School Work

Samuel Johnson

Short essay on Johnson's Dictionary
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  Historia de la Lengua Inglesa Introduction During the 18th century the need to fix and regulate the English language arose. For many authors it was essential to correct the spelling, grammar and word usage of thelanguage in order to achiee a greater accuracy and precision of expression. In this contextwe can find two different iews. !n the one hand, there were authors in faour of thisregulation of the English language, such as onathan #wift and Daniel Defoe, who declaredthat grammars and dictionaries were essential to carry out this tas$. !n the other, therewere scholars who thought that the language should eole without restrictions.%any authors defended the correct use of the language, despising what they called&cant' or &low speech'. (hey also re)ected the words that English *orrowed from other languages such as Latin and French, since they maintained that these languages werecorrupting their mother tongue. Indeed, they defended the idea that a fixed system wouldma$e the language stronger and so its nation. For these reasons, #wift, among others, proposed the creation of an English academy, following the model of France, where+ardinal ichelieu had founded the  Académie Française . 1 Johnson’s  Dictionary preparation -ccording to Henry Hitchingss words/ &the need for a new English dictionary was02 a matter of *oth national prestige and philological necessity.' 3  In this context areleant figure appeared/ #amuel ohnson, who was hired to write a dictionary of theEnglish language. -lthough this dictionary was not the first English dictionary, it is usuallyreferred to as &the Dictionary' *ecause of the innoations ohnson introduced and the greatinfluenced it had in the history of the English language. 4efore *eginning to wor$ on his  Dictionary , ohnson wrote the  Plan for a Dictionary of the English Language , where he explained his ideas on how a dictionary 1  5http/66www.ucc.ie67 3  5http/66www.pu*lications.illanoa.edu67 1  Historia de la Lengua Inglesashould *e written and how he intended to carry out this tas$. In this  Preface , ohnsondiscusses orthography and pronunciation, among other features of the language, showing asimilar attitude to that of #wift. -s the following uotation reeals, ohnson found itnecessary to esta*lish some rules to polish the language/ &In ad)usting the !rthography,which has *een to this time unsettled and fortuitous, I found it necessary to distinguishthose irregularities that are inherent in our tongue 02from others which the ignorance or negligence of later writers has produced. Eery language has its anomalies, 02 itsimproprieties and a*surdities, which it is the duty of the lexicographer to correct or  proscri*e.' 9  Howeer, as he was preparing the dictionary, ohnson reali:ed that languageswere ineita*ly su*)ect to changes. For that reason, he focused on descri*ing the Englishlanguage as it was used *y its spea$ers instead of focussing on its supposed proper use. ohnson did not find it appropriate to dictate what usages were socially and politicallycorrect, *ut instead, he decided to compile those words and structures that people used inreal speeches. -lthough he firstly defended a clean and pure language, he reali:ed thatfixing it would not *e of any help since languages change in the same way the world does.(hen, he thought that academies were not the solution, since they will *ecome corrupt aswell. (o explain this phenomenon he compares the language with the wind, &sounds aretoo olatile and su*tile for legal restraints; to enchain sylla*les, and to lash the wind, areeually the underta$ings of pride, unwilling to measure its desires *y its strength' < .(o define the words he made use of literary uotations. ohnson gathered differentexamples of how words were used from authors such as #ha$espeare, %ilton and Dryden,adding his own notes to these uotations. In this way, he supported his wor$ anddemonstrated that een though many scholars re)ected neologisms, these terms haealready *een used *y prestigious authors. In deciding to include neologisms, ohnsonshowed a progressie attitude which differs considera*ly from onathan #wifts one. (he 9  5http/66ethnicity.rutgers.edu6 7 <  5http/66www.*l.u$6 7 3  Historia de la Lengua Inglesalatter held that restoring o*solete words was prefera*le to use neologisms and in$hornterms = . (hey entered the language *ecause English lac$ed of words to express new ideas or simply as synonyms for an English concept that already existed. (hus, it seems that therewas no much reason to get rid of them or to rescue words that had already fallen intodisuse. ohnsons  Dictionary  laid the foundations of su*seuent dictionaries such as the prestigious Oxford English Dictionary  or the Webster’s Dictionary . In the case of the OED , ames %urray used ohnsons masterpiece sered as a word list; it offered contemporaryinformation related to history, society and religion, among other fields; he een includedsome of ohnsons definitions without change >  and a*oe all, it helped %urray and histeam to complement his set6collection of uotations. (he same tas$ was done *y thecompilers of the Webster’s Dictionary , who copied all of the uotations appearing in the  Dictionary ? .If the preious information is ta$en into account, it can *e said that ohnson was animportant figure in lexicography. -s it has *een mentioned, he shifted from a prescriptieanalysis to a descriptie wor$. In the  Preface he wrote/ &(he words which our authors haeintroduced *y their $nowledge of foreign languages, or ignorance of their own, *y anityor wantonness, *y compliance with fashion, or lust of innoation, I hae registered as theyoccurred.' 8  In the *eginning he dismissed those new words present in the language *y histime *ut he includes them in his dictionary.It is necessary to mention that not eerything related to ohnsons  Dictionary  is so positie. It also, receied hash criticism from the part of some scholars. (hose who haestudied it carefully hae found inaccurate definitions, a*surd etymologies and wrong =  5http/66www.pu*lications.illanoa.edu6 7 >  Hitchings 3@@=, p.33?A8 ?  De%arBa 1CCC, CC. 8  5http/66ethnicity.rutgers.edu6)lynch6(exts6preface.html7 9  Historia de la Lengua Inglesaspellings C . onetheless, in spite of its faults,  A Dictionary of the English Language  was the *est dictionary of its days and its influence is still present nowadays. ohnsons decision of including eery term that was used during his time, *oth proper and &cant', made Englishricher and more expressie. (his may *e the reason why it has *ecome a uniersallanguage. Conclusion (o sum up, it can *e said that #amuel ohnson was one of the greatest figures of reat 4ritain, who, in this case, stands out for his la*our as a lexicographer. His  Dictionary can *e descri*ed as the first important dictionary of the English language, which was the *ased for future linguistic wor$s. Works cited 1C %arch 3@11 5http/66ethnicity.rutgers.edu6)lynch6(exts6preface.html71C%arch 3@11 5http/66www.*l.u$6learning6images6texts6dict6transcript198?.html7 C  4augh G +a*le 3@@3, p.3?3 <
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