The Dictionary Wars: The American Fight over the English Language

Princeton University Press
2
Free sample

A compelling history of the national conflicts that resulted from efforts to produce the first definitive American dictionary of English

In The Dictionary Wars, Peter Martin recounts the patriotic fervor in the early American republic to produce a definitive national dictionary that would rival Samuel Johnson’s 1755 Dictionary of the English Language. But what began as a cultural war of independence from Britain devolved into a battle among lexicographers, authors, scholars, and publishers, all vying for dictionary supremacy and shattering forever the dream of a unified American language.

The overwhelming questions in the dictionary wars involved which and whose English was truly American and whether a dictionary of English should attempt to be American at all, independent from Britain. Martin tells the human story of the intense rivalry between America’s first lexicographers, Noah Webster and Joseph Emerson Worcester, who fought over who could best represent the soul and identity of American culture. Webster believed an American dictionary, like the American language, ought to be informed by the nation’s republican principles, but Worcester thought that such language reforms were reckless and went too far. Their conflict continued beyond Webster’s death, when the ambitious Merriam brothers acquired publishing rights to Webster’s American Dictionary and launched their own language wars. From the beginning of the nineteenth century to the end of the Civil War, the dictionary wars also engaged America’s colleges, libraries, newspapers, religious groups, and state legislatures at a pivotal historical moment that coincided with rising literacy and the print revolution.

Delving into the personal stories and national debates that arose from the conflicts surrounding America’s first dictionaries, The Dictionary Wars examines the linguistic struggles that underpinned the founding and growth of a nation.

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About the author

Peter Martin is the author of numerous books, including the acclaimed biographies Samuel Johnson and A Life of James Boswell. He has taught English literature in the United States and England and divides his time between West Sussex, England, and Spain.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
May 28, 2019
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Pages
369
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ISBN
9780691189994
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Americas (North, Central, South, West Indies)
History / Social History
History / United States / 19th Century
Language Arts & Disciplines / General
Language Arts & Disciplines / Lexicography
Language Arts & Disciplines / Linguistics / General
Language Arts & Disciplines / Linguistics / Historical & Comparative
Literary Criticism / American / General
Literary Criticism / Subjects & Themes / Historical Events
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Adventuring in Dictionaries: New Studies in the History of Lexicography brings together seventeen papers on the making of dictionaries from the sixteenth century to the present day.

The first five treat English and French lexicography in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Heberto Fernandez and Monique Cormier discuss the outside matter of French–English bilingual dictionaries; Kusujiro Miyoshi re-assesses the influence of Robert Cawdrey; John Considine uncovers the biography of Henry Cockeram; Antonella Amatuzzi discusses Pierre Borel’s use of his predecessors; and Fredric Dolezal investigates multi-word units in the dictionary of John Wilkins and William Lloyd. Linda Mitchell’s account of dictionaries as behaviour guides in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries leads on to Giovanni Iamartino’s presentation of words associated with women in the dictionary of Samuel Johnson, and Thora Van Male’s of the ornaments in the Encyclopédie. Nineteenth-century and subsequent topics are treated by Anatoly Liberman on the growth of the English etymological dictionary; Julie Coleman on dictionaries of rhyming slang; Laura Pinnavaia on Richardson’s New Dictionary and the changing vocabulary of English; Peter Gilliver on early editorial decisions and reconsiderations in the making of the Oxford English Dictionary; Anne Dykstra on the use of Latin as the metalanguage in Joost Halbertsma’s Lexicon Frisicum; Laura Santone on the “Dictionnaire critique” serialized in Georges Bataille’s Surrealist review Documents; Sylvia Brown on the stories of missionary lexicography behind the Eskimo–English Dictionary of 1925; and Michael Adams on the legacies of the Early Modern English Dictionary project.

The diverse critical perspectives of the leading lexicographers and historians of lexicography who contribute to this volume are united by a shared interest in the close reading of dictionaries, and a shared concern with the making and reading of dictionaries as human activities, which cannot be understood without attention to the lives of the people who undertook them.

Webs of Words: New Studies in Historical Lexicology brings together ten papers on aspects of the history of words and vocabulary, which address aspects of Chinese, Czech, Dutch, English (including Caribbean varieties), German, Italian, Māori, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, and other languages.

In the first four essays, focussing on pre-1800 material, Karel Kučera and Martin Stluka’s opening essay discusses the plotting of the relative historical frequency of common words, drawing on their work with the diachronic portion of the Czech National Corpus; Ian Lancashire asks why Tudor England had no monolingual English dictionary; Chiara Benati discusses the interplay between Low German, High German, and Latin in an early modern surgical text, and Mateusz Urban sorts out the competing etymologies of English balcony, Italian balcone, and similar forms in Persian and Russian. The next six turn to more recent material. Jane Samson analyzes the nineteenth-century debate as to whether the Māori language was too primitive to have a word for “blue”; Vivien Waszink discusses the Dutch prefixes bio- and eco- and their documentation in a new dictionary; Tommaso Pellin examines a series of attempts to provide a grammatical terminology in Chinese; Lise Winer surveys the naming of fauna in the English / Creole of Trinidad and Tobago; Mirosława Podhajecka writes on the treatment of Russian loanwords in the current revision of the Oxford English Dictionary, with special attention to Google Books as a research tool; and Isabel Casanova asks whether Portuguese dictionaries should register English words.

The contributions to this volume share an interest in empirical evidence rather than in lexicological study at a highly theoretical level, and in the wide contextualization of the words which constitute this evidence in the social and cultural lives of their users.

This book provides a clear and understandable text for users and developers of advanced engineered materials, particularly in the area of thin films, and addresses fundamentals of modifying the optical, electrical, photo-electric, triboligical, and corrosion resistance of solid surfaces and adding functionality to solids by engineering their surface, structure, and electronic, magnetic and optical structure. Thin film applications are emphasized. Through the inclusion of multiple clear examples of the technologies, how to use them,and the synthesis processes involved, the reader will gain a deep understanding of the purpose, goals, and methodology of surface engineering and engineered materials.

Virtually every advance in thin film, energy, medical, tribological materials technologies has resulted from surface engineering and engineered materials. Surface engineering involves structures and compositions not found naturally in solids and is used to modify the surface properties of solids and involves application of thin film coatings, surface functionalization and activation, and plasma treatment. Engineered materials are the future of thin film technology. Engineered structures such as superlattices, nanolaminates, nanotubes, nanocomposites, smart materials, photonic bandgap materials, metamaterials, molecularly doped polymers and structured materials all have the capacity to expand and increase the functionality of thin films and coatings used in a variety of applications and provide new applications. New advanced deposition processes and hybrid processes are being used and developed to deposit advanced thin film materials and structures not possible with conventional techniques a decade ago. Properties can now be engineered into thin films that achieve performance not possible a decade ago.

Using a rich assortment of illustrations and biographical sketches, Peter Martin relates the experiences of colonial gardeners who shaped the natural beauty of Virginia's wilderness into varied displays of elegance. He shows that ornamental gardening was a scientific, aesthetic, and cultural enterprise that thoroughly engaged some of the leading figures of the period, including the British governors at Williamsburg and the great plantation owners George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, William Byrd, and John Custis. In presenting accounts of their gardening efforts, Martin reveals the intricacies of colonial garden design, plant searches, experimentation, and the problems in adapting European landscaping ideas to local climate. These writings also bring to life the social and commercial interaction between Williamsburg and the plantations, together with early American ideas about cultured living. While placing Virginia's gardening in the larger context of the colonial South, Martin tells a very human story of how this art both influenced and reflected the quality of colonial life. As Virginia grew economically and culturally, the garden became a projection of the gardener's personal identity, as exemplified by the endeavors of Washington and Jefferson at Mount Vernon and Monticello. In order to recapture the gardens as they existed in colonial times, Martin brings together paintings, drawings, and the findings of modern archaeological excavations.

Originally published in 1991.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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