The chapter explores the tension between democratic ideals and the desire for a national language in the early American republic. It focuses on the competing lexicographers Noah Webster and Joseph Worcester, and particularly on their conflicting attitudes to a London-based standard of English pronunciation and its relevance to Americans. It is argued that, by supporting Perry over Walker, Webster was not only rejecting England but implicitly promoting descriptivism and thus democracy. Although linguistic prescriptivism and prejudice often coexist and conflict with more descriptive attitudes to language, the discourse of democracy is characteristically American.
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