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Jonathan Swift


Swift s reasons: English would not be regarded as barbarous anymore (compared to Latin) ... Ascertaining the English Tongue', Jonathan Swift, 1712, London ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift
  • And the idea for an English language academy

  • November 30th 1667 in Dublin, Ireland
  • 19. October 1745 in Dublin, Ireland
  • 1682 entered the University of Dublin and later
    the University of Oxford
  • 1695 became a priest of the Anglican Church
  • A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and
    Ascertaining the English Tongue" (1712)
  • Gulliver's Travels (1726)
  • A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of
    poor People in Ireland from being a Burden to
    their Parents or Country, and for making them
    beneficial to the Public (1729)

The Spirit of his Time
  • Characteristics of the 18th century philosophy
  • strong sense of order and regulation
  • the desire for system and regularity
  • Language
  • Latin was seen as the role model language
  • The grammar of the English language became
  • an individual field of study
  • ? it was the desire of the 18th century to give
    the English language a polished, rational and
    permanent form.

His Vision
  • I see no absolute necessity why any language
    should be perpetually changing
  • and if it were once refined to a certain
    standard, perhaps there might be ways found out
    to fix it forever or at least till we are
    invaded and made a conquest by some other state

His Vision
  • Remedying what he named the defects of the
    vulgar language
  • - too many monosyllables
  • ? clippings mob (mobile)
  • - verb endings clippd
  • - newly coined words (fashion words)
  • The fixing and ascertaining of the English
    language after the cleansing process was

Ascertain? Why?
  • Swifts reasons
  • English would not be regarded as barbarous
    anymore (compared to Latin)
  • Fear of losing his status of immortality as a
  • How then shall any manbe able to undertake such
    work with spirit and cheerfulness, when he
    considers that he will be read with pleasure but
    a very few years and in an age or two shall
    hardly be understood without an
    interpreter?...This is like employing an
    excellent statuary to work upon mouldering

Ascertain? How?
  • Put the cleansed language into laws.
  • Language after that may be extended but not under
    change of what had previously been named valid.

newly added words, ascertained
newly added words, ascertained
ascertained state of language to begin with
this part of the language can not
alter, affect or change this part of the
language in any which way
Ascertain? Who?
  • Compilation of the academy
  • - a free judicious choice should be made of
    such persons, as are generally allowed to be
    best qualified for such a work, without any
    regard to quality, party or posession.
  • Tasks of the academy
  • - Fix the language on rule
  • - Work with the example of the French, to
    avoid their mistakes

Role Models France and Italy
  • Italy Accademia della Crusca founded in 1582
  • Achievements
  • - Dictionary published 1612
  • France Lacadémie Francaise founded in 1635 by
    Cardinal Richelieu
  • Achievements
  • - Dictionary published 1694 (1st ed.)

Examples for successful language ascertainment?
  • Authorised Version of the Bible (1611)
  • Book of Common Prayer (1662)
  • Logical error
  • standard texts vs. standardized language

Supporters and Opponents
  • Earlier Supporters of the idea of an academy
  • - Royal Society/John Dryden 1664
  • - Daniel Defoe 1697
  • Opponent Sir John Oldmixon
  • - against Swift as a person rather than
  • the idea of an academy
  • - more out of political motives

Letter to the Lord High Treasurer
  • 22nd Feb 1712
  • Money (e.g. the expense for a large room, where
    the society should meet.)
  • Royal Support
  • To assure the Treasurers instruction and
    protection for the society

Letter to the Lord High Treasurer
  • There is no example in history of any minister
    who in so short a time hath performed so many
    great things and overcome many great
  • I must be so plain as to tell Your Lordship
    that if You will not take some care to settle our
    languageI cannot promise that Your memory shall
    be preserved above a hundred years further than
    by imperfect transition.
  • However, I must venture to affirm, that if
    Genius and Learning be not encouraged under Your
    Lordships administration, You are the most
    inexcusable person alive.

Successor not!
  • Measures for the foundation of an academy had
    already been taken by the Lord High Treasurer
  • Mainly due to Queen Annes death (1714) the
    academy never came to be
  • Further attempts of refining the language were
    tried directly through the public

  • A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and
  • Ascertaining the English Tongue, Jonathan
    Swift, 1712, London
  • A.C. Baugh/ T. Cable The Appeal to Authority
    in A History of the English Language, 3rd ed.
    1983, London u.a., Rutledge Kegan Paul
  • http//
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