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Linguistic Diversity and Social Justice

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Language Evolution: The Windows Approach

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Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"


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Academic Paper


Title: Long-s in Late Modern English manuscripts
Author: Lyda Fens-de Zeeuw
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Universiteit Leiden
Author: Robin Straaijer
Institution: Lehigh University
Linguistic Field: Historical Linguistics; Writing Systems
Subject Language: English
Abstract: It is a generally accepted fact that the use of long-s, or <ſ>, was discontinued in English printing at the close of the eighteenth century and that by the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century this allograph had all but disappeared. This demise of <ſ> in printing has been fairly well documented, but there is virtually no literature on what happened to it in handwritten documents. The disappearance of <ſ> and <ſs> (as in ʃeems and buʃineʃs) in favour of and is generally ascribed to the printers’ wishes to simplify their type-settings. But at what point and to what extent did this simplifying process influence private writing of the period? In this article we have documented the rules, as observed by printers, for the use of long-s in the Late Modern English period, and we illustrate how printing practice during this period compared to the usage of this particular grapheme in letters written by two well-known codifiers of the English language, the grammarians Joseph Priestley and Lindley Murray.

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This article appears IN English Language and Linguistics Vol. 16, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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