Chapter published in:Processes of Change: Studies in Late Modern and Present-Day English
Edited by Sandra Jansen and Lucia Siebers
[Studies in Language Variation 21] 2019
► pp. 25–48
The obelisk and the asterisk
Early to Late Modern Views on Language and Change
This chapter explores the complexities of the prescriptive-descriptive divide as revealed in three dictionaries from the early to late Modern English period. Lexicographers had not yet arrived at the idea that dictionaries should include all words; hence, those they chose to record in permanent form are telling. Also informative is their application of symbols to certain entries. No doubt this notation was informing readers these words were to be treated differently in some way. Yet, these lexicographers did not seem interested in expunging the entries – and they were certainly not advocating an invariable language. Their aims were more to guide readers in their choice of words and to outline different stylistic choices. Echoing David Crystal (2006a: 106) and linguistic wisdom today, “be linguistically prepared” could well have been their motto.
Keywords: prescriptivism, style, dictionaries, doctrine of correctness, hard words, inkhorn terms, hothourse words, mountweazels
Published online: 13 August 2019
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