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Joseph Priestley, Grammarian: Late Modern English normativism and usage in a sociohistorical context

This dissertation the role of the English dissenting minister Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) as a grammarian is studied.

Robin Straaijer
01 March 2011
Published by LOT
Full text in Leiden University Repository

The English dissenting minister Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) is best known as a scientist, philosopher and theologian. However, his Rudiments of English Grammar (1761) is an important grammar in eighteenth-century England. In this dissertation, I argue that Priestley 's role as a grammarian should not be underestimated and that his grammar had a significant impact on the standardisation of the English language in the eighteenth century.

Usually seen as the sole descriptivist among the predominant prescriptive eighteenth-century grammarians, I have shown that this reputation requires qualification. In addition, by means of a corpus-linguistic approach I analysed Priestley's usage, as exemplified by a corpus of 433 of his surviving personal letters.

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