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Myths in the history of English (Watts 2011)


The linguistic homogeneity myth, which drives the ideology of the Kulturspracheand the related ideology of the standard
language, is made up of a complex web of myths that are interwoven and continually open to further extension. They are all
derived from the common, possibly universal conceptual anthropomorphic metaphor used to understand the nature of human
language and introduced in chapter 1 A LANGUAGE IS A HUMAN BEING Like TIME or LOVE, our abstract concept
of language constrains us to rely on our fundamental bodily experiences with the immediate environment and to project
those onto the abstract concept of human language (Watts 117).

the archetypal linguistic homogeneity myth

made up interocnnected myths such as: the myth of the barbarians having no proper language, the myth of contamination
through language, the myth of the pure language

the myth of the barbarians having no proper language < the myth of good climate providing fertile land for a pure
language, the myth of the pure language of the South and the corrupted language of the North>

The 16th century -Copiousness/versus/plainness

His Highnesse [Henry VIII] benignely receyuynge my boke, whiche I named The Gouernor, in the redynge therof sone
perceyued that I intended to augment our Englyshe tongue, wherby men shulde as well expresse more abundantly the thynge
that they conceyued in theyr hartis (wherfore language was ordeyned) hauynge wordes apte for the pourpose: as also
interprete out of greke, latyn/ or any other tonge into Englysshe, as sufficiently/ as out of any one of the said tongues into
another . . . there was no terme new made by me of a latine or frenche worde, but it is there declared so playnly by one mene
or other to a diligent reder that no sente[n]ce is therby made derke or harde to be vnderstande [My emphasis] (Elyot, qtd. in
Nevalainen 1999: 357).

Good cause haue we therefore to gyue thankes vunto certayne godlye and well learned men, which by their greate studye
enrychinge our tongue both wyth matter and words, have endeuoured to make it so copyous and plentyfull that therein
it maye compare wyth anye other whiche so euer is the best [My emphasis] (Sherry, qtd in Jones 1953: 90).


To meet the needs of creating an English vocabulary for new concepts and new registers, masses of words were borrowed
from classical languages either directly or via French (Nevalainen 2006: 39). As Nevalainen further shows, classical
borrowing became the subject of public controversy in the sixteenth century (39). These neologisms that were to become
controversial were labelled inkhorn terms.

Two groups of scholars (Purists and Archaizers//versus// Neologizers)

The Purists and the Archaizers (who had basically the same linguistic sympathies) protested at what they regarded as the
excessive borrowing of learned words of foreign origin, which they stigmatized as dark (obscure) words. Contrariwise, the
Neologizers insisted with equal vehemence that the new Greek and Latin borrowings were useful and necessary additions to
the vocabulary of the new academic and cultural fields which the Renaissance scholars were rediscovering. Without these
enrichments the language would, in their view, be barbarous (=crude, primitive) (Hughes 1988: 101).

Inkhorn is defined in sixteenth and seventeenth-century dictionaries as inkpotor standish. The word inkhorn, which
was invariably found in a disparaging context smelling of inkhorn (Crystal 2004: 292)

In the process of enriching English, especially via Latin, inkhorn language advanced a foreign English which was, above
all, associated with an educated elite. While Latin writing was experiencing a cultural decline in the period in favour of the
vernacular, the new English served to perpetuate the old class distinctions which were based, in part, on a privileged
knowledge of classical languages (Blank 2006: 224). (INKHORN=LATINATE)

The Inkhorn controversyderived indirectly from the invention of printing in that it arose from the issues generated in
translating the classics, which the dissemination of the press had made more popular and economical. In the new sciences,
many borrowed words were accepted as the basic technical vocabularyThe rate of semantic additions (new words) and of
semantic extensions (new meanings to established words) accelerates sharply with the coming of printing. This is largely
because printing gave greater force to Horaces dictum litera scripta manent (the written word remains), since printing
preserved words and archaic meanings far more efficiently than manuscripts could. Simultaneously, printing increased the
mobility of words and accelerated their currency This massive influx caused a shift in the equilibrium of the language
which aroused strong feelings and differences of opinion ( Hughes 1988: 101).

Attitudes to Inkhorn Terms

Among all other lessons this should first be learned, that wee never affect any straunge ynkehorne termes, but to speak as is
commonly received...Some seeke so far for outlandish English, that they forgot altogether their mothers language. And I dare
sweare this, if some of their mothers were aliue, thei were not able to tell what they say; and yet these fine English clerkes
will say, they speke in their mother tongue, if a man should charge them for counterfeiting the Kings English (Wilson, qtd. in
Hughes 1988: 103).

I haue taken sum pain at your request cheflie in your preface, not in the reading of it for that was pleasaunt vnto me boath for
the roundnes of your saienges and welspeakinges of the saam, but in changing certein wordes which might verie well be let
aloan, but that I am verie curious in mi freendes matters, not to determijn, but to debaat what is best. Whearin, I seek not
thebestnes haplie bi truth, but bi mijn own phansie, and shew of goodnes. I am of this opinion that our own tung shold be
written cleane and pure, vnmixt and vnmangeled with borowing of other tunges, wherein iwe take not heed by tijm, euer
borowing and neuer paying, she shall be fain to keep her house as bankrupt. For then doth our tung naturallie and
praisablie vtter her meaning, whan she bouroweth no counterfeitness of other tunges to attire her self withall, but
vseth plainlie her own, with such shift as nature, craft, experiens and folowing of other excellent doth lead her vnto, and if
she want at ani tijm (as being vnperfight she must) yet let her borrow with suche bashfulnes that it mai appeer that if either
the mould of our own tung could serue vs to fascion a woord of our own, or if the old denisoned wordes could content
and ease this neede, we wold not boldly venture of vnknowen wordes [My emphasis] (Cheke 1952: 147).
or how desperately soever foolhardy ambition advanceth his own colours (none so foolhardy as the blindest Hob), I have
seldom read a more garish and piebald style in any scribbling inkhornist, or tasted a more unsavoury slampamp of words and
sentences in any sluttish pamphleter that denounceth not defiance against the rules of oratory, and the directions of the
English Secretary (Harvey 1593)

with these two Hermophrodite phrases, being halfe Latin and halfe English, hast thou puld out the very guts of the
inkehrone (Nashe 1592)

to inkhornize= escorcher le Latin (Cotgrave 1611) /flaying Latin = flaying the fox

Whereas our tongue is mixed, it is no disgrace, whenas all the tongues of Europe doe participate interchangeably the one of
the other, and in learned tongues, there hath been like borrowing one from another (Camden, qtd. in Crystal 2004: 295).
Not a few other doo greatlie seeke to staine the same, by fond affectation of forren and strange words, presuming that to be
the best English, which is most corrupted with the externall termes of eloquence, and sound of many syllables (Harrison, qtd.
in Crystal 2004: 295).

The ignorant idiot (for so I will prove him in very truth), confuteth the artificial words which he never read, but the vain
fellow (for so he proveth himself in word and deed), in a fantastical emulation, presumeth to forge a mis-shapen rabblement
of absurd and ridiculous words, the proper badges of his newfangled figure called foolerism, such as inkhornism, absonism,
the most copious carminist, thy carminical art, a proveditore of young scholars, a corrigidore of incongruity, a quest of
cavalieros, inamoratos on their works, a theological gimpanado, a dromidote ergonist, sacriligiously contaminated, decrepit
capacity, fictionate person, humour unconversable, merriments unexilable, the horrisonant pipe of inveterate antiquity, and a
number of such inkhornish phrases, as it were a pan of outlandish collops, the very bowels of his profoundest scholarism
(Harvey 1593).

There are some others yet who wyll set light by my labours, because I write in Englysh: and those are some nice Trauaylours,
who returne home with such queasie stomackes, that nothing wyll downe with them but Frenche, Italian, or Spanishe (Pettie,
qtd. in Crystal 2004: 288).
They patched vp the holes with peces and rags of other languages, borrowing here of the french, there of the Italian, euery
where of the Latine, not weighing how il, those tongue accorde with themselues, but much worse with ours: So now they
haue made our English tongue, a gallmaufray or hodgepodge of al other speches (Spenser, Crystal 291)

Some farre iourneyed gentleman at their returne home, like as they loue to goe in forraine apparell, so wil thei ponder their
talke with ouersea language. He that commeth lately out of Fraunce, will talke Frensh English and neuer blush at the matter.
An other chops in with English Italienated, and applieth the Italian phrase to our English speaking, the which is, as if an
Oratour that professeth to vtter his mind in plaine Latine, would needes speake Poetrie, and farre fetched colours of straunge
antiquitie (Wilson 1909: 163).
Plainness//Copiousness; Germanic//Romance

The etymological cleavage was further facilitated by the fact that, in addition to distinctive stylistic properties ascribed to the
two lexical streams, they were also dissimilar in their physical form and followed distinct syllabic patterns. In the ME
period, when English words had shed off most of their grammatical inflexions, the overwhelming majority of native Anglo-
Saxon words had turned into monosyllables. By contrast, French and Latin borrowings were typically longer than one
syllable and their prevalent polysyllabic structure came to be regarded as one of the chief characteristics of the Romance
element within English (A History of Anglo-French Diglossia).
The most auncient English wordes are of one sillable, so tha the more monosyllables that you use the truer Englishman you
shall seeme, and the less you shall smell of Inkehorne (Gascoigne, qtd. in Crystal 2004: 292).
From inkhorn terms to hard words

A Table Alphabeticall contayining and teaching the true writing and understanding of hard usuall English wordes, borrowed
from the Hebrew, Greeke, Latine, French &c.
With the Interpretation thereof by plaine English words, gathered for the benefit & helpe of Ladies, Gentlewomen, or any
other uskilfull persons
Whereby they may the more easily and better understand many hard English words, which they shall heare or read in
Scriptures, Sermons, or else where, and also be made able to use the same aptly themselves (Cawdrey 1604).
The Hard-Word Dictionary
Three stages in this development may be discerned: in the hard-word dictionaries of the first half of the seventeenth century
the focus was almost entirely on the learned vocabulary of English; the encyclopedic dictionaries of the later seventeenth
century were agreeably readable reference books with names treated equally alongside words; finally, the so-called universal
dictionary in the early years of the eighteenth century was more narrowly linguistic, generally cutting out extraneous matter
and with the aim of including all the words of the language, even the simplest ones (Osselton 2009: 131)

the English monolingual dictionary is created in the early seventeenth century in order to offer an explanation (in Cawdreys
terms, an interpretation in plain English words) of those areas of the vocabulary that are thought fit to receive the label
hard. These terms, which have to be turned into plain English, are perceived as different from the rest of the vocabulary.
Like the first vernacular grammars of English or the first spelling treatises, these first English dictionaries can be seen as
attempts of rendering more homogeneous or more uniform what was perceived as heterogeneous or different:

early modern constructions of the difference of English, conditioned the rise of vernacular language study in the
Renaissance, and the production of the first English dictionaries, grammars, and works on vernacular orthography. These
treatises represent some of the earliest English attemptslike Virgils in Poetasterat linguistic prescription, efforts to
identify, and disseminate, the best forms of the language (Blank 2003: 8).
Hard-word label versus Inkhorn Brand

Svch as by their place and calling, (but especially Preachers) as haue occasion to speak publiquely before the ignorant
people, are to bee admonished, that they neuer affect any strange ynckhorne termes, but labour to speke so as is commonly
receiued, and so as the most ignorant may well vnderstand them: neyther seeking to be ouer fine or curious, nor yet liying
ouer carelesse, vsing their speech, as most men doe, & ordering their wits, as the fewest haue done. Some men seek so far for
outlandish English, that they forget altogether their mothers language, so that if som of their mothers were aliue, they were
not able to tell, or vnderstand what they say, and yet these fine English Clearks, will say they speak in their mother tongue;
but one might well chearge them, for counterfeyting the Kings English (Cawdrey 1604).

Therefore, either wee must make a difference of English, & say, some is learned English, & othersome is rude English, or the
one is Court talke, the other is Country-speech, or els we must of necessite banish all affected Rhetorique, and vse altogether
one manner of language. Those therefore will auoyde this follie, and acquaint themselues with the plainest and best speech,
must seke from time to time such words as are commonlie receiued, and such as properly may expresse in plaine manner, the
whole conceit of their mind. And looke what words wee best vnderstand, and know what they meane, the same should
soonest be spoken, and first applied, to the vttrance of our purpose (Cawdrey 1604)

the inkhorn controversy of the sixteenth century simmered down into the title pages and addresses to the readers of
seventeenth-century dictionaries, and English lexicography grew upon hard words and related curiosities (Wimsatt 1968:

Cawdreys text suggests that, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, inkhorn terms are no longer perceived as a threat
to the integrity of the English language, but as affected phrases used by those individuals that are unable to produce an
adequately controlled linguistic discourse. No longer indicating the violent aversion to loanwords expressed by the
Renaissance Archaizers and Purists, hard-word dictionaries are meant to deal with the difficulties raised by the new
additions to the English vocabulary (Vian 2014).