Essays on English
by Brander Matthews (9781406703511)

Essays on English
Brander Matthews
Release Date: 01 March 2007
Format: Paperback
Pages: 300
Category: Literature & Literary Studies
ISBN: 9781406703511
ISBN-10: 1406703516

ESSAYS ON ENGLISH BY BRANDER MATTHEWS or to AMIICAN ACADEMY or AITS AND utmii NEW YORK CHARLES SCRIBNERS SONS T, 1921, BY CHARLES SCRIBNERS SONS Printed in the United States of America Published September, 1921 To OTTO JESPERSEN CONTENTS PAGE I Is the English Language Degenerat ing i II What is Pure English .... 31 HI American English and British Eng lish 59 IV The Vicissitudes of the Vocabulary . 79 V The Latest Novelties in Language . . 97 VI Newspaper English 119 VII The Permanent Utility of Dialect . . 137 VIII A Confusion of Tongues .... 155 IX Learning a Language 167 X The Advertizers Artful Aid ... 187 XI A Standard of Spoken English . . 205 XII Style from Several Angles . . . .223 XIII Mark Twain and the Art of Writing 241 XIV One World-Language or Two . . . 269 I IS THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE DEGENERATING IS THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE DEGENERATING I THE American Academy of Arts and Letters accepted in 1917 a fund for the purpose of enabling it to consider its duty towards the conservation of the English language in its beauty and purity and the Academy held several meetings to discover what its duty might be. At these meetings it was made evi dent that many, if not most, of those present were of opinion that the condition of our noble tongue was alarming and that this condition was perhaps even more alarming in the United States than it was in Great Britain. One of those who contributed to the discus sion went so far as to suggest that English as spoken and as written here in the United States had entered on a period of degeneracy not un like that which befel Greek in the days of its decadence in what is known as the Hellenistic era. He cited the dictionary definition of Hellenistic asresembling or partaking of IS THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE DEGENERATING Greek character but not truly Hellenic and as combining Greek and foreign characteristics or elements He ascribed the Hellenistic de gradation of Greek to two causes. In the first place, the change took place when the lan guage was no longer young, with powers of expansion natural to youth, but was already mature and fixt . . . and in the second place, the change came when the language was no longer in the possession of the people alone who had created it, but was spoken and written over a vast territory among many peoples separated from the main stem by political and other tra ditions. He asserted that neither one of these conditions singly would have produced quite the actual result, which was dependent on the conjunction of the two. He noted that these two conditions are conjoined here in the United States today, since English, hardened by long usage is spread over a large territory among diverse peoples. And he feared that we could not escape the ugly conclusion that English has entered upon a similar period of disintegration. This is an interesting suggestion it seems to be supported by not a little evidence it pro vides an easy explanation for the lapses from good usage obvious to all of us it is persua sively plausible. But it will not resist scrutiny.

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