The New England Yeoman: Noah Webster and the Defining of American English (1758-1843)
Writing and reflecting on the works of a late eighteenth-century lexicographer today may seem a little unusual and perhaps outdated. Why should linguists and cultural analysts be interested in such a scholar, when so many changes have recently occurred in the English language with the advent of the Internet, digital communication and social media that require our attention? What is the sense nowadays of concentrating our attention on language phenomena and discussions occurred 200 years ago? Shouldn’t we worry about the future development of the English language instead of looking back at its origin?
Such rhetorical questions will certainly arouse the offended reaction of most historical linguists. Indeed, the above assertions are of course intended to be a very simple and overt provocative introduction. I am often asked these types of questions in class, and I find that answering to them gives me the opportunity to introduce my favorite topic, i.e. the development of the English language in the United States. And indeed the answer partly lies, at least with regards to the topic of the present article, in the fascinating analysis of the so-called “war of words,” that harsh debate which occurred after the Declaration of American Independence in some British journals and magazines, such as The Critical Review, the European Magazine and London Review, the Gentleman’s Review and the Scots Magazine, to name just a few.
Copyright (c) 2019 Luisanna Fodde
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.Iperstoria is an Open Access journal.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 BY-NC License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of their work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal. We require authors to inform us of any instances of re-publication.