The Lexicographers Dilemma - Jack Lynch
The Lexicographers Dilemma by Jack Lynch offers the first narrative history of those who have tried to regulate, or otherwise organise, the way we speak showing clearly that what we now regard as the only "correct" way to speak emerged out of specific historical and social conditions over the course of centuries. As literary historian Jack Lynch has discovered, every rule has a human history, and the characters peopling his narrative are as interesting for their obsession as for their erudition. The struggle between prescriptivists, who prescribe a correct approach, and descriptivists, who analyse how language works, is at the heart of Lynch's story. From the sharp-tongued satirist Jonathan Swift, who called for a government sponsored academy to issue rulings on the language, and the polymath Samuel Johnson, who put dictionaries on a new footing, to John Horne Tooke, the crackpot linguist whose bizarre theories continue to baffle scholars; Joseph Priestley, whose political radicalism prompted riots; and the ever-crotchety Noah Webster, whose goal was to Americanise the English language--Lynch brings to life a varied cast as illuminating as it is entertaining.