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Founding Grammars: How Early America’s War Over Words Shaped Today’s Language

By Rosemarie Ostler

Founding Grammars: How Early America’s War Over Words Shaped Today’s Language

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Started reading:
22 August 2015
Finished reading:
29 August 2015

Review

Today there are skirmishes between factions on whether this word or that deserves to be considered standard English, or whether a certain arrangement of words is a violation of the rules of grammar; but it’s always been this way, and Founding Grammars tells, with considerable verve given the allegedly dry subject matter, the story of fierce opposition between such factions, how they affected education in this country since the very beginning, and how this particular cultural outcropping intersected with political concerns. (Think Andrew Jackson, not known for his rigid adherence to rules of syntax, or the cheerfully extemporaneous Teddy Roosevelt.) Language is the tool we use the most and think about the least; it behooves us, now and again, to see how ours got to where it did.