Following the curious description of Robert Lowth (1710−87) as a philologist ‘more inclined to melancholy than to mirth’, the Oxford Companion to the English Language (OCEL) notes that Lowth's ‘name has become synonymous with prescriptive grammar’ (McArthur 1992, s.v. ‘Lowth’). Lowth's Short Introduction to English Grammar was first published in 1762, and was frequently reprinted during the eighteenth century. Writing more than a century and a half before the OCEL, one William Hill, in the fourth of his Fifteen Lessons, on the Analogy and Syntax of the English Language, observed that ‘Bishop Lowth … may well be accounted the Father of English Grammar’ (Hill 1833: C4r). Usually, this epithet is reserved for Lindley Murray (1745–1826) (Nietz 1961: 110; Tieken-Boon van Ostade 1996: 9), the author of the phenomenally popular English Grammar (1795) who had used Lowth's grammar as one of his major sources (Vorlat 1959). As the bibliographical account provided in Alston (1965) shows, Murray's grammar was considerably more popular than Lowth's, and he may therefore be held responsible for giving wider currency to Lowth's grammar and the notions expressed in it. What writers like Nietz (1961), and Hill before him, mean by ‘grammar’ comprises the results of well over two centuries of prescriptivism, resulting in a vast number of rules of correct usage that have come to be laid down in linguistic handbooks and usage guides such as Fowler's Modern English Usage (1929), the third edition of which, edited by Burchfield, appeared in 1996.
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