1642-1660: The Bourgeois Revolution
The 18th century as the Age of Reason
The Ideal of Correctness
Visions of a "Refined" English
The Creation of an "English Academy" discussed

Fears that ignorance and lack of taste might undermine English
Thus there is fighting against the "decline" of English
There is widespread Puritanism, also in usage
Back to Latin - a "classical" language - is advertised

Dictionary Making and Regularization

Dictionary making:

set up an authority, establish order, regularity
establish class-distinctions, raise class-consciousness
determine what is correct by means of logics and prejudice
control vocabulary growth

Examples of regularisation:

contrast simple - continuous form is fixed
establish rules for comparative and superlative forms of adjectives banning double negation
cleaning up past tense forms of verbs
establish a distinction between lie and lay
establish a distinction between between and among
condemning the split infinitive
rejecting whose instead of poss. which
condemning use of prepositions at end of sentence
This leads to the rise of Prescriptive Grammar

Campbell1776: The Nature and Characters of the Use which gives Law to Language


Language is purely a species of fashion (for this holds equally of every tongue) in which, by the general but tacit consent of the people of a particular state or country, certain sounds come to be appropriated to certain things, as their signs, and certain ways of inflecting and combining those sounds come to be established, as denoting the relations which subsist among the things signified. It is not the business of grammar, as some critics seem preposterously to imagine, to give law to the fashions which regulate our speech. On the contrary, from its conformity to these, and from that alone, it derives all its authority and value. For, what is the grammar of any language? It is no other than a collection of general observations methodically digested, and comprising all the modes previously and independently established, by which the significations, derivations, and combinations of words in that language are ascertained. It is of no consequence here to what causes originally these modes or fashions owe their existence--to imitation, to reflection, to affectation, or to caprice; they no sooner obtain and become general, than they are laws of the language, and the grammarian's only business is, to note, collect, and methodise them. Nor does this truth concern only those more comprehensive analogies or rules which affect whole classes of words; such as nouns, verbs, and the other parts of speech; but it concerns every individual word, in the inflecting or the combining of which a particular mode hath prevailed. Every single anomaly, therefore, though departing from the rule assigned to the other words of the same class, and on that account called an exception, stands on the same basis, on which the rules of the tongue are founded, custom having prescribed for it a separate rule.... Only let us rest in these as fixed principles, that use, or the custom of speaking, is the sole original standard of conversation, as far as regards the expression, and the custom of writing is the sole standard of style; that the latter comprehends the former, and something more; that to the tribunal of use, as to the supreme authority, and, consequently, in every grammatical controversy, the last resort, we are entitled to appeal from the laws and the decisions of grammarians; and that this order of subordination ought never, on any account, to be reversed. But if use be here a matter of such consequence, it will be necessary, before advancing any farther, to ascertain precisely what it is. We shall otherwise be in danger, though we agree about the name, of differing widely in the notion that we assign to it. . In what extent then must the word be understood? It is sometimes called general use; yet is it not manifest that the generality of people speak and write very badly ? Nay, is not this a truth that will be even generally acknowledged? It will be so; and this very acknowledgment shows that many terms and idioms may be common, which, nevertheless, have not the general sanction, no, nor even the suffrage of those that use them. The use here spoken of implies not only currency, but vogue. It is properly reputab/e custom.... Agreeably then to this first qualification of the term, we must understand to be comprehended under general use, whaterer modes of speech are authorized as good by the writings of a great number, if not the majority, of celebrated authors.... Another qualification of the term use which deserves our attention is, that it must be national. This I consider in a twofold view, as it stands opposed both to provincial and foreign.... But there will naturally arise here another question, 'Is not use, even good and national use, in the same country, different in different periods ? And if so, to the usage of what period shall we attach ourselves, as the proper rule ? If you say the present, as it may reasonably be expected that you will, the difficulty is not entirely removed. In what extent of signification must we understand the word present ? How far may we safely range in quest of authorities ? or, at what distance backwards from this moment are authors still to be accounted as possessing a legislative voice in language?'... As use, therefore, implies duration, and as even a few years are not sufficient for ascertaining the characters of authors, I have, for the most part, in the following sheets taken my prose examples, neither from living authors, nor from those who wrote before the Revolution; not from the first, because an author's fame is not so firmly established in his lifetime; nor from the last, that there may be no suspicion that the style is superannuated.