Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Founding Grammars: How Early America's War over Words Shaped Today's Language


Today's post is on Founding Grammars: How Early America's War over Words Shaped Today's Language by Rosemarie Ostler. It is 309 pages long including notes and it published by St. Martin's Press. The cover is blue with a quill and the constitution on it. The intended reader is someone interested in history and grammar. There is no language, no sex, and no violence in this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the dust jacket- Who decided not to split infinitives? With whom should we take issue if in fact, we wish to boldly write what no grammarian hath writ before? 
In Founding Grammars, Rosemarie Ostler delves into the roots of our grammar obsession to answer these questions and many more. Standard grammar and accurate spelling are widely considered hallmarks of a good education, but their exact definitions are much more contentious -- capable of?inciting a full-blown grammar war at the splice of a comma, battles readily visible in the media and online in the comments of blogs and chat rooms. 
With an accessible and enthusiastic journalistic approach, Ostler considers these grammatical shibboleths, tracing current debates back to America's earliest days, an era when most families owned only two books -- the Bible and a grammar primer. Along the way, she investigates colorful historical characters on both sides of the grammar debate in her efforts to unmask the origins of contemporary speech. Linguistic founding fathers like Noah Webster, Tory expatriate Lindley Murray, and post-Civil War literary critic Richard Grant White, all play a featured role in creating the rules we've come to use, and occasionally discard, throughout the years.
Founding Grammars is for curious readers who want to know where grammar rules have come from, where they've been, and where they might go next.

Review-This at times is a very entertaining and then it goes into very dry. There is no middle ground, sadly. But that said it was interesting to see where our language, as Americans, comes from and how it has grown. The notes were just for adding citation and did not really much more to the overall narrative. This is not just about how Americans write but also about how we educate ourselves and our children. Ostler takes something that could have been extremely dry and boring and makes a good effort to make it interesting and mostly readable. At times she gets into very detailed items about the how and it takes some time to get through those moments but in the end I think that it is a worthy read.

I give this book a Four out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I borrowed this book from my local library.