 19th century. It arrived to denote somebody who is “vulgar” and “ignorant”. The complete 19th century London was riddled with “Cockneyism”. Prescriptivists detailed the Cockneys as the best culprits of dialect degeneration, and a threat to all or any gentility and grace. Today, many linguists concur that this were generally scare tactics targeted at the middle-classes, whose cultural insecurities made them a ready market for prescriptive coercion. Some such guidelines governing pronunciation were /h/ shedding (poor /h / usage was associated with the uneducated and illiterate, as proper utilization required a knowledge of where h was made in spelling), /h/ insertion (came into being as the hypercorrection of /h/ dropping), or post-vocalic /r/.

The spate of literature, magazines and newspapers that began streaming to the recently developed and fast growing school of literate readers accelerated stabilization and by the start of the 20th century the procedure of standardization of British was stabile. The 20th century gave many manuals written by creators of sufficient scholarship or grant to make those manuals authoritative. One particular example is The King’s British (1906) by the Fowler brothers which was followed by Modern English Utilization (1926).


The most significant consequence of prescriptive sentence structure was that individuals could no more claim that English had no guidelines. Moreover, the distinction between your standard and non-standard use was made apparent. Standard utilization is the main one we still learn in classes today. Prescriptive grammarians set a number of disputed usages in vocabulary, even though they started off very indecisive on what the correct form was. Grammarians of this period emphasized guidelines that remain respectable today. Guidelines like the use of pronouns I and me, two times negation, or splitting the infinitive. Following the technology of the printing press, English was advertised as a typical language plus some makes an attempt at assigning formal set ups to the language began to appear.

Prescriptive guidelines have their ultimate justification in the community’s need to make their vocabulary meaningful. By making it meaningful, linguists tried out to mirror British on the dialects they thought were the most appropriate. They thought that traditional languages were the best option. In the end this resulted in some outrageous rules. The guideline against break up infinitives, for instance, is a consequence of the peculiar reality English sentence structure is modeled on Latin even though Latin is a man-made language and British can be an analytic dialect. Nevertheless, the linguist of the seventeenth and eighteenth hundreds of years helped lead British into a codified and standard position by showing that it acquired grammar and rules that need to be obeyed.

Recommended stories