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EARLY PRESCRIPTIVE GRAMMAR


English grammatical theory has a long tradition going back to the earliest Latin grammars of the 17th century when "grammar" meant only the study of Latin. Until the end of the 16th century there were no grammars of English.
One of the earliest Latin grammars written in English was W. Lily's work published in the first half of the 16th century.
Looking at English through the lattice of categories set up in Latin grammar, W. Lily presented standards for similar arrangement of the English grammatical material proceeding from Latin paradigms and using the same terminology as in Latin grammar.
Lily's work went through many editions until 1858. In other early "prenormative" grammars the arrangement of the material was similar to that of "Lily's grammar. It is to be noted that using Latin categories the writers of that time did not altogether ignore distinctions that the English language made. Thus, for instance, in Lily's grammar translation of Latin inflectional forms is given with the important points of reservation that some of their English equivalents are analytical forms, which include auxiliary words as "signs".
Attempts to break with Latin grammatical tradition characterise the treatment of the structure of English in Bullokar's and Ch. Butler's grammars but in many cases they still follow the Latin pattern.
The early prenormative grammars of English reproduced the Latin classification of the word-classes which included eight parts of speech. Substantives and adjectives were grouped together as two kinds of nouns, the participle was considered as a separate part of speech.
In the earliest English grammars the parts of speech were divided dichotomically into declinable and indeclinable parts of speech or words with number and words without number (Ben Jonson), or words with number and case and words without number and case (Ch. Butler). Declinable words, with number and case, included nouns, pronouns, verbs and participles, the indeclinables — adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections. Ben Jonson increased the number of parts of speech. His classification includes the article as the ninth part of speech.
In J. Brightland's grammar (the beginning of the 18th century) the number of parts of speech was reduced to four. These were: names (nouns), qualities (adjectives), affirmations (verbs) and particles.
liBrightland's system was accepted only by a few English grammarians of the period. But since that time the adjective came to be viewed as a separate part of speech.
Brightland's grammar was the first to include the concept of the sentence in syntax proper.
The logical definition of the sentence existed in old times, but grammarians understood the subject matter of syntax only as a study of word arrangement.
In Lily's grammar, for instance, we find three Latin concords: the nominative and the verb, the substantive and the adjective, the relative pronoun and its antecedent.
The second half of the 18th century is generally referred to as the age of the so-called prenormative grammar. The most influential grammar of the period was R. Lowth's Short Introduction to English Grammar, first published in 1762.
Lowth's approach to the study of grammar was upheld by his followers.
The first to be mentioned here is Lindley Murray's English. Grammar Adapted to the Different Classes of Learners. First published in 1795, it was then widely used in its original form and in an abridged version for many years to come. Murray's grammar was considered so superior to any then in use that soon after its appearance it became the text-book in almost every school.
The principal design of a grammar of any language, according to Lowth, is to teach us to express ourselves with propriety, to enable us to judge of every phrase and form of construction, whether it be right or not. The plain way of doing this is to lay down rules and to illustrate them by examples. But besides showing what is right, the matter may be further explained what is wrong.
In the words of Lowth, grammar in general, or Universal grammar explains the principles which are common to all languages. The Grammar of any particular language, as the English grammar, applies those common principles to that particular language.
O. Jespersen showed good judgement in observing at this point that in many cases what gives itself out as logic, is not logic at all, but Latin grammar disguised.
The early prescriptive grammars exerted an enormous influence and moulded the approach of many generations to English grammar.
Applying the principles of Universal grammar, Lowth subjected to criticism many expressions established by long use in English, such as, for instance, the use of adverbs without the suffix -ly, the expressions it is me, these kind of, or, say, such patterns as had rather, had better.
Lowth and other grammarians of that time condemned as wrong many constructions and forms which occurred in the works of the best authors. They used passages from the works of classical writers as exercises for pupils to correct bad English or "false" English.
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Источник: N. M. RAYEVSKA. MODERN ENGLISH GRAMMAR. 1976 {original}

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