2013年04月02日

【連載】現代標準英語における二重否定の使用回避を促した要因について(要約)



Summary


A Re-evaluation of
the Influence of Bishop Lowth's Grammar on
the Extinction of the Emphatic Use of Double Negatives
in Standard English


Yoichi ISHIZAKI


Today most educated people carefully avoid using a double negative as a strengthened one. This emphatic use is mainly made by the uneducated. Now such an expression as ‘I don't know nothing about it.’ is, therefore, considered vulgar. In Elizabethan times, however, the use of a double negative was felt only as a stronger one, not vulgar. Until then, like many other languages, it had been a common way of emphasizing the negative notion. Then, what brought the emphatic use to extinction? The purpose of the present essay is to give an answer to this question by analyzing and re-evaluating the influence of the first prescriptive grammar on the disappearance of it.

The analysis and re-evaluation is carried out by investigating the preface of A Short Introduction to English Grammar(1762)by Robert Lowth(1710-87)and his own background and examining the social situation in the eighteenth century. During the period there had been “unprecedented social mobility”(Pinker 1994;373)in England. It was very easy “for the British to move up and down the social ‘ladder’”(McDowell 1989:115). However, “the divisions of eighteenth century society were marked by language as much as by birth, rank, wealth and education.”(Freeborn 1992:190) Plus “... if the language of the common people was regarded as inferior by the educated upper classes in the eighteenth century, then their ideas and thoughts would be similarly devalued.”(Ibid.)Whoever desired to distinguish himself as cultured, therefore, had to try to master the best kind of English. It was the shortest way to success in life to acquire the language most educated people feel to be right. This trend led to the demand for handbooks with “definite and dependable rules”(Myers 1966:212). “There were now millions of people who wanted to be told how to use the language correctly;and there were thousands of schoolmasters who wanted a basis for telling them−definitely and without hesitation or qualification.”(Ibid.)

This need was satisfied by Lowth's grammar. It has one notable characteristic. The feature is that it was “calculated for the use of the Learner, even of the lowest class”(Lowth 1968:13)and showed readers “what is wrong” as well as “what is right”, which is “the very fountainhead of a schoolroom attitude”(Myers 1966:224). He declares:

The principal design of a Grammar of any Language is to teach us to express ourselves with propriety in that Language;and to enable us to judge of every phrase and form of construction, whether it be right or not. The plain way of doing this is, to lay down rules, and to illustrate them by examples. But, beside shewing what is right, the matter may be further explained by pointing out what is wrong.(Lowth op.cit.:12)

In this way, “prescriptiveness appeared in many parts of the book, and reputable writers were not spared”(Burchfield 1985;96). This authoritarian attitude must have been welcomed by people in the eighteenth century who badly wanted “definite and dependable rules”.

In addition to this “definite” way of writing, Lowth's academic and religious background made his book “dependable”. In his publication of it, he was professor of poetry at Oxford and gave noticeably learned lectures on Hebrew poetry, which were later published and for which Oxford University created a Doctor of Divinity to him. At that time, he was “an accomplished and elegant scholar”(DNB, s.v. LOWTH or LOUTH, ROBERT)and had gained “a European reputation”(Ibid.). After his resignation Lowth was translated to the see of Oxford, later of London, and then appointed dean of the chapel royal and a privy councillor. He was, finally, offered archbishop of Canterbury by the king(but because of his health he declined it). Judging from all the facts mentioned above, it can safely be said that naturally, very much attention was paid to his grammar and it was trustworthy.

It is clearly shown in his contemporaries' comments how much reputaion Lowth's grammar then had and how much trusted it was. James Harris(1709-80), for example, refers to his grammar as:

... admirable tract on the Grammar of the English Language every lover of that language ought to study and understand, if he would write, or even speak it, with purity and precision.(Reibel 1997:typescript)

John Wesley(1703-91), too, says:“... doubtless his[Lowth's]is the best English grammar that is extant.”(Ibid.)His book was, this way, highly regarded.

In these contexts Lowth stated in his book “simply and firmly”(Myers op.cit.:227), “Two negatives in English destroy one another, or are equivalent to an Affirmative.” It is no wonder that to this rule those people showed willing obedience who wanted to acquire the language spoken in the educated class. Thus we can safely state, in conclusion, that Lowth's grammar accelerated the extinction of the use of a double negative, although based on her research, Marianne Knorrek affirms that grammarians had no influence upon the loss of it, saying(translation;mine):

Die Grammatiker erst dann der doppelten Verneinung ihre Beachtung schenken, als sie in der Schriftsprache und zum allergrößen Teile, wenn auch noch nicht ganz, in der gebildeten Umgangssprache verschwunden war. Ihr Aussterben kann daher nicht auf das Eingreifen der Sprachmeister zurückgeführt werden.(Knorrek 1938:31)

(=The grammarians first paid attention to the double negative, when it had disappeared in the written language and, even if not yet completely, for the most part, in the colloquial language of the educated. Its extinction cannot, therefore, be put down to the inervention of the grammarians.)


As she points out, indeed, it was not until the emphatic use of double negatives had almost disappeared that Lowth's grammar appeared, but his can be said to have played an important and decisive role in hastening the extinction of it.


posted by 石崎 陽一 at 23:45 | Comment(0) | 連載 | 更新情報をチェックする
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