English Pronunciation in the Eighteenth Century: Thomas Spence’s “Grand Repository of the English Language”by Joan Beal (review)
- The Scriblerian and the Kit-Cats
- The Scriblerian and the Kit-Cats
- Volume 36, Number 2, Spring 2004
- pp. 201-202
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201 eighteenth-centurycriticismfromSilence and Sound into the kind of old success story that used to be told about the ‘‘Triumph of Romanticism.’’ Its emphasis is the history of the analysis of Milton’s blank verse; Sheridan’s Art of Reading (1775) is ‘‘the finest work of prosodic criticism in the eighteenth century’’ because of his ‘‘discovery’’ of adding a ‘‘pause of suspension’’or momentaryrest of thevoiceatanenjambedline.Thistime around Mr. Bradford also reads into it the intuition by Sheridan of a ‘‘metrical contract ’’ between Milton and the reader of how to perform the line endings, something Mr. Bradford derives without acknowledgment from John Hollander. Richard Eversole University of Kansas JOAN BEAL. English Pronunciation inthe Eighteenth Century: Thomas Spence’s ‘‘Grand Repository of the English Language .’’ Oxford: Oxford, 1999. Pp. 239. $120; $29.95 (paper). Ms. Beal argues in her comprehensive —though often dense—text that sound change during the eighteenth century has been neglected both by linguists and phonologists because it lacked a systematic revolution such asthegreatvowel shift, and the period was regarded as conservative , hypercorrect, and prescriptive. Further, she takes umbrage with ‘‘[t]he vast majority of general histories of English [that] include a statement to the effect that all the ‘major’ or ‘grammatical’ changes in the English Language were completed by 1700.’’ She protests a little too much, however, that linguists largely ignore this period because the phonological changes are too complex and irregular for structuralists, contending that the phonological changes that occurred are more comprehensible to a Labovian perspective because they were sociohistorical and gradually diffusive. Her touchstone is Thomas Spence’s Grand Repository (1775), a pronouncing dictionary supplemented with sections devoted to grammar, phonology, and even proper names. Fully half of the book examines how eighteenth-century pronouncing dictionaries are integral to understanding sound change and the social issues thatoccasion them—or that may be caused by them. After a brief chapter detailing Spence’s biography, the first main chapter reviews general histories of English, many designed as ‘‘textbooks for undergraduate sources,’’ as well as histories of English phonology, and details the neglect of the eighteenth century in both sets of texts. Her chapter on dictionaries, such as those written by Sheridan, Perry, and Walker, provides fortheanalysisofsoundchange. Ms. Beal ably evaluates how these dictionaries and their entries often represent conservative regional, gender, and class biases in such areas as spelling, rhyming, and phonological diffusion, and she reminds us that ‘‘authors of these works may be prescribing an ideal pronunciation rather than describing a real one.’’ The last two chapters show Spence to be an autodidactic Northerner who has been overlooked in favor of more wellknown or London-based lexicographers, particularly Sheridan. According to Ms. Beal, Spence’s work was revolutionaryin its approach to the phonetic standard of one sound ⫽ one spelling. This section is ambitious and well done, as Ms. Beal first recodes Spence’s word lists into an alphanumeric system that tracks phonemic distribution, and then comparesthem to entries in other dictionaries to evaluate eighteenth-century phonological trends and rules. Among the sound changes familiar to current speakers are the loss of 202 rhoticity as well as h-dropping, both of which mark regional and class differences . While this section provides an ideal opportunity to return to her assertions of Spence’s radical ideology established in the first chapter, she does not do so. A word to nonlinguists: this book assumes substantial knowledge of phonology , particularly British and RP. Additionally , Ms. Beal should have included more extensive IPA transcription when illustrating phonological change, rather than orthography, because many of her examples are not easily comprehensible to North Americans. Rebecca Shapiro St. Thomas Aquinas College Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality, ed. Richard H. Schmidt. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 2002. Pp. xxii ⫹ 338. $29; $25 (paper). For several years running, Father Gerard Reedy, S. J., and I would get together during the holidays and inevitably our conversation would turn to eighteenthcentury Anglicanism. It amused us during those meetings to contemplate, hyperbolically of course, that among the handful of people with a continuing interest in historical Anglicanism were a Jesuit priest and a Jewish layman. Mr. Schmidt, aretiredEpiscopalpriest, attempts to exhibit the history of Anglicans...