The development of textbooks in English grammar for secondary schools in relation to the Latin tradition : a history of method as revealed by textbooks of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries




Parker, Clara May

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This study has been undertaken in an attempt to determine how far the traditional Latin method dominated the textbooks in English grammar for secondary schools, first in England, and later in America up to the time when Lindley Murray's grammar became the accepted authority and almost the sole model for school texts. That the Latin influence still survives is patent to the most casual observer familiar with both languages. Professor Jespersen sums up the present status of English grammar in these words: "Grammatical terminology is still in the main based on Latin grammar. The student of English will find in his grammatical vocabulary expressions for whatever English has in common with Latin, but those grammatical categories and phenomena which are not found in Latin have either no names at all, or else each author has his own names." One may well ponder over the reason for this fact when it is recalled that English grammars written for English-speaking students in the mother tongue have been in existence for more than three hundred years. That efforts have been made from time to time to throw off the Latin domination a cursory examination of a collection of 17th, 18th, and 19th century texts will show. The innovations of most importance have been noted and discussed by the historians of the language, and it is not probable that any one of them has escaped attention altogether. But so far, it seems, no detailed study has been made of the relation between Latin and English grammar in successive periods, giving a specific account of the similarities and differences, the changes of form and shifts of emphasis, as revealed in the texts themselves. It is to this end that the present study will be directed. Its specific purpose will be to record the results of an analysis of a selected line of grammar texts representative of the various stages in the development of English grammar in England and America from its beginning to the end of the 18th century