Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


It's Been Said Before

By Orin Hargraves

It's Been Said Before "examines why certain phrases become clichés and why they should be avoided -- or why they still have life left in them."

New from Cambridge University Press!


Sounds Fascinating

By J. C. Wells

How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.

Academic Paper

Title: The usage guide: its birth and popularity
Author: Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade
Institution: Leiden University Centre for Linguistics
Linguistic Field: Language Documentation
Abstract: The most proscriptive eighteenth-century grammar of English, according to Sundby et al. (1991), is Knowles's 'Principles of English Grammar' (1796). With 722 comments in which grammatical mistakes are criticised, Knowles heads the list which Sundby et al. compiled for their 'Dictionary of Normative Grammar'. The copy of Knowles's grammar which Sundby et al. analysed was the fourth edition; the grammar had first come out in 1785 in Liverpool, and it enjoyed a moderate popularity (Alston, 1965:78–9). The fourth edition of Knowles's grammar consists of 144 pages, which makes it considerably longer than the first edition (36 pp.) (Alston, 1965:79). Fifteen pages of the book are devoted to a section called ‘Of Verbal Criticism’. This section includes according to Sundby et al. (1991:8) ‘some 460 “improper” sentences [which] are presented in alphabetical order …, the “proper” form of (the relevant part of) each sentence being given on the right’. In addition, the book contains an appendix with ‘Exercises of False Construction’, which are included to ‘afford the schoolboys and teachers for whom the grammar was intended ample opportunity for testing their linguistic ability, improved (it may be supposed) by diligent study of the first two lists’.


This article appears IN English Today Vol. 26, Issue 2.

Return to TOC.

Add a new paper
Return to Academic Papers main page
Return to Directory of Linguists main page