Craik, for example, asserted: Taking a particular language to mean what has always borne the same name, or been spoken by the same nation or race, which is the common or conventional understanding of the matter, the English may claim to be older than the majority of the tongues in use throughout Europe. Craik, , vol. Moreover the methodological split made by historians of the language between the internal history of the language and its external history reinforced the concept of an organically developing language.
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The internal history, dealing primarily with syntax and grammar, was the history of an object without historical content since it was often held that the language moved from the synthetic to the analytic state organically and not by dint of historical pressure. The external history of the language dealt with all those features not included under internal history and these were problems such as the importation of foreign words, or questions of good and bad taste with regards to usage and so on.
The two spheres 40 Standard English and the Politics of Language were held to be unrelated: internal history moved progressively towards formalisation and logic, external history towards those areas of meaning that were most easily perceivable as involving social and historical pressures. They afford us a record of representation of the English language in which there is no gap. Skeat, , p. Yet they are nonetheless the same river, developing and increasing in torrential power. The English language and nation may be subjected to historical pressures but essentially internally the genius of both remains everlastingly the same.
In so doing, of course, it engaged with one of the most crucial tasks for any nation: the figuring of the national past in regard to its critical present. Conclusion It has been argued in this chapter that Foucault was correct in analysing the appearance of historicity as the major factor in the shift that took place in linguistic studies as well as other fields , around the turn of the nineteenth century. However, it has also been argued that his account, and other more coventional accounts, would be reductive if applied to Britain. Moreover, it has been argued that the anxieties and concerns that brought about the new discourse were not simple scholarly worries about the state of British intellectual culture but were of more significant import.
Such anxieties were produced at least in part by shifts in the political, economic and cultural discourses of early- and mid-nineteenth-century Britain. However, in so far as British linguistic work was concerned, his claim is inaccurate since British linguists did not pursue language, but a language English.
And the specific forms of 42 Standard English and the Politics of Language their enquiry were influenced by concerns other than the linguistic since language was to be the means to other ends. She kept her hair short and crisp, and wore spectacles. She was dry and sandy with working in the graves of deceased languages. None of your live languages for Miss Blimber. They must be dead — stone dead — and then Miss Blimber dug them up like a ghoul. To exemplify that claim, we shall turn next to an analysis of the texts of one of the most popular and influential of the mid-nineteenth-century linguistic historians, Dean later Archbishop Trench.
History knows no nation whose sacred writings or oral traditions were not to some degree in a language foreign and incomprehensible to the profane. To decipher the mystery of sacred words was the task meant to be carried out by the priestphilologists. In their opinion the nineteenth-century study of language took its place alongside other new discourses that were accredited with the status of science. Against this view, however, two principal points were argued: first, that within western Europe British linguistic study evinced a distinct type of concern with history that marks it off from mainstream continental comparative philology; second, that this British concern with history marks a continuity with previous British linguistic study in that it continues to be concerned with social and rhetorical issues.
In this chapter both lines of argument will be pursued through an examination of the texts of one of the most popular linguists of mid-nineteenth-century Britain, Archbishop Richard Chenevix Trench. For Archbishop Trench in particular, language was not an object of study per se but a medium of study that offered answers to many of the questions posed by contemporary controversies. Language was to be an important component in the study of all three. By the s, however, the new discourse had gained the self-confidence to assert forcefully its independence of both Comparative Philology and the Classics as a new discipline in its own right.
The s had been a period of bitter strife, antagonism and eventual reform and the following decade was to see the deepest of the nineteenth-century depressions —2 inducing general social anxiety that manifested itself in different forms in specific discourses. Such The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus 45 anxiety was expressed in the discourses of medicine and public hygiene especially with regard to the dangers of a cholera outbreak , public order the lingering though largely ineffective appeal of Chartism and the Revolutions , and populist nationalism directed largely against the Irish immigrants fleeing the Famine.
Social unease then was the order of the day in the early and mid s and yet by the end of the decade, and certainly in the s, such anxieties were to become increasingly muted. Burn described the s Burn, saw a significant improvement in the economic state of Britain with a general sense of improvement in living standards and lowering of social tension.
The enormous expansion of the railway system is perhaps the best example of economic and social development as it demonstrated both new spending power and the deep social changes that were produced in the creation of a new sense of the national territory and of the relation of its inhabitants to each other. From —50 over miles of railways were opened in Britain, accompanied by dire warnings of the effects of such unheralded expansion upon the familiar patterns of public and private life Hobsbawm, , p. The belief in the apparently boundless potential of British industry and empire and the social changes it brought about, gave rise both to a sense of security and to a sense of the new problems that were appearing.
Moreover, both the renewed national selfbelief and the awareness of the new problems created a cultural conjuncture that had a clear effect on the direction of the development of language studies. The study of language and the study of theology were not mutually exclusive pursuits in Victorian Britain any more than they had been in the sixteenth century.
In the earlier period the study of language had an important role in political and theological controversies as the 46 Standard English and the Politics of Language vernacular was set against the classical languages in order to demonstrate the independence of the English church and nation, and in the nineteenth century, linguistic, theological and political discourses were again to be entwined.
Donaldson attempted to achieve specific theological objectives. In this point the conclusions of our science are identical with the statements of revelation. We speak here of the effect of theology in establishing the grounds of revelation. Such revelatory unfolding for Donaldson could best be seen in that entity which developed historically: language. The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus 47 The major contribution of Trench was to shift the emphasis in British work towards the study of the English language as a support for theological dogmatism.
The concern with the study of language as a means of gaining access to hidden history was evidently a common concern in the later eighteenth century and throughout the nineteenth century. Herder, for example, after developing his doctrine that the origin of language lay with human beings and their sensuous reaction to the sounds of the world, concluded that verbs rather than nouns were the first words. He continued to argue that it followed from this that: All the old unpolished languages are replete with this origin, and in a philosophical dictionary of the orientals every stem word with its family — rightly placed and soundly evolved — would be a chart of the progress of the human spirit, a history of its development, and a complete dictionary of that kind would be a most remarkable sample of the inventive skill of the human soul.
Herder, , pp. Indeed for some writers language was the most reliable source of historical truths since when historical narratives fell silent, language itself could speak. Donaldson asserted that: It may seem strange that anything so vague and arbitrary as language should survive all other testimonies, and speak with more definiteness, even in its changed and modern state, than all other monuments however grand and durable.
The study of language takes one beyond the narratives of history to a closer examination of the material of the narrative: the words of which it is composed. From this perspective therefore one should rather trust the history in words rather than the historical narratives constructed by words. The words of French etymological stock would stand as intrinsic counter-evidence to the claim. In any case for all such viewpoints language is the key to history: The study of language, therefore, in its wider range may be used as a sure means of ascertaining the stock to which any nation belonged, and of tracing the changes of population and government which it has undergone.
Language like geological phenomena offers proof of historical occurrences that is definite, durable and yet at the same time lies before us every minute, as surely as the ground upon which we walk. The linkage of the study of language and geology became a commonplace as language was consistently compared to an enormous collection of fossils, bones or rock formations.
Ellis, , pt. IV, p. For Donaldson the science of language was: indeed perfectly analogous to Geology; they both present us with a set of deposits in a present state of amalgamation which may however be easily discriminated, and we may by an allowable chain of reasoning in either case deduce from the present the former condition, and determine by what courses and in what manner the superposition or amalgamation has taken place.
At the same time, like geology, comparative philology is a history. It is a record of events in sequence, just like a common history of Greece or Rome. It covers more ground, and it goes over greater space: but this is a question of degree rather than kind. It is a material history. Lathan, , p. Words exhibited history in their existence not in their relational arrangements.
This lent linguists a special significance to their work since it meant that their object of study was the receptacle of the history of the human race. It followed that any particular language such as English was likewise the vehicle for the history of a portion of that race: the English-speaking nation. It was for reasons such as these that language was to be venerated as holding beneath its surface the treasures of history.
The historical theology of language Language became a holy geological site in which to dig, to go beneath its surface in order to discover the historical strata it holds. It was to be explored in order to discover its regular formations and its xenoliths in classical terms its analogies and anomalies since both would be instructive. This doctrine is best exemplified in the theologico-political investigations of Trench since for Trench language was to be dug over in order to make it render its innermost secrets: its hidden moral and political truths.
This stress on a single word is of interest in that it is only the diachronic perspective that is stressed and already in this early work there is a privileging of the paradigmatic associations of a single word over the syntagmatic relations between words, as metaphor attracted more interest than metonym and unit more than narrative. In fact it is generally correct to argue that the largest part of British work on language in the nineteenth century was undertaken along the diachronic paradigmatic and metaphoric axis, as it was later to be formulated by Saussure.
The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus 51 Though it is also true to argue that towards the end of the century there was a fair amount of rather more theoretical and synchronic work undertaken by linguists such as Sweet. Despite this belated theoretical work, however, it is still a valid generalisation to argue that the type of work under discussion here falls under the first of the two branches of philology outlined by Donaldson.
He made precisely such an important distinction when he argued that: Under the name philology we include the two great branches of a scientific enquiry into the principles of language: the theory of the origin and formation of words, which is generally called the philosophy of language; and — the method of language, or, as it is more normally termed, logic or dialectic, which treats of the formation of sentences.
Butcher, , p. For these British linguists the first of these areas was to predominate and the interest was to be in etymology rather than syntax, words rather than sentences, and signs rather than structures. Trench also took language to be a repository of sacred truths and it thus followed that individual words were to be investigated in order to uncover such truths. Trench, , p. Coming from God, and when he fulfills the law and intention of his creation, returning to him again?
We need no more than his language to prove it.
For this theologian language was to be the medium by which the original perfection and consequent debasement of humanity could be proved. The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus 53 Anomalies can suggest as much as analogies, xenoliths can be as instructive as the rocks you expect to find, and sinners can be as interesting as the righteous. For Herder as for Trench: Every family of words is a tangled underbrush around a sensuous central idea, around a central rock, still bearing traces of the impression received by the inventor from this dryad.
Feelings are interwoven into it: what moves is alive; what sounds speaks; and since it sounds for or against you, it is friend or foe: god or goddess, acting from passion as you are.
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Herder, op. Trench, , pp. The point at which word and world link up. Therefore the aim of the etymologist 54 Standard English and the Politics of Language was to return to that origin in order to recover the beginnings of history. Moreover the search is, in effect, the quest for the linguistic state at which truth was transparent in words: the state at which words had their unique meaning by dint of referring to one single object in the world. At such a point, as Trench acknowledges, truth is wholly unproblematic since it is not contextually dependent but a question of simple true or false pictorial use.
That, for writers such as Trench, was the original seal of truth upon language that human history had broken. Before the fall human history did not exist, but once the fall had taken place the history of the pains of labour and labour pains began. For Trench and others that history was recorded in language. Trench was not, however, the first to hold the doctrine of original purity followed by human debasement since the doctrine can be traced in a text as early as the Platonic dialogue Cratylus.
Yes, my dear friend; but then you know that the original names have been long ago buried and disguised by people sticking on and stripping off letters for the sake of euphony, and twisting them and bedizening them in all sorts of ways: and time too may have had a share in the change. This must surely be the addition of someone who cares nothing about the truth, but thinks only of putting the mouth into shape. And the additions are often such that at last no human being can possibly make out the original meaning of the word. According to such a view of language it is clear that human beings debase language and the remedy for such errors is etymology as it permits the possibility of a return to the original and thus true meaning.
Ironically, however, it was in the work of one of the most avowedly anti-theological philosophers of the twentieth century that this problem was most clearly addressed in the modern period. The aim was to produce a language that would be uniaccentual and radically synchronic. However, though the emphases of their accounts and their ultimate aims differed, there is a common methodological purpose to their work in one respect.
They both sought a means to guarantee the status of language as the vehicle of truth and clarity by paring it down to its original Trench or logical Russell constituents. But some Latin writer of the Christian church appropriated the word and image for the setting forth of a higher truth. Pain is punishment, so does the word itself declare no less than the conscience of everyone that is suffering it.
Language: the political unconscious Throughout Europe in the nineteenth century there were significant political developments brought about by the appearance of modern nations that knew themselves and demanded recognition from others for the first time. In these cultural and political shifts language was to play an important role since it was a primary means of creating or bestowing nationhood as it was the ideal medium for signalling inclusion and exclusion.
To put his argument in more ideological terms, language had acted in favour of the organic and natural against the social and historical. The conception that a language reflected the national character was held firmly in this period. Graham, for example, defined The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus 57 a language as: the outward expression of the tendencies, turn of mind, and habits of thought of some one nation, and the best criterion of their intellect and feelings.
If this explanation be admitted, it will naturally follow that the connection between a people and their language is so close, that the one may be judged of by the other; and that the language is a lasting monument of the nature and character of the people. Graham, , p. Marsh noted: It is evident therefore that unity of speech is essential to the unity of a people.
Community of language is a stronger bond than identity of religion or government, and contemporaneous nations of one speech, however formally separated by differences of creed or of political organisation, are essentially one in culture, one in tendency, one in influence. Marsh, , p. However, what is important for us is not that such beliefs were repetitious but that it was deemed necessary to repeat them with reference to the English language. This is in fact rather puzzling since the English were not a people whose nationhood was forged in the nineteenth century, and not a people eager to establish their independence from a foreign imperial power.
The historical situation was just the opposite in fact. So then why were these claims being made? The answer lies in the important point that the construction of a national identity is not settled at one point and then fixed for ever as most of the nineteenth-century commentators would have argued , but a constant process of change and development determined among other things by the political purposes that such constructions were to serve.
In this sense nationality is never achieved in the French sense of achever, to complete or finish , but always in the process of being forged. And it is this that explains the processive repetition of claims for the unity of language and nation in Britain during this period.
Trench was a follower of the doctrine that a language has within itself the history of a nation. In precisely the same way that God impressed morality upon words, the nation impresses its history upon its language, and once viewed in this light the study of the English language became crucially important since it was viewed as a sacred repository for the national truths of history. The reason for such advocacy is that the English language is the site of national history and therefore the perfect pedagogical tool: We could scarcely have a lesson on the growth of our English tongue, we could scarcely follow upon one of its significant words, without having unawares a lesson in English history as well, without not merely falling upon some curious fact illustrative of our national life, but learning also how the great heart which is beating at the centre of that life, was gradually being shaped and moulded.
As with the nation itself, the language is subject not to individual but to collective direction since it is the vessel of all the past experiences of those who comprise the nation. It follows therefore that it is also the vessel for all future experience. For the conservative Burke, society: ought not to be considered as nothing better than a partnership agreement in a trade of pepper and coffee, callico and tobacco, or some such other low concern, to be taken up for a little temporary The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus 59 interest, and to be dissolved by the fancy of the parties. It is to be looked upon with other reverence; because it is not a partnership in things subservient only to the gross animal existence of a temporary and perishable nature.
Burke, , pp. And it is interesting since these were precisely the qualities possessed by language for Trench. It was on these grounds that both he and other writers cited the English language as that force which created a non-material, nonperishable ideological bond between all English citizens. One example of such thinking is given by F. It is important to stress that once viewed in this light the English language was accorded a crucial role in cultural and political debate.
Whenever political and cultural crisis threatened the English language was offered as evidence of the underlying or unconscious unity that held all together despite superficial differences. The more the English nation extended the boundaries of its empire, the more the English language was praised as a superior language and subjected to extensive study. And, as a corollary, the more the unified English people were praised as all sharing in this sense of superiority. That such a sense of confidence and superiority in the English language was widespread is demonstrated in that it was even promulgated by some who were not English.
English was not merely to be the language of the conquerors since it too was to have conquests and like the other institutions exported with the imperialists the language was to be an instrument for civilising wild and barbarous peoples. Guest continued to praise the imperial language: That language, too, is rapidly becoming the great medium of civilisation, the language of law and literature to the Hindoo, of commerce to the African, of religion to the scattered islands of the Pacific. The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus 61 The range of its influence, even at the present day, is greater than ever was that of the Greek, the Latin, or the Arabic; and the circle widens daily.
I refer, of course, to the commanding political influence, the widespread territory, and the commercial importance of the two great mother countries whose vernacular it is. For this writer these were the reasons that: English is emphatically the language of commerce, of civilisation, of social and religious freedom, of progressive intelligence, and of an active catholic philanthropy; and beyond any tongue ever used by man, it is of right the cosmopolite speech.
Higginson, in what was to become something of commonplace, assigned specific characteristics to particular languages and thus Greek and Latin were the languages of oratory, French the language of conversation, Italian the language of song, and German the language of metaphysics and theology. However: For all the various and combined purposes of a language … for all the mixed uses of speech between man and man, and from man in aspiration to the one above him, we sincerely believe that there is not, nor ever was, a language comparable to the English. The strength, sweetness and flexibility of the tongue [recommend it].
Higginson, , p. Just as the admixture of races had created a noble people so the mixture of languages had created a noble language fit for such a people and thus the Rev. Like the empire itself the language subjugated all other contenders to its own rule and power since as far as claims for the status of a world language went in the competition of languages, there simply was none to compete with English. An article by T. This led the same writer to view the different peoples of the world as the sites of experimentation to be conducted by linguistic scientists: It will be a splendid and novel experiment in modern society, if a language becomes so predominant over all others as to reduce them in comparison to the proportion of provincial dialects.
Meiklejohn, , p. Earle, , p. Pride in the language was accompanied by pride in the nation and both were set against the anxieties and disturbances of equipoise that were produced by the wars of the s. The superiority of the English language was not only used to delineate the superiority of its speakers in relation to other national groups but was also to be used in cultural and political debates within Britain to argue for social unity. The language and its history were to be media for the self-images of Victorian society in that both the language and Victorian society itself were praised as liberal, unified and morally virtuous.
Trench issued such an appeal for the recognition of a parallelism between liberal institutions and a liberal language. Not all linguists, however, agreed with this estimation of the entry of foreign words into the language since for 64 Standard English and the Politics of Language some writers such words were a sign of degeneration. In fact this type of rhetorical ploy was a repetition of claims heard at the end of the eighteenth century.
The nineteenth-century appraisal of the language in such terms is perhaps best summed up by Meiklejohn: The English language, like the English people, is always ready to offer hospitality to all peaceful foreigners — words or human beings — that will land and settle within her coasts. And the tendency at the present time is not only to give a hearty welcome to newcomers from other lands, but to call back old words and old phrases that had been allowed to drop out of existence. It will bear to future ages the sentiments of a free, generous and singularly energetic race of men.
It carries with it the cherished and sanctified institutions of its native soil. Harrison, , p. Murray, , p. For Trench England and its institutions were almost Utopian: Peace, Freedom, Happiness, have loved to wait On the fair islands, fenced by circling seas; And ever of such favoured spots as these Have the wise dreamers dreamed, who would create That perfect model of a happy state, Which the world never saw.
Dreams are they all, which yet have helped to make That underneath fair polities we dwell, Though marred in part by envy, faction, hate — Dreams which are dear, dear England, for thy sake, Who art indeed that sea-girt citadel And nearest image of that perfect state. The crisis of the s and early s was not to be forgotten easily and despite the easing of social tension within Britain in the s there was still a deep awareness of the divided nation. It was such division that the discourses constructed around the English language attempted to help heal as constant appeals were made to the socially unifying character of the language both nationally and intra-nationally.
Thus, the grammar of the language might be difficult to understand and eccentric in its relation to the universal laws of the German philologists, but the language, at least for one commentator of the time: is like the English constitution … and perhaps also the English Church, full of inconsistencies and anomalies, yet flourishing in defiance of theory.
It is like the English nation, the most oddly governed in the world, but withal the most loyal, orderly, and free. Swayne, , p. The savagery of the campaign combined with the losses of the Crimean War reported for the first time by professional war-correspondents to produce significant unrest in British society and it was to that unrest that Trench directed his linguistic studies.
His appeal for the recognition of the parallel strengths of the nation and language became more evidently an appeal for social unity and gained particular intensity in English Past and Present precisely because it was written during that time of national crisis provoked by the Crimean War. The war itself became a force that mobilised attempts at social unification since: It is one of the compensations, indeed the greatest of all, for the wastefulness, the woe, the cruel losses of war, that it causes a people The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus 67 to know itself as a people; and leads each one to esteem and prize most that which he has in common with his countrymen, and not now any longer these things which separate and divide him from them.
Identity rather than difference was to be the order of the day, which meant that the formative stress was to be laid upon Englishness rather than economic and cultural status. It was important that the sense of unity engendered by the crisis should be maintained and again one of the ways of ensuring that was to encourage pride in the language. In fact the linking of language and nation and its social effect had often been pursued in British linguistic study. Renan, , vol. For example one of the hundreds of nineteenth-century orthographic reformers argued that imperialist expansion had brought about the need for new types of linguistic research.
He argued in particular that it had made the introduction of spelling reform imperative since: The circumstances of the time seemed to require a more perfect alphabet. Military expeditions and the yearly increasing cycle of missionary or commercial enterprise, have brought us into contact with nations with whom it must alike be our interest and our duty to cultivate the most intimate relations. The defects of our present alphabet oppose very serious obstacles to the acquisition of a new language, and thereby increase the difficulties which stand in the way of a more cordial intercourse between ourselves and distant races.
We cannot tell how far and how long this remarkable intervention of the Western nations in Eastern affairs may lead us; and I know, from my Indian experience, that a knowledge of the native languages is an indispensable preliminary to understanding and taking an interest in native races, as well as to acquiring their good will and gaining influence over them. Without it, officers charged with important public affairs, feeling themselves at the mercy of a class of interpreters whose moral character is often of a very questionable kind, live in a state of chronic irritation with the natives, which is extremely adverse both to the satisfactory transaction of business, and to the still more important object of giving to the people of the country a just impression of the character and intentions of our nation.
It is, therefore, extremely desirable that the attention of all our young officers who are, or are likely to be, employed in the East, not only in The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus 69 the Commissariat, but also in the military and naval services, should be directed to the study of the languages which are spoken in the northern division of the Turkish empire, and the adjoining provinces of Russia.
In This Article
He wrote: The great desideratum during the present war will no doubt, be a knowledge of Turkish. Most officers will probably be satisfied if they are able to speak by interjections and gestures, and succeed in making a Turk understand that they want a horse, or provisions, or directions for the road in a country not advanced to signposts.
This can be learned from dialogues, and even without a knowledge of the Turkish alphabet. On the contrary, language became a means to specific political and cultural ends. Trench and the appeal for English studies The concern for national and social unity centred around a sense of unease about the contemporary political scene together with reflections upon the national past.
The most striking example of this concern at this period was the set of varying attempts to come to terms with the historical writing of the national past and to evaluate the political and cultural heritage of the nation. Thus this will be a convenient place at which to begin an analysis of this development to which we shall return briefly later. The study of the vernacular language and literature at the beginning of the nineteenth century was effectively proscribed in the major public schools as a result of the important Leeds Grammar School Case.
The endowment that had enabled the setting-up of Leeds Grammar School was to have been deployed by the school in the early nineteenth century for the teaching of modern subjects. And in fact this demotion of English was so comprehensive that James Murray was to claim in the s that the English Master at Marlborough ranked lower than the Dancing Master in terms of superiority4 Murray, , p. After the first state grant for education was bestowed in , however, the increasing enlargement of state education throughout the nineteenth century made the position of classics as the core subject of the educational curriculum increasingly untenable, though it was not to relax its grip for more than a century after the first education grant.
Before widespread educational opportunity was made available it was clear that classical study was of central importance since, in the words of a later education report: Greek would enable a clergyman to read the New Testament in the original, Latin would qualify a barrister to study Roman law, or a doctor to write his prescriptions; Mathematics was essential for the soldier, sailor or engineer. But for English there seemed no call. Newbolt, , p. And English studies sprang from the fissure created between the expanding number of those to be educated and the difficulty of educating them with the prevailing methods and curricula.
First, there was a growing need for middle-level bureaucrats and administrators in the mid-nineteenth century, to be employed in the task of imperial expansion. The impetus this development gave to the study of English language and literature can be seen in the appearance of texts such as A. The Preface makes clear the basis of the text: The History of the English Language, as distinct from that of its literature, constitutes a separate division of the English Department at the Civil Service and other Government Examinations. An effort has been made in the following pages to throw into as small a space as possible all such matter as is needed to meet the requirements of that single head.
Keane, , p. The detail of the knowledge required for this type of question would clearly necessitate intensive study within a highly specialised field and such a demand both reflected and influenced the development of English studies within educational institutions. A second reason for the development of English studies was the growth of the various movements for universal education at both basic and advanced levels. The basis of the argument for English studies was of course that women could not suffer the discipline and rigour of the classics and therefore needed an easier subject such as English.
It was in precisely such terms that Skeat argued the need for English when he wrote that: In fact it is one of the very great advantages of such an excellent subject as the English language and literature that, with a little supervision and management, it can easily be adapted for female students, who at least in some cases from my own experience, take a keen and intelligent interest in it and reap much benefit therefrom.
Quoted in Granville-Barker, , p. In effect Trench pre-empted Mathew Arnold in his call for a new cultural programme in the latter half of the mid-Victorian period. In a frequently used rhetorical ploy of this period, industrial sophistication and all its barbarities threatened to displace Sophocles and Hellenism and thus Arnold envisaged a programme that attempted the use of a specific form of culture as a remedy to the general philistinism of industrial capitalism.
However, other cultural commentators such as Trench saw this remedy as clearly limited in its application and thus they argued for the use of English language and literature as the best vehicle for reform. And I believe, when these two are set aside, our own language and literature will furnish the best substitutes. The direct political and social aspects of this shift were outlined by W. Johnson in as he argued for English studies and against the classics on precisely the same grounds as Trench and later, as we shall see, the Newbolt Commissioners: It can be no abstract advantage, with the present political prospects of this country, and indeed of Europe, that any education should retain an exclusive or class character.
Farrar, , pp. Conclusion This chapter has concentrated upon the texts of Trench in order to demonstrate the highly political concerns of much of the 76 Standard English and the Politics of Language mid-nineteenth-century work on language in Britain. Across a number of different fields, ranging from theology to the construction of the national identity and social unity, work on the English language was used to gain specific ends.
Of course this is not to argue that other British linguists did not engage in wide-ranging and voluminous research in the comparative scientific mode. However, the remainder of this text will concentrate upon the first of these trends as it was evinced in the new academic study that was to be institutionalised in the universities, colleges and schools: English language and literature. It is to the increasing interest in the history of that set of writings that we now call English literature, along with the interest taken in various forms of the spoken language and their political significance, that we shall next turn.
Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, p. Original Standard: the standard to which others are copies, and to which the ultimate appeal has to be made.
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Maintaining standards The major seventeenth-century British philosopher John Locke opened Book III of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding with the following: God designed Man for a sociable Creature, made him with not only an inclination, and under a necessity to have fellowship with those of his own kind; but furnished him also with Language, which was to be the great Instrument, and Common Tye of Society.
Locke, , p. Such beliefs also carried into the nineteenth-century discourses upon the English language in declarations such as that: The English Bible is practically the standard of our language. It has been, more than any other influence, the means of teaching the English language, and maintaining it comparatively unchanged for years. No academy or authoritative dictionary or grammar could have produced so general a standard of appeal, or given such uniform instruction throughout the nation. Sometimes it appears to mean a value which has to be met and other times it appears to mean a uniform practice.
What is likewise of interest is the conflation of written and spoken language. Or does it mean a level that has to be met in the spoken language, or a uniform set of ways of speaking? However, before moving to an examination of such usage a brief examination will be made of a major difficulty facing many nineteenth-century linguists working in Britain: what is a language and where do we find it?
This was accompanied by a more specific difficulty facing those working within the historical study of the language at this period: what is the English language and where is it to be found? Finding a language: where to look and what to look for It is a commonly held view that Ferdinand de Saussure launched the discipline of general linguistics through the theories encapsulated in the posthumous Course in General Linguistics first published in His distinction between langue and parole was one of the most important since in drawing it Saussure was attempting to resolve a central methodological problem faced by linguists, which was the problem of deciding what exactly it was that they were supposed to study.
Linguistic diversity had created many problems for nineteenthcentury linguists since variation meant uncertainty with regard to boundaries. One such problem was that of distinguishing between a dialect and a language and it was one that proved difficult to resolve.
No scientific or adequate definition can be given. For all practical purposes this will suffice. The problem of variation, however, was not to be solved so easily. The nineteenth-century linguists were clearly well aware of these differences in language use that have become the staple diet of modern socio-linguistics. Each speaker, he claims, as an individual subject has a particular form of speech influenced by geographical and social positioning region, class, gender, age.
This distinction was not, however, plucked out of the air in an act of intellectual genius by Saussure since linguists had used a similar distinction in the nineteenth century precisely to attempt to solve the problem of distinguishing between a dialect and a language. Yet this too appears problematically indeterminate in that it is still unclear as to what is to count as a token of the language.
Moreover, appealing to the body of usages, in a certain community, is further complicated if the boundaries of the community itself are set according to the language. That is, if the English nation were to be defined as all those native English speakers born in England, as it often was, then it appears rather circular to define English as the language of the English nation. However, Whitney went on to specify with more precision where language lay: You have it in its dictionary, you have it in its grammar; as, also in the material and usages which never get into either dictionary or grammar; and you can trace the geographical limits within which it is used in all its varieties.
Where are the limits of a language to be drawn? For the nineteenth-century linguists such problems were enormously difficult in their methodological implications though in fact many linguists ignored them. However, for those concerned with the problem one way around it was to begin negatively, with the definition of a dialect. First, the dialectal form is spoken as opposed to the written standard. And second, the dialect is a local form rather than the standard universal literary form. It is a form of language in any particular national geographic territory which lies beyond all the variability of usage in offering unity and coherence to what otherwise appears diverse and disunited.
It is the literary form of the language that is to be used and recognised all over the national territory. For example the early linguistic historian Kemble held that for the study of Old English: As, in giving any account of what in grammatical parlance we call dialects or variations, we necessarily assume a fixed standard from which to measure deflections, we shall take the West Saxon dialect as that standard.
And later the Wrights followed this lead and asserted in their Old English Grammar that: There can hardly be any doubt that all practical teachers of the subject will agree that it is better and easier for the student to take early West-Saxon as the standard for Old English and to group around it the chief deviations of the other dialects. Wright, , p. According to this argument both the The Standard Language: the Literary Language 85 spoken and written forms had lost their standards and disunity prevailed. He divided later medieval Britain into three distinct dialectal areas, Northern, Midland and Southern with a further sub-division of the Midland into the Eastern and Western Midland.
He commented on the earlier history: Between all these [forms] there was a long contention for supremacy. In very early days, the Northern took the lead, but its literature was practically destroyed by the Danes, and it never afterwards attained to anything higher than a second place. From the time of Alfred, the standard language of literature was the Southern and it kept the lead till long after the Conquest. Its use was really founded on practical convenience. It was intermediate between the other two [Northern and Southern], and could be more or less comprehended by the Northerner and the Southerner, though these could hardly understand each other.
Kington-Oliphant, , p. In the words of the OED editor James Murray: By the close of the fifteenth century, when England settled down from the Wars of the Roses, and the great collusions of populations and dialects by which they were accompanied, there was thus but one standard language acknowledged. To illustrate that point we may consider the late-nineteenth-century declaration of Thomas Elworthy in the preface to his study of The Dialect of West Somerset: The Education Act has forced the knowledge of the three Rs upon the population, and thereby an acquaintance in all parts of the country with the same literary form of English, which it has been the aim and object of all elementary teachers to make their pupils consider to be the only correct one.
The result is already becoming manifest. Elworthy, , p. Of course another way of viewing this political project would be to argue that it is a literary construction of what are taken to be popular modes of speech. In that case it would be an early instance of the populist literary-political style so clearly marked in the tabloid press. For Italian radicals the existence of the national language and the consequent unity it brought was a useful tool in eradicating merely local disputes. In Britain, however, the standard literary language was not a form around which radical struggle was to be focused, though it was promulgated and acknowledged in various cultural modes for specific ends.
Coleridge, —1, p. And there was also that area of interest concerned with the history of English dialects that was to produce the English Dialect Dictionary published between and To bring together all those who have made a study of the Provincial Dialects of England, or who are interested in the subject of Provincial English; 2.
To combine the labours of collectors of Provincial English words by providing a common centre to which they may be sent, so as to gather material for a general record of all such words; 3. To reprint various useful Glossaries that have appeared in scarce or inconvenient volumes; 4.
To publish subject to proper revision such collections of Provincial English words as exist at present only in MS; 5. To supply references to sources of information which may be of material assistance to word-collectors, students, and all who have a general or particular interest in the subject. The urgency of appeals of this type, and in particular that of A. Ellis in his important appeal of , brought about the formation of the EDS. III, p. The real and natural life of language is in its dialects … in spite of the tyranny exercised by the classical or literary idioms. In order to understand how that equation became possible it will be necessary to go back in history in order to trace the discursive processes and theoretical work by which it was facilitated.
Early work on the earlier periods of English usage was disparate in that it had no unifying subject under which it fell. Yet by the mid-nineteenth century such work had been unified in the new study of language in England and its concerns had been set out. One effect of this unification was the enormous expansion of the range of the new study since rather than simply desiring to research particular periods or areas of the language it now wanted to research all periods and all areas.
The new science wanted to totalise the English language by synthesising it as a whole and thus began by analysing component parts of the language in order to fit them back with more understanding into the historical totality. This theoretical aim had serious implications for the methods of the new study since it meant that its range had to be all-inclusive. The Grimms had clearly stepped outside the bounds of permissible interest by quoting from a newspaper and, what is more, from a newspaper not yet extinct.
However, such a breadth of scope had by the latter half of the century become a theoretical and methodological necessity. However, within this new discourse it is clear that there was to be a gradual narrowing of scope as specific forms dialects were to be given less prestige than the central form the standard literary language.
Moreover, it was both to give cultural centrality to the new discourse and to give it forms of coherence and organisation that were to dictate the form of its end result. In order to do this it will be necessary to examine the Proposal for the Publication of a New English Dictionary , the rules drawn up for the editing of the Dictionary, the Canones Lexicographici , and the Preface to Vol. The Standard Language: the Literary Language 93 The proposal for the new dictionary aimed at realising the project so boldly announced by De Quincey and yet if it was De Quincey who signalled the emergence of a new discourse and new cultural producers, then it was the dictionary text itself that was to organise and give credit to the newly formed cultural work.
The Proposal intended: To enlist the sympathies of the public on behalf of the work, and to bring, as far as possible, the scattered learning and energy which exists plentifully enough in this country, if it can be effectually reached and addressed, to bear upon a common, and we may add national, project. The two committees were to work within the plan outlined in the Proposal which consisted of five main points. The methodological and theoretical implications of these five points are extremely interesting and in order to derive the clearest significance from them they will be treated in reverse order.
First, point v , the etymology of words. The dictionary, however, was to provide two sets of roots, two etymologies, and these are what we may call the internal and the external. It is clear that this aim holds important considerations concerning both the nature of a word and linguistic history. First, there is the presupposition that a word remains the same — although its form and meaning change — as a sort of Platonic form that maintains its purity and unity beyond all accidental changes.
This allows for the possibility of searching for the radical element of the word in its oldest form which may bear little if any relation to its contemporary form. Such is the legacy of the appearance of historicity. Beginning of course with the oldest language, we look for the oldest form of the word by consulting the linguistic laws that were held to govern language and which enable us to predict what to look for in the word stock.
When we find our form we are then at the point of the origin of the word, the etumos logos. The objection to this presuppositon would not be that we could never find the etymon of a particular word — since we might do this by chance or even by consulting the linguistic laws — the point would be that we would never be sure absolutely that we had found the etymon since there is always the open possibility that an older form might appear, or even that the historical hierarchy of languages could be disrupted as it had been in the late eighteenth century.
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