English Pronunciation in the Eighteenth Century: Thomas Spence's Grand Repository of the English Language

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Clarendon Press, 1999 - History - 239 pages
Thomas Spence (1750-1814) was a native of Newcastle upon Tyne who is best known for his political writings, and more particularly for his radical `Plan' for social reform involving common ownership of the land. One hitherto neglected aspect of Spence's Plan was his proposal to extend the benefits of reading and of `correct' pronunciation to the lower classes by means of a phonetic script of his own devising, first set out and used in Spence's Grand Repository of the English Language (1775). The Grand Repository was one of many English pronouncing dictionaries produced in the late eighteenth century to satisfy the growing demands for a clear guide to `correct' pronunciation. It differs from its contemporaries firstly in that it was intended primarily for the lower classes, and secondly in that it is the only eighteenth-century pronouncing dictionary of English to use a truly `phonetic' script in the sense of one sound = one symbol. In this fascinating and unique account, Beal pays particular attention to the actual pronunciations advocated by Spence and his contemporaries with a view to reconstructing what was felt to be `correct' pronunciation in eighteenth-century Britain. With broad appeal to linguists and historians alike, this study highlights the importance of pronouncing dictionaries as a resource for the historical phonologist, and provides a valuable addition to the limited body of knowledge on eighteenth-century pronunciation.

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About the author (1999)

Joan Beal is at the University of Sheffield.

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