• G. L. Brook
Part of the St Antony’s book series


From the sixteenth century onwards there has been no lack of critics writing in praise or dispraise of the English language either in general or on points of detail which happened to interest them. Some of the critics have been well-known men of letters, and such writers may choose to exert an influence by example rather than precept. Swift was one of the most vigorous of the reformers of English, but he has probably exerted more influence by the straightforward simplicity of his own style than by his fulminations against changes that he disliked. If a writer wishes to make more specific criticisms, he can do so by writing essays on linguistic matters or by including digressions in books on other subjects. Readers of novels have learnt to be tolerant of such digressions. Another channel for criticism is provided by characters in novels or plays who comment, usually with scorn, on the language used by others. There is a less direct form of criticism taking the form of the allocation of language which the author thinks foolish to foolish characters without any comment.


English Language Monosyllabic Word Polysyllabic Word Linguistic Imperialism Linguistic Matter 


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  1. 1.
    See G. L. Brook, The Language of Dickens (Andre Deutsch, 1970 ) pp. 176–9.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    By Susie I. Tucker in English Examined: Two centuries of comment on the mother-tongue (CUP, 1961).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    R. F. Jones, The Triumph of the English Language (Stanford University Press, 1953) pp. 199 f.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Robert Heron, Letters of Literature (1785) pp. 240–9.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Jonathan Swift, A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue (1712).Google Scholar
  6. Herbert Davis with Louis Landa (eds), The Prose Writings of Jonathan Swift (Blackwell, 1957) p. 14.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    Sir Ernest Gowers,Preface to the revised edition of A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (OUP, 1965) p. iii.Google Scholar
  8. 13.
    R. W. Burchfield, The Fowlers: their Achievements in Lexicography and Grammar (English Association Presidential Address, 1979 ) p. 17.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    A. P. Herbert, What a Word! (Methuen, 1935 ) p. 2.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© G. L. Brook 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. L. Brook
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ManchesterUK

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