some reference help needed

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Apr 26 15:21:30 UTC 2005

For a student working on a biography of the 19th century American
lexicographer Joseph Worcester, can anyone suggest sources on early
19th century dialects of English?  What would be relevant in
particular is anything that describes what is known about British and
American patterns of speech relating to rhotic/non-rhotic
pronunciations and other salient variables.  I don't really have any
books that go into detail on this period, although I found Dennis
Baron's discussion (in _Grammar and Good Taste_) helpful on the
rivalry between Worcester and Webster; the former was based in
Cambridge and the latter in Hartford, so that while Noah W (who is
buried in Grove St. Cemetery down the street from where I'm typing)
was the official lexicographic authority at Yale, Harvard students
were required to consult only Worcester and not Webster.  There's
also a curious confound in that (as Dennis notes) Webster was reviled
for his prescriptivism, but Worcester, while maintaining the goal of
recording rather than regulating the language, was more sympathetic
to the British pronunciations as models for American English, while
Webster was composing his self-described "*American* Dictionary of
the English Language".

So anyway, if you have any suggestions for where the student should
look for pointers on dialect variation at this time (or anything else
you think might be relevant to her project), please let me know and
I'll pass the recommendations on to her.


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