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A study of late eighteenth century linguistic, cultural and philosophical attitudes in Britain : with a focus on the lexicographical work of Captain Francis Grose

Fisher, Flora (2011) A study of late eighteenth century linguistic, cultural and philosophical attitudes in Britain : with a focus on the lexicographical work of Captain Francis Grose. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Francis Grose, the compiler of A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, a popular slang dictionary first published in 1785, has been much overlooked by scholarly study. A comparatively minor figure in the history of the study of the English language, he nevertheless provides valuable insight into the evolution of academic interest in aspects of English. In the eighteenth century English as a language began to be studied in earnest, with countless grammars, glossaries and dictionaries being published. Along with a great quantity of formal texts such as dialect glosses or dictionaries of the English language such as Samuel Johnson‘s, there was an equally prolific subversive underbelly of dictionaries of the non-Standard, of slang and of cant. These informal texts provide an alternative viewpoint to the different varieties and registers of English and allow a broader understanding of the way in which these various areas of the language were thought about and studied. Julie Coleman‘s three-volume work on the history of cant and slang dictionaries provides a valuable overview of this specialised area of historical linguistics but a more concentrated study on a key figure in eighteenth century society allows a broader understanding of eighteenth century concepts of Britishness, refinement and English as a spoken and written language. The object of this dissertation is to show the link between late Enlightenment and early Romantic thought by critically examining the writings of antiquarian and lexicographer, Francis Grose. Grose‘s existence in the transitional period between these two philosophies makes him a valuable subject for study. The fact that he wrote on the speech of marginal people such as gypsies, beggars and thieves as well as people who lived outside the fashionable centre of London means that social attitudes to non-Standard English can also be examined. Links can also be drawn to significant literary figures such as Robert Burns and William Wordsworth who were both actively writing at this pivotal time. The following questions will be addressed during the course of this dissertation: in what ways does Francis Grose conform to the standards of his time and, equally, how does he deviate from them? How does his lexicographical work reflect changes in linguistic, cultural and philosophical attitudes at the end of the eighteenth century?

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available.
Keywords: eighteenth century, historical linguistics, lexicography, non-standard English, slang dictionaries, enlightenment, romantic, philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language
Supervisor's Name: Jeremy, Professor Smith and Carole, Professor Hough
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Ms Flora Fisher
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2773
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:59
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/2773

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