Occupations in Two Editions of Webster’s “Speller” as Evidence of Socio-Economic Changes in the Early Republic


  • Virginia Meirelles




American studies, lexicography, professions, spellers studies, Noah Webster


This article compares the professions listed in two editions of Webster’s speller, The American Spelling Book (1829) and The Elementary Spelling Book (1832). Many occupations are recorded either in the American Spelling Book or in the Elementary Spelling Book, but not in both, which indicates that the spellers are describing different stages in the development of the country. Principally, the Elementary Spelling Book records occupations that evince the specialization and professionalization of the workers and demonstrate a reorganization of socioeconomic factors. The examination indicates that, in his desire to characterize the new nation, Webster ends up recording the socioeconomic changes that typified the industrial revolution and the bureaucratization of the state. Since Webster wanted to influence the youth and educate children to be good citizens, his spellers do not simply list words for plain linguistic reasons, but record words with social relevance. Therefore, the list of occupations that Webster presented in the spellers depicts different social circumstances and different stages in the country’s development


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Articles (general section) - English language and linguistics