This study deals with Cobbett’s best known A Grammar of the English Language composed during his second stay in the United States and published in New York in 1818. Its macrostructure consists of “[…] a Series of letters.Intended for the use of Schools and Young Persons in general but more especially for the Use of Soldiers, Sailors, Apprentices and Plough-boys” and addressed to his fourteenyear-old son James Paul (1803–81). As regards the organisation of the linguistic data, Cobbett favours the traditional display in terms of processes: he lists Orthography, Prosody, Etymology and Syntax as the constituent parts of a grammar, but he deals only with the last two to which he adds “Six Lessons, intended to prevent Statesmen from using false grammar, and from writing in an awkward manner” in the 1823 edition. A further addition was made by his son James Paul who, in his revised version of the grammar published in 1864 introduced a new chapter devoted to pronunciation. Particularly interesting features of Cobbett’s grammar are: its unconventional dedicatory epistle addressed to a convicted seditious shoemaker of Manchester; its emotive and conative function along with the more customary metalinguistic one; its treatment of irregular verbs and its pragmatic account of the modal verb will; its unorthodox exemplification basically consisting of political messages against the system. Although Cobbett’s grammar is commonly attributed to the prescriptive tradition and seems to conform to Latin categories, an indisputable ironical attitude detectable at many different levels in the text shows an uninvolved albeit necessary compliance. In keeping with his radical views and comforted by his autobiographical experience of a 310 Cobbett, William self-made man, Cobbett considered grammar as a means “to assert with effects the rights and liberties of his country” (1818: 14). In his opinion it had to explain and convey grammar rules to the disenfranchised, empowering them and at the same time warning them against the faults of tradition. Cobbett’s merit as a linguist, and more specifically as a grammarian, was to reveal a possible new dimension of the written variety, thus challenging the established 18th-century“vulgar vs refined language” dichotomy towards a democratization of the standard and its circulation and spread among classes traditionally debarred from public life and power. His sociolinguistic awareness is particularly manifest in his realizing that language learning fosters effective communication and constitutes“a gateway to liberty”, as he himself explained in the concluding remarks to his English grammar.

A Grammar of the English Language di William Cobbett

RUSSO, GIULIANA
2005

Abstract

This study deals with Cobbett’s best known A Grammar of the English Language composed during his second stay in the United States and published in New York in 1818. Its macrostructure consists of “[…] a Series of letters.Intended for the use of Schools and Young Persons in general but more especially for the Use of Soldiers, Sailors, Apprentices and Plough-boys” and addressed to his fourteenyear-old son James Paul (1803–81). As regards the organisation of the linguistic data, Cobbett favours the traditional display in terms of processes: he lists Orthography, Prosody, Etymology and Syntax as the constituent parts of a grammar, but he deals only with the last two to which he adds “Six Lessons, intended to prevent Statesmen from using false grammar, and from writing in an awkward manner” in the 1823 edition. A further addition was made by his son James Paul who, in his revised version of the grammar published in 1864 introduced a new chapter devoted to pronunciation. Particularly interesting features of Cobbett’s grammar are: its unconventional dedicatory epistle addressed to a convicted seditious shoemaker of Manchester; its emotive and conative function along with the more customary metalinguistic one; its treatment of irregular verbs and its pragmatic account of the modal verb will; its unorthodox exemplification basically consisting of political messages against the system. Although Cobbett’s grammar is commonly attributed to the prescriptive tradition and seems to conform to Latin categories, an indisputable ironical attitude detectable at many different levels in the text shows an uninvolved albeit necessary compliance. In keeping with his radical views and comforted by his autobiographical experience of a 310 Cobbett, William self-made man, Cobbett considered grammar as a means “to assert with effects the rights and liberties of his country” (1818: 14). In his opinion it had to explain and convey grammar rules to the disenfranchised, empowering them and at the same time warning them against the faults of tradition. Cobbett’s merit as a linguist, and more specifically as a grammarian, was to reveal a possible new dimension of the written variety, thus challenging the established 18th-century“vulgar vs refined language” dichotomy towards a democratization of the standard and its circulation and spread among classes traditionally debarred from public life and power. His sociolinguistic awareness is particularly manifest in his realizing that language learning fosters effective communication and constitutes“a gateway to liberty”, as he himself explained in the concluding remarks to his English grammar.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11769/104055
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